Can you sue a driver under Louisiana state law if you are a passenger in his or her vehicle and you are injured in a car accident?
The short answer is, yes. Under personal injury law generally, a person can be sued if his or her negligent actions caused the injury of another. In car accidents specifically, however, it is usually the insurance companies who pay damages. The jury determines who is at fault. The at-fault party’s insurance company pays for medical bills, lost wages for work, and so forth.
First, some background on how Louisiana insurance laws will play a part in your decision to sue …
Car insurance laws in Louisiana
Under the laws of our state, vehicle owners are mandated to have liability insurance. The reason? Precisely the need to have some sort of protection against people who might be injured or killed by the vehicle.
The minimum coverage required is $15,000 for the injury of a single person and $30,000 for the injury of several people.
But these amounts, clearly, are not large, especially when even a short stay in the hospital can hit $75,000 and more.
Partly to cover this eventuality, Louisiana mandates that everyone purchasing a car insurance policy include a coverage for uninsured/underinsured motorists (UIM). The only exception is if the person officially, in writing, states that they have declined coverage.
In practice, your own UIM coverage should protect you if you are injured in a car crash and the other party is deemed to be at fault and that other party either has no car insurance or an amount of insurance under the damages caused in the accident.
If you or a loved one has been injured as a passenger where the driver at fault had the minimum $15,000 coverage but your medical bills and lost wages add up to $50,000, your UIM insurance should pay the remainder, $35,000.
If you are a person who has declined UIM, however, you may have no insurance to fall back on.
Passenger injury claims after a car accident
So if your or a loved one’s injuries and lost time from work mount up to dwarf the minimum coverages, can you sue the driver at fault? Well, yes, you could.
There are two issues to think about, though. First, if the driver doesn’t have significant personal assets, such as a large savings or a house, receiving just damages may be very difficult. In a lawsuit, there have to be assets to pay damages. Damages are taken from assets in all personal injury cases.
Second, if you were a passenger, you might have a personal relationship with the driver. He or she might be a spouse, a relative, or a friend. A lawsuit might damage that relationship.
Speak with an auto accident attorney Louisiana trusts
The impact of car accidents can leave those affected devastated both physically and financially. Injuries can be catastrophic, leaving victims unable to walk or move without assistance. Surgery and physical therapy to recover from car crash related injuries can amount to thousands of dollars.
Victims of car accidents are entitled to just compensation. The Bart Bernard Injury Lawyers has offices in both Baton Rouge and Lafayette, Louisiana. We have decades of experience successfully fighting for the rights of clients injured in car crashes.
For a free consultation with a seasoned Louisiana auto accident lawyer, call our Lafayette or Baton Rouge offices, or contact us online today.
Additional “passenger injury claim” resources:
- Schneider, Helmut. Louisiana State University, E.J. Ourso College of Business, Highway Safety Research Group: Louisiana Traffic Records Data Report 2015, http://datareports.lsu.edu/Reports/SpecialReports/2015_Data_Report.pdf
- State of Louisiana. Louisiana Department of Public Safety, Office of Motor Vehicles. Required Proof of Liability Insurance Prior to Registration of Vehicles, http://www.dps.state.la.us/omv1.nsf/58c968bd569b099986256cdc000806eb/89f0a313d753f522862564cf004a2c5f?OpenDocument.
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Motor Vehicle Crash Injuries. CDC Vital Signs. October 2014. https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/crash-injuries/index.html