Bart Bernard Injury Lawyers Blog

Bart Bernard Injury Lawyers Blog

Hit by a Drunk Driver? Know Your Legal Rights

April 4, 2017 Auto Accidents 0 Comments

A set of car keys in the foreground and a glass of whiskey behind.

Louisiana laws protect motorists, passengers and pedestrians who are injured by drunk drivers. State laws make it illegal to operate a vehicle with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of more than 0.08% for drivers age 21 and over, and 0.04% for commercial vehicle drivers. If you are hit or injured by a motorist who is intoxicated or impaired by alcohol, you have a legal right to be made whole again, and make a claim for monetary damages.

Despite millions of dollars spent on drunk driving awareness and prevention campaigns, alcohol-related crashes still account for more than one-third of all road deaths in the United States.  According to 2014 statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 35 percent of all 737 traffic deaths in Louisiana were linked to alcohol use. Louisiana has ranked among the worst states in terms of DUI fatalities, with the majority of deaths in people between the ages of 20 and 34.

Compounding matters is the fact that victims and their families could have been spared their pain, physical harm, emotional suffering and financial losses in these preventable accidents. Unfortunately, many of these result in severe injuries, massive medical bills, months of lost income, and psychological trauma – and in some cases, loss of life.

In the event you or a loved one is struck by a drunk driver in Louisiana, it’s important to enlist the services of an experienced auto accident lawyer who can effectively represent your claim and protect your rights.

Your right to sue for compensation

In Louisiana, those who are injured by drunk drivers have the option of bringing a personal injury claim or wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault party. Civil litigation is often the most effective means of securing compensation to cover your doctor and hospital bills, medical treatments, lost wages, pain and suffering and other accident-related expenses. If the impaired driver is also facing criminal charges, your attorney may recommend that you wait until the case has resolved, as a criminal DUI conviction can bolster your chances of getting a higher settlement or jury award.

Victims have the right to sue for a variety of damages in a civil action, including:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Emotional distress
  • Lost income
  • Future loss of earnings
  • Future pain and suffering
  • Punitive damages

In some DUI cases, victims may pursue a civil claim against the intoxicated driver who caused the accident, or against the individual or establishment that served alcohol to the driver. Louisiana imposes a one-year time limit on personal injury actions, which may be tolled in situations where criminal proceedings are still pending.

DUI convictions = stronger cases

Insurance companies will generally try to avoid a juried trial if the at-fault party, who they insure, has been convicted of DUI/DWI in a serious car accident. They realize that juries will be more sympathetic to injured plaintiffs and more likely to award a higher punitive damage award (which can reach into the millions of dollars).  As such, your lawyer will be in a better position to negotiate a favorable settlement that accounts for all economic and non-economic damages, including future pain and suffering.

Legal advocacy in Louisiana

For experienced legal representation in the wake of a drunk driving tragedy, contact Louisiana car accident lawyer Bart Bernard, who can advise you on your rights and what to expect in your case. Call our Lafayette and Baton Rouge offices today to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation.

Additional “hit by a drunk driver” resources:

  1. CDC, Sobering Facts: Drunk Driving in Louisiana https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/pdf/impaired_driving/drunk_driving_in_la.pdf
  2. The Acadania Advocate, Drunk driving arrests down in Louisiana, fatalities up —despite millions spent on enforcement http://www.theadvocate.com/acadiana/news/article_4db274c8-02c2-5a55-a81a-5674881bab1c.html
  3. DMV, DUI & DWI in Louisiana http://www.dmv.org/la-louisiana/automotive-law/dui.php
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Pre-existing Injuries: Not a Bar To Recovery in Louisiana

April 1, 2017 Personal Injury Lawsuits 0 Comments

injured woman after car accidentIt happens every day: someone is involved in an accident and suffers an injury, the medical exam following the accident reveals degeneration – a natural aging of the body that often does not cause any impairment – but the defendant or his or her insurance carrier fights against a fair settlement on grounds that the injury was pre-existing.

If you are facing this type of battle in Louisiana, know that the law permits injured plaintiffs to recover for pre-existing conditions when they are worsened by someone else’s wrongful act. The fight over a pre-existing medical condition can be very intimidating but injured parties find confidence – and improved results – when they partner with a qualified Lafayette personal injury lawyer.

New v. pre-existing injuries under LA personal injury laws

An accident can cause both a new injury and an aggravation of pre-existing condition. The law accounts for this and injury victims are entitled to recover for injury caused by the accident – including the exacerbation of an existing medical condition. But defendants and their insurance companies routinely use the existence of a prior injury to reduce the claimant’s rightful settlement.

Insurance adjusters and the insurance defense counsel they employ understand that an injury victim is entitled to recover for a pre-existing condition. They all learn about the so-called “eggshell skull plaintiff”, who are physically fragile in some special way. If another party’s negligence causes an injury, even to the so-called “eggshell skull” of someone who was already injured or physically at greater risk for an injury, the negligent party is liable for the injury over and above what had already existed.

Fighting a pre-existing injuries case in Louisiana

A fight over the existence and extent of pre-existing conditions in a personal injury case is tedious, fact-intensive, and dependent on medical experts.

By making a personal injury claim, a plaintiff must provide medical records to, and sometimes undergo a medical evaluation by, the defendant’s and/or his insurance company’s counsel. The opposing counsel will go over those records with a fine tooth comb for any indication of a preexisting condition and use that information to reduce the settlement amount – or deny that there are any related damages at all!

Experienced personal injury attorneys understand and expect this fight. They understand how to piece together a chain of medical and factual events, and back it with expert testimony, to overcome the defense claims. They can even turn the defense arguments around and use a history of medical observation as documentation of a “before” and “after” to show how the accident worsened the injury.

Personal injury representation in Baton Rouge, LA

If you or a loved one have been injured in Louisiana and believe someone else may be liable, you may well experience a fight over pre-existing injuries. If the defense convincingly paints the injuries as prior medical conditions, this can take a substantial chunk out of your compensation. Put your trust in Bart Bernard to fight for full compensation.

Call the Bart Bernard Injury Lawyers, with offices in Lafayette and Baton Rouge, for a free confidential initial consultation.

Additional “personal injury liability” resources:

  1. Justia, 2011 Louisiana Laws Civil Code CC 2315.6 – Liability for damages caused by injury to another, http://law.justia.com/codes/louisiana/2011/cc/cc2315-6
  2. Justia, 2011 Louisiana Laws Civil Code CC 2315 – Liability for acts causing damages, http://law.justia.com/codes/louisiana/2011/cc/cc2315
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How Much is Your Personal Injury Case Worth?

April 1, 2017 Personal Injury Lawsuits 0 Comments

personal-injury-wrongful-death-2One of the first questions clients ask during a personal injury claim consultation is “what is my case worth?” Calculating damages – or the amount of monetary compensation secured through a settlement or court award –can be a difficult task until you’ve been properly assessed by healthcare professionals for your injuries, treatments and ongoing medical care needs.

As any competent personal injury attorney will tell you, there is no set formula used to determine damages in injury lawsuits, as each case will have unique factors and circumstances. After all, your pain and emotional suffering—including anxiety, depression, sleep loss and other life-altering trauma — will never be the same as another plaintiff’s.  After your attorney has gathered pertinent information and records from your doctors and health care providers, he or she will have the means to offer a more precise assessment of your injury claim.

Calculating personal injury damages

The vast majority of personal injury claims, particularly those arising from car accidents, workplace injuries or slip and falls, never reach the trial stage. In fact, more than 90 percent of claims are settled by insurance companies or the defendants out of court. So how do both parties attach a dollar figure to your injuries, diminished quality of life and other related losses? The nature and severity of your physical injuries will have one of the most significant impacts on the value of your case.

Other factors that will affect your legal recovery include:

  • “Hard injuries” like broken bones, severe burns, spinal cord damage, etc. tend to net higher recoveries compared to “soft injuries” like whiplash, torn ligaments and muscle strains
  • Long-term prognosis for recovery: will you need future surgeries and require ongoing doctor and hospital visits?
  • Has the injury impacted your ability to work or perform normal daily tasks?
  • Will you need a walker, wheelchair or other medical device?
  • Your age and overall health at the time of injury. A 30-year old claimant may get a higher damage award compared to a 65-year old claimant
  • Loss of income due to your injuries
  • Did the accident cause permanent disfigurement or disability?
  • Are you unable to return to work, therefore affecting your future earnings?
  • Have you suffered from emotional trauma such as PTSD, anxiety, concentration problems?
  • Has your partner and/or children suffered a lack of care, guidance or companionship because of the accident?

In general terms, personal injury compensation tends to be much higher in cases involving catastrophic injury (brain damage, amputation, broken hips), long recoveries, partial or permanent disability and loss of future income.

Types of compensation available

Your attorney should always fight for fair and full compensation to reimburse for the following economic and non-economic losses incurred:

  • Past, current and future medical expenses– this includes all hospital and ambulatory expenses, doctor’s visits, therapy, and medical care treatments rendered to date, in addition to money for anticipated care needs for the foreseeable future
  • Past and future lost wages– a settlement or verdict will always consider the total amount of lost income as well as loss of earning capacity
  • Out of pocket expenses – including transportation costs to get to and from your doctor’s appointments, medication costs, crutches, parking fees, etc.
  • Pain and suffering– this award is considered “special damages” and accounts for the types of psychological trauma that has disrupted your life. This may include grief, inconvenience, fear, anxiety and the loss of the enjoyment of life.
  • Loss of consortium– In many cases, a serious accident impacts not only the claimant, but their spouse and children. These damages account for the loss of care, support, intimacy and guidance that the family would have received if the injury had not occurred.

Maximize your personal injury compensation in Louisiana

If you were harmed because of another person’s careless actions or negligence, you may be eligible for compensation through the courts. Lafayette personal injury attorney Bart Bernard offers the skills, financial resources and legal expertise to achieve the best outcome possible in your case.

Schedule a free case review in Baton Rouge, Lake Charles or Lafayette by calling today.

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Loss of Wages in a Personal Injury Case: Your Rights Under the Law

March 30, 2017 Personal Injury Lawsuits 0 Comments

lost wagesIf you are injured due to the negligence of another party, whether the other party is a person or organization, you are entitled to make claims for monetary compensation related to the injury.

While many people focus on monetary damages specifically related to the injury, such as compensation for medical treatment and physical therapy, they should also know that monetary compensation for loss of wages can also be part of a personal injury case.

What does “loss of wages” include?

The term “loss of wages” refers to wages and salary, but also, more broadly, to lost compensation.

Let’s say you are employed for a salary. The injury you received required three days in the hospital and seven more days of doctor-ordered immobilization at home. As a result, you were unable to work for ten days.

Your loss of wages claim is therefore for 10 days’ worth of lost wages.

If you are self-employed and also spent three days in the hospital and seven more immobilized, you are entitled to compensation for 10 days as well. The compensation is calculated at what you would have received in an average 10-day period. If you had work booked and scheduled to be completed for clients, this figure can also be used to establish a just claim.

Lost wages can also be claimed for any sick days that you used for your injury. If you were entitled to two days of sick leave, for example, and took them as part of your hospital stay, your claim can include monetary compensation for those days. After all, had you not been injured, you still would have them to use. Now, if you become ill, those sick days are no longer available to you. You are entitled to ask for compensation.

Claiming lost wages for any vacation time used is similar to sick leave. If you used vacation time for part of your hospitalization or recuperation at home, you have lost use of that vacation as vacation. You are therefore entitled to claim the time as lost wages, paid at the same rate as your salary.

The same principles apply to company holidays and personal days. If an injury caused by a negligent party caused you to lose out on them, you are entitled to compensation for the time.

Finally, lost wage claims can also include loss of business opportunities that you might have had if not for your injury. Were you slated to play tennis with important clients? Booked as a speaker at a company conference? You are entitled to compensation for any and all opportunities related to work if an injury caused you to miss them.

How do you claim lost wages?

To make a claim for compensation of lost wages, you will need records of how much you make.

If you are employed, paystubs and a note on company stationery of your annual salary, sick leave policy, and vacation time accrued should be provided to your attorney. Tax records are also helpful, as they show annual salary and bonuses, if any.

If you are self-employed, compile tax records showing annual income and any records showing monthly income and work booked but not performed. These can all be used to average out your expected income for the period.

For loss of business opportunities, your employer or involved parties should write a letter on company letterhead that you were scheduled for these opportunities.

Finally, compile your medical records showing the nature and extent of your injury and treatment. Your doctor should also write a letter detailing the medical advice you received before returning back to work.

When to consult a personal injury attorney

If you or a loved one have received an injury in Louisiana caused by the carelessness of another entity, call for a free, no-obligation legal consultation with the Bart Bernard Law Firm. If you decide to bring to seek legal redress with Bart Bernard as your attorney, we will work closely with you every step of the way.

Let a seasoned personal injury lawyer in Louisiana help you. Please contact our offices in Baton Rouge, Lafayette or Lake Charles today.

Additional lost wages resources

  1. Sapling, How To Calculate Lost Wages, https://www.sapling.com/6149965/calculate-lost-wages
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When Truck Drivers Fall Asleep At The Wheel

March 29, 2017 Truck Accidents 0 Comments

auto-accident-truck-accident-2Nearly half of all commercial truck drivers admit to “drifting off” while driving a long-haul route. The Large Truck Crash Causation Study reported that 13 percent of commercial truck drivers were fatigued at the time of their crash. The sheer size and weight of the vehicles they’re driving puts truckers at increased risk of causing serious bodily injury and fatalities when an accident occurs. Fatigued truck drivers account for approximately 750 deaths and 20,000 serious injuries every year, according to the FMCSA. In 98 percent of fatal truck accidents, the victim was riding in the passenger car.

Reasons why truck drivers fall asleep at the wheel

A trucker’s log book can contain much evidence pointing to the likelihood of drowsy driving. Drivers are more likely to fall asleep on the road when one or more of the following conditions are met:

  • Driving long shifts – By law, truckers can drive for 11 hours straight before they are required to take a break.
  • Not taking breaks – Truckers must take 10 consecutive hours off after driving for 11 hours.
  • Driving over their allotted amount of hours – Truckers cannot drive beyond 60 hours in a week.
  • Taking medication – Pills for allergies, pain, depression, anxiety, and blood pressure can make a person sleepy.
  • Driving overnight – Lane deviations, longer blink duration, and slow eye movements have been observed.

Unfortunately, not all truck drivers follow the rules or report their activities honestly. Often, we can root out dishonesty by cross-referencing the loads delivered. Driving while intoxicated and driving with sleep apnea (which could be as high as 28%, according to the FMCSA) are other factors that may contribute to a trucker falling asleep on the road.

How a Lafayette personal injury lawyer proves a truck driver was asleep at the wheel

You might think there is a lot of “he said / she said” in these cases where very little is known about the moments before a crash. However, Lafayette personal injury attorney Bart Bernard knows that there is more evidence and testimony than meets the eye.

Your lawyer will first seek to prove that the sleeping truck driver failed to provide a standard “legal duty of care” to ensure the safety and well-being of others – by speeding, ignoring traffic signs or signals, or taking reckless maneuvers. Police reports, witness statements, and past history of traffic citations can all be sources of crucial evidence.

Whenever possible, Bart Bernard calls in accident reconstructionists to examine the accident scene. When a driver has fallen asleep, there are no braking skid marks. Damaged barricades, trees, or fences may indicate a certain speed. Most modern commercial trucks are equipped with black box recorders and/or cameras that capture information such as braking and acceleration patterns prior to the crash.

Who is liable when a truck driver falls asleep while driving?

The truck driver seems like the most logical defendant, but other negligent parties may include:

  • Hiring managers who fail to conduct background checks and verify licensing information prior to hiring the driver
  • Supervisors who turn a blind eye to violations of federal regulations or company protocol
  • Companies who put pressure on drivers to break the law in order to make deliveries quicker

Need a Lafayette or Baton Rouge personal injury attorney?

If you or a loved one have been seriously injured or killed in a truck accident in Lafayette or Baton Rouge, Louisiana, seek the best possible legal representation from Bart Bernard, who has secured millions of dollars for his clients. All legal services are free unless Bart Bernard wins money on your behalf, so there is nothing to lose by calling today.

Additional “truck drivers asleep at the wheel” resources:

  1. Grandparents.com – 6 Medications That Make You Too Drowsy To Drive http://www.grandparents.com/health-and-wellbeing/health/medication-side-effects
  2. FMCSA – CMV Driving Tips – Driver Fatigue https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/driver-safety/cmv-driving-tips-driver-fatigue
  3. Injury Claim Coach – Asleep at the Wheel http://www.injuryclaimcoach.com/asleep-at-the-wheel.html#
  4. CDC – Drowsy Driving https://www.cdc.gov/features/dsdrowsydriving/
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Everything You Need to Know About a Jack Knife Truck Accident

March 28, 2017 Truck Accidents 0 Comments

18 Wheel Truck on the road. Semi-trailer truck.The sheer size and massive weight of tractor-trailer trucks makes them especially dangerous to other vehicles sharing the roads. Among the worst accident scenarios involving trucks are those involving a “jack knife”, in which a cab and trailer are sent into different directions to form a 90-degree angle.

In “jack knife” accidents, the trailer often ends up careening across the roadway, striking whatever may be in its path. This can prove devastating to anyone in a nearby lane of traffic. It is important for victims of such crashes to understand how liability for their injuries can be assessed in pursuit of fair compensation.

How jack knife truck accidents happen

In most cases, the jack knifing of a truck is the result of an unexpected, drastic downward adjustment in speed. This could occur because the driver belatedly realized a need for sudden braking, something which stops the cab’s movement, but produces momentum which propels the trailer sideways in an extremely dangerous manner. In addition to late braking due to driver distraction or error, common reasons for a jack knife include:

  • Inclement weather and road conditions
  • Twisting roadways
  • Excessive speed
  • Poorly maintained brakes
  • Driver drowsiness
  • Malfunctioning/defective truck axle locks

Vulnerability of motorists caught in jack knife truck crashes

With semi trucks weighing roughly 20-30 times more than a common passenger vehicle and boasting substantially greater ground clearance, it is not surprising that those who have the misfortune of becoming entangled with a jack knifed big rig routinely sustain serious harm. Such individuals may find themselves confronted with an uncertain future as they struggle to recover from:

  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Permanent disfigurement
  • Severely broken bones
  • Deep burns
  • Spinal cord damage/paralysis
  • Damage to internal organs

In addition to the physical trauma such afflictions cause, their emotional and financial ramifications can be equally dire.

Liability for a jack knife truck crash

Anytime a truck is involved in a jack knife incident, the intuitive response for most is that the driver alone is likely to blame. While driver distraction, error and/or failure to heed applicable traffic laws may in fact point to such a conclusion, there are situations in which other parties may share responsibility. A seasoned Baton Rouge personal injury lawyer may choose to pursue substantial compensation from trucking firms found to have failed in their duty to train drivers in how to prevent jack knife events.

Vehicle maintenance contractors discovered to have improperly or negligently maintained a truck’s braking system may also be liable, as is true of truck and truck component manufacturers revealed to have placed defective products on the market. Though these parties may initially seem too far removed from the collision itself to be appropriate targets of litigation, any individual or entity deemed to have played a pivotal role in the harm sustained may be required to compensate victims for:

  • Medical bills
  • Costs of therapy, rehabilitation and continuing care
  • Lost wages
  • Reduction in future earning capacity stemming from injury/disability
  • Physical pain
  • Emotional trauma
  • Lost marital and familial relationships
  • Financial support for surviving dependents in cases of fatality
  • Funeral expenses, where applicable

Zealous representation from a Lafayette personal injury lawyer

Jack knife truck accidents can have a devastating impact on victims and their families. If you or someone you love has had life turned upside down in a split second while traversing Louisiana’s roadways, there is no time to lose in securing the aggressive legal advocacy such cases demand.

To receive a confidential, no-cost initial consultation to begin exploring all available legal options, Louisiana truck accident attorney Bart Bernard invites you to call his offices in Baton Rouge or Lafayette today.

Additional “jack knife truck accident” resources

  1. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Large Truck Crashes, http://iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/large-trucks/fatalityfacts/large-trucks
  2. U.S. Department of Transportation, Commercial Motor Vehicle Traffic Safety Facts, https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/sites/fmcsa.dot.gov/files/docs/CMV%20Traffic%20Safety%20Facts_508.pdf
  3. National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, Large Truck Crash Causation Study, http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/810646.pdf
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Meeting with Your Personal Injury Lawyer: What You Should Bring

March 23, 2017 Personal Injury Lawsuits 0 Comments

Decorative Scales of Justice in the Courtroom

If you’re planning on taking legal action against a third party after suffering a personal injury, most reputable law firms offer initial consultations free of charge. Whether your injuries were caused by a reckless motorist or a hazardous work environment, you may be eligible for significant monetary awards if negligence was to blame. Since many victims are unsure about what to expect during this first consultation, we’ve put together a checklist of documents and information to bring.

This first meeting also provides an opportunity to ask questions about your lawyer’s previous experience handling claims similar to your own, prior case results (both court room victories and settlements), as well as projected timelines for the litigation process.

In order to arrive prepared and get answers to all of your legal questions, you’ll need to create a folder containing the following data, which will give your lawyer detailed background on the circumstances of your case.

Personal injury information checklist

In order for your personal injury attorney to begin investigations, you’ll need to have the following data ready:

  • Name and address of ambulance service
  • Name and address of ER
  • Admission and discharge dates for emergency room and hospital treatments
  • Names and addresses of health care professionals who examined you following the injury incident
  • Names and business addresses of doctors, specialists and surgeons who provided any type of medical care or treatment
  • Names and addresses of everyone who was involved in the injury accident
  • Names and contact information of any witnesses to the accident
  • Name and contact information of police/law enforcement who arrived on the scene
  • Name and business address of insurance representative assigned to your accident
  • Names and addresses of individuals who you have spoken to about your injuries
  • Total number of days of missed work (and corresponding dates) due to the accident

Documents needed by your attorney

Include the following documents in your envelope:

  • Copy of police accident report
  • Statements given to law enforcement/insurance regarding the accident
  • Health insurance card, showing medical coverage (includes Medicare/Medicaid and Veteran’s insurance)
  • Copies of emails or letters with your insurance carrier concerning the accident
  • Receipts and bills for all medical care & treatment related to the accident
  • Receipts for all medications prescribed to treat your injuries
  • Proof of lost earnings or wages, i.e. past pay stubs
  • Proof of current car insurance, indicating policy limits and type of coverage purchased
  • Proof of homeowner’s insurance if the incident occurred at home
  • Receipts for any items you’ve had to purchase because of your injuries, including medical devices such as neck braces, crutches, a wheelchair or cane, braces or bandages.
  • Receipts for things you had repaired because of the accident, such as necessary car repairs to have a safe, operating vehicle

Free case review in Lafayette, LA

If you or someone you care about suffered injuries in an auto collision, truck accident or workplace incident, a capable personal injury lawyer will outline the strengths of your case, and fight for fair and full compensation. Lafayette personal injury attorney Bart Bernard is renowned for his talent and expertise in negotiating claims and winning complex trial cases, securing notable multi-million dollar payouts for injured Louisiana residents.

Bart Bernard operates on a contingency fee basis, and offers free case evaluations for prospective clients. Schedule yours by calling our Lafayette and Baton Rouge offices toll-free today.

Additional “personal injury checklist” resources

  1. Louisiana State Police Statewide Crash Reports, https://crashreports.dps.louisiana.gov/ladpsecom/SearchCrashes.ts?m=search
  2. DMV.org, Accident Guide in Louisiana, http://www.dmv.org/la-louisiana/accident-guide/
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