Changes to LA Personal Injury Laws
Another Louisiana legislative session has come to a close. And Big Business once again tried its hardest to make it more difficult for plaintiffs to file suit for their personal injuries stemming from car and truck accidents by lobbying for “tort reform.”
This year, after much back and forth, and even a veto from Governor John Bel Edwards, Big Business struck a deal and passed the Omnibus Premium Reduction Act of 2020. The law, expected to be signed by the Governor, would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021 and makes changes to some of the procedural laws governing how people injured in car wrecks can file lawsuits in Louisiana courts.
Big Business is claiming victory in some respects, but that is not necessarily how we view it at the law offices of Joseph Joy and Associates. Our personal injury attorneys believe strongly that:
1) notwithstanding the upcoming changes to the law, our legal system will still compensate deserving plaintiffs for injuries caused by another person’s negligence if they have an experienced trial attorney who has done the necessary research of the facts and law to properly make their case and
2) there is no guarantee that all of this high-powered legislative negotiating will result in lower insurance rates. The insurance industry has never committed to that. There is no real data to support the idea that tort reform will trigger lower car insurance rates.
We have dealt with insurance companies enough to know they are not looking out for your interests. Instead of a level playing field, insurance companies want an edge at trial. They are mostly billion-dollar publicly-held companies paying big salaries to executives whose priority is bolstering the company’s stock price and dividends. The less the insurance companies pay in claims, the more profitable their shares.
Big Business promoted the changes in the law by insisting it will help “begin the process of rebuilding Louisiana’s insurance markets” since our state’s auto insurance rates are among the highest in the country. So are Louisiana homeowner’s insurance rates. Louisiana homeowners pay among the highest rates in the country. Big Business can’t blame the plaintiffs’ bar for that.
The car accident legal team at Joseph Joy and Associates has some specific thoughts about the most widely publicized changes that will go into effect:
Lower threshold for jury trial from $50,000 to $10,000
The new law lowers the requisite amount claimed to trigger a jury trial from $50,000 to $10,000. Currently, cases claiming less than $50,000 in damages are heard by a judge. Big Business is hoping the threat of a jury trial will entice more plaintiffs to settle. That’s a hypothesis that ignores the reality that trials can be good – or not so good – for either party, depending on the facts and law. Every case is different. Each claim has its own unique set of facts. A jury trial can present a multitude of uncertainties for both sides. Settlement adds certainty. Sometimes it is the plaintiff’s best interests to settle. Sometimes, though, it is not.
This much is true – the Joseph Joy and Associates legal team never shies away from trying a case if it’s the strategically right thing to do for the client.
Our experience is that there is just as much chance of settlement whether the case is tried by a judge or a jury. Judges want to clear their dockets and lean heavily on both sides to facilitate settlements in both instances.
By opening the floodgates to more jury trials, the clerks of courts and state district court staffs just got a lot more work. That could clog the dockets and slow down the trial scheduling process.
Joseph Joy and Associates likes to try cases. And we have an excellent track record. By paving the way for more jury trials, Big Business is overlooking the fact that juries are more sympathetic to the injured party than an insurance company, which is paying thousands in legal fees. At trial, the loser can be ordered to pay court costs and fees. If the insurance company loses at trial, not only do they have to pay the judgment, they could very wind up having to pay more on top of that.
Big Business did no favors to injured plaintiffs seeking compensation for their injuries. They fought bitterly, as they do every year, against a plaintiff effort to extend the one-year prescriptive period, or time within which suit must be filed. Louisiana is one of a small group of states that requires personal injury or tort actions be filed within 365 days of the accident or event at issue. One year is a narrow window and often is not enough time for a plaintiff to even realize they have been injured due to someone else’s negligence.
Another negative, among the many negatives in the new legislation, involves disclosure of whether the injured party was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident. This will undoubtedly create a cottage industry of defense experts will to testify that a plaintiff’s failure to buckle up caused or exacerbated their injuries.
At Joseph Joy and Associates, when we settle a claim, we insist on what’s fair and what’s rightfully owed to our client, the injured party. If the insurance company refuses to pay that, then we go to trial. That’s our philosophy and we have been able to secure millions for our clients. Take a look at the illustrative list of settlements we’ve gotten for clients here.
If you or a loved one have been involved in a vehicular accident and sustained serious personal injury due to someone else’s negligence, it is imperative you call an experienced attorney like Joseph Joy to evaluate your case. By no means should you attempt to negotiate with an insurance company yourself. That’s a David versus Goliath situation that unrepresented plaintiffs rarely win. Call the legal team at Joseph Joy and Associates for a free consultation.