A car accident can have immense consequences, both for the injured party and for the party that caused the accident. Understanding Louisiana’s penal code as it applies to car accidents can provide drivers with a better idea of their next steps following an accident, from what compensation the injured victim may have the right to claim to the legal obligations of the driver that caused the accident.
Reporting the Accident
Louisiana Code §398 notes that after an accident that results in injury, death, or property damage over five hundred dollars, the drivers of both vehicles must notify the local police about the crash and provide their license and insurance information. The police officers who respond to the scene of the accident will collect relevant information about the accident and investigate the cause of the incident to determine liability better. Failure to report the accident can lead to significant penalties, including getting charged with a hit-and-run.
Louisiana law lays out several clear consequences for car accidents.
According to Louisiana Code §32.1, vehicular homicide occurs when the operator of a motor vehicle directly or proximately causes the death of another human being. It includes cases in which the operator is under the influence of alcohol. Vehicular homicide can lead to:
- A fine between $2,000 and $15,000
- Imprisonment for 5-30 years
- At least 3 years of imprisonment without the possibility of parole, probation, or suspension of the sentence
If the offender’s BAC was over .20 percent at the time of the accident, the offender may face conviction of a violent crime.
A hit-and-run occurs when you fail to report an accident to the authorities. If it does not lead to death or serious bodily injury in Louisiana, the defendant can end up with up to $500 in fines and between 10 days and six months in jail. On the other hand, if death or serious bodily injury occurred as a result of the accident, and the defendant knew about the injury, it can lead to up to $5,000 in fines and up to 10 years of imprisonment with or without hard labor.
Failure To Follow the Rules of the Road
Louisiana has clear rules of the road, including rules governing speed limits, texting and driving, and driving under the influence. Not only can failure to follow those rules increase the risk of an accident, but it may also increase the severity of the accident. As a result, Louisiana drivers who cause an accident due to failure to follow those rules can end up facing significant consequences, including:
- Points on their license
- Jail time
- License loss
The specific consequences for failure to follow the rules of the road will depend on the offense committed and the severity of that offense. For example, reckless driving, including driving significantly over the speed limit or driving aggressively, can lead to an increase in fines and more points on your license than a minor speeding offense. Consistent failure to follow the rules of the road, including multiple convictions, can result in more serious penalties, including higher fines and a longer time in jail. Officers may assign penalties for failure to follow the rules of the road when they respond to an accident.
Compensation Through Injury Claims After a Louisiana Accident
According to Article 2315, when a man causes damage to another, he must take steps to repair those damages. That includes cases of negligence on the road that result in a car accident. If you suffer injuries in a car accident, you have the right to recover compensation for the losses you sustained.
Limitations on Compensation
Louisiana law does not have damage caps on the compensation victims can recover from a car accident. However, it does note that if the injured party does not carry car insurance, that party cannot recover compensation for the first $15,000 of bodily injury damages and the first $25,000 of property damages. Louisiana also has a pure comparative fault system that notes that any time a driver is less than 100% at fault for the accident, the driver has the right to recover compensation for the damages associated with the accident; however, the driver’s compensation will be limited by the percentage fault he bears. For example, if the insurance company or court deems you 10% responsible for an accident, you may only have the right to recover 90% of the damages sustained in the accident. On the other hand, even if the other party caused only 1% of the accident, you may have the right to recover that 1% of the damages you suffered.
Types of Compensation You Can Recover
Louisiana allows victims to recover compensation for many of the damages they may have sustained due to the negligent actions of another party. Typical claims include compensation for:
- Medical costs
- Lost wages
- Lost earning potential
- Pain and suffering
Note that all damages in Louisiana car accidents must be directly linked to the car accident. Victims cannot claim compensation for treatments, services, or procedures that are not a direct result of the accident.
The Statute of Limitations
To file a claim for the damages from a car accident, you must begin the filing process before the statute of limitations expires. In Louisiana, that means you have one year from the date of the accident to file a claim. While some exceptions exist that can extend the statute of limitations, including cases in which a minor suffers injury in a car accident, you should try to move forward with your claim before the statute of limitations expires so that you can maximize your ability to recover just compensation for your injuries.
The statute of limitations on other offenses, including vehicular homicide, may be much longer. The statute of limitations on negligent homicide is around six years.
The Aftermath of a Car Accident
The aftermath of a car accident can prove complicated, whether you were at fault or the victim. Working with an attorney can help you determine what charges you might face as well as whether you may deserve compensation for the injuries sustained in an accident.
Louisiana State Legislature. https://www.legis.la.gov/legis/Law.aspx?d=110515