1. Frequently Asked Legal Questions
1. Do you charge to investigate my claim?
Our initial consultation is free. We also do not charge for investigating your claim, such as obtaining the police report. We are only paid upon reaching a settlement or judgment.
2. How much will you charge for representing me?
You pay nothing unless we are able to settle the case or get a jury verdict in your favor.
3. How much is my case worth?
This is a common question and very difficult to answer. Every case is different and recovery results depend on your unique circumstances.
4. Who will pay my medical bills?
People with health benefits should have their insurance company pay for medical treatment. However, you will likely have to reimburse the health insurer for any amounts they pay as a result of the car accident.
Those without health insurance can seek treatment at any hospital or emergency. Our firm will provide your health care providers with letters of guarantee assuring that your medical bills will be paid upon settlement or a favorable judgment.
Regardless of your financial position, you should seek treatment immediately if seriously injured in a car accident.
5. How do I obtain a police report?
The police report can be obtained directly from the police agency that investigated the car accident. This could be either the Parish Sheriff’s Office, City Policy or the State Police. Most police reports are available within several weeks after the car accident. There is a small fee for the report, typically less than $10.00.
For our car accident clients, we request the report as soon as possible to evaluate the officer’s report as well as to follow up with any witnesses.
6. Should I give any statements to the insurance company?
Absolutely not! Often, State Farm as well as most insurance companies will contact you immediately after an accident. They simply want to lock in your statement and see if you offer any testimony inconsistent with the police report, any statements you previously gave to the officer, or any statements that differ from their driver.
Another important reason why insurance companies will contact you very early after the accident is because they know you are less likely to have a lawyer at that time. Without a lawyer, these insurance companies will take more liberties with you, such as try to trick you with their questions, ask questions not relevant to the car accident or [immediately start negotiating a quick settlement.]
7. Should I sign any documents provided by the insurance company?
No. State Farm as well as most insurance companies will send you documents immediately after your car wreck. Those documents will ask you to list all your health care providers, employers and such. In addition, you will likely receive several medical releases requiring your signature, which authorizes State Farm to get your medical records.
Please do not provide any of this information or at least consult a lawyer before doing so. You do not want the insurance company to have access to all your medical records. They will certainly use any negative information to their advantage and thus try to devalue your case.
8. Should I hire a car accident lawyer?
Yes. If not, you will be a significant disadvantage against State Farm and the other big insurance companies. State Farm has a team of investigators, claim specialists and adjusters who handle numerous car accident claims on a daily basis. They know exactly what to do and how to effectively negotiate quick, cheap settlements with injured victims who do not have a lawyer.
Moreover, insurance companies are aware that injured victims recover significantly more when represented by a car accident lawyer. A qualified car accident lawyer will seek all recoverable damages arising out of the accident and take State Farm to court if not all damages are paid.
9. Should I hire a “Personal Injury” lawyer for my car accident?
Anyone who suffers injury from a car accident should hire only a car accident lawyer. [Personal Injury Law] is very broad and can include many areas of law. You should hire the lawyer who fits your specific need, not someone who handles a car accident case every now and then.
10. When should I hire a car accident lawyer?
It is best to contact a car accident lawyer immediately after your accident. We often get cases where clients allowed sufficient amount time to pass between the accident and hiring us. Many car accident victims do not speak to a lawyer early after an accident because of tending to their injuries. Unfortunately, the client has made errors in the car accident case that would not have been made if they would have first contacted a car accident lawyer.
A qualified car accident lawyer, who is retained early after the accident, will have sufficient time to investigate the accident scene, take pictures, interview all witnesses and preserve all physical evidence. If too much time passes, then much of the critical evidence could be lost or destroyed thus greatly impacting your case.
11. Should I continue to receive treatment even if I am feeling better but still have off and on pain?
We always advise our clients to first consult their treating physician, but we would suggest that you should continue treatment until your pain has fully resolved or until you have reached maximum medical improvement as determined by your physician.
12. How long can I wait before filing my car accident lawsuit?
In short, an individual only has a certain period of time after they are harmed by the negligence of another in which to file their claim. In Louisiana, typically the statute of limitation to file a tort suit is one year from the date of injury.
13. When will my lawsuit resolve?
The length of car accident lawsuits vary. More complicated cases take longer to resolve depending on the issues. Many factors are beyond our control such as the court system, difficult defendant – insurance company, etc.
14. Can I file an accident lawsuit on behalf of a deceased family member?
In Louisiana, a family member can file a wrongful death suit on behalf of a loved one. Because statute of limitation laws strictly govern the amount of time you have to file one of these suits, you should discuss any potential legal action with one of our car accident lawyers as soon as possible.
15. Will I have to testify at trial?
Usually yes. We have to prepare every case as if we are going to trial, but some cases do settle before trial.
16. What am I able to recover after my car wreck?
In Louisiana, accident victims are entitled to recover damages for all losses and expenses arising out of the accident. Generally, those damages include recovery for:
• Medical expenses (past and future)
• Past and future wage losses
• Pain and suffering
• Physical disability
• Emotional trauma
• Mental anguish
• Loss of quality and enjoyment of life
• Loss of love, affection and sexual relations
• Property damage as well as any out-of-pocket expenses incurred as a result of the accident.
17. I have health insurance so why do I need to sue?
This is another common question. Most believe their health insurance will cover all costs after an accident. While your health insurer will pay your medical bills, you will still be left with any co-payments or other future medical expenses not covered by your health plan.
Additionally, health insurance does not compensate you for any pain and suffering or mental anguish as a result of the accident. For instance, accidents often leave the injured victim in pain or even disabled for many months or years afterwards. Those damages are only recovered through a lawsuit or settlement with the at-fault driver, not your health insurance.
There are also other damages not covered by health insurance: past or future lost wages, property damages or damages suffered by your spouse as a result of your accident.
18. Whom can I sue to recover my damages?
There are several potential parties from which an injured victim can seek recovery. Typically, you would file suit against the driver who caused the accident and perhaps the vehicle owner. If the at-fault driver was impaired from consuming too much alcohol, you may be able to bring suit against the business that served alcohol to the driver.
2. Common Car Insurance Terms
Adjuster: This is an insurance agent who assesses the amount of compensation that should be paid to an injury victim following an accident.
Bodily Injury Liability Coverage: This coverage compensates the injured in an accident caused by the insured driver.
Comprehensive Coverage: This coverage pays for damages to your vehicle caused by an incident other than a collision. This includes damages caused by fire, theft, windstorm, flood and vandalism.
Collision Coverage: Collision coverage pays for damages to your vehicle caused by a collision.
Declarations Page (Dec Page): The declarations page simply summarizes the coverages provided by your insurance policy. On the dec page, you will see your coverage limits, costs for each coverage, what vehicles are covered, whether there are any excluded drivers as well as other information that applies to the policy.
Deductible: Basically, this is amount not covered by your insurance company. For example, you discover that your policy provides for a $500.00 collision deductible after having an accident. The accident results in $1,500 in damage to the vehicle. Unfortunately, your insurance company is only obligated to pay for the amounts exceeding $500, which in this case is $1,000.
Named Insured: This is the person to whom the policy was issued.
Medical Payments (MedPay) Coverage: Medpay covers medical expenses as a result of a car accident.
Premium: This is the amount paid to the insurance company for insurance coverage.
Primary Residence: This is the place where you will live for the majority of your policy term.
Principal Driver: This is the person who drives the insured vehicle most often.
Property Damage Liability Coverage (PD): If the insured driver caused the accident, then the PD coverage will pay for the other person’s property damages up to the PD liability limits.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM): UM coverage provides you protection against at-fault drivers who fail to have any insurance. You will have coverage up to the selected UM limits.
Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM): UIM coverage provides you protection against at fault drivers who do not have enough insurance coverage to compensate you for your injuries. You will have coverage up to the selected UIM limits.
3. Common Medical Questions in Car Wrecks
1. What is the spinal cord?
The spinal cord enables your brain to communicate with your body. When the spinal cord is injured or damaged, this communication is often disrupted resulting in a loss of function.
2. What is a Herniated (Bulging/”slipped”) Disc?
Discs herniate when overcontracted back muscles tighten along the spine and pull vertebrae too closely together for a long time. This causes the jelly center to push against the outer cylinder of the disc (annulus fibrosus) which causes bulging. This is analogous to over inflating a tire or squeezing a jelly donut. The continued pressure on the disc eventually causes the bulge to increase to the point of rupturing and weakening the disc wall.
3. What is a ruptured disc?
A disc ruptures when the jelly like substance extrudes the center of the disc (nucleus pulposus) out of the disc into the surrounding space outside the disc, much like toothpaste out of a tube. The extruded disc material may then impinge upon nerve roots causing pain.
4. What is radiculopathy?
Radiculopathy is the tingling and numbness in the extremities (arms and legs) that result from nerve impingement (a pinched nerve). The term implies damage to a nerve root where it exits the spinal column.
5. What is facet joint syndrome?
Facet joints are the bony projections on vertebrae. When muscles contract along the spine, neighboring vertebrae are pulled together and cause the facet joints to meet with undue pressure and friction. The resulting pain and inflammation that result are sometimes called “facet joint syndrome” or “spinal arthritis.”
6. What is the difference between muscle spasms and a spinal injury?
Although muscle spasms are painful, they do not constitute an injury. Nerve impingement (tingling, burning, numbness, loss of muscular control) are associated with muscle spasms and mimic a spinal injury. Symptoms usually resolve quickly after the muscle spasms relax.
On the other hand, spine injuries involve changes in bone structure, such as fractured vertebrae, degenerating discs, torn or stretched ligaments or nerve damage. Spinal injuries take much longer to heal and sometimes never resolve.
7. What is spinal subluxation?
Spinal subluxation is the misalignment of surrounding vertebrae, which affects one’s posture, movement, and organ function by interfering with nerve signal transmission.
8. What is sciatica?
Sciatica refers to pain when one of more of the nerves making up the sciatic nerve becomes irritated or pinched. Most feel pain in the buttocks and into the lower extremities. Sciatica is typically caused by a herniated disc, degenerative disc disease and lumbar spinal stenosis.
9. What is degenerative disc disease (“DDD”)?
DDD is the breakdown of the intervertebral discs, which is the fibrocartilage spacers between the vertebrae. It can be a mild or more severe disc bulge (herniation). DDD breakdown may occur anywhere in the spine, including the neck. Common symptoms include:
• Pain when sitting, bending, lifting or twisting
• Severe pain that comes and goes
• Pain in the low back, buttocks and thighs, or neck
• Numbness and tingling
• Weakness in the legs or foot drop indicting nerve root damage
10. What is discogenic pain?
Discogenic pain refers to pain caused by a damaged intervertebral disc.
11. What is Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?
Lumbar stenosis occurs when the spinal nerve roots in the lower back are compressed, which produces symptoms of sciatica such as tingling, weakness or numbness that radiates from the low back and into the lower extremities (legs and feet).
12. What is Cervical Spinal Stenosis?
Cervical spinal stenosis is compression of the spinal cord. This can lead to major body weakness, and in some cases, paralysis.
13. What is Spondylosis?
Spondylosis refers to a degenerative process affecting the vertebral disc and facet joints that gradually develops with age.
14. What is a Discogram?
Discogram is a procedure used to determine the source of a patient’s low back pain. A needle is inserted into the center of the disc. Dye is then injected into the disc. If injecting the dye recreates the patient’s pain, it is then inferred that the specific disc is the source of pain for the patient.
15. What is an epidural steroid injection?
An epidural steroid injection is a procedure that delivers steroids by needle directly into the epidural space which helps to reduce inflammation.
16. Is there a difference between spine injuries?
Yes. For instance, a back or neck strain/sprain is relatively mild and usually takes several months or longer to resolve. However, an injury to a disc in the back or neck takes much longer to heal, and in some cases, never heals. Often treatment includes extensive therapy, injections and sometimes surgery. Common disc injuries are bulging discs, herniated discs or ruptured discs.
17. What is nerve root impingement?
Nerve root impingement is an abnormal protrusion of body tissue into the space occupied by a spinal nerve root. This may be due to a disc herniation, tissue prolapse or inflammation.
18. What is the difference between paraplegia and quadriplegia?
Paraplegia is the paralysis of both legs while quadriplegia is paralysis of both legs and arms.
19. What is the difference between an objective and subjective injury?
An objective injury is easy to identify such as a broken bone, laceration or bruise. However, a subjective injury is not easy to identify. These types of injuries are commonly referred to as soft-tissue injuries, which typically involves damage to muscle and ligaments. They do not readily appear on diagnostics, such as X-rays, like an objective injury. Thus, physicians diagnose patients with these types of injuries based upon their complaints.