If you or someone you love has been involved in a trucking accident, we know how drastically they can change your life. These massive vehicles, also known as big rigs, semi-trucks, or 18-wheelers, can cause devastating crashes. In the most serious cases, they are fatal. In others, they can lead to lifelong issues, such as spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries. After any trucking accident, you need support. Fair compensation can help you cover your medical costs and ongoing care after a trucking accident. At Huber Thomas & Marcelle, we can help you navigate the complex trucking industry laws and regulations so you can find the support you need. Here’s what you need to know about spinal cord injuries and trucking accidents.
How often do truck accidents occur?
A semi-truck is the largest type of vehicle you’ll find on the road. Some are carrying mail packages, while others may be transporting produce to your local grocery store. Some trucks are even transporting hazardous materials.
With a full tank and cargo load, this type of truck can weigh up to 30 times more than a regular car. While that alone is a cause for concern for surrounding drivers, there are several other issues.
For example, these are some of the major risks that can lead to truck accidents:
- Driver fatigue due to long stretches of work, especially at night
- Large blind spots around the sides and rear of a large truck
- Lack of ability to brake at high speeds, especially while traveling on wet roads or steep hills
- Longer acceleration distances, which are especially risky while attempting to merge into traffic
- Hazardous material cargo, including corrosive agents, explosive materials, or nuclear waste
While the trucking industry is federally regulated, there are still many issues to sort through. Truck accidents occur much too often, and in the worst cases, they have fatal outcomes. More than 4,100 people died in large truck crashes in 2018. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 67% of them were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles.
Unfortunately, statistics show that the problem is only getting worse. In fact, trucking accidents are on the rise. The number of people who died in large truck crashes was 31% higher in 2018 than it was in 2009, the lowest it had been since the collection of fatal crash data began in 1975.
What types of injuries occur after truck accidents?
If a trucking accident isn’t fatal, it is still likely to be catastrophic in terms of injuries and property damage. There are several different types of injuries that may occur after truck accidents, including, but not limited to:
- Whiplash: If you are hit from behind, your head may be thrown violently back and forth causing whiplash and a range of other neck injuries
- Back injuries: When your back is struck or twisted around in a trucking accident, the results can lead to chronic pain and debilitation
- Broken bones: The impact of a big rig can break bones all over the body, including your ribs, arms, and legs
- Head injuries: When you hit your head against a dashboard or are struck by debris, serious head injuries can occur, including brain injuries
- Internal trauma: Blunt trauma from the powerful blow of a truck can cause internal bleeding and damage to organs
- Lacerations: Most trucking accidents involve flying debris that can pierce the skin and lead to deep cuts as well as scrapes
Beyond this list, the most serious and prevalent injuries after trucking accidents are spinal cord injuries. This type of injury can change the course of your entire life. The spinal cord is significant because it helps your body function by sending and receiving messages from the brain. Let's look at the impact of this type of injury more closely.
What are spinal cord injuries?
We walk around every day completing basic tasks. From getting a plate out of the cupboard to reaching for your wallet, these everyday occurrences are seemingly mindless. Most of us don’t give too much thought to the fact that the spinal cord makes all of this possible.
In basic terms, your spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that runs down the center of your back. It transmits sensory information from your body to your brain, which means it is an integral part of your life. It enables you to move your limbs, control your bladder, and so much more.
The bony vertebrae of your spinal column protect this cord of nerves from damage. However, severe trauma can fracture, compress, or even sever the spinal cord. When communication between the brain and spinal cord fails, paralysis occurs. This is why spinal cord injuries are so dangerous.
Types of spinal cord injuries
As with any injury, there are varying levels of severity of spinal cord injuries. This will largely depend on the location of the impact. In general, the higher up the injury takes place, the more severe the outcome.
For example, an injury to the neck, first and second vertebrae, or mid-cervical vertebra could affect your ability to breathe. An injury that occurs lower than this in the lumbar vertebrae may affect nerve and muscle control to the bladder, bowel, legs, and sexual organs.
Spinal cord injuries are classified into three different categories or types:
- Quadriplegia: Refers to loss of movement and sensation in all four limbs, but may also affect a person’s respiratory system
- Paraplegia: Loss of sensation and movement in both legs
- Triplegia: Involves motor and sensory loss in both legs and one arm
Doctors must also determine whether a spinal cord injury is complete or incomplete. A complete injury refers to a total lack of movement or feeling below the level of the injury. An incomplete injury means there is still some degree of feeling or movement below the level of the injury.
Recovery and aftercare
The moments immediately following spinal cord injuries are critical. Remain still and avoid moving your spinal column. In a serious case like this, it is best to wait for emergency care to arrive. This will increase your odds of a better recovery.
From there, you will most likely be transported by ambulance to the nearest hospital. Doctors there will work to stabilize you with oxygen, blood transfusions, and a brace to keep your neck and back still. The following hours are critical and will have a serious impact on your recovery.
While every spinal cord injury is different, there are several methods of treatment your medical team may recommend. This could include all, or a combination, of the following:
- Surgery to repair tears and damage to the spinal column
- Physical therapy to improve your range of motion and strengthen the damaged area
- Injections to reduce inflammation, provide pain relief, and repair damaged tissue
- Occupational therapy and rehabilitation to allow you to return to work
- The use of assistive devices and braces
Aftercare will look different for every person. In cases of severe spinal cord injuries, you may require a wheelchair, either temporarily or permanently. This will depend on the extent of your injury and any paralysis you’re experiencing.
Furthermore, you may require special in-home care in order to accomplish daily tasks. While this is a worst-case scenario, it is still the reality for many spinal cord injuries. A spinal cord injury during a trucking accident can truly alter the course of your life.
What should I do after a trucking accident?
Any accident is frightening, but a run-in with a truck of this size can leave you feeling completely shaken and overwhelmed. Your first priority should always be to call for help, especially if you or any of your passengers are hurt. It doesn’t matter if it seems to be minor, it’s always best to have emergency officials evaluate the situation. As noted, it's best to remain still if there's any evidence of spinal cord injuries. Ask nearby witnesses to complete the following tasks in this case.
If there aren’t any evident injuries, you’ll still need to call police. An officer will come out to the scene to write up a formal crash report. This document can be very helpful when dealing with the truck driver, the company they work for, and insurance representatives.
Once you’ve called the local police department in your area, follow these important next steps:
- Get contact information for the driver involved: Don’t leave without getting information from the truck driver involved in the crash. This should include their name, phone number, license plate, and insurance information. Jot down any details about the company they work for and their employee ID number as well. If they're subcontracting for a larger shipping company (such as Amazon), get the names of both companies too.
- Talk to witnesses: Did anyone see the crash happen? Perhaps someone was in a nearby parking lot or restaurant. Maybe another driver saw the crash happen and pulled over to help. Exchange information with these witnesses. You'll likely need firsthand accounts later on to support your case.
- Gather evidence: If you’re in a safe place, begin to gather evidence from the site of the accident. Take photos of the entire area, as well as any damage to your vehicle or skid marks on the road, sidewalks, and guardrails.
Whether you are returning home or being admitted to a hospital, you or someone you love should consider hiring a truck accident lawyer right away. This will help you determine the next steps. An experienced car accident lawyer will be open and honest about the best plan for your specific situation and can help protect your rights after a crash.
Get help after a trucking accident
Recovering from a spinal cord injury is a lifelong effort. If a truck driver is responsible for your injury, you have the right to fair compensation so you can heal. This financial support will usually be necessary to cover rehabilitation, lost wages, continued medical care, and any medical equipment your doctor deems necessary.
At Huber Thomas & Marcelle, we understand the trauma that occurs with spinal cord injuries. As your car accident attorney, we will work closely with expert medical witnesses to calculate a fair settlement based on the physical, work-related, and mental damages you are suffering from.
Our New Orleans car accident lawyers have brought hundreds of personal injury cases to trial. We pride ourselves on our excellent trial success record and client-centered focus. In many cases, you don't pay anything unless we win your case.
Give us a call today to discuss your situation.
It can happen while you’re sitting at a stoplight or slowing down for traffic. Suddenly, a car from behind slams into you. Even with the best intentions and a great driving record, you can become the victim in a rear-end accident. In serious cases, injuries from rear-end accidents can change the course of your life, forcing you to receive costly medical care.
Unfortunately, many drivers don’t take the dangers of the road seriously, and in turn, don’t pay attention as much as they should. Fortunately, the team at Huber Thomas & Marcelle can provide guidance on the best ways to recover after an accident, including rear-end collisions. Whether you’ve recently been in an accident or simply want to be prepared if the worst happens, here’s what you should know.
What is a rear-end accident?
While collisions can happen in a variety of ways, a rear-end accident is one of the most common. In 2019, there were more than 50,000 rear-end crashes in the state of Louisiana. Approximately 34% of them resulted in injuries, while another 35% caused property damage. Shockingly, 12% of these rear-end collisions were fatal, which speaks to the seriousness of this type of accident.
This type of crash involves a car hitting the one in front of it. This can be due to a variety of factors, including:
- Driver inattention or distraction
- Weather conditions that lead to icy or slippery roads
In some cases, the initial force can lead to a domino effect. On highways, pile-ups are caused by the first accident that leads to several others cars colliding with the vehicle in front of them. This chain reaction can lead to high levels of injury and property damage.
What types of injuries are common after rear-end accidents?
When it comes to accidents on the road, the resulting injuries can be devastating. Victims often deal with long-lasting side effects and mounting medical bills. Some of the most common types of injuries after rear-end accidents include:
- Whiplash: This occurs when your head is violently jolted in one direction and then the other, often leading to neck pain and headaches
- Lower back injuries: Ruptures, tears, fractures, or dislocation of the ligaments and muscles in the lower back region can occur after a collision
- Spinal cord injuries: In severe cases, an accident can lead to damage to the bony vertebrae of your spinal column—the structure that transmits sensory information from your body to your brain
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI): Brain damage can result from a violent blow, blast, or jolt to the head, with often long-lasting effects
- Broken bones: Broken ribs to broken legs, arms, and even shoulders and pelvises are all possible during a collision
While these are some of the most common injuries after rear-end collisions, this list is just the beginning. Victims of car accidents can suffer from a range of different injuries and conditions after a crash. It’s important to seek emergency care immediately in order to improve your chances of making a full recovery.
It’s also worth noting that many injuries can appear over time. You may walk away feeling fine, but really be in shock. In the days or weeks to come, pain and soreness can crop up or you may finally feel the effects of whiplash or injuries. For this reason, we always recommend that you visit your doctor for a check-up after an accident, even if you feel okay. Seemingly invisible effects of a car accident can be dangerous if they're allowed to get worse over time.
Who is at fault after a rear-end accident in Louisiana?
In most rear-end collisions, the fault will come down on the trailing driver because he or she created the initial impact. Simply put, every driver is expected to maintain a safe distance from the car in front of them in order to avoid rear-end collisions.
Louisiana law (R.S. 32:81) clearly states:
“The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicle and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway.”
While it is rare, there are instances when the driver who was hit may be partially to blame for a rear-end accident. Some examples that could lead to this scenario include:
- Failing to repair a broken tail light or forgetting to turn on hazard lights after a mechanical failure or accident
- Stopping for no reason in the middle of the road
- Reversing without reason or without adequate notice
- Driving erratically, such as going much faster than the speed limit, darting in and out of traffic, and cutting other drivers off
Every rear-end accident is different. A variety of factors can lead to the initial impact and any subsequent damage done to surrounding vehicles.
At Huber Thomas & Marcelle, our skilled car accident lawyers can review the specifics of your crash and discuss your options. If you're injured or have extensive property damage, they can discuss potential remedies and legal solutions for getting the compensation you need to recover fully.
What should I do after a rear-end collision?
Any type of car accident can feel overwhelming in the moment, but it’s important to keep a clear head and complete a few tasks. Your first priority should always be to call for help, especially if you notice any injuries right away. It doesn’t matter if it seems to be minor, it’s best to have a doctor take a closer look.
If there aren’t any evident injuries, you’ll still need to call police. An officer will come out to the scene to write up a formal crash report. This document can be very helpful when dealing with the other party and insurance companies.
Once you’ve called your local police department, follow these three important next steps:
- Get contact information for the drivers involved: Don’t leave without getting information from the other drivers involved in the crash. This should include their name, phone number, license plate, and insurance information.
- Talk to witnesses: Did anyone see the crash happen? Perhaps someone was in a nearby parking lot or restaurant. Maybe another driver saw the crash happen and pulled over to help. Exchange information with these witnesses. You may need firsthand accounts later on to support your case.
- Gather evidence: If you’re in a safe place, begin to gather evidence from the site of the rear-end accident. Take photos of the entire area, as well as any property damage to cars or skid marks on the road.
We cover the other important steps you should take after a car accident in our earlier post.
Get help after a rear-end accident in Louisiana
Once you’ve returned home, you should contact an experienced car accident lawyer. This isn’t the time to go it alone. Too often people believe they can go through this experience without representation, only to miss out on the compensation they need to recover fully.
It’s also important to note that even if you were partially at fault during a crash, you may still be eligible for compensation, whether it’s for medical bills or vehicle damage. Don’t let insurance companies shift all of the blame onto you.
At Huber Thomas & Marcelle, you’ll have a skilled car accident attorney by your side to guide you through the complex legal process. Plus, you'll always benefit from multiple viewpoints and areas of expertise through our team's collaborative approach. Beyond car accidents, we also have experience helping our clients with accidents that involve pedestrians, motorcycles, semi-trucks, and more.
To learn about how we can help after an accident, we encourage you to browse our previous case victories. If you've been in a rear-end accident and want to ensure that you receive a fair settlement, contact us today for a free consultation.
Driving is a daily occurrence for most of us. It’s as common as eating and sleeping when it comes to our routine. Unfortunately, accidents can happen due to inclement weather, distracted driving, and other unforeseen instances, and many of us simply have no idea what to do after a car accident.
In the state of Louisiana, a crash resulting in injuries happens every seven minutes, but any type of accident can be traumatic. Panic sets in, especially if you have passengers in the car with you. Even if everyone in your car is safe, what about the other people involved in the crash? How much will this cost you? Is your car a total loss? Your mind will likely be racing as you try to figure out what to do.
At Huber, Thomas & Marcelle, we're dedicated to helping Louisiana residents make sense of the legal system and this post covers one of the most important aspects of that. In the moments after the crash occurs, these are the vital things you should know about what to do after a car accident to protect yourself and your rights.
What to do after a car accident
One of the most important things to keep in mind after a car accident is to stay calm. This will help you get through a series of steps to ensure your safety and the safety of those around you.
Keep in mind, though, that while we’re focusing on car accidents in this particular post, many of these tips are relevant for other types of accidents as well. You should follow similar steps for motorcycle accidents or any situation involving a bicycle and pedestrians. You will even find many of them applicable after a boating incident.
Here are ten of the most important steps to take immediately after an accident.
1. Stop and move to a safe area
Always remain on scene after an accident. Leaving the area can result in serious consequences, especially if you are at fault.
That said, it’s important to get to a nearby safe area. People often get hurt or cause a chain reaction of accidents when they aren’t in a safe area away from the flow of traffic.
If possible, pull into an adjacent parking lot or at least to the shoulder. Turn on your hazard lights so other cars can clearly see that you’ve pulled away from the road. If you have emergency flares, that’s even better, especially at night.
2. Call for help
Once you’re in a safe area, it’s time to call for help. If you, your passengers, or people in the other vehicle are injured, call 911 and ask for emergency medical assistance. Traumatic brain or head injuries, in particular, should be dealt with immediately.
If everyone is unharmed, you’ll still need to call police. Even when damage seems to be minor, you’ll want an official car accident report to give to your insurance company or attorney, if necessary.
3. Exchange information
Regardless of how minimal the damage may seem, it’s essential to exchange information with the other people involved in the crash. You will need their name, contact information, license plate number, and insurance details.
Although it isn’t a requirement for everyone to show their license, it’s a good idea to ask. This can simply confirm they are who they claim to be.
4. Find witnesses
Unfortunately, accidents can quickly become controversial. In order to avoid the blame game, it’s important to find witnesses who saw the crash take place.
Perhaps this is someone who pulled over to help or saw it happen from a nearby crosswalk or sidewalk. Be sure to gather contact information from these people. If they've arrived at the scene, connect them with police officers to give statements.
5. Take photos
In today’s world of advanced technology and smartphones, this step is easier than ever. Take detailed photos of the crash from several different angles, as well as close-up images of any damage. You may also find it beneficial to get a video of the entire scene in order to provide context and a total view of the area. Get evidence of any debris, skid marks, or other damage.
This can help your insurance company calculate just how much damage has been done to your vehicle or any other vehicles involved. In the unfortunate event that your case does go to litigation, this type of evidence is critical.
6. Contact your insurance company
It’s important to get in touch with your insurance company. Give them a call and inform them that you have been in an accident, BUT don’t give them any details yet. Let them know you will be contacting them again soon once you have spoken to your attorney (see #10).
7. Get professional help
Once the dust has cleared and you've left the scene, it's time to get help.
Take your vehicle into a reputable shop for an extensive look. Ask them to provide notes about the damage, along with a cost breakdown for repairs.
Even if you feel fine, visit a doctor for a thorough check-up. You may not feel some injuries due to shock, while others like whiplash, can take a few days to appear.
8. Keep records of all medical treatment
If you’re suffering from injuries after a car accident, medical bills can pile up quickly. From initial tests and X-rays to hospital stays and subsequent check-ups, keep an extensive paper trail for every medical appointment you have.
Ask your doctor, the hospital, and even your health insurance company for records of everything. Create a file and keep it in a safe place. You may want to consider scanning these documents in order to keep them on your computer for easy access and emailing.
All of this will be very important if you do go through the personal injury claims process.
9. Proceed with caution
In the days following an accident, be wary of unsolicited phone calls from the other party’s insurance company or attorney. Remain polite and professional, but explain that you’ll be in touch through your own representation.
In some cases, they may try to offer you an early settlement. If you were hurt, this could prevent you from seeking much-needed compensation in the future. It’s important to be sure that you understand the full scope of your condition and any future complications before you accept and sign off on any settlement.
Furthermore, even property damage estimates take time. What if it turns out your minor car repairs are in fact extensive? In most cases, an early settlement will only provide money for simple repairs. Don’t let the other party or their insurance company pressure you into anything.
10. Contact a New Orleans car accident lawyer
A skilled New Orleans car accident lawyer can navigate complex legal matters with your best interests in mind. The stress of a car accident can be intense, especially if you’re dealing with injuries or extensive vehicle damage that leaves you without reliable transportation.
How do you know if you need a lawyer? There are three instances when it is critical to find professional representation:
- You or a passenger in your vehicle were injured in the accident
- Anyone in the accident was severely injured or killed
- There's significant and costly property damage
You may also want to contact an attorney even if the damage was minor. A short consultation can give you a better idea of the best way to protect your rights and property after an accident.
If you work with our team at Huber, Thomas & Marcelle, you can be confident that the best Louisiana car accident lawyers are on your side. Our case victories have resulted in millions of dollars for our deserving clients. If you've been in a car accident and want to ensure that you receive a fair settlement, contact us today for a free consultation. We will be here for you every step of the way.
Car accidents happen across the U.S. every day. While most of them are minor collisions, some have devastating results that can change your life forever. In fact, in Louisiana alone, there are more than 1,300 car accidents that result in serious injuries every year. Severe injuries can lead to long hospital stays, costly medical bills, and permanent damage to your body. A car accident brain injury falls into this category as it can result in long-term issues.
Perhaps you're facing months of rehabilitation or your injuries are so severe that you’re unable to return to work. You may be entitled to compensation that will help you overcome these challenges. A brain injury accident lawyer on our team can discuss your options and answer any questions you may have. If you're in Louisiana or Texas, contact us to schedule a free consultation or read on in this post to learn more.
What causes a car accident brain injury?
A TBI is generally caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that disrupts the normal function of the brain. Some are mild, meaning there is only a brief change in mental status or consciousness. Alternatively, a severe TBI can result in a permanent or extended period of memory loss or unconsciousness.
According to a 2013 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), car accidents are among the most common causes of emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and deaths related to traumatic brain injury among people aged 15 to 34.
Whether you experience a TBI in a car accident often depends on several factors, as a recent study from the University of Arizona discovered. This includes the direction in which you were hit, speed of the vehicles involved, and whether you were wearing a seatbelt.
Types of car accident brain injuries
There are several different types of car accident brain injuries. Some of the more common include:
- Concussion: Often referred to as the most common type of TBI, a concussion can take months to completely heal. It can be caused by a direct blow or violent shaking that results in the stretching of the brain’s blood vessels.
- Contusion: A contusion is generally the result of direct impact to the head that causes bleeding on the brain. Large contusions may require surgical removal.
- Coup-Contrecoup: This injury leads to bleeding at the site of the blow, as well as the opposite side of the brain. This happens when the impact causes the brain to move and slam into the opposite side of the skull.
- Diffuse Axonal: When the unmoving brain lags behind the movement of the skull, nerve tissues throughout the brain can tear. A diffuse axonal injury can disrupt brain activity, leading to permanent brain damage, coma, or even death.
- Penetration Injury: If pieces of metal or debris penetrate the head, it can force these objects or even parts of the skull into the brain. This ruptures and stretches brain tissue.
Symptoms of car accident brain injuries
Beyond type, car accident brain injuries also range in severity. It’s important to know symptoms for each to know if you're dealing with a mild or more severe injury.
A mild traumatic brain injury may result in loss of consciousness for a few seconds to a few minutes. However, it’s possible to remain conscious while feeling confused or disoriented. In the hours or days following the accident, other symptoms of a mild traumatic brain injury may include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Fatigue or drowsiness
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual
- Dizziness or loss of balance
- Speech problems
- Blurred vision
- Sensitivity to light or sound
- Mood swings
- Concentration problems
- Depression or anxiety
Moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries can include the signs and symptoms noted above, along with other issues. Loss of consciousness may take place for several minutes to hours. The following symptoms will usually be present within the first few hours or days:
- Convulsions or seizures
- Persistent or worsening headaches
- Repeated vomiting or nausea
- Dilation of one or both pupils
- Loss of coordination
- Numbness in fingers and toes
- Inability to wake up from sleep
- Combativeness or confusion
- Unusual behavior
- Slurred speech
What happens after a brain injury?
If you were recently in a car accident and believe you may have a brain injury, it’s important to seek medical care immediately.
While each situation is different, the following is the typical flow of events after a car accident brain injury. However, it’s important to note, you may not feel the effects of a brain injury from a motorcycle accident or car accident right away. Every case is unique. Even if you don't think you need it, get medical attention right away just to make sure.
Emergency care after any type of car or motorcycle accident is critical.
In some cases, an injury may be fatal if left untreated. This is why it’s essential to see a doctor for a thorough check-up. Even if you feel normal, the impact of a serious car crash can be dangerous. Visit your doctor for a professional opinion.
When you go to obtain emergency care or any type of check-up after a car accident, you will most likely undergo various medical tests. This may include a computerized tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and X-rays.
Intracranial pressure monitors are also used in some cases. Tissue swelling from a TBI can increase pressure inside the skull, which causes even more damage to the brain. By inserting a probe into the skull, doctors can monitor the level of pressure a patient is experiencing.
These tests allow your medical team to determine whether you have sustained a traumatic brain injury or brain swelling after a car accident. A solid diagnosis is the first step toward treatment.
Once your medical team determines whether you’ve sustained a traumatic brain injury, you will move forward with a treatment plan.
In mild cases, rest and over-the-counter pain medication should be enough. Your doctor may recommend continuous monitoring for worsening symptoms, both physical and cognitive.
For moderate to severe cases, your emergency medical team may turn to diuretics to reduce the amount of fluid in the brain. Anti-seizure or coma-inducing drugs may be necessary in very serious situations.
Emergency surgery is also a possibility, depending on the injury. Doctors must operate in cases involving skull fractures, bleeding on the brain, and extremely swollen brain tissue.
Most significant brain injuries require extensive rehabilitation. While this typically begins in the hospital, you will most likely need further care through an inpatient facility. After more serious injuries, you may even need to relearn how to walk, talk, and perform simple daily activities.
In other cases, you will have the option of pursuing ongoing outpatient care. Your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist, speech pathologist, or even a neuropsychologist.
The type of rehabilitation you undergo, as well as the duration will depend on your specific injury and overall condition.
How can a brain injury accident lawyer help?
All of this information in this post is just a high-level overview of what can happen after a brain injury from a car accident. Such an injury is often life altering and they're among the most costly injuries to heal.
As you navigate through life after this type of accident, costs may add up quickly. You may not be able to work as much as you used to, if at all. Continued care through therapy and rehabilitation may be necessary for an indefinite amount of time.
At Huber Thomas & Marcelle, we understand the serious nature of this type of injury. We’re dedicated to getting you the compensation you deserve so you can heal. Our team is here to support you each step of the way. Our goal is for you to focus on your recovery, not how you’ll pay the ongoing bills.
If you’re suffering from a car accident brain injury and want to learn if legal representation is right for you, contact us today for a free consultation. We can help you learn more about your options moving forward.
A car accident can instantly and drastically change your best-laid plans. At that moment, your life and priorities change. From the moment the accident occurs, though, it can feel overwhelming to deal with the fall-out when talking to the police, insurance companies, your healthcare team, and more. A car accident lawyer can bring order to the chaos. Choosing when or if to contact an attorney isn't always clear-cut, but this post gives some general guidance.
Overall, though, if you were recently involved in an accident, our team of New Orleans car accident lawyers at Huber Thomas & Marcelle are always here to help. We offer free consultations so you can protect yourself from the day of the accident and beyond. We'll realistically explain your next best steps, whether that's representation or taking on the case yourself. Contact us for more information or keep reading to learn more.
What should I do immediately after a car accident?
The minutes, hours, and days after an accident can be a whirlwind. Your first priority is you and your loved one's safety. Get immediate medical attention if any one has been injured in any way—even if that injury seems small. After the stress and adrenaline of an accident wears away, what appears to be small injuries can become much more serious. Because of this, it's best to have a doctor check it out.
If you feel safe to do so, gather some basic evidence from the site of the accident. Take photos of the accident site, any property damage to cars, and any skid marks on the road or roadside. Ask for information from the other drivers involved, including name, phone number, license plate, and insurance information.
We cover more information about this in a recent post on the personal injury claims process. However, there are two additional things you should know after an accident.
Postpone talking to the other party's insurance company
An insurance company begins work right after an accident. They know it's in their best interest to talk to you as soon as possible. This is when you're at your most vulnerable. You likely don't understand the full scope of your injuries or property damage. You're exhausted from the accident.
When the other insurance company calls, you are not required to talk to them.
If they contact you, they will likely ask for a recounting of the accident. In your post-accident state, you may neglect to provide details that could be important to your case later on or answer a question in a way that frames you negatively if the matter does go to litigation. They may also ask leading questions that you're not equipped to answer.
The other insurance company will probably offer a small amount of money to settle your claim, too. Unfortunately, after an accident, you simply won't know the full extent of your injuries or property damage. This settlement will generally only cover the most basic repairs or medical costs. This settlement offer also includes a release that will make it impossible to bring a later claim against them.
For these reasons, it's best only to talk to an attorney, your own insurance company, your medical team, and the police after an accident.
Be aware of Louisiana car accident laws
Louisiana has multiple laws governing car accident matters. According to Louisiana Revised Statutes §32-398, you should immediately report any accident that results in injury or death to a person and results in more than $500 in property damage. When you call the police after an accident, they'll write up this report and guide you through any other steps.
If you can, you should also clearly document any evidence and gather witness testimony to better and more clearly define who was at fault during an accident. Louisiana is a "comparative fault" state according to Civil Code Article 2323. If you are awarded damages after litigation for a car accident, they'll be reduced by your level of fault in the crash.
What does this mean? Let's say you have damages equaling $200,000. If it's determined that you were 25% at fault for the accident, the total of your damages ($200,000) is reduced by your amount of fault in the accident (25%). This leaves you instead with $150,000 in awarded damages. That being said, even if you were partly at fault, you can still be entitled to compensation after an accident.
How do I know if I need a lawyer after a car accident?
After you've received medical attention and documented the accident as much as possible, it's time to think about asking a car accident lawyer for help.
To start, most attorneys offer free consultations. Highly-respected attorneys with good online reviews will be honest about your case. They'll explain if a case is worth representing or if you're better handling a small accident claim through the insurance process.
However, always contact a lawyer as soon as possible if any of the following occurs:
- You or a passenger were injured in the accident
- Anyone in the accident was severely injured or killed
- There's significant and costly property damage
When an accident leads to significant damages, it means there will be higher claims for medical costs and repairs. Ensuring you receive compensation to cover these from the insurance company will be difficult. It's best undertaken with the help of an attorney who knows the process. They'll start work immediately, gathering evidence and guiding you on the best way forward.
There are other times when you should contact a lawyer after a car accident. If you ever feel overwhelmed or in over your head, ask for help. If any professionals in the matter—your insurance company, the other insurance company, healthcare providers, or the police—aren't dealing fairly, it's time to get support.
An attorney's job is to guide you through the complex legal process. They're experts in what they do, and having a great lawyer by your side can mean the difference between a settlement that barely covers your medical costs and one that helps you recover financially and personally from an accident. An attorney also deals directly with insurance companies on your behalf and takes over your case so you can return back to your life after an accident.
How to find a lawyer after a car accident in New Orleans
If you've been in an accident, it is important to talk to an attorney as quickly as possible.
Look for legal teams that have good reviews online, either through a site like Avvo or Google. Previous clients should note that the attorneys were transparent and helpful throughout the whole process. Especially look for lawyers who are known for being present and ready to answer their client's questions with minimal follow-up time.
Most attorneys will provide free consultations and will take your case on contingency. You won't pay anything upfront unless the attorney helps you win your case or reaches a fair settlement.
Learn more about Huber Thomas & Marcelle
After a car accident, you need the best New Orleans car accident lawyers on your side. We're dedicated to providing legal assistance that makes sense, for every person. Our team will walk you through every step of the process, empowering you to recover after a traumatic event.
Our team is proud to say that we've recovered millions of dollars for our clients in settlements and in trial verdicts. We know how to bring a case against large insurance companies or make sure they offer a settlement that's fair and equitable for you.
If you've been in a car accident and want to learn if legal representation is right for you, contact us today for a free consultation. We're here to help.
It’s that time of year. Lunches are packed and backpacks are stashed with supplies. The kids are going back to school, which means buses will rule the roads across New Orleans. Are you up to date on the most recent laws and guidelines surrounding Louisiana school bus safety for drivers, though? At Huber Thomas & Marcelle, we care about the children in our community. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of important school bus safety tips designed to keep everyone safe. Here's what you need to know going into this school year, whether you're a parent or simply another driver on the roads.
Why is Louisiana school bus safety so important?
As the summer months fly by, it’s easy to get used to a fast morning commute. No more crowded streets or busy sidewalks.
When fall rolls around, though, everything changes. Students flock to bus stops, waiting for that big yellow bus. About 25 million students across the country ride the bus to and from school every day.
According to studies completed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, this is the safest method of transportation for children. Students of all ages are 70 times more likely to get to school safely when taking a bus instead of traveling by car. This is because school buses are the most regulated vehicles on the road. They’re designed with the highest safety standards in mind. And, traffic laws exist specifically to keep them safe.
Want to do your part to maintain a safe commute for students? These are the school bus traffic laws that other drivers must follow.
1. Come to a full stop when children are loading or unloading
Every state in the U.S. has laws surrounding this topic. When a bus is loading or unloading children, you must come to a full and complete stop. Generally, the bus will display red flashing lights in addition to a stop-arm sign that extends out from the left side of the bus. This is your signal to stop immediately.
If you see yellow flashing lights on a school bus up ahead, this is an indication that the bus will be coming to a stop soon. In general, the driver will turn on this signal no less than 100 feet before stopping. When you see these lights, you should begin to slow down.
Violating these stop-arm laws can be dangerous and costly. For a violation that does not involve the injury of another person, you could face fines of up to $500 and may be subject to a driver’s license suspension. Violations involving serious injury or death can lead to increased fines and jail time in addition to suspension of your driver’s license.
2. Stop, even if you're on the other side of the road
This is where drivers tend to be confused about how to proceed. Do I still have to stop when I’m driving on the opposite side of the road? In short, the answer is yes.
You must make a full and complete stop if the red lights are flashing and the stop-arm sign is on display. The only exception is when the bus is on the opposite side of a clearly divided highway. When it comes to the definition of a clearly divided highway, the law varies by state. In Louisiana, the roadway must be separated by a concrete barrier, ditch, or grassy median.
It’s also important to note an exception regarding specified loading zones. If the bus is completely off the roadway and pedestrians are not allowed to cross, you do not have to stop.
3. Leave plenty of distance between your car and the bus
The area ten feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for students. With this in mind, Louisiana law dictates how much space you must leave between your car and a school bus.
Stop thirty feet away from a bus that is loading and unloading students or displaying red flashing lights along with a stop-arm sign.
This is the best way to ensure that you are out of the bus driver’s blind spots. It will also provide you with a better view of any children who may be attempting to cross.
4. Do your research and stay updated
Stay aware of the school bus schedule in your area. Take note of when you see children out and about near bus stops. Find out when buses arrive and depart in the areas along your commute.
In general, there are about three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon when you may see school buses traveling along school routes. Keep this in mind as you go about your daily routine.
5. Always be on the lookout
Before backing out of your driveway, pause to take a look around your street. Are children making their way to the bus stop? Are parents walking back from drop-offs with younger children?
The morning can be hectic for everybody. Children running to catch the bus can appear quickly and with little warning. It’s essential to pause and take a look at your surroundings before you proceed. Approach every stop sign with the same caution.
6. Slow down in neighborhoods and school zones
Kids will gather at local bus stops across your community, sometimes spilling into the streets. Their safety should be your number one priority.
Reduce your speed as much as possible in neighborhoods and school zones. Speed limits are often as low as 15 miles per hour in these areas, and for good reason.
The chances of getting into an accident are less likely if you’re going slow enough to see a potential hazard. Plus, accidents that take place while traveling at a low rate of speed are less likely to be severe or life-threatening.
7. Talk to your children about school bus safety
While pedestrians always have the right-of-way, some drivers simply don’t follow the law. Educating your children on school bus safety will help them remain vigilant when they’re getting to and from school.
Here are some important tips if you have children of your own:
- Remain visible at all times. If they must cross in front of a bus, make eye contact with the driver and leave plenty of space. Never walk behind the bus.
- Be on time. No one likes to miss the bus, but it’s more important to stay safe. Running late can cause students to move too quickly and with little regard for who or what is around them. Encourage your child to get out the door as early as possible for a safe walk to the bus stop.
- Keep a safe distance. Stand several feet away from the curb at all times. Don’t engage in games or playing in or near the street. Wait for the bus to come to a stop before approaching to board.
Find support after a school bus related accident
At Huber Thomas & Marcelle, our hope is to create safer communities, especially when it comes to matters that involve children. Unfortunately, accidents happen and drivers make mistakes.
If you or your child has been in a school bus related accident, we can help. Our goal is to treat every client with the same care we would expect for our own families. In addition to Louisiana, members of our team are licensed to practice in Mississippi, Texas, Washington D.C. and New York.
Contact us to find out how we can provide guidance and support when you need it the most.
If you've recently been in an accident, here's what you should know about the personal injury claims process, from immediately after the accident to hours, days, and weeks after. If you have more questions, our New Orleans personal injury attorneys at Huber Thomas & Marcelle are here to help you make sense of the process. Contact us today for more information.
1. Document the accident
What you do in the minutes or hours after a car accident can make a big difference when it comes to a personal injury claim.
To start, make sure you're safe. Check yourself and any passengers for any injuries. If necessary, call for immediate emergency care. However, even if you have no visible injuries, plan to visit your primary care doctor or an urgent care promptly within the day.
If you feel safe to do so, take pictures of:
- The overall scene of the accident
- The surrounding roadside or barriers
- Any dangerous road conditions or inadequate signage
- Both your car and any other involved cars, including close-up views of damage
- The license plates of involved vehicles
Also write down the name, phone number, license plate number, and insurance information of other drivers involved. If there are witnesses nearby, ask for their name and phone number as well.
Once police arrive, thoroughly explain what happened and ask them to take photos before they move vehicles out of the way of traffic. If you have a dash cam, ensure that you're able to access video of the accident. Are there businesses close by? Ask if they have surveillance cameras pointed to the area that you can use, if needed.
While a lot will be going on at once, gathering this clear evidence at the scene of the accident can help your personal injury claims process if your case does eventually go to court.
2. Reach out for professional help
A car accident is a major event, one that you should always get professional help for. Reach out to a few important resources within hours after the accident.
This is your first priority. As noted, even if you feel fine after the crash, get checked by a doctor. Don't shrug off symptoms like pain, tingling or numbness, or dizziness. Be honest with your doctor about all of your symptoms and the forces you experienced during the accident. They can test for signs of concussion or other injury.
Your doctor will also record any changes over time. Some injuries, like whiplash, can take up to 48 hours to appear. Talk to your doctor about all changes, and schedule follow-up appointments if your symptoms persist.
Your insurance company
File a claim with your auto insurance company as soon as you can. You pay for their help all year. Make the best use of any resources they offer, such as collision coverage or rental cars. Depending on the coverage you chose, they may cover all or a portion of any accident costs.
You'll likely also receive calls from the insurance company of the other driver. If their driver was at fault, the insurance company's goal is to have you settle for a small cash payment quickly. This isn't a good idea. In the hours and even days after an accident, you won't have a clear understanding of the amount of damage done, both bodily and to your property.
At this point of the personal injury claims process, it's time to talk to someone who does understand the common costs of an accident.
A personal injury attorney
While your insurance company is a valuable resource, sometimes you'll need additional legal help after an accident. Attorneys, like the team of New Orleans personal injury attorneys at Huber Thomas & Marcelle, understand the true costs of an accident.
The injuries that result after a car accident cost money. Beyond medical care, there may be rehabilitation costs, additional childcare, or lost income. A personal injury attorney reviews the facts of your case and projected costs, along with insurance coverage.
At Huber Thomas & Marcelle, we provide support after a life-changing event. We can manage contact with the other driver's insurance company, help coordinate your medical care, calculate a fair settlement, and more. Your initial consultation is completely free and, in many cases, you don't pay anything unless we win your case.
3. Determine a fair settlement
We make sure to get the full story for an automobile accident case. With police and medical reports, your photos, video footage, and witness observations, we reconstruct what happened before and during the accident. We also examine other contributing factors, like dangerous road conditions or manufacturer defects.
Once you have a better idea about any ongoing symptoms or pain, our team works with economic experts to calculate a fair settlement to compensate you for any damages. Then, we typically submit a demand letter on your behalf to the other insurance company.
This demand letter is a document that lays out our arguments about:
- Who is at-fault for the accident based on our evidence
- The extent of financial damage the accident caused: medically, to property, and in lost wages
- Any additional damages you experienced, such as pain and suffering
At this point, the insurance company can agree to our demands and settle the case, negotiate for a lower settlement, or outright deny your claims.
Most insurance companies will negotiate. Our attorneys negotiate on your behalf to ensure you get a full and fair settlement. If the insurance company won't agree to a fair settlement, and you choose to pursue litigation, our team will file an official case against the insurance company or drivers at fault.
4. Prepare your case
We prepare every case as if it could go to court, even though most don't. Because of this, we're ready if you do decide to pursue litigation. At Huber Thomas & Marcelle, we know that when a car crash happens, your world changes. There are unforeseen costs and damages you never expected. We're ready to be your legal advocates so you can get the fair settlement you deserve.
Our legal team will enter the discovery phase once we file your case. Discovery typically includes:
- Sending written questions to the other party for clarification or more information
- Requesting documentation to support your case
- Using state of the art technology to reconstruct the timeline of your accident
- Scheduling formal interviews (called depositions) with other parties in the accident, like witnesses, your doctor, or police officers
During the discovery phase, we may also be actively working with the other party's insurance company to reach a settlement. This is often done with mediation. With mediation, an impartial third party (the mediator) guides the conversation between the two parties. The mediator doesn't make a final decision like a judge does in a court case. Instead, they help both parties reach a fair settlement together.
5. Take your case to court
The end of the personal injury claims process is with a trial in front of a judge. The vast majority of cases never make it to this point, though. Sometimes insurance companies will even settle the night before or immediately prior to a court case to avoid presenting the case before a judge.
If your case does go to trial, we'll present the evidence and make our arguments for the judge. This can be a complicated and long process, with multiple testimonies and hours in court. Nobody wants to go to trial after a car accident, but if you don't receive the fair compensation you deserve to cover medical and other costs, doing so can save your family's financial health.
At Huber Thomas & Marcelle, we're proud to say that we've recovered millions of dollars for our clients, in hundreds of cases. After a car accident, you need the best New Orleans personal injury lawyers on your side. We're dedicated to providing legal assistance that makes sense, for every person and every matter.
If you've been in a car accident and want to discuss the details of your case, we're here to help. Contact us today for more information.
This year's 4th of July celebrations promise to be record-breaking when it comes to travel. In 2019, AAA estimates that travel volume for this holiday will increase by 4.1% from last year. Over 41 million people are expected to jump on the roads and drive to their holiday destinations. While we all love hot dogs and BBQs, beers and fireworks, taking some precautions this July 4 can keep you and your family safe. Our team at Huber Thomas & Marcelle compiled our most important July 4 safety tips for those who are traveling in or around New Orleans this year.
1. Avoid high traffic times
Many other holiday travelers have the same idea as you: with a long holiday weekend, head out of town on Wednesday afternoon so you can start relaxing as soon as possible.
Reconsider this plan.
AAA reports that one of the worst days for travel in multiple metropolitan areas is the afternoon of Wednesday, July 3, typically from 12-4 PM. Nationwide, delays may increase by up to 9% leading to more people on the road, all of them in a hurry to get out of town. That means more car accidents.
Other high period times are July 4 afternoon, as many heads to local events, and Friday, July 5.
If you can, try to drive during times that are less busy. Mornings are generally quieter on the roads, except for Sunday, when people are returning home.
2. Be vigilant about drunk driving
The July 4 holiday is a celebration of our country's founding, but it's also a day that marks another grim occasion. It's the top beer-drinking holiday in the country, which means it historically has the most drunk driving incidents, alcohol-impaired accidents, and drunk driving fatalities.
From 2007 to 2011, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recorded more than 61 traffic fatalities per day over the long weekend. Don't become a statistic. Be vigilant about avoiding and preventing drunk driving with the following tips.
3. Designate a committed sober driver for all activities
The entire Independence Day weekend may have more cars on the road, but it's the day of July 4 when you must be most vigilant about drunk drivers.
Whether it's you, a family member, or a friend, make sure you discuss who will be the designated driver before you leave for an event. This person should avoid all forms of alcohol, as they'll have to be vigilant about themselves and other drivers on the road.
4. Hire a taxi or rideshare if you plan to drink
One of our most important July 4 safety tips is that there's no safe level of drinking and driving on this holiday. Between sun exposure and long all-day events, fatigue and dangerously high levels of intoxication can come on fast.
If everyone in your party wants to drink, make it a safe holiday by booking a taxi or rideshare option. Companies like Uber and Lyft often have more drivers on the road during busy times, ready and available to bring you home. Book one ahead of time to beat the rush after an event or leave at an off-time.
Bonus: hiring a driver helps you avoid any parking issues at larger community events.
5. Avoid travel immediately after festivities end
Likewise, most community events end between 10-11 PM. This is when there will be the most cars on the road, potentially with the highest number of intoxicated drivers.
If you can, don't take the risk.
Make a plan to leave the event early, spend it within walking distance of your own house, or find an open place nearby to wait until most people are off the roads. (This is easy to do if you're in the heart of the city for Go Fourth On The River!)
If you're at a family or friend's celebration, ask them if you can stay later to avoid peak travel times.
6. Take additional precautions when drinking
It can't be overstated. Drunk driving is a danger to you, your family, and other drivers. You may think you're okay to drive, but remember on the July 4 weekend, there are certain factors that can increase your risk.
For example, most people will attend outdoor events or hang out by the pool. During these early days of summer, ensure you're staying hydrated if drinking and getting plenty of time in the shade.
Long-term sun exposure can dehydrate you, leading you to higher levels of intoxication. If you're not sure if you can drive, don't. Hire a rideshare, a taxi, or ask a sober person to drive you home.
7. Think beyond the car
Many also neglect to think of other forms of driving over the holiday, especially boating.
July 4 is often the deadliest day for boating accidents, the American Boating Association reports. If you plan to enjoy your holiday on the water, treat it with the same vigilance as operating a car. Designate a sober driver, make sure your emergency equipment is functioning, and be aware of other boats.
If you decide to cycle to and from your festivities, be extra vigilant about drivers on the road. Wear bright, reflective clothing and ensure your lights are working properly.
8. Be aware of other July 4 safety tips
Car accidents, especially those involving intoxicated drivers, represent one of the largest dangers during your Independence Day weekend. These accidents can result in everything from minor property damage to serious injuries to death. Always stay cautious and use common sense when traveling.
However, there are other July 4 safety tips you should be aware of.
Be safe around fireworks
Fireworks are brilliant and beautiful, but they're also explosives.
In 2017, eight people died because of fireworks accidents. Almost 13,000 had injuries that were serious enough to send them to the emergency room.
Never allow young children near or around fireworks. Beyond that, always follow the fireworks safety tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Don't forget food safety
A long day spent lounging around the pool or on the lake is a great way to spend the holiday. However, if you have food out during these events make sure someone is responsible for keeping it safe. Foodborne illnesses can lead to hospitalizations or even death.
That means cold foods should stay cold and hot foods stay hot. Whether you're picnicking beside the Mississippi or in your own backyard, don't leave perishable foods outside for more than an hour if the temperature is above 90⁰F. Find full food safety tips from the USDA.
Protect your pets
It may be the nation's birthday, but July 4 is a dangerous day for Fido.
Because of the loud, scary noises, it's the day when most pets go missing during the year. They may jump a fence, break out of a gate, or snap their leash to get away from the sounds. Make sure their tags are current and your pets are microchipped.
Leave your pets locked inside at home or in a safe kennel or boarding facility. Don't bring them to overcrowded, unfamiliar parks and don't leave them in parked cars. Find even more July 4 safety tips from the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Find support after July 4
Even if you did everything right, sometimes accidents can still happen. If you were involved in a car, boat, or bicycle accident over the July 4 weekend, the attorneys at Huber Thomas & Marcelle can help. If you were injured or suffered property damage because of negligent fireworks use, we can also help.
We know that these types of accidents can have long-term effects, from physical to mental to financial damages. Our team is committed to helping you recover and get the support you need.
Don't hesitate to give us a call about your case. We can discuss your options after an accident.
Car insurance rates charged by Louisiana's largest auto insurers have been on a double-digit run, mirroring a national trend the industry says is fueled by more accidents and a spike in claims costs.
"We're seeing it play out all across the nation. It is universally attributed to a combination of distracted driving, cellphone use while driving, and more miles, cheap gas," Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon said.
Car insurance rates were virtually flat over a five-year period, increasing about 1 percent annually, Donelon said — until about five years ago. Louisiana's auto insurance rates since then have been rising at a faster clip, with the largest jump, an 8 percent average, taking place in 2016.
It's too early to say how much rates will rise in 2017, Donelon said, but the trend could level off soon.
More recently, State Farm, Louisiana's largest insurer with more than 1.1 million policyholders, raised car insurance rates an average of 13.5 percent on Jan. 30. A year earlier, the company raised rates an average of 8 percent.
Progressive Security increased rates 4.1 percent in early 2016 and 9.4 percent late in the year. Allstate increased rates an average of 9.5 percent in 2016. Geico Casualty plans to increase car insurance rates by 16 percent this year. Louisiana Farm Bureau is raising rates by 14.2 percent, but the company's filing with the state Insurance Department says a 19.4 percent increase is justified.
Those companies write the bulk of the state's auto insurance, and their recent filings did not include the impact of the August flood that destroyed tens of thousands of cars. Future rate filings may.
"Auto insurers look at past catastrophic events to determine what their expected future comprehensive losses may be," Deputy Insurance Commissioner Ileana Ledet said. "So down the road we may see insurers raising the comprehensive portion of their rates a bit to anticipate a future catastrophic flood of the extreme magnitude we saw in August."
Insurance industry members and consumer advocates say a number of factors lie behind the recent rate increases.
The Great Recession that wiped out tens of thousands of jobs nationwide meant fewer people driving. As the economy recovered and gasoline prices fell, more drivers hit the road, mainly for work. They got into more wrecks — crashes that cost more to repair in part because of the expensive technology built into vehicles.
In 2015, the number of miles driven in the United States rose 3.5 percent, the biggest increase in more than 20 years. The number of accidents rose nearly 4 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. From 2011 to 2015, the latest year available, the number of accidents jumped nearly 18 percent.
In Louisiana, while the number of miles driven dipped slightly from 2014 to 2015, the number of accidents jumped more than 7 percent, according to a report from LSU's Highway Safety Research Group. From 2011 to 2015, the number of crashes rose by 12.4 percent.
Over that same period, Louisiana's auto insurers have seen claims costs increase from 67.4 percent of the $2.0 billion in premiums collected in 2011 to 76.7 percent of $2.3 billion collected in 2015, according to Insurance Department records. State Farm lost $84 million on its auto business in 2015.
Robert Hunter, director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America, said lower gasoline prices, coupled with more optimism about the economy, led to more driving. The increase in driving explains most of the increase in losses.
Meanwhile, claims costs, which include medical care and auto repair costs, jumped 13 percent over the two years ending in March 2016, according to the Insurance Information Institute, an industry-funded group. That's 10 times the rate of inflation.
Increases in income have given consumers the means to buy newer cars, said Loretta Worters, a spokeswoman for the institute. While many of these cars have all types of safety features that might help prevent accidents, those cameras and sensors are also much more expensive to fix or replace when damaged.
"The problem is all these cars nowadays, they have so many bells and whistles on them. I've seen side view mirrors get knocked off and cost a thousand dollars," said Jerome Wiley, general manager of Gordon & Sandifer Auto Service Inc. in Baton Rouge.
Take into account: Cameras in each mirror to eliminate blind spots. Touchscreen displays with warning indicators for each angle. Front collision warning systems, basically a radar mounted at the front of the vehicle. Multi-airbag systems. Seatbelts that automatically tighten and lock in accidents. All of it costs money, Wiley said.
Even simpler repair components, like paint, cost more as manufacturers comply with federal regulations designed to limit potentially harmful emissions, he said.
Add in the impact of distracted driving, and it's not hard to see why car insurance rates are rising. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said distractions account each year for 18 percent of crashes with injuries, 15 percent of property damage-only accidents and about 10 percent of traffic fatalities.
Distracted driving accounts for about 20 percent of Louisiana's fatal crashes, although the NHTSA says state numbers "are not necessarily representative of actual occurrences, but maybe more indicative of reporting issues." Fatal crashes account for less than 0.5 percent of Louisiana's traffic accidents.
Distracted driving includes smartphone activities such as texting and talking, watching videos, reading, eating, drinking and adjusting the sound system.
Wiley said smartphone usage has overwhelmed the accident-prevention technology on new cars and trucks.
"I'd say over half of the wrecks we see people bringing in — they won't admit to it — is from distracted driving. And distracted is usually their phone," Wiley said.
State Farm spokesman Kip Diggs said distracted driving, whatever the cause, has always been worrisome.
"However, our concern has grown, as it has likely become a greater loss exposure. Increased phone usage, enhanced technology and various other distractions now accessible or available in vehicles are all contributing factors," Diggs said.
Like a lot of other motorists, Donelon said he has been forced to sit through red lights twice because the driver in front of him is too busy with a smartphone to notice the signal changed.
As if all that weren't enough, insurers also have seen the return on their investments — companies invest premiums while waiting to pay claims and expenses — drop along with interest rates. The return on insurers' portfolios was 4.5 percent in 2007, according to an October 2016 report from the Insurance Information Institute. It was 3.2 percent in 2015.
However, Donelon said there's reason to think the big increases may be over.
During a Jan. 29 conference call, Allstate President Matthew Winter told stock analysts and investors that "the spike is over" and rates have stabilized at a new norm. However, the new norm includes more accidents due to an improving economy and more cars on the road, and the greater use of smartphones and distracted driving.
Original story by Ted Griggs of the Advocate, posted on March 12, 2017.
HENDERSON, Louisiana (Reuters) - When Hope Rosinski's father gave her a six-acre plot in Louisiana more than a decade ago, she was surprised to find oil and gas pipelines crisscrossing the property. The Bayou Bridge pipeline was born.
Pipeline companies later secured her permission for two more lines, one of which has since caused flooding and consistently leaves her land saturated.
Now she's had enough. Rosinski is fighting the latest request for a right-of-way, this time from Energy Transfer Partners - the company behind the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline. She said ETP declined to make contract changes she wanted or to properly compensate her for lost property value.
Opposition to the company's planned extension of the Bayou Bridge pipeline has made Louisiana bayous the latest battleground in a nationwide war against new pipeline construction.
The pushback here is one example of the increasingly broad and diverse base of opposition nationally, which now extends beyond traditional environmental activists. In Louisiana, opponents include flood protection advocates, commercial fishermen, and property owners such as Rosinski.
Their fight follows high-profile protests in North Dakota that were led by Native Americans and joined by military veterans, who together succeeded in convincing the Obama administration to delay construction.
Although the new administration of President Donald Trump has since cleared that project's completion, pipeline companies are nonetheless taking the rising political opposition seriously. Alan Armstrong, chief executive at pipeline firm Williams Companies (NYSE:WMB), told a conference in Pittsburgh that Trump's action would not hamper the protest movement.
“It may even enhance it,” he said the day after Trump cleared the Dakota pipeline in January.
Bayou Bridge pipeline supporters argue that more infrastructure is essential for the oil and gas industry to provide affordable energy and reduce dependence on foreign imports and dirtier energy sources such as coal.
Opponents counter that Bayou Bridge pipeline companies can't be trusted to prevent leaks. Technology designed to detect spills only accomplished that goal in 20 percent of known pipeline leaks between 2010 and 2016, according to a Reuters analysis of data from the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
Energy Transfer and its affiliates had among the most spills of any pipeline company, with nearly 260 leaks from lines carrying hazardous liquids since 2010, according to the Reuters analysis. An ETP spokesperson said most of those spills were small and occurred on company property.
The company said in a statement that it seeks to work with landowners and communities to “build the pipeline in the safest, most environmentally friendly manner possible."
ETP's relations with Rosinski, however, have apparently broken down. She told Reuters that the firm has threatened to take her to court for the right of way, citing legal rights of pipeline companies to build infrastructure for broader public benefit.
Rosinski wants to resist but knows a court battle could be costly and lengthy.
“I’m a single mom," she said. "I don’t have the finances."
ETP declined to comment specifically on Rosinski's case but said it typically gets voluntary agreements on easements from owners in about 9 out of 10 cases, without legal action.
NOT IN MY BACKYARD
Some pipeline protesters are driven by opposition to any expansion of fossil fuel development, but many have more local and specific concerns.
Many protests so far - including the encampment in North Dakota, led by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe - have focused largely on fear of water contamination.
Similar objections have cropped up in West Texas from protesters of Energy Transfer's Trans-Pecos gas line, and in Arkansas and Tennessee over the Diamond Pipeline operated by Plains All American Pipeline.
Activists in Pennsylvania have been fighting a Williams Companies pipeline plan for three years. The company is looking to add 185 miles of new pipeline to its Atlantic Sunrise line, connecting the northeastern Marcellus natural gas shale region with the southeast part of the state. Opponents have argued the expansion could cause an explosion or taint the local water that supplies farms.
They're borrowing tactics from the Standing Rock tribe's standoff. Malinda Clatterbuck, 46, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, who leads the group Lancaster Against Pipelines, said residents are setting up a camp in Conestoga, where a right-of-way has been granted and plans to live on and off at the camp with her family.
“I’m exhausted and angry about this," she said. "Why do we have to upend our lives just to try to get justice for our community?"
Williams said it has operated 60 miles of pipeline safely in Lancaster County and that the company plans to exceed federal safety standards for the extension.
“We’ve also heard from thousands of people who support the project - individuals, chambers, and business groups - who recognize the economic benefit,” the company said in a statement.
DEAD CRAWFISH IN THE BAYOUS
In Louisiana - home to massive oil refineries and about 50,000 miles of pipelines - ETP's planned Bayou Bridge extension would run across southern Louisiana for about 160 miles, between Lake Charles and St. James.
The state has a mutually beneficial but testy relationship with the oil industry, which is widely blamed for cutting through wetlands and contributing to coastal erosion that has left Louisiana more vulnerable to hurricanes and flooding.
Some opponents of the Bayou Bridge are concerned that its construction will pollute drinking water and constrict drainage systems during heavy rains. Others want to see pipeline companies take better care of the environment during and after construction.
Jody Meche, 47, of Henderson, fears economic damage. He has fished in the Atchafalaya Basin for a quarter-century. For years, he has been pushing companies to remove spoil banks caused by pipeline construction and oil exploration because they hurt the commercial fishing industry.
The spoil banks act as dams inside the basin, damaging the local ecosystem by stopping water flow.
Meche can see the impact in the crawfish traps he pulls up from the bayou daily during the season, from February to early summer. The critters resemble tiny lobsters and are in high demand at bars and backyard boils from New Orleans to Houston.
“The stagnant water is not good for them at all," Meche said. "They don’t grow as well, they don’t eat as much, they are very lethargic."
Meche can sell large, healthy crawfish for about $1.50 a pound. But the smaller ones he often catches these days fetch half that, and many in his traps these days are dead and worthless.
Rosinski, meanwhile, is still fighting with Enterprise Products Partners, the pipeline company she said damaged her property during the construction of an ethane line a few years ago. She said she has spent the last year trying to get Enterprise to restore her land and stop the flooding.
The cost to fix it could be as little as $1,200, she said.
Enterprise told Reuters it hopes to resolve the issue amicably, but that it has not gotten clear guidance from an attorney hired by Rosinski.
Rosinski received the right-of-way request from Energy Transfer Partners as she was squabbling with Enterprise. She suggested 30 changes to the contract and requested more compensation. ETP refused, she said and told her it may take up the dispute in court.
"I've done my part," she said of her previous agreements to allow pipelines through her property. "They’re consuming my land."
Story by Liz Hampton at Reuters.
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