You don't have to spend much time in Louisiana to know that it's truly a unique state. What many people don't realize is that Louisiana law has its own structure. While every one of the 49 other states in the country follows common law, Louisiana is the only state to follow civil law.

What does this mean, and what could it mean for your case? Keep reading to learn the facts about what makes Louisiana law so unique. If you believe you have grounds for a personal injury case or for any of our other areas of practice, contact us today for your free legal consultation.

The Main Distinction Between Common Law and Louisiana Law is the Way the Judges Make Decisions

In common law, judges follow what's known as precedent when making decisions. Precedent refers to court decisions that the judges use as an authority when deciding further cases. Attorneys bring up precedents (i.e., previously decided legal decisions) with facts similar to the case they're presenting to the judge.

The hope with common law is that everyone will be treated the same way by applying the law in the same way to cases with the same or similar facts. In Louisiana law, judges make decisions based on the Civil Code.

A Deeper Dive into the Specifics of Louisiana Law

The civil law system is code-based, and Louisiana legislators look to address specific legal areas through statutes or codified rules. When a judge hears a case, they are tasked with interpreting the code rules and applying them to the case in front of them.

The decision the judge makes may very well have an impact on future cases. Still, that judge's reasoning and interpretation of the law will have little to no effect outside of that specific case they are deciding. In other words, the decision the judge makes on one case does not create a precedent that requires a future judge to decide a case in a certain way.

More on the Common Law System

In contrast, the common law system that is used in the other 49 states is based on the judicial interpretation of laws. In other words, courts interpret laws to ascertain the politicians' intentions when passing them, and this interpretation directs how the law should be used in a certain situation.

The judiciary has the chance to issue opinions outlining how the law should be interpreted during the appellate review of cases. These rulings serve as a guideline for the court and any lower courts that fall within its purview. This is known as sit decisis, which means "let the decision stand" in Latin.

The common law in that region is based on the court's interpretation. By doing this, the court creates a body of common law that operates in conjunction with the statute.

The History of the Civil Code

The Napoleonic Code, often known as the Civil Code, originated in two countries with civil law systems: Spain and France. Because both Spain and France once owned Louisiana, the Napoleonic Code was developed by combining legal systems from the two nations, creating the melting pot that is Louisiana law today.

The term "codified" refers to the civil legal system in Louisiana, composed of a compilation of laws and legislation. Certain laws must be adhered to when a case is presented before a court.

The court considers these laws, "dissects," and renders a decision in accordance with that understanding. To put it simply, Louisiana Civil Law favors judicial interpretation over a more objective or traditional view of the law.

The History of Common Law

The common law system was developed in England and adopted by the United States. Today it is used in every state but Louisiana. The sitting judge decides which precedents will be used in the resolution of each new case, demonstrating the significant influence that each judge has on American and British law.

There Are Significant Differences in the Vocabulary Used for Either Type of Law

A Louisiana laywer reviewing paperwork and case files.

The vocabulary and techniques used in various sorts of legislation differ noticeably. Some legal ideas and laws that are known by one name elsewhere in the nation are known by a different name in Louisiana.

A great example is the term "statute of limitations." This term refers to limits established regarding how long a party has to bring legal proceedings. In Louisiana, statutes of limitations for civil cases do exist but are referred to by an entirely different name: prescriptions.

Another example covers trust and estate law, real estate law, and inheritance. Under Louisiana Law, these categories of law are referred to as "Succession and Donations" instead of "Trust and Estates," as they are referred to in other states.

In Louisiana Law, Criminal Cases Are an Entirely Different Thing

Note that everything above is specific to civil cases in Louisiana. Criminal cases in the state do follow the more commonly used common law method.

Criminal law refers to cases that are usually prosecuted by the state for crimes that have been committed. Civil law is brought by plaintiffs (which can be individuals, groups, or organizations) as a result of their belief that another party's actions (or inactions) led to injuries and/or damages to them.

Generally speaking, criminal law's consequences include jail time, fines, and other forms of punishment, while civil law's consequences include solely monetary punishments. A person can face both criminal charges and a civil lawsuit for the same action.

It should also be noted that in criminal law, a person must be found guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt," whereas civil law requires only a "preponderance of the evidence." Essentially, this means that in civil law, the judge or jury must only believe that it is more likely than not that the defendant is "guilty" of the actions (or inaction) the plaintiff accuses them of.

Huber Thomas Law is Here to Help with Your Civil Case

If you or a loved one has been injured due to another party acting recklessly or negligently, you might have grounds for a civil case. It is essential that you work with a Louisiana personal injury lawyer who knows the specifics of this state and how to build the strongest possible case for you. That is what you have found in Huber Thomas Law. Reach out to us today and let us help you move forward with your case.