Distracted Driver Kills Teenager

Even though she was properly restrained, a 14-year-old girl is dead after a tortfeasor (negligent driver) ran off the road and smashed into a tree.

The wreck occurred on westbound Louisiana Route 422 near the intersection of Louisiana Route 19. According to police, 24-year-old Shannon Sessions “became distracted by a bug that flew into her vehicle.” She then drove her Jeep Wrangler off the road, and it plummeted down a steep embankment before crashing into a tree and overturning. Backseat passenger 14-year-old Emily Sessions, of Woodville, Miss., was declared dead at the scene; Shannon Sessions and a frontseat passenger were both seriously injured. [Read more…]

Gruesome Highway Crash Kills One

A pickup truck ran over a woman in the road after she was ejected from her car in a vehicle crash.

The wreck occurred on southbound U.S. Highway 61 between Kenner and Laplace. Per Louisiana State Police, 20-year-old Angelica Matamoros drifted across the center line and collided with 23-year-old Norman Porter, who driving an SUV. Ms. Matamoros was not restrained and was ejected from her vehicle. As she lay on the ground, 28-year-old Justin Hunter ran over the woman. Ms. Matamoros was pronounced dead at the scene.

State police opine that if she had been wearing her seat belt, the woman may have survived. “Motorists are encouraged to make the smart choice and to always wear their seat belt,” police said in a news release. [Read more…]

Good Samaritan Rescues Children From Burning Vehicle

A mother faces multiple charges after she allegedly drove off the road while intoxicated, causing serious injuries to her four children.

State troopers say that 29-year-old Kate Davis lost control of her 2005 Buick while northbound on U.S. Highway 165 near State Highway 101. The van left the road, entered a ditch, smashed into a culvert, and went airborne before eventually coming to rest in another ditch. The vehicle caught fire, and a passing motorist — whose name was not released — pulled the children out of the burning wreckage, sustaining severe burns in the process. All the serious injury victims were transported to local hospitals, but they are all expected to survive. [Read more…]

Common Insurance Company Defenses

Part of being an aggressive and effective advocate for victims means working hard to develop a winning case. Since the plaintiff has the burden of proof, a successful case is built with solid evidence. An attorney must also have a clear theory of the personal injury case, and be able to explain the applicable law to the jury.

At the same time, an attorney must also anticipate the arguments that the other side will make. Despite what TV commercial jingles often imply, the insurance company is not “on your side.” In fact, insurance company lawyers are committed to minimum compensation for victims, because insurance companies lose money when they pay personal injury claims. What are some common tactics to reduce or deny recovery? [Read more…]

3 Steps To Settling Cases On Favorable Terms

Almost all personal injury cases — upwards of 90 percent, in most jurisdictions — settle before trial, and many of these cases settle before a lawsuit is even filed. In most cases, the insurance company must present a reasonable settlement offer within thirty days, if liability is relatively clear. However, there are many loopholes in this standard, and the settlement process can sometimes last for months or even longer.

As a rule of thumb, a personal injury case is ripe for settlement once medical treatment is either entirely or substantially complete. How can an attorney maximize compensation in these situations?

Step One: Gather Evidence

The plaintiff has the burden of proof in personal injury matters, so plaintiff must present evidence to support his or her claims. Some of this evidence comes from eyewitnesses. They can be people that an attorney interviews later or that first responders contacted at the scene. It is important to talk to as many potential witnesses as possible, because typically, only a handful agree to give testimony at trial.

Eyewitnesses are often biased, at least to a certain extent; moreover, many eyewitnesses only saw part of the personal injury incident. To bolster eyewitnesses, attorneys turn to physical evidence, including:

  • Skidmarks: These marks on the road give clues about velocity, braking, steering angle, and other vital information.
  • Photographs: Pictures of both property damage and personal injury wounds give the attorney a better idea of how the crash occurred and are also very helpful to the jury.
  • EDR: The Event Data Recorder automatically captures operational data, much like the “black box” flight recorders on airplanes.

Since memories fade, vehicle traffic rubs skidmarks away, pictures get misplaced, and the vehicle is usually destroyed a few days after the incident, a personal injury attorney must get to work quickly to preserve this evidence.

Step Two: Legal Theories

To establish first party liability, the tortfeasor (negligent driver) must either violate a safety statute, like DUI, or otherwise violate the duty of reasonable care. Such breach (violation) must cause physical damages, like lost wages or medical bills. Victims are also entitled to compensation for their noneconomic damages, like pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment in life. A third party liability theory, like negligent entrustment, may be available as well, and these third party theories are particularly important if the tortfeasor was uninsured or under-insured.

It is also important to anticipate what legal theories the insurance company might use to reduce or deny compensation to the personal injury victim.


Step Three: Negotiation

Before settlement negotiations begin, an attorney must calculate the personal injury case’s settlement value. This calculation is partially based on the objective numbers in the case, such as the amount of medical bills, and partly based on a subjective analysis, e.g. the amount of damages that a jury in that parish would likely award in such cases. As in all other situations, personal injury negotiations nearly always require some give and take, if a resolution is to be achieved.

T-Claude Devall and the other experienced Lake Charles personal injury attorneys at Hoffoss Devall are committed to maximum compensation for victims. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Fireball 18-Wheeler Wreck On I-20

A motorist was killed when she collided with a large truck on Interstate 20.

The truck wreck occurred near Kilgore. According to police and witnesses, 62-year-old Melvin Edwards, of Shreveport, was operating his 18-wheeler eastbound in the outside lane when 77-year-old Amando Vega, of Chicago, Ill., pulled from the improvised shoulder onto the outside lane very close to Mr. Edwards’ truck. Upon impact, Mr. Vega’s car hit the guardrail and then ping-ponged back into the outside lane, where it became wedged between the large truck’s cab and trailer. The entangled vehicles caught fire and eventually came to rest on the improvised shoulder.

Mr. Vega was declared dead at the scene; Mr. Edwards was rushed to a nearby hospital, but he is expected to survive his injuries. [Read more…]

The Long Road Back

Just over a year after a Lake Charles teenager sustained a traumatic brain injury in a car crash, he is leaving the hospital and going back to school for his senior year.

17-year-old Luke Burnham has been at TIRR Memorial Hermann in Houston ever since he was hit by a car while jogging. At first, doctors worried that the soccer player and cross-country runner would not survive the crash, and if he did, his brain injury would make him a vegetable. Initially, their fears seemed to be well-founded, because Mr. Burnham could only communicate by looking at “yes-no” cards and could not move, other than to straighten one index finger. But after aggressive treatment and therapy, he is ready to go back to school this fall. Although he is somewhat behind, Mr. Burnham took summer school classes, so he should be able to graduate with his peers.

“I’m looking forward to seeing all my friends again and all my teachers,” he remarked. [Read more…]

McDonald’s Hot Coffee Case: A Retrospective

The case which added fuel to the tort reform fires already burning around the country turns 22 this month. In the popular media, this personal injury case was about a woman who spilled a cup of hot coffee on herself and sued McDonald’s for $3 million. But, as is often the case, the truth is far different.

Pre-Suit Activity

Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants involved a 79-year-old department store clerk who pulled into the drive-thru of a McDonald’s in Albuquerque, New Mexico and ordered a cup of coffee on February 27, 1992. At the time, McDonald’s required its restaurants to serve coffee at 190 degrees, or only slightly cooler than boiling water. The restaurant knew, or should have known, that 190-degree liquid could cause third degree burns – the kind of burns that require skin grafts to address – in as little as two seconds. The restaurant also knew, or should have known, that most other fast-food franchises served their coffee at about 160 degrees, a temperature that was not significantly lower yet meant that the victim had twenty seconds between spill and serious injury. There’s more. In the ten years preceding the case, McDonald’s had received over 700 complaints about coffee-related personal injury, paid over $500,000 to settle these claims, yet did nothing to alter its procedures. [Read more…]

Regional Athlete Wins Olympic Gold

Houston native Simone Manuel now shares the world record for the fastest time in the 100-meter freestyle, and she is also the first black American athlete to win a gold medal in any swimming or diving event.

Her victory roughly coincides with the release of a university study which concludes that 70 percent of black children cannot swim. Furthermore, black children between ages 11 and 12 suffer from an accidental swimming pool drowning rate that’s ten times greater than white children of a similar age. To explain the discrepancy, some scholars blame the residual effects of racial segregation. Many municipal pools were not legally integrated until the 1960s or 1970s, and informal discrimination remained at some locations for decades afterwards. As a result, swimming was not part of the black experience for many children who grew up in the latter part of the 20th century, and some parents may pass their preferences onto their children. [Read more…]

Bankruptcy Court Confiscates Personal Injury Settlement

A federal judge recently ruled that people in bankruptcy cannot receive any personal injury settlement money until their creditors are paid in full.

Three years after his Chapter 13 creditor repayment plan was confirmed, Clyde Wilson sustained serious injuries in a car crash and received a $197,000 settlement. In determining that the money belonged to the bankruptcy trustee for the benefit of the creditors and not Mr. Wilson personally, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge John Kolwe, in the Western District of Louisiana, applied the “estate-replenishment test” and ordered Mr. Wilson to turn over the money. [Read more…]