Although television commercials may imply otherwise, the insurance companies are not “on your side” if you suffer serious injuries in a vehicle collision. Since these firms make money by collecting premiums and not by paying claims, insurance companies will try almost anything to reduce or deny fair compensation to injury victims.
Since the facts are unclear in many vehicle collision cases, most insurance companies have a number of investigators and accident reconstruction engineers on staff who will dispute the victims’ version of events and cast their insured parties in the most favorable light possible. Yet even in those rare instances that the liability-related facts are relatively straightforward, the insurance company typically still has a few items in its bag of tricks.
No Seat Belt
Like almost all other states, Louisiana has a mandatory seat belt law. As a result, many victims assume that if they were not wearing seat belts, the insurance company can either have their cases thrown out of court or at least significantly reduce the amount of compensation they receive. But under Louisiana law, neither of those things are true.
Section 32.295 of the Revised Statutes states that seat belt non-use is inadmissible in vehicle collision proceedings. So, the insurance companies cannot even mention this fact during the trial. Typically, attorneys file motions in liminie before the trial, to prevent the insurance companies from “accidentally” mentioning that the victim was not wearing a seat belt, so non-use is a complete non-issue.
Many vehicle collisions involve unexpected situations; for example, Peter Pedestrian might cross the street against the light and Derrick Driver might hit Peter. In situations like these, insurance companies almost always try to invoke the sudden emergency defense. This doctrine states that a tortfeasor (negligent driver) is not responsible for damages if the tortfeasor reacted to an unexpected hazard in the roadway.
However, not every unanticipated situation is a “sudden emergency,” because there is a difference between illegal and unexpected. It is illegal for pedestrians to cross against the light and for motorists to cut off other drivers in traffic, but these kinds of things happen so frequently that drivers should be ready to respond to them. In other words, the sudden emergency defense is a way for drivers to avoid liability in rare situations, and not a excuse for drivers to ignore everyday dangers.
If the insurance companies cannot get the claim thrown out, they will at least try to shift some of the blame to the victims by arguing that they were partially at fault. To make this argument, they must first convince the judge that both parties shared some responsibility for the vehicle collision. There must be solid proof to support contributory fault, instead of just a theory or a sliver of evidence. Insurance companies who cannot meet the burden of proof in this preliminary matter cannot argue comparative fault in court.
The insurance company will work hard to deny fair compensation in vehicle collision cases. For a free consultation with a diligent Lake Charles personal injury attorney who works hard for you, contact Hoffoss Devall today, because you have a limited amount of time to act.