As a New Orleans personal injury lawyer, I have seen my fair share of freak accidents around the area that led to injuries and tragic deaths. The reality is, however, that the bulk of the accidents I help clients with happen in a much narrower set of circumstances. In fact, sometimes it can feel downright DEPRESSING to see the same types of accidents occurring repeatedly.
So, I thought I would write up a list of some of the most dangerous areas in New Orleans when it comes to accidents that leave people seriously injured and worse. It will not necessarily be a complete list, but it should give you an idea of WHERE TO LOOK OUT FOR DANGER as you walk, drive, ride, shop, dine, dance, and celebrate around the Big Easy. Want to know more about how I help when an accident turns someone’s life upside down? Read on.
Readers of this blog know I have something of an affinity for statistics about traffic accidents. Conveniently, LSU publishes an enormous, constantly-updated trove of data about motor vehicle accidents in all 64 Louisiana parishes for me to dive into like a grebe in a bayou. I recently investigated what the statistics say about accidents in Orleans Parish, and well, one particular data point JUMPED OFF THE PAGE.
I looked at the data for the most recent full year of statistics that was available at the time, and found that in that year alone, there were 6,344 traffic accidents in and around New Orleans resulting in fatalities or injuries, and another 13,680 crashes that (fortunately?) only caused property damage (that we know of). So, all-in, that’s 20,024 crashes in the Crescent City.
NOW, GET THIS. More than HALF of all those accidents happened at intersections. More than half. For comparison, on average, only about one-third of all accidents statewide happen at intersections each year. In other words, traffic accidents happen at intersections in New Orleans FAR MORE OFTEN than most anywhere else in the state. The same holds true if you break those accidents down by category. New Orleans saw almost half of all its traffic fatalities, more than half of its traffic injuries, and more than half of its accident property damage, in accidents that happened at intersections in one recent year.
For a lawyer like me, that statistic is JUST BONKERS. It makes me ask: what is it about New Orleans that makes its intersections SO MUCH MORE DANGEROUS than most of the rest of the state’s?
After all, it’s no secret that intersections create dangers. Traffic engineers at LSU and elsewhere spend years of their lives studying how to design the safest “points of traffic conflict” where drivers, bikers, and pedestrians to cross paths. Even so, something about New Orleans makes intersections EVEN MORE DANGEROUS. What explains that?
My guesses would be:
- Narrow, crowded streets. NOLA is an OLD, HISTORIC CITY. Like most metropolises that go by that description, the Big Easy features a network of narrow streets built during, and for, earlier times. The needs of the city’s businesses to keep supplied with food, drink, and inventory—particularly establishments in the Vieux Carre but, really, everywhere—compete with those tight dimensions, sometimes with chaotic, messy consequences. Plus, New Orleans gets a TON of foot traffic, particularly during Carnival. Pedestrians seek refuge from crowded sidewalks by walking in the street, with potentially DISASTROUS consequences.
- Alcohol. Our fair city also has a well-deserved reputation as a home to sensuous, sumptuous bacchanals. Those who attend our celebrations have been known to partake, shall we say, of the many elixirs of the Gods. Some of those merrymakers unwisely climb behind the wheels of vehicles. Others stroll the streets without a care and, sometimes, without paying much attention to their surroundings. That is how accidents happen.
- Aging infrastructure. It is no secret that the Crescent City’s infrastructure has seen better days. While we wait for promised improvements, stoplights fail and road closures push traffic to secondary streets, which can crowd intersections, frustrate drivers, and lead to bad decisions that cause accidents.
So, dear reader, let me offer you a word of caution: TAKE CARE AT NEW ORLEANS INTERSECTIONS. Our city has many beautiful and exciting sights and sounds but paying attention to safety first wherever streets cross will help to avoid DISASTER.
Balconies and Stairways
Historic buildings sporting balconies decorated in wrought iron line the streets seemingly everywhere you look in the Big Easy. Come Carnival time those balconies host crowds of revelers, many of whom lean out over iron railings in pursuit of throw from a float or to attract someone’s attention below. Many of those merrymakers have imbibed, and some of them lean just a bit too far, or a bit too heavily…
Take it from a personal injury lawyer who knows a thing or two about tragic incidents in the Crescent City. Balcony falls are a thing. They are NO JOKE. Without fail, NOLA news outlets report deaths from balcony falls every year, resulting from someone leaning out too far, or from railings giving way, or from balconies collapsing altogether. Whenever I see one of these sad stories, I wonder how many more falls go unreported in the news, but still—get treated at a local emergency room. Between you and me, I bet it’s MANY MORE than you would expect.
Here’s another thing. To get to those balconies, NOLA residents and visitors climb the stairs of aging homes and businesses. Like everything else in the historic areas of town, many of these stairwells have seen more structurally-sound days, not to mention they are narrow choke points that cannot accommodate crowds of people trying to climb and descend them at the same time.
One of the BIGGEST and BUSIEST areas of personal injury law practice, in my experience, involves helping people recover money after they take an accidental spill on someone else’s property and get seriously injured. A fall from a balcony or stair can easily result in broken bones, AND THAT’S IF YOU ARE LUCKY. Worse still, taking a tumble can leave an unfortunate person suffering from a debilitating traumatic brain injury, or facing a life transformed by paralysis after suffering spinal cord damage.
So, here’s some more wise advice: Hang on tight to those banisters and railings. If a balcony looks uncomfortably crowded, say inside until space opens up. If you find yourself up above the street watching a parade pass, please oh please don’t reach out too far to catch throw. There will be more coming your way, I promise. No need to go risking your life for beads and baubles.
Festivals and Celebrations
People flock to New Orleans for all sorts of merrymaking. Obviously, there’s Carnival, which starts on Epiphany and ends in late February or early March, depending on the year, with Mardi Gras.
However, that is far from the only event that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to New Orleans at any given time. NOLA also draws oodles and oodles of visitors to JazzFest in late April-early May, the Caribbean Festival in June, and the Essence Festival in July, not to mention Halloween, New Year, and weekends through the fall whenever the Saints are at home.
In fact, I’m not going too far out over a balcony railing (REMEMBER WHAT I TOLD YOU?) here in saying that it’s pretty rare to come to New Orleans and not find a crowd of people having a good time. That is what the Big Easy is known for after all. Les bons temps rouler down here all year round.
That’s a good thing.
Until it isn’t.
Crowds, parties, balls, parades, and concerts make NOLA a lively, ecstatic place to visit. Unfortunately, they also create conditions ripe for someone to get badly hurt. I’ve mentioned a couple of those conditions already. NOTHING GOOD comes when an intersection fills up with people and frustrated drivers at the same time. Balconies and stairwells in old buildings overflowing with people can easily become sites for TRAGEDY and MAYHEM.
The fact is, however, that anywhere people gather en masse to celebrate and mingle has elements of danger for the unwary. Take Carnival parade routes, for example. Sidewalks fill up, layers deep, with residents and visitors hoping for a nod and smile from Bacchus and some treasured throw. Cram too many people on a narrow sidewalk, mix in a few hurricanes (the drink, I mean) and a hair too much zeal to gather up some beads, and you get people making DANGEROUS AND UNWISE decisions that risk their own wellbeing and that of others. Don’t believe me? Check out this description of the types of medical emergencies that can happen during Mardi Gras:
Broken wrists, hips and ankles, along with various degrees of scrapes to major lacerations occur. Besides the occasional parade goer run over by a float or some other vehicle, Dr. Elder said serious reoccurring injuries are caused by jumping over fences and other barriers. Besides broken bones, jumping over wrought iron fences separating many of the sidewalks from front yards especially uptown lead to serious leg, thigh, and scrotum wounds that hurt even to write about.
YIKES! And OUCH!
(By the way, that article also points out something a few of our would-be clients have learned the hard way. Under Louisiana law, Mardi Gras parade organizers have a degree of “immunity” from being sued for injuries people sustain while watching or participating in a parade. Telling a client that someone is immune from being sued is never the kind of news I want to deliver…so be safe out there on the parade routes!)
Has a New Orleans Danger Taken a Toll on You?
Like any big city, New Orleans harbors unseen dangers. I hope that I’ve educated you about some of the more significant ones here, so that you never have to walk through the doors of my office and ask me to help you recover damages. As much as I LOVE MY JOB FIGHTING FOR FAIR AND JUST COMPENSATION on behalf of injured New Orleans residents and visitors, I LOVE IT MORE WHEN PEOPLE STAY SAFE AND SOUND and leave New Orleans with happy memories instead of broken bones (or worse).
However, what if one of the danger zones of the Crescent City catches you up and leaves you struggling with a severe injury or a tragic loss of a loved one. What then?
- See a doctor right away. I don’t care how much fun you are having or what band plays next on the Jazz Fest main stage. If you suffer an injury, get to an emergency room. Your health is too important. Plus, if someone else caused you harm, those medical records will prove extremely useful for your lawyer to prove liability and damages.
- Beware insurance adjusters and freebies. This applies especially to those of you visiting NOLA for vacation. There is always a risk that the person or company that caused your injury will recognize you don’t live here, and that they (or their insurance company) may try to “smooth things over” with you for a quick wad of cash or even something less significant, like a “comped” stay at your hotel or VIP passes on a parade route. Just. Say. Non! (That’s Cajun for “No!”) There is no such thing as free anything. Taking quick compensation in any form can amount to sacrificing your legal rights. Don’t do it.
- Hire an attorney. The sooner the better to make sure your rights stay protected and you receive every dollar of compensation you deserve.
Since starting his firm in 1999, Stewart J. Guss has had the honor of representing clients from all over the world, helping them recover from even the most catastrophic injuries.
Today, thanks to a strong belief in those values of compassion, respect, and approachability, the firm has grown to employ over 120 legal professionals in numerous offices across 4 states, with nationwide reach.