New Orleans has many events, including the Jazz Fest and Mardi Gras, which give people plenty of opportunities to drive under the influence of drugs and alcohol despite the laws. In Louisiana, alcohol contributed to over 300 fatal crashes and about 2,800 injury crashes. Those caught driving under the influence face criminal charges. However, if a drunk driver causes an accident, they can face a civil lawsuit in addition to the criminal case.
What Are Drunk Driving Laws in New Orleans?
If an adult has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher, the police will charge the person with driving under the influence (OWI). The police can charge a person with OWI if that person is driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol, legal or illegal prescription drugs, or over-the-counter drugs.
Driving under the influence is not only for cars and trucks. The police can also charge those operating any motor vehicle with a high blood alcohol concentration with OWI. Vehicles include motorcycles, boats, planes and other aircraft, and any other motorized vehicle.
Can I Recover Damages After a New Orleans Drunk Driving Accident?
As long as you can prove that the person who hit you was driving under the influence, you can bring a drunk driving lawsuit against them. If the accident killed a loved one, you could bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the drunk driver. Even though the state will prosecute the drunk driver for criminal charges, you can and should bring civil charges against them.
In the criminal court, the drunk driver faces the consequences for breaking the law. However, you do not recover damages in criminal court. You must sue the defendant in civil court to recover damages after a drunk driving accident.
Can I Sue a Bar or Restaurant for Letting Someone Get Drunk and Drive?
While many states have laws that allow the victim of a drunk driving accident to collect damages from the establishment that served the drunk driver alcohol, New Orleans, Louisiana does not. Even if the drunk driver was clearly drunk when they left the establishment, the owner/manager/supervisor is not liable under law to those the drunk driver injured.
However, if you can prove that an establishment or a social host told the drunk driver that a beverage was non-alcoholic when it was or forced a person to drink, you could recover damages from them.
What to Do After a Drunk Driving Accident
What you can do after a drunk driving accident depends on the extent of your injuries. If you believe moving around would exacerbate the injuries, wait until first responders arrive before moving. However, if you can move without causing additional damage, the extra steps you take at the accident scene could help investigators document the accident. In some cases, evidence disappears. Thus, if you can take pictures and obtain other information, it preserves the accident scene, making the investigators’ jobs easier—and making it easier to prove your case.
After an accident:
- Call first responders and check on other drivers.
- Take pictures of the accident scene. Be sure to take photos from all angles and of damage to the road and nearby property.
- Obtain the contact, license, registration, and insurance information from the driver of the vehicle that hit you.
- Obtain contact information from witnesses, including those in the vehicle that hit you. You could also ask witnesses what they saw.
- Give the police your statement.
- Allow emergency medical technicians to check you over, even if you believe your injuries are minor. This is the first step in documenting injuries that could exacerbate or manifest hours or days later.
- Seek the counsel of a car accident attorney, even if you are still in the hospital recovering.
How Do I Prove a Drunk Driving Case?
A personal injury attorney can call on investigators and expert witnesses to help prove a drunk driving accident. They can work with several investigators and medical professionals, including various therapists, life planners, and others, to prove the defendant’s negligence and the extent of your injuries, especially injuries that could cause long-term or permanent disabilities.
Even if the defendant beats a conviction in the criminal court, a personal injury attorney can still help you recover damages.
You could recover damages if they can show:
- The defendant had a duty to keep others on the road safe.
- The defendant failed to keep others safe through their actions or inactions.
- The defendant’s failure to keep others on the road safe by driving under the influence caused an accident.
- You suffered financial and physical harm as a result of the drunk driver’s actions that caused the accident.
Even if the driver was not drunk but still caused the accident, you could still recover damages as long as you can prove the other driver was negligent.
How Long Do I Have to File a Drunk Driving Case?
After a New Orleans drunk driving accident, you have one year from the accident to file a lawsuit. That year flies by, so you should contact a drunk driving personal injury lawyer as soon as possible—even if you are still in the hospital recovering.
It takes time to investigate your case. Additionally, your attorney would use some of that time to conduct settlement negotiations.
#1. Do I Have to Go to Court?
The short answer is no. However, if the defendant’s insurance company refuses a fair and reasonable settlement, litigation may be recommended so you can pursue the compensation you deserve. In many cases, once you file a lawsuit, the insurance company will reopen negotiations. You can accept its new offer, submit another counteroffer, or decline the offer and continue with trial prep.
#2. Can I Settle My Case Myself?
It is not recommended to tackle the complexities of settlement negotiations independently, while you most certainly can. However, keep in mind that insurance companies are in business to make money. Every claim they pay reduces their profit. This means that regardless of whether your case is a “slam dunk” case or not, the insurance company will look for any reason to deny your case or offer you a pittance.
In many cases, those who settle themselves do not receive enough to cover medical expenses, let alone other damages. If your injuries lead to long-term or permanent disabilities, you could end up paying out of pocket for doctors’ appointments if you cannot get health insurance or if you can no longer work because of your injuries.
#3. What Do I Tell the Insurance Company After an Accident?
Because an insurance company will try to find any reason to deny your claim, you should never say anything to the insurance company. You can tell it your name, the date and location of the accident, and your attorney’s contact information. Some insurance companies will press you for more information. However, no matter how insistent or persuasive, continue referring the insurance company to your attorney. You should also let your attorney know if the insurance company tried to persuade you to talk about the accident.
What Injuries Could I Sustain in a Drunk Driving Accident?
As with any car accident, the injuries you sustain could range from minor to catastrophic. However, when a drunk driver hits you, the chances of suffering severe or catastrophic injuries or death increase. A drunk driver often drives aggressively or speeds, which exacerbates damages.
Injuries from a drunk driving wreck include:
- Bumps, bruises, scrapes, and cuts
- Strains and sprains
- Pulled and torn muscles and other soft tissue injuries
- Face and eye injuries
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries, including whiplash
- Traumatic brain injuries, including mild and severe concussions
- Back and spinal cord injuries, including paralysis
- Internal injuries
- Thermal and chemical burns
- Road rash
You could also sustain secondary injuries, such as infections, especially if you have a compromised immune system that makes wounds heal slowly. The defendant can be held responsible for any secondary injuries related to the injuries you suffered in an accident.
Additionally, the defendant can be responsible for pre existing injuries that become exacerbated by accident injuries. If not for the defendant’s actions or inactions, you would not suffer from additional pain and a longer recovery time.
Recoverable Damages After a New Orleans Drunk Driving Accident
After a drunk driving accident, you could recover compensation in the form of compensatory damages and punitive damages. The court orders compensatory damages in an attempt to make you financially whole again. Two types of compensatory damages exist: economic and non-economic damages.
#1. Economic Damages
Special damages, often referred to as economic damages, have a monetary value and include:
You could recover past and future medical expenses after a drunk driving accident. Past medical expenses are those that you incur before a settlement or trial award. Future medical expenses are those that you expect to incur after a settlement or trial award.
Medical expenses include:
- Doctors’ appointments, including surgeries and follow-up appointments.
- Therapies as needed, including occupational, physical, psychological, and cognitive.
- Upgrades to a vehicle, such as hand controls.
- Upgrades to a home, including widened hallways, doors, wheelchair ramps, and grab bars.
- Prescriptions and other medications
- Ambulatory aids
If the injuries you suffered in the accident keep you out of work, you could recover lost wages from the time of the accident until you go back to work or win a settlement or trial award. If doctors expect your injuries to result in long-term or permanent disabilities, your New Orleans car accident attorney will figure how much earning capacity you will lose from now until the date you would retire.
The at-fault driver can be responsible for replacing or repairing destroyed or damaged personal property. This includes your vehicle and any items on your person and in your vehicle. Items might include clothing, cell phones, computers, cameras, jewelry, and anything else you were carrying with you.
If you lost a loved one in a drunk driving accident, you could recover any medical expenses incurred by your loved one before their death. You could also recover costs for the funeral, burial, and cremation. Additionally, you might recover additional compensation for additional expenses related to your loved one’s death, including filing fees for probate court.
#2. Non-Economic Damages
General damages, often referred to as non-economic damages, do not have a monetary value and include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
- Loss of quality of life if you must use ambulatory aids or take prescriptions for the rest of your life.
- Loss of companionship if you can no longer enjoy and/or participate in family activities and events.
- Loss of consortium if you can no longer enjoy a physical relationship with your spouse.
- Loss of use of a body part or bodily function, such as a hand or leg or your eyesight or bladder.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the chores you usually do, such as house cleaning, home maintenance and repair, lawn maintenance, and grocery shopping.
- Amputation of a limb or digit.
- Excessive scarring and/or disfigurement.
#3. Punitive Damages
If you can show that a grossly negligent defendant caused a drunk driving accident, you could recover punitive damages. The court only orders punitive damages to punish the defendant in the hopes that it will deter them and others from repeating their actions or inactions.
Punitive damages require specific conditions. You must take extra steps to get them, but if you suffered severe or catastrophic injuries or lost a loved one in a drunk driving accident, you may find the effort worthwhile.
Contact a New Orleans drunk driving accident attorney for a free case evaluation if you suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a drunk driving accident.
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.