Articles Posted in Accidents

Automobile insurance claims are complex enough, as it is unlikely that all parties involved will immediately agree on a settlement amount. These claims become even more convoluted when there are questions as to what state law should apply or when the insured isn’t fully aware of what his policy entails. Unfortunately, this is precisely what happened when a man was involved in an accident in New Orleans. 

Jones was involved in a motor vehicle accident in Orleans Parish, and the other driver, insured by Allstate, was found to be at fault. Jones settled with Allstate and then attempted to recover under his own uninsured/underinsured motorist claim from GEICO. GEICO denied his claim stating that Jones was in direct violation of his Georgia-issued policy and statutory law when he failed to obtain GEICO’s approval before settling with and releasing Allstate. 

Jones then brought a claim against GEICO, where he, in part, filed a motion for summary judgment seeking a judicial determination that Louisiana law applied, not Georgia’s. The Civil District Court of Orleans Parish granted Jones’ partial summary judgment claim and found that Louisiana law applied. GEICO then appealed the Trial Court’s ruling to the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, where the issue focused on whether the Trial Court correctly granted Jones’ motion for partial summary judgment. 

time_clock_defect_showing-scaledTiming is an important part of claiming worker’s compensation in Louisiana. Louisiana R.S. 23:1209(C) requires that:

  1. The employee files an initial claim or makes other suitable arrangements within one year of the injury; and
  2. The employee makes any subsequent claims no more than three years after the last payment of medical benefits.

forklift_machine_crane_1645850-scaledWorkers’ compensation is a financial support system that may be available to injured employees. It aims to ensure employees are compensated for their injuries and do not bear the entire expenses of medical bills. Workers’ compensation laws differ from state to state. Still, the general idea is that employees can get benefits regardless of who was at fault for the injury so long as the injury arose from an act during employment. 

While workers’ compensation provides employees a safety net, not all claims fall under the statutory regime. Sometimes plaintiffs, like David Lindsay,  believe that their injury might result from an intentional act by their employer, which could allow for a more significant damage award. Those workers will try to file their workplace accidents as intentional tort claims. The following case from the First Circuit in Louisiana discusses how employees try to recover damages outside of Workers’ Compensation benefits for their injuries on the job. It also helps answer the question, when can I file a tort claim against my employer if I am hurt at work in Louisiana?

David Lindsay was an employee at Packaging Corporation of America (PCA), where he operated forklifts as part of his duties. He suffered severe injuries when the forklift he was driving slipped and fell off a loading dock. This accident lodged his left forearm between a railcar and the safety cage on the forklift. 

motorcycle_motorcycle_689316-scaledWhen finding yourself as a defendant in a lawsuit, you will want to limit your liability as much as possible. Your liability could be altered when a co-defendant is found to be at fault for the injuries to a certain extent. However, when one defendant is dismissed before the trial begins, can another defendant seeking to split the fault appeal the decision? A case arising out of St. Charles Parish aims to answer this question.

Devyn Allen, the defendant, was driving westbound on U.S. Highway 90 when he moved from the westbound lane into the center turn lane. When riding his motorcycle, the plaintiff, Tobias Dixon, hit the back of Allen’s car. Dixon was thrown from his motorcycle upon impact and landed on the pavement. While still on the pavement, Dixon alleged that Patrick Jackson, the co-defendant, ran Dixon over in his pickup truck. Dixon then sued Allen; Progressive Insurance Company, Allen’s insurer; Jackson; Command Construction Industries, Jackson’s employer; the Gray Insurance Company, Command’s insurer; Louisiana Pizza Group (LPG), Allen’s employer; and Tudor Insurance Company, LPG’s insurer. 

Jackson, Command Construction, and the Gray Insurance Company then filed a motion for summary judgment, which asks the court to decide based on the arguments filed in favor of the filing party. Jackson argued that there was no evidence that he hit Dixon while lying on the pavement. The trial court agreed with Jackson and granted the motion. Following the decision, LPG appealed the decision arguing that there was a genuine issue of fact as to whether Jackson hit Dixon and that Jackson should also be held liable for Dixon’s injuries. 

transportation_vehicle_road_879026-scaledDriving poses undeniable risks. However, travelers may need to consider how unsafe a barrier curb may be in certain situations. When is the state liable for these conditions? A case from the St. John Baptist parish considered how the state department of development and transportation was at fault for construction risks that contributed to an accident. 

One afternoon, James Harris drove along the Airline Highway in Louisiana with his wife and their two grandchildren. As Harris traveled southbound, another northbound driver, Marilyn (MB), began driving erratically. MB’s car eventually drifted into the opposite side of traffic after crossing over a barrier curb on the highway. Harris moved onto the right-hand shoulder of the road to avoid MB. Unfortunately, despite his efforts to prevent a collision, MB’s vehicle crashed into Harris’, and he injured his left leg, foot, and hip. Ultimately, Harris’ left leg was amputated eight inches below the knee, and MB died from the accident. 

Harris sued the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) for failing to have a jersey curb that would have prevented MB’s car from drifting into the opposite side of traffic. In addition, he sued Progressive Security Insurance Company, MB, MB’s insurance provider. The trial court found the DOTD to be 90% at fault and Ms. MB to be 10% at fault for the accident, and the jury ultimately awarded Harris $5,000,000 in general damages and $1,000,000 for loss of enjoyment of life. On appeal, the DOTD argued that the trial court abused its discretion in finding the DOTD liable and in the number of damages awarded to Harris. 

rodeo_cowboy_bull_ridingRick Sheppard, an inmate in the custody of the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, injured his left shoulder two separate times while participating in the Angola Prison Rodeo. After seeing two specialists, Sheppard maintained that the medication and physical therapy regimen he had been following was ineffective. When Sheppard filed an administrative petition, he requested reparative surgery, treatment by a chiropractor, injections into the shoulder, blood testing to determine the effects of his medication, related medical records, and reimbursement of all costs. 

In a two-step response, DPSC first stated that Sheppard’s request for proper medical attention had been granted since he had improved after receiving injections and physical therapy for his shoulder. In the second response, they asserted that Sheppard’s past treatment and ongoing care plan were adequate, and no further investigation into his claim would occur. 

Under Louisiana law, all civil and criminal actions arising out of the incarceration of state prisoners are heard by a commissioner. This commissioner makes recommendations for the disposition of a case, which are submitted to a district judge. The district judge then accepts, modifies, or rejects the recommendation. La. R.S. l3:713(C)(l), (2), & (5)

fire_explosion_danger_hot-scaledA chemical plant explosion, sudden and dangerous, causes chaos when the workers try to escape. During that exodus, a worker is trampled by his colleagues as they attempt to flee. Who then bears responsibility for the injuries caused by this trampling? Is it the other workers? Is it their managing company? Is it the owner of the chemical plant?

Just outside Geismar, Louisiana, multiple injuries resulted from a chemical explosion at the William Olefins plant. As a result, the numerous injured parties filed lawsuits against several defendants for those injuries. The defending parties included the Chicago Bridge and Iron Company collective (“CB&I”). One of the plaintiffs was Ken Haydel, whom CB&I had hired to work in the Olefins plant. Haydel alleged that he was pushed down and trampled by other CB&I workers following the explosion and that CB&I is responsible for the “intentional acts” committed by their employees within the scope of their employment. 

A hearing occurred at the trial court on CB&I’s motion for summary judgment. CB&I sought to evade specific legal claims Haydel made before trial. The trial court granted CB&I’s motion for summary judgment, and Haydel appealed the trial court decision. 

The phrase, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” is often used to describe situations where one thing almost certainly indicates the presence of another. However, establishing a contributing factor to a car accident and liability for negligence does not always follow so direct a relationship.

Shortly before Tropical Storm Lee reached the marshlands of Oak Island just outside of New Orleans in September 2011, an employee of the LPC (“Little Pine”), the entity that owns Oak Island, saw traces of smoke and reported it to the Fire Department (NOFD). NOFD investigated the scene and found a fire, but the area from which the smoke was coming was not accessible to fire crews. The onset of Tropical Storm Lee made it even more difficult for NOFD, which had called in the Louisiana Army National Guard — to reach the source of the smoke. Helicopter water drops were used to treat the fire, but access by boat or other means remained impossible. The fire continued to burn for months under the daily monitoring of NOFD.

On the morning of December 29, 2011, drivers traveling on Interstate 10 past the Oak Island marshlands suddenly encountered thick, dense fog and smoke clouds, resulting in nearly zero visibility. Scott Lowe, a passenger in one of the vehicles traveling on I-10, was involved in a multi-car accident caused by poor visibility conditions. Lowe filed a lawsuit against Little Pine, arguing that it acted negligently by allowing the marsh fire to burn for months after it began, allowing smoke to obstruct visibility along a major roadway, and failing to exercise due care regarding the safety of others. Little Pine filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that there was no genuine issue of material fact about whether Little Pine was liable for an “unavoidable Act of God/force majeure.” In addition, Little Pine asserted it owed no duty to Lowe to extinguish the marsh fire. The trial court granted Little Pine’s motion for summary judgment, and Lowe appealed.

harry_potter_car_1176447-scaledCar accidents are traumatic experiences that occur every day across Louisiana. An accident can cause initial damage upon impact, but many accident victims also spend months and sometimes years coping with accident-related injuries.

 On June 27, 2014, Jasmine Raymond, a twenty-four-year-old driver who did not have auto insurance as required by Louisiana law, was heading eastbound on Interstate 10. Her car was rear-ended by Lance Cook, a truck driver for Rubber & Specialties, Inc. when he took his eyes off the road to check the GPS on his phone. Over the next two years following the accident, Raymond required numerous surgeries and procedures to address injuries she sustained in the crash.

 Raymond filed a lawsuit against Cook and his employer, seeking damages for injuries arising from the accident. Before trial, Cook, his employer, and his insurance company filed an affirmative defense to Raymond’s claims under the “no pay, no play statute.” This law states that the victim of a car accident without proper insurance may not recover the first $15,000 of bodily injury damages and the first $25,000 of property damages in any claim related to the accident. La. R.S. 32:866. The rule does not apply when the accident is caused by a drunk driver, a driver who flees the scene, or a driver who otherwise intentionally causes the accident. According to a 2012 report by the Insurance Research Council, the no pay, no play rule intends to provide relief for at-fault drivers who nevertheless complied with state insurance requirements. Raymond filed a motion to dismiss the defendant’s affirmative defense. However, the trial court deferred the issue and proceeded to trial.

crash_test_collision_60_2-scaledIt’s a common scenario:  a potential buyer visits a car lot, finds a vehicle he’d like to test drive, and heads out onto the road with the salesperson in the passenger seat. What happens, though, if an accident occurs during the test drive? Suppose the potential buyer loses control of the vehicle while driving — who is responsible for injuries and property damage that result?

On October 27, 2007, Ronald Branstetter was riding his motorcycle on Airline Highway in Baton Rouge when he was allegedly forced off the highway. Branstetter states that defendants Beal and Rives were test-driving a 1988 Ford Bronco when Beal lost control of the truck. To avoid a collision, Branstetter swerved off of the highway, causing him to suffer injuries. Branstetter brought a lawsuit against Beal and Rives to recover damages from his injuries, alleging that the injuries were caused by Beal’s and Rives’s negligence. Branstetter also named Millenium Auto Sales (“Millenium”) as a defendant in the case, alleging that Millenium owned the Ford Bronco and that the company employed Rives, giving rise to a vicarious liability claim.

Under Louisiana law, employers are generally responsible for the damage caused by their employees, but only if the employee is acting within the course and scope of his employment. La. C.C. art. 2320. A “servant,” or employee, is considered to be a person under the control of another employed to perform services. On the other hand, a non-servant agent may contribute to the employer’s business but is not under the employer’s control. In determining if there is a master-servant relationship, courts often look to factors including compensation, the status of the employee, performance of a specific mission, the intensity of the relationship, control, the role of the employer in exercising control, and the direct benefit to the company. See Cason v. Saniford, 148 So. 3d 8 (La. Ct. App. 2014)

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