No Pay, No Play, No Problem? Uninsured Motorist Injured in Car Accident Obtains Jury Award

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.

 The jury returned a verdict in favor of Raymond, awarding her over 1.5 million dollars in damages for her injuries. The defendants filed a motion for a new trial, arguing that the court failed to consider its affirmative defense. The trial court denied the motion, so the defendants appealed to Louisiana’s Court of Appeal for the Fifth Circuit. Unfortunately for readers of this blog, the parties eventually settled, resulting in a dismissal of the appeal. This meant that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal would not have the opportunity to determine the proper application of the no pay, no play statute in this case.

Presumably, the trial court intended to defer deciding if and how the no pay, no play statute should apply in the case until the verdict was reached. If the jury favored the defendants, the issue would not be revisited. If instead, the jury found in favor of Raymond, as it did, the trial court presumably could have reduced the jury’s damages award based on the no pay, no play law. Understandably, Raymond and the defendants alike would have preferred to have the question settled by the trial court before the trial began. And because of the ultimate resolution of this case, no appellate court can review the trial court’s handling of the matter in a way that might be instructive to future auto accident litigants.

Louisiana’s no pay, no play statute adds a potential complication for parties in a lawsuit resulting from a car accident. For this reason, among many others, anyone involved in a car crash should ensure they are represented by a qualified attorney experienced in personal injury and accident litigation.

 Additional Sources: RAYMOND v. DEPOSITORS INS. CO.

Written by Berniard Law Firm Blog Writer: Gina McKlveen

Additional Berniard Law Firm Articles on Car Accidents: Claim Against State Farm Denied After New Orleans Car Accident; Parties Take Issue with Compensation Awarded to Victim of DeSoto Parish Car Accident; Jury Award of Limited Damages to “Serial Plaintiff” in Personal Injury Case Upheld by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals

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