NEW ORLEANS, LA — In a previous entry to this blog, we discussed the dangers of legal funding loans. The chief concern is that by the time your case is settled, the amount such third party lenders will say you owe is significantly greater than the principal plus lawful interest you’d have been charged with an ordinary loan. Yet even with this serious downside, legal funding, or lawsuit loans, are growing in popularity in the United States, leading some opponents to challenge the growing industry in ways that can affect your lawsuit.
The most prominent of these is the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which suggests not only that the legal funding industry is investing close to $1 billion annually, but that greater transparency is needed. To achieve this goal, they seek to add a provision to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(1)(A) which would require the disclosure of any compensation agreements that are “contingent on, and sourced from, any proceeds of the civil action, by settlement, judgment, or otherwise.”
The concern is not only that these companies disproportionately target lower income people who cannot afford the financial hardships that follow a serious accident, by charging them large and excessive fees for small sums of badly needed money. Opponents of lawsuit loans also raise concerns that this funding has the potential to create conflicts of interest, or even facilitate fraud. Courts must now consider whether or not to compel plaintiffs to disclose if they have taken legal funding, and from whom, and even require them to produce the contracts they signed to receive such funding. The Northern District of California has gone so far as to order the disclosure of people or entities who “fund[ ] the prosecution of any claim or counterclaim” in a proposed class, collective, or representative action. And the International Bar Association’s (IBA) 2014 Guidelines on Conflicts of Interest in International Arbitration require disclosure of any party with a “direct economic interest” in a potential award.
If defense attorneys discover the identity of your legal funder, they will investigate any possible connections between the funding company and other parties involved in your case. Furthermore, gaining access through discovery requests to the contract you signed with the lender, or the application you filled out wherein you described your case, might cause additional complexities for your lawsuit. Where legal funding is tied to medical funding, not only is the client required to pay interest and fees on money used to pay for his health care, unscrupulous medical providers may engage in corrupt business practices to inflate the cost of your medical care. The insurance company will unknowingly pay more for a medical procedure than it is worth. The inflated cost, if uncontested by your attorney, will then be deducted from your recovery, and you will pay interest, fees, and charges on money used to pay that inflated cost.
On the other hand, the legal funding industry has countered that their services “level the playing field,” allowing small business and individual claimants to pursue litigation against “big business.” They argue that legal funding also helps plaintiff attorneys who work on contingency, as plaintiff attorneys must fund medical treatment and legal costs for their clients, which they will be compensated for when and if a settlement is reached. Less established attorneys may not have sufficient capital to fund many cases at once, nor do they have the sort of physical collateral to build a relationship with a bank which would allow them to handle client costs with only the lawful and minimal interest attached to the loan.
Despite the arguments on both sides, lawsuit loans are legal in Louisiana and likely here to stay, at least for now. As a plaintiff, you must decide if your needs are great and urgent enough to be worth the high fees and charges you will have to pay should you choose to make a loan against your case. If the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform and its allies have their way, choosing to contract with litigation funders will add further complexities to your case.
If you’ve been in an accident, the smart choice is to contact an established attorney who can pursue your claims without weighing your case down with unnecessary fees and costs. The de Boisblanc Law Firm, serving the Southern Louisiana region for over fifty years, has the experience you need to secure justice for your injuries while minimizing your costs.
NEW ORLEANS, LA — Tis the season in New Orleans! In a city known worldwide for its dedication to the Good Times, residents and visitors alike will be making extra merry for the one hundred and three days between Thanksgiving and Mardi Gras. Whether it’s a private party at a friend’s home, a dinner celebration on the town, a day at the racetrack, or one of the many Carnival parties, balls, and parades, New Orleans offers ample opportunity for conviviality during the holiday season. Unfortunately, all of the merriment increases the risk that you, or someone you love, could be involved in an alcohol-related motor vehicle accident.
Drunk driving claims more than 10,000 American lives per year. In 2016, an average of 29 people died per day, or one person every 50 minutes. In 2014, 300 hundred Louisiana residents were killed in motor vehicle accidents involving drunk drivers.
A large number of these preventable fatalities occur during the holiday season. Tragically, 781 Americans lost their lives due to drunk drivers in the month of December, 2016, and an average of 300 people per year lose their lives due to drunk driving during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
While nationally New Year’s Eve is one of the most dangerous single holidays when it comes to drunk driving injuries and fatalities, in Louisiana, Mardi Gras can often be worse. In 2009, alcohol played a part in 48% of motor vehicle collision fatalities; during Mardi Gras, that percentage spiked to almost 70%.
There are many actions savvy celebrants can take to reduce alcohol related fatalities and injuries during the holiday season. Hosts and hostesses can play a part in increasing the safety of their guests by simply serving non-alcoholic beverages alongside wine and spirits. Hiring or recruiting a volunteer bartender allows alcohol consumption to be monitored, giving a hostess the opportunity to determine if a friend has had one too many. Often times, simply asking a guest if he or she has a safe and sober ride home encourages responsible drinking behavior, and it may save that friend’s life.
Party-goers should plan their transportation in advance. Although the designated driver, who volunteers to abstain from alcohol for the evening, is always a wise choice, there are other options for the crew who wants to roister together. The prevalence of ride-sharing services like Uber or Lyft might be responsible for a reduction in drunk driving. Ride-sharing and traditional taxi cabs allow revelers to enjoy their evening without worrying about designating a sober friend. Leaving your car at home before the night gets started all but ensures that a poor transportation choice won’t be made later on, when inhibitions are lowered and courage is up due to alcohol consumption.
Unfortunately, even the most responsible person can become the victim of a drunk driver. In that case, it is always advisable to retain an attorney to help recover compensation for damages caused under these tragic circumstances. The experienced attorneys at The de Boisblanc Law Firm offer free consultations to victims of careless drivers, and are committed to helping victims seek the justice they deserve.
May your holiday season be dazzling, merry, and most of all, safe!
NEW ORLEANS, LA — Mayor Latoya Cantrell made news by pledging to remove twenty cameras in New Orleans, in line with her campaign promises to suspend the universally hated program. However, even though more than 70% of the voting public is against traffic cameras it appears the enforcement tool isn’t going away any time soon.
In some cities, protests against traffic cameras have turned into illegal action on the part of disgruntled motorists, such as Stephen Ruth of Long Island, NY, dubbed the “Red Light Robin Hood” by his community, who was arrested for sabotaging numerous cameras. In a strange turn of events, Mr. Ruth’s actions led to an interesting discovery: in his Suffolk County community, yellow lights where there are no traffic cameras last for five seconds, but where there are traffic cameras, yellow lights only last three seconds. Around the country, residents of other cities have discovered the coincidental correlation between the installation of red light cameras and shortened yellow light durations.
Numerous studies show that increased yellow light times reduce violations and create safer streets. Longer yellow light times also reduce revenue generated from traffic camera tickets.
Proponents of traffic cameras argue that they increase safety. New research from Case Western Reserve University suggests otherwise, stating in part that motorists shift their driving patterns. “Once drivers knew about the cameras, they appeared to accept a higher accident risk from slamming on their brakes at yellow lights to avoid an expensive traffic citation—thereby decreasing safety for themselves and other drivers,” said Justin Gallagher, an assistant professor of economics at Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve, and co-author of the paper recently published to Social Science Research Network.
It’s well known that most citizens hate the cameras and don’t want them. What is less clear, is whether or not the cameras are constitutional. The Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause states that citizens have the right to confront their accuser. In the case of traffic cameras, the accuser is a machine managed by a technician with whatever company is running the cameras. In some municipalities, a technician’s report is read to the court by a police officer who was not present to witness the alleged violation. When accused persons raised concerns as to the calibration and reliability of the machine that “caught” their violation, a certificate was often presented in court, and all parties were expected to believe in the authenticity and accuracy of that certificate. In Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, the United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that “merely producing such a certificate in court is insufficient. Defendants have the right to cross-examine any individual who claims to have certified evidence.”
However, municipalities that make traffic camera tickets civil violations avoid having their traffic camera programs challenged on a constitutional basis. In New Orleans, these fines are considered “Civil Penalties,” and if unpaid, will be sent to a collection agency. A citizen may contest the ticket by requesting a hearing.
Whether or not the traffic camera ticket programs will survive their many deficiencies, and concerns about their constitutionality, remains to be seen. For now, motorists are all but united in their dislike for these programs, and New Orleans residents look forward to further action from Mayor Cantrell to reduce and remove this unpopular program.
NEW ORLEANS, LA — Being involved in a car accident is traumatic enough; but what happens when the at-fault driver lacks insurance to cover the costs of the damage he caused? The motorist who is the victim of a collision with an uninsured driver might find himself unable to pay necessary medical expenses, or lacking money to pay his bills should his injuries cause him to miss time from work. Recent studies indicate that uninsured drivers cost motorists and insurance companies a whopping $2.6 billion dollars in the year 2016 alone.
It’s important that motorists understand the risks of being involved in a collision with an uninsured motorist – and understand what they can do to protect themselves.
While carrying automobile insurance is the law in every state, except for New Hampshire, approximately 13% of Louisiana drivers operate uninsured on our roads, roughly on par with the national average. This means that more than one of every ten vehicles we pass on our daily commutes are uninsured for any damages they might cause in a collision. Car accidents cost an approximate $260 billion per year, from small fender benders and soft tissue injuries, to major collisions with life-altering consequences for the victim and his family. It’s important that motorists protect themselves and their families from this threat.
One way to minimize the consequences of being struck by an uninsured motorist is to purchase uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. In many states, especially those with a higher-than-average percentage of uninsured motorists, this form of insurance coverage is mandatory, but in Louisiana a motorist can choose either to purchase uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, or to decline this additional protection. This protection may be exclusive to medical payments, economic loss coverage, or it may provide full protection that will take into account the pain and suffering you may endure in a collision as well as providing much needed funds for medical bills and economic loss.
As the name suggests, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage doesn’t just come into effect if you’re struck by an uninsured driver. Louisiana law provides that motorists must carry minimum coverage of $15,000.00 per person, $30,000.00 per accident, and many motorists purchase only this minimum, which can quickly be exhausted by medical bills. Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage protects you in the event that your damages exceed the amount of coverage held by the person who hit you.
It’s important to protect ourselves against risk, and our mandatory liability insurance protects us against being held financially responsible for the damage we cause another person in a collision. But uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is essential for the driver who wants to protect himself against the damage caused to him by a motorist who violates the law and doesn’t purchase any insurance, or in instances where the insurance coverage on a vehicle that hits you isn’t enough to cover your damages. Another important part of protecting yourself and your rights, if you’re in a car crash, is to consult with an attorney who understands how to recover as much as possible for the damages you’ve suffered. If you’re in a car crash, the experienced attorneys at The de Boisblanc Law Firm are ready to schedule you for a free, no-obligation consultation today.
NEW ORLEANS, LA — Chances are, the car you drive has a black box, also known as an Event Data Recorder, and it’s there to monitor almost all you do behind the wheel. If you’re in a crash, that EDR is able to supply such information as your speed, break use, engine throttle at the time of impact, and data from a dozen other mechanical categories, including whether or not you were wearing your seatbelt at the time of a collision. When a motorist is driving, the EDR continuously records data, but only in the event of a collision is that data stored, so that it can be retrieved by accident reconstruction experts, insurance companies, and even courts.
An Event Data Recorder has many useful functions. In some car accidents, it can be difficult to determine fault. When the EDRs of vehicles involved in a collision are analyzed, accident investigators or reconstruction experts can often determine which party was at fault, helping the victims of careless drivers find justice and compensation for their injuries. Event data recorders also help fight insurance fraud, which helps insurance companies save money and charge lower rates to customers. An EDR can help an insurance company determine the severity of a crash, so that it can analyze a claimant’s injuries and better ensure that the injuries make sense in the context of the crash. Some EDRs also record whether or not a seat was occupied at the time of collision. And finally, an EDR helps fight back against staged accidents.
The EDR can even help save lives. When accident investigators explore the data saved in the EDR of a vehicle involved in a catastrophic collision, they aren’t just able to analyze dangerous driving practices, they can determine if the vehicle encountered any mechanical failure, such as a failed airbag deployment or a faulty breaking system, which led to injury or loss of life. If the failure is the result of some deficiency in manufacturing, an automaker can enact a recall to solve the problem, perhaps saving many lives.
However, in spite of all of the benefits of the EDR, some believe that Event Data Recorders invade our privacy. In today’s world, it’s concerning that a computerized device in our vehicles might be used to determine where we go and when, potentially revealing other personal details about our lives. Americans are concerned over who can have access to the data stored in their EDR. Might an employer, or some other third party, be able to access that information? The Driver Privacy Act of 2015 aims to address these concerns. Unless authorized by a court, necessary to provide post accident medical treatment, used to carry out investigations that are authorized by Federal Law, or anonymously used for purposes of traffic safety research, the owner of a vehicle owns his EDR data, and a third party must obtain his consent before accessing his driving data.
Technology such as the Event Data Recorder will continue to evolve and enhance, as will questions and concerns about the potential uses of such data. It’s important for motorists today to realize that their vehicle is most likely equipped with an EDR, and that the EDR will help them understand just how a crash happened, should they be involved in a motor vehicle collision. If you’re involved in any motor vehicle accident, it’s important to consult an experienced attorney like the attorneys at the de Boisblanc Law Firm, who can help you protect your rights, and seek compensation if another party’s negligence has injured you.
NEW ORLEANS, LA — When it comes to teens and car crashes, there are special risks involved. Teens make up approximately seven percent of the population, but according to the CDC, teenage drivers account for eleven percent of the costs of motor vehicle collisions. Even more disturbing, in 2015, six teenagers died every day from motor vehicle injuries.
Louisiana has taken steps to reduce the involvement of teenage drivers in car crashes, such as instituting a Graduated Driver’s License program, and forbidding teenage drivers from using cell phones while driving. But even with these proactive steps, Louisiana ranked 33rd in a recent study of teen driver safety by state.
Parents of teenage drivers need to make themselves aware of the risks involved when their child gets behind the wheel, so that they can take sensible steps to prevent teen car crashes. When inexperience combines with distractions such as having other teens in the car, or giving in to the temptation to use a cell phone, the chances of a teen’s involvement in a car crash raise significantly. Parents can take several actions to promote safe driving behavior which might reduce the risk that their child will be involved in a motor vehicle accident. Experts recommend talking to your child early and often about responsible driving, and modeling good driving habits for your child. It’s also important to set concrete rules about when your teen is allowed to use his or her vehicle, and what responsibilities he or she must fulfill in order to maintain driving privileges. Parental involvement is a key risk-prevention factor when it comes to teenage car crashes, and parents should discuss driver safety with their children early and often.
Parents should also be aware that they can be held legally liable for their teen’s car crash. In Louisiana, the doctrine of vicarious liability means that parents can be sued if their teenage driver is responsible for a car crash. If your teen has been involved in a car accident, it’s extremely important that you contact an attorney who can determine your risk of being sued due to any negligence your child may have committed leading to his or her crash. An experienced personal injury attorney at The de Boisblanc Law firm can help you recover damages if your child has been injured in a car crash, and will know how to best protect you and your teen should your child share any liability for the accident. Call The de Boisblanc Law Firm at (504) 586-0005 to schedule your free consultation today.
You’ve been injured in a car accident, and you’re ready to have an initial consultation with an attorney. You want to come prepared to this crucial appointment, but you’re not sure what to expect, or what information your attorney will need to get started.
Every personal injury case is different, but at your initial consultation you can expect to discuss the following three things: the accident itself, your health care needs, and your property damage.
At your initial consultation, your attorney will ask you important questions about the accident, and gather the contact information for any witnesses you may have. If you’ve taken pictures of the accident scene, you’ll be asked to text or email them to your lawyer’s office, so that the photographs can be used to help determine liability, or to help reconstruct the accident should your case go to trial. If you were wise and called the police, you’ll need to give your attorney the item number on the “auto accident information exchange” form, which will have been filled out by the responding officer, so that a full crash report can be obtained.
Securing proper health care is the next step at your initial consultation. An established law firm should be familiar with local health care providers, and will be knowledgeable about providers best suited to your particular injuries. According to Medscape rear-end collisions are most likely to cause injury to the neck, while front and side collisions commonly injure the spine or back. Neck and spine injuries often require expensive diagnostic imaging tests. The right attorney will be able to assist you with making arrangements for the funding for your treatment, without directing you to take high-fee “legal funding loans” that quickly deplete your future recovery. At your initial appointment with your attorney, you’ll need to sign a HIPPA release form authorizing your attorney to communicate with your doctors. Regular attendance at your medical appointments is essential to the success of your case, so at your first appointment with your attorney, be sure to mention any possible obstacles you may have to medical treatment, such as lack of transportation or regularly anticipated scheduling difficulties. This way, arrangements can be made–such as finding a provider with more convenient hours, or assisting you in obtaining a rental car–to make it easier for you to see your doctor.
Repairing your vehicle will also be discussed. Your attorney will contact the responsible driver’s insurance company to make arrangements to pay for the repair work, or to reimburse you for as much of your property damage expenses, should you have already had your vehicle repaired.
When you show up at your initial consultation, it’s important to have the following things:
- Your valid identification, along with your social security number
- A copy of the police incident report
- Any photographs you were able to take at the scene of the accident
- Any property damage repair bills you’ve had to date
- Discharge papers from the hospital emergency room
- All names and contact information of any witnesses to the accident
- Proof of automobile insurance, as without valid insurance, you will be unable to recover any damages, even if the other party was completely at fault
Being prepared for your initial consultation helps to get your case in motion. Recovering compensation for damages you received in a motor vehicle accident can be a lengthy and complicated process, but when you come prepared to your initial consultation, your attorney is able to go to work right away on your case. At The de Boisblanc Law Firm, our attorneys are well experienced and will assist you through every step of the process of getting you the recovery you deserve. And as always, your initial consultation is free of charge, and our attorneys only get paid when you do.
BATON ROUGE, LA – The Department of Transportation states that “speeding is one of the most prevalent factors contributing to traffic crashes”, costing motorists $40.4 billion in crash-related expenses, along with 10,219 lives lost in 2012 alone. In an effort to cut down on truck crashes, Louisiana Representative Steve Carter (R-Baton Rouge) authored a bill before the legislature this session, which would lower speed limits for trucks on elevated interstate roadways extending five miles or longer. Carter’s bill passed through the House of Representative’s Committee on Transportation, Highways and Public Works unanimously on May 11, and is scheduled to be debated on the House floor on May 24. Studies from the National Highway Cooperative Research Program indicate “that higher speed limits were associated with an increased likelihood of deaths and incapacitating injuries”, supporting the argument that reducing speed limits for trucks will reduce the fatalities, injuries and expenses associated with truck crashes. And since speeding is one of the major causes of truck crashes, it stands to reason that lowering speed limits for trucks might significantly improve safety for all motorists.
However, Cathy Gautreaux of the Louisiana Motor Transportation Association criticizes the bill, which would also confine truck drivers to the right lane. Telling committee members, “there’s no way we could expect a truck driver to stay behind a mobile home,” Ms. Gautreaux argued that preventing truck drivers from passing slow motorists in the right line could actually cause a safety hazard. She believes that one of these hazards would be a line of trucks “queuing up” behind a slow right lane vehicle, without any provision in the legislation which would allow truck drivers to legally pass such an obstacle.
Currently in Louisiana, the speed limit for all motor vehicles is 75 mph on rural interstates, and 70 mph on urban interstates. Along with reducing the speed limit by ten miles per hour for large trucks, Representative Carter’s bill would also create a new initiative to research speed differentials as they relate to motor vehicle safety, and the reduction of collisions.
If you are involved in a truck crash, the most important thing to do is check yourself and your passengers for injuries. No matter what other motorists tell you to do, you shouldn’t move your vehicle unless your safety requires it. It’s important to take photographs of all of the vehicles involved in the collision, from multiple angles. Include photographs of the truck’s license plate and any other identifying information. The police should always be called, and it’s highly recommended that you allow emergency medical response personnel to examine you and transport you to the hospital. Finally, it’s important that you find legal representation. Insurance companies often try to offer small sums to accident victims, which rarely cover a victim’s ambulance ride expenses. An experienced lawyer like those at The de Boisblanc Law Firm can protect your rights against big insurance companies, and help you obtain the recovery you need after a serious truck accident. If you’ve been the victim of a truck crash, call The de Boisblanc Law Firm at (504) 586-0005, so that our attorneys can help you protect your rights and recover your damages.
NEW ORLEANS, LA — Texting while driving is illegal in most states, but according to the Center for Disease Control’s statistics, “Each day in the United States, over 8 people are killed and 1,161 injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver.” In Louisiana, texting while driving is punished with a fine of $175.00; subsequent offenses can cost up to $500.00. Yet even with these penalties, Louisiana motorists run a high risk of being hit by a distracted driver. Car crash statistics from the CDC, along with the Federal Communications Center, demonstrate that drivers continue to text and use social media while driving, regardless of laws prohibiting this risky behavior. Teenage drivers are the most likely to text while driving, but with the widespread popularity of mobile devices, drivers of all ages may succumb to the temptation to respond to that all-important text while behind the wheel. Tragically, making the wrong decision to respond to a text can easily cause a life-altering collision.
It is impossible for the responsible driver to protect himself from a collision caused by a distracted driver. Fortunately, should the unthinkable occur, the penalties for driving while texting offer responsible Louisiana motorists the chance to have to a speedier recovery after a collision with a distracted driver, as insurance companies and their attorneys will be more likely to settle if their insured motorist receives a citation for texting while driving. At The de Boisblanc Law Firm, your attorney will fight for proof that the distracted driver was using his mobile device illegally when he caused the collision that injured you or your passengers. The aftermath of a collision, even if it’s not your fault, generally involves major bills, such as ambulance bills, emergency room care, and car rental and repair expenses. Therefore, it’s important that a driver involved in a car accident call the police, and seek an experienced attorney to assist him in the process of making the responsible party pay for the damages caused.
Drivers should be cautioned by the statistic that it only takes a moment of checking your cell phone or social media, to become involved in a collision. If you’re struck by another motorist when driving, the first thing you should do is call the police, and then allow emergency medical services to assist you. The next step for the responsible driver is to find a competent attorney to recover damages from the distracted driver. Experiencing a motor vehicle collision is traumatic and costly, but the decisions you make in those early moments, will have long-lasting consequences in your ability to make the guilty party pay for the collision he caused.