Reporting An Auto Accident In Louisiana
The laws about reporting accidents are listed in Louisiana Revised Statutes 32:398, but deciphering the legal text can be somewhat confusing unless you have legal training. This article will help clarify the law and how it applies to you after an accident.
What types of car accidents need to be reported?There are two types of car accidents that must be reported immediately according to Louisiana law:
Accidents that result in property damage of more than $500.
Accidents that result in injury or death.
An accident that results in an injury or death is apparent, but it may be difficult to be sure if the accident caused more than $500 worth of damage. It is best to err on the side of caution in these cases - if it looks like one or both of the vehicles is going to need repairs, reporting the accident is the best course of action.
Who do you contact to file a report?If you are within the city or town limits where you live, contact the local police department. If your accident happens on a highway or in another city, just contact the nearest police station or sheriff's office to file a report.
When should you report the accident?According to the law, you should contact law enforcement "...immediately, but the quickest means of communication." Although the law does not specify how you contact law enforcement, it is reasonable to assume you should call by phone as soon as you are able. If for some reason you do not have a cell phone available, you can ask to borrow one from a bystander or seek out a local business or pay phone.
You can also go in person to the nearest police station to file your report, if your car is safe to drive or if a police station is in walking distance. If none of these options is available, you can report the accident as soon as you have access to a phone.
What happens if you don't report the accident?If you are in an accident that results in injury or death of any person, or $100 or more in damages and you do not send a report to the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, you could face penalties including up to $100 fine and up to 60 days imprisonment.
Failing to report your accident also puts you at a disadvantage if you want to pursue legal action against the person that caused the accident. The main purpose of the requirement that the police investigate the accident is to facilitate civil claims that might arise from, car accidents. A police report provides valuable evidence not only about the identities of the parties, but about what happened in the accident, evidence that could be helpful in wining a lawsuit. It is in your best interest to report your accident, both to avoid penalties and improve your chances of getting compensation for your injuries.
Should I contact my insurance company?After seeing to medical needs and contacting the police, your next step should be to contact your insurance provider. Contacting your insurer after an accident is part of your policy, and is necessary for you to get your accident covered. When you do not contact your insurer, you risk getting your claim denied.
Many times the full damage - both to your body and to your vehicle - is not fully known until some time has passed. Accident victims often discover that they are more hurt than they realized, or that their vehicle needs further repairs. It is important to notify your insurance company within a day or so after the accident to make sure you get the coverage for which you are paying.
Should I contact an attorney?Contacting a personal injury attorney can be helpful if you or someone riding with you in your vehicle was hurt in the accident. Talking with a lawyer can give you a clear idea of whether your car accident and injuries warrant a lawsuit. Most personal injury attorneys offer free consultations where you can get legal advice about your accident, so you can understand your legal options at no cost to you.