Get Answers to Your Legal Questions in Our FAQ
Dealing with a legal issue whether it be applying for and receiving disability benefits, fighting for a personal injury claim, or navigating through a divorce, can be a challenge, and many people are left with questions about what they can do to get the help they need. At the law offices of Loyd J. Bourgeois, we understand how hard it can be to get the answers you need. That’s why we’ve put together the following list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and answers dealing with family law, personal injury, disability benefits, claims, and appeals and the related law in Louisiana.
The following are some FAQs that I receive as a Louisiana attorney. They may answer some of the questions you have regarding your Social Security Disability appeal, your long-term disability insurance denial, your personal injury claim, or your Louisiana divorce. If you have a question that is not answered here, please call the legal team of Loyd J Bourgeois, LLC at 985-240-9773.
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How much is my burn injury claim worth in Louisiana?
If You Have A Burn Injury Caused By Someone Else’s Negligence, You May Be Owed Compensation.
Obviously, there is no one kind of burn injury case. Burn injuries can happen in a variety of ways, including workplace injuries, faulty consumer products, arson, or another intentional burning, and any kind of accident caused by negligence.
In addition to car accidents, several industries in the New Orleans area job market are vulnerable to the risk of burn injury, particularly in fields where people have to handle hot or caustic items, are exposed to chemicals and gases, are exposed to steam or open flame, or have to work with molten metals or materials.
Chemical manufacturing facilities, oil refineries, nuclear power plants, welding, and the food industry are just a few of those local professions where burn injuries are unfortunate hazards of the occupation. Though each of those industries has its own set of safety standards, accidents can and do happen.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Classifies Burns Into 3 Categories:
- First-Degree Burns: Burns only affecting the top layer of skin, causes swelling and redness.
- Second-Degree Burns: Burns that damage the top two layers of skin, causes blisters, swelling, and deep redness.
- Third-Degree Burns: The most severe type of burn, these penetrate the entire thickness of the skin and can permanently damage tissue. This type of injury requires immediate medical attention.
How Much Is My Burn Claim Worth?
There is no way to estimate the average settlement value for a burn injury claim because the amount a victim may receive after a burn depends on the severity of the injury and the circumstances surrounding their case.
Burn injuries are regarded similarly to other personal injury claims and as with any personal injury, it’s difficult to determine an accurate settlement amount.
However, because burn injuries can be extraordinarily more painful and lead to severe, permanent disfigurement, burn injuries tend to be awarded more favorably.
The biggest factors are the location and severity of the injury and the degree of negligence involved.
Besides being painful, second and third-degree burns often involve the joints and nerves and, in addition to scarring, can cause permanent damage and a limited range of movement.
If caustic chemical substances get into one’s eyes or are inhaled, that person may experience temporary or permanent vision loss or may have difficulty eating or trouble breathing.
Typically, second-degree burns can take anywhere from several weeks to several months to heal and third-degree burns can take up to several months to over a year.
Healing time will vary and be dependent on several factors such as the extent and location of the injury, age and health of the victim, and the nature of the cause of the burn.
Another consideration is what type of medical treatment was needed, for example, skin grafts.
How Much Compensation Do You Get for a Burn Injury?
Both sides will negotiate based on what they believe the plaintiff will be awarded at trial.
Settlements will be based on the defendant’s degree of liability so knowing how and where the injury occurred is important.
For example, if a plaintiff was burned by an accident at work that may or may not have been preventable, the perceived value of the case will be much lower than if the accident was caused by the employer’s failure to follow safety regulations.
The lower the perceived value, the lower the settlement amount will be.
As a side note, a workplace injury that does not involve employer negligence will usually only be paid out by the workers’ compensation carrier.
It must be noted that just because you suffered a second or third-degree injury doesn’t mean you are automatically eligible for compensation.
First, you must show that you were owed a duty of care by the negligent party and that your injury was caused when they breached this duty.
Examples of this breach of duty are failure to follow set safety standards, knowledge of unsafe working conditions or broken equipment, or disregarding traffic laws.
The amount of compensation you are owed will depend on the location, type, and nature of the burn and the amount of negligence.
Seeking Compensation for Physical and Emotional Pain and Suffering for Burns
In addition to being compensated for medical bills and lost wages, a liable defendant may also be responsible for both your physical and emotional pain and suffering.
What that means is that they may be responsible to not only compensate you for the physical pain the burn caused and may continue to cause but also any emotional pain that a disfiguring burn has caused you to suffer or will suffer in the future.
The amount of damages for physical pain and suffering will depend on the extent and nature of the disfigurement.
Seeking Punitive Damages for Negligence for Burn Injuries
Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant and can be awarded to a burn victim if it is proven that the defendant acted intentionally or with gross negligence.
One example of gross negligence would be a product manufacturer failing to conduct safety testing on a product that frequently comes into contact with an open flame, like an oven mitt.
Another example of this is being burned with a hot liquid, like in the infamous McDonald's coffee burn injury lawsuit.
Though punitive damages for gross negligence are harder to predict, the threat of punitive damages will generally make a defendant more likely to settle the case at a higher amount.
If You’ve Suffered A Burn Injury, Seek Advice Before Signing Anything!
If you’ve suffered a burn injury, be wary of your employer or insurance company trying to get you to sign paperwork right away.
The insurance company may want to settle your burn injury for the lowest amount before you’ve even been properly diagnosed, and your employer may want you to sign away your rights to compensation.
You’ve suffered a painful injury and there’s no shame in getting reimbursed for your medical bills and lost wages.
An experienced, local personal injury attorney will be able to assess your case and point you in the right direction.
What is an onset date for SSDI?
Your onset date is defined as the first day you are unable to work because of your disability.
What is an Alleged Onset Date?
The alleged onset date, or AOD, is the date you claim on your Social Security Disability application as you became unable to work because of your medical condition.
The onset date may or may not be the same as the date your medical condition was diagnosed or your injury occurred.
A typical AOD is the date last worked.
However, depending on the circumstances and the medical support, the onset date could be after the date last worked.
Why is the date of onset important?
This onset date determines when you were first eligible to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and how far back your "back pay" will go.
For SSDI, Social Security Administration (SSA) can retroactively pay benefits as far back as 12 months before your application date if you were disabled before that date, again subject to the 5-month non-payment period.
There is usually little to be gained from alleging an onset date of more than 17 months before your application since you are not eligible for social security disability benefits for that time period. Here are some examples:
- You apply on January 1, 2020 stating your onset date was January 1, 2019 and are approved with the AOD. You are entitled to benefits starting June 1, 2019. Why? Although SSA can pay you for one year prior to your application date, your five-month elimination period started on January 1, 2019 and ended on May 31, 2019.
- You apply on January 1, 2020 stating your onset date was January 1, 2018 and are approved with the AOD. You are entitled to benefits starting January 1, 2019. Why? SSA only pays for one year prior to your application date (or January 1, 2019) and your five-month elimination period started on January 1, 2018 and ended on May 31, 2018.
- You apply on January 1, 2020 stating your onset date was January 1, 2020 and are approved with the AOD. You are entitled to benefits starting June 1, 2020. Why? Your five-month elimination period started on January 1, 2020 and ended on May 31, 2020.
The exception to this is if your Date Last Insured (DLI) is more than 17 months before your application date. You must select an alleged onset date that is BEFORE your date last insured to be eligible for disability payments. If you did not become disabled prior to your DLI, you are likely not eligible for SSDI benefits on your own record.
*Note: The information about Onset Date and DLI is for SSDI only. For Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims, SSA can only pay from the date of application OR onset date, whichever is later.
What happens if the ALJ wants to change my onset date?
Some times, a "partially favorable" decision is issued by SSA or the ALJ. One potential reason for this partially favorable decision is because SSA or the ALJ agree you are disabled currently but do not agree with your AOD and instead believe you became disabled at a later date. This can be referred to as an amended onset date.
The impact of such partially favorable decisions is often a person will receive future disability benefits, but the amount of lump sum back payments are reduced or eliminated.
What is an Established Onset Date?
The date that Social Security determines that you became disabled and unable to work is called the established onset date.
To determine your established onset date, the Social Security Administration will look at your alleged onset date, your work history, and your medical evidence. SSA may agree with your AOD or may select its own onset date.
In addition to affecting your lump sum back payment amount, the established onset date can also determine your eligibility for benefits. You must be unable to work for 12 months to be eligible for disability benefits. If you are expected to recover to the point of being able to work and the judge disagrees with your alleged onset date and moves it back, it could mean that there is no longer a full 12 month period where you are unable to work. Therefore, you are not eligible for benefits at all.
How do I select my alleged onset date?
Choosing the correct onset date is very important to your chances of obtaining disability benefits and obtaining the maximum back payment you are entitled to receive.
Selecting a specific onset date is difficult since most likely your symptoms and impairments built up over time. Unless you were injured in an accident, it's not likely that all of your issues began on the same date.
You should pick a date that is supported by evidence in your medical records as well as your work history. If you are having difficulty, consulting with an experienced disability attorney can help.
Often you can tie the onset date to a certain event, either the day you last worked or a major date in your medical history like your date of diagnosis or a date when you were hospitalized.
Other things that can affect your onset date are incarceration, citizenship status, the last day worked, and receipt of or application for unemployment benefits.
Whatever date you choose, make sure the alleged onset date that you select can be supported by medical evidence from around that time period that shows impairments that affect your ability to work.
If you are unsure of what to put as your alleged date of onset on your Social Security Disability application, my office is happy to provide guidance. We've analyzed onset dates for hundreds of disability claims. Give us a call at 985-240-9773.
What is subrogation?
Subrogation is the substitution of one person or group for another with respect to a debt or insurance claim accompanied by the transfer of any associated rights and duties.
Subrogation typically arises in property insurance claims and health insurance claims.
Health Insurance Subrogation
Your health insurance (including Medicare/Medicaid) will want reimbursement for the money it paid for your treatment.
This has to come from any money that you recover. However, you or your personal injury attorney may be able to negotiate with them how much you payback. It often depends on your insurance contract.
Subrogation Health Insurance Example
As a result of the same automobile crash, you are injured. When you go to the doctor, you present your health insurance card to receive treatment for your injuries.
The total cost for medical treatment in your case is more than $150,000.
Because the crash was caused by someone else, your healthcare carrier is subrogated to your rights against the offending driver for the amount of medical expenses it paid (more than $150,000).
That means if you recover money from the other party or their insurance carrier, $150,000 must be repaid from that money to your health insurance company. (Suddenly, those big amounts that are flashed on the "Get a Check" commercials don't seem quite as large!)
Short-Term or Long-Term Disability Subrogation
Another often forgotten subrogation claim - any short-term or long-term disability company that paid you (like AFLAC or CIGNA or sometimes your own employer) for missed time from work.
They are entitled to recover that money from any money that you receive from a settlement.
Your Own Insurance Company Subrogation
If you have MedPay coverage and filed a claim, your auto insurance company may want reimbursement when you recover from another party.
Also, if your car insurer pays for your property damage repair or replacement while awaiting payment from the other party, they will be entitled to that money that you recover from the at-fault party.
Car Insurance Subrogation Example
You are involved in a car crash that damages your brand new truck. The damage costs $25,000 to repair. You file a claim to get your truck repaired quickly.
Your carrier is now subrogated to your right to sue the other party and/or their insurance carrier for the $25,000 that it paid to you and will seek reimbursement.
When considering a settlement offer, take into account the subrogation process and all of the money that may be owed or subrogated to other parties.
You need to ensure that an offer covers all of your expenses and any amount of money that may be owed to other parties.
How will the COVID-19 pandemic affect my Louisiana legal case?
"How will my case be affected by the novel Coronavirus pandemic?"
This is the one question many are asking right now as this crisis continues to persist.
First, please know that we are actively and tirelessly working on all of our cases.
For the safety of our clients and staff, we are not having in-person client meetings at this time.
We are using phone, video-conferencing, and online document signing for client and new-client consultations.
Court closures have affected cases differently depending on case type.
How will the COVID-19 pandemic affect my Social Security Disability claim?
If your case is currently awaiting a decision or a hearing, SSA continues to process cases. If you are currently receiving monthly SSA benefits, those should continue without interruption.
For a more detailed explanation of the effects of the novel Coronavirus on Social Security Disability claims, read my in-depth blog post.
How will the COVID-19 pandemic affect my Personal Injury case?
We continue working on our personal injury cases and they are progressing as expected. If a lawsuit was filed or will be filed in your case, all deadlines and hearings have been extended during this crisis by order of the Louisiana Supreme Court and Governor.
For a more detailed explanation of the effects of the novel Coronavirus on Personal Injury cases, read my in-depth blog post.
How will the COVID-19 pandemic affect my Family Law case?
Unless your matter involves an emergency situation, all deadlines and hearings have been extended during this crisis by order of the Louisiana Supreme Court and Governor.
For a more detailed explanation of the effects of the novel Coronavirus on divorce, custody, and other family law cases, read my in-depth blog post.
How ill the COVID-19 pandemic affect my Long-Term Disability claim?
We continue working on our long-term disability cases and they are progressing as expected. If a lawsuit was filed or will be filed in your case, most deadlines and hearings have been extended during this crisis by order of the Court. If you are receiving monthly payments from an insurer, those should continue without interruption.
For a more detailed explanation of the effects of the novel Coronavirus on Long-Term Disability claims, read my in-depth blog post.
Here at LJBLegal we are continuing to work on all of our clients' matters. We are not meeting in person, but are available by phone to answer all of your questions. Give us a call at 985-240-9773
What is Residual Functional Capacity (RFC)? Social Security Disability Lawyer Explains!
One of the most important concepts in evaluating disability claims is Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) also referred to as Residual Functionality.
The code of federal regulations describe residual functional capacity as follows:
Your residual functional capacity is the most you can still do despite your limitations.” 20 CFR 404.1545; 20 CFR 416.945.
What is Residual Functional Capacity?
Residual Functional Capacity is an evaluation of your remaining ability to do things (work) after taking into account all of the limitations your severe medical conditions cause you.
Think of it as “How much can you do & for how long?”.
What is your ability to work?
The Social Security Administration will look at how your medical condition(s) has affected your ability to exert yourself physically for work-related tasks. These are things like:
- How long can you sit?
- How long can you stand?
- How long can you walk?
- Exert yourself physically for various work-related activities (such as sitting, standing, walking, lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling).
- Can you do manipulative and postural activities (such as reaching, handling large objects, using your fingers, feeling, climbing stairs or ladders, kneeling, crouching, crawling)?
- Can you stoop?
- Can you balance?
- Can you tolerate certain environmental conditions (such as high or low temperature extremes, wetness, humidity, noise, dust, fumes, odors, gases, poor ventilation, vibrations)?
- Can you work in hazardous working conditions like around or with machinery?
- Can you work at heights without any protection?
- Do you have any problems seeing, hearing, and speaking?
Your RFC encompasses your mental faculties as well.
- Can you maintain concentration and attention at work for extended periods of time?
- Can you understand and remember instructions and carry out your duties throughout the day and from day to day?
- Can you get along with people in your workplace or the general public?
- Can you cope with changes in the work setting?
- Can you respond appropriately to supervisors, co-workers, and usual work situations?
For example, let’s assume you have chronic back pain and take narcotic pain medications for treatment. Your doctor has told you that the most you can lift is 20 pounds occasionally and less than 10 pounds frequently. Assume further, that as a result of the medication you take to treat your back pain, that you experience drowsiness, fatigue and should not operate heavy machinery. You also cannot sit for longer than 1 hour at a time or stand for longer than 30 minutes before you need to rest.
Knowing these limitations, what can you do?
- You can lift 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently.
- You can sit for up to 1 hour.
- You can stand for up to 30 minutes at a time.
- You cannot operate heavy machinery.
- Can you do anything else?
- Are you limited in other ways?
There are a number of other factors that should go into your residual functionality, but these are not always clearly explained in the medical records.
When these other factors are not clearly explained in your medical records, Social Security may find that you can perform these tasks.
Some factors that should be considered are the ability to twist, bend, stoop, reach, grasp, handle/finger, kneel, crawl, and climb.
Additionally, other non-exertional factors can play a role in establishing your residual functionality as well. These factors can include things such as the ability to follow directions, maintain concentration, pace, and persistence, ability to get along with co-workers, reliability (do you show up), and a host of other issues.
Your overall residual functional capacity is your remaining physical and mental ability after taking into account your physical and mental limitations.
Oftentimes, the medical records that I review do not discuss a number of factors essential to a proper determination of your RFC. The reason is that many of these factors are irrelevant to a doctor’s actual treatment of your medical condition. However, they are important for Social Security Disability claims because SSA’s determination is focused on your functional ability – not your medical history.
Social Security defines residual functional capacity as sedentary, light, medium, or heavy.
If you do not meet a listing, your RFC needs to be at a certain level to qualify you for social security disability benefits.
Your RFC needs to prevent you from performing your past relevant work and all other types of work that exist in significant numbers.
The specific RFC needed to show that you cannot perform your past relevant work or other types of work is dependent on your age, education, training, and past work history.
A thorough understanding of all of the factors that go into an RFC determination is important if you want to have the best chance of success with your SSDI claim. As a Louisiana SSDI attorney, I can help you understand the residual functionality you will have to prove in order to give your disability case the best chance of success. Give me a call at 985-240-9773.
Who pays the legal fees in a divorce?
Simply put, in almost all Louisiana cases, each party pays their own costs and fees.
This means – you pay for your attorney and filing fees and other costs, and your spouse pays for their attorney and filing fees and other costs.
Who pays filing fees in a Louisiana divorce?
If you want to file the divorce, be prepared to pay the filing fees and service costs – even if you don’t have an attorney.
If you need to file an answer to a divorce, you are responsible for the filing fees. The same thing with each time you want to contest something, file a motion for contempt, or attempt to change a prior court order. Or, if you want to oppose a filing, fight a motion for contempt, or fight any filing in the divorce proceeding.
A simple uncontested divorce may result in very few filing fees, but a contested divorce with child custody, child support, and/or property separation issues could result in filing fees really adding up.
How much do filing fees cost?
The next question is – well, what are the filing fees? These are court dependent and set by the clerk of each court.
You can check out the filing fees for St. Charles Parish, Jefferson Parish, St. John the Baptist Parish, Orleans Parish, Lafourche Parish, Terrebonne Parish, or other parishes at the Clerk of Court’s website or by calling the appropriate office.
How much does a divorce lawyer cost?
With regard to attorney fees – this is case-specific and will be dependent on a variety of factors.
Most family law attorneys charge an hourly rate, but they can vary very much from lawyer to lawyer.
The other factor is how much time the attorney spends on the case. Spouses arguing over everything from alimony and child support to minor things such as who gets the Yeti cooler can cause attorney’s fees to add up quickly.
Who pays divorce attorney fees in Louisiana?
In most divorce cases, each party is responsible for paying their own attorney’s fees.
In an at-fault divorce, the at-fault party will not be ordered to pay the fees of the other party simply as punishment for cheating or other marital misconduct.
If one party continues filing unnecessary motions or drags proceedings out by refusing to cooperate, the judge may award attorney’s fees to the other party. In these cases, the fee award would not pay for the entire divorce, just the extra time and court appearances caused by the bad faith of the party.
In some cases where one spouse makes much more money than the other, the judge may order the higher-earning spouse to pay the attorney fees of the other spouse. Simply because it would not be fair for one party to battle against a high-powered attorney without be able to afford counsel of their own at all.
However, the judge will usually deduct what was paid for the attorney from your share of the joint assets when the property division is final. Therefore, ultimately, the lawyer was paid out of your share of the money.
How do I apply for Social Security Disability benefits?
You can apply for social security disability benefits or supplemental security income benefits in a number of ways.
The best and most reliable method is to go to your local social security office and apply in person. I am listing a few Louisiana Social Security Offices here for your reference:
- 1616 Joe Yenni Blvd, Kenner, Louisiana
- 400 Poydras, Suite 500, New Orleans, Louisiana
- 115 Terry Parkway, Terrytown, Louisiana
- 19375 North 4th Street, Covington, Louisiana
- 205 Arkansas Street, Bogalusa, Louisiana
- 2100 Robin Avenue, Hammond, Louisiana
- 2nd Floor Federal Building 206, 423 Lafayette St., Houma, Louisiana
If an office close to you is not listed, you can find the office that serves you by using Social Security’s Find An Office tool.
You should be aware that the in-person disability application process, while the most thorough, can take a few hours between the waiting and the application.
You should prepare to be there the whole day and have as many records as possible with you.
You can also call in advance for an appointment at 1-800-772-1213.
You can also apply for social security disability benefits online.
Many of our clients are very nervous about filling out these forms alone. Or they make mistakes on the forms that cannot be corrected during the appeals process.
Our firm will take away the burden and anxiety of completing and turning in your SSDI application and related disability forms.
When you hire us, all forms are submitted to our office and are gone over with you to make sure there is a clear understanding of your disability and limitations before we submit them to Social Security.
You will never have to submit anything or deal with Social Security by yourself.
How does Social Security determine if I qualify for SSDI?
Under Social Security rules and federal law, in order to qualify for SSDI, you must have a total disability that has or is expected to last for at least 12 months (or result in death) and you must have worked enough to be insured under Social Security law.
Benefits are not payable for partial disabilities or for a short-term disability.
Social Security defines disability as your inability to do the work you performed before your disability began and the Social Security Administration determines that because of your disability you cannot adjust to other work.
Your disability must also last or be expected to last for at least 12 months or to result in death.
How much does a disability attorney charge?
As a New Orleans area disability attorney, one of the first questions I am usually asked is "How much will this cost me?"
There are many falsehoods and misconceptions out there about how much it costs to hire a disability lawyer.
How much can a lawyer charge for disability?
Federal disability law fees are set by law and cannot exceed 25% of your back benefits.
In many cases, the maximum is $6,000 (if we win at the first hearing). That’s because I generally use the fee agreement process.
AND that amount is only due if I am successful in representing you. If your claim is denied, you owe no attorney fees.
For example, let’s assume that we are successful in getting your disability benefits.
Your onset date is set 24 months prior to today’s date (that means that SSA will owe you back benefits). Due to SSA laws, you can be paid 19 months of back benefits in this scenario (because SSA does not pay for the first 5 months). If your benefit amount is $850 per month, your back benefits would equal $16,150 ($850 X 19). The attorney’s fee on this amount would be $4037.50 ($16,150 X 25%).
Will a disability attorney take a percentage of my future benefits?
Here is another important aspect of a disability attorney’s fee: you do not owe a fee based on future benefits.
That is, you will not have to keep paying your disability attorney 25% of your monthly disability check.
Once the disability lawyer is paid from the back benefits, that is all you owe with respect to fees.
In some cases, disability attorneys charge costs (which are different from fees) whether your claim is successful or not.
What about costs?
Costs include things such as expenses incurred for medical records, long-distance phone calls, mail, parking at your hearing, and other costs paid to develop your disability case.
As an SSDI attorney in Louisiana, I generally handle the cost issue on a case-by-case basis. You should ask your disability lawyer (or disability representative) how they charge costs.
One thing to keep in mind if you use a disability representative from a national firm that must travel to your area is whether or not those travel costs will be charged to you.
This could include airfare, rental car, hotel stay, and meals. These costs can get expensive and really decrease the amount you end up with at the end of the day.
While the maximum amount of fees is limited by the law, costs are not limited in the same manner.
Thus, you need to watch costs and be mindful of them when you hire a disability lawyer. In Houma and other places, these costs can get excessive.
There is a possibility that a disability attorney may get more than the $6,000 if your case involves extensive work (usually because of multiple appeals to and from SSA and federal court).
However, even in that case, the fee charged to you cannot exceed 25% of your back benefits. In this case, the fee petition process would have to be used.
If you're preparing to apply for Social Security disability or appeal a claim denial, I've written a book 9 Mistakes that Can Disable Your Social Security Disability Claim. This is a helpful and informative guide that will guide you through some of the common mistakes and errors that lead to unfavorable Social Security Disability decisions. Don't make a costly mistake that could cause you to lose the benefits that you need to survive! I'd love to send you a copy. Just click here to receive your free copy of my book 9 Mistakes That Can Disable Your Social Security Disability Claim.
Can we use the same attorney during a divorce to save money?
Divorce is expensive – both emotionally, physically and financially. One way you may consider saving a few bucks is to reduce attorney fees by both you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse using the same divorce attorney for legal representation.
You wonder “Should we share a divorce attorney?”
Can you use the same lawyer in a divorce in Louisiana?
Bad news – sharing a divorce lawyer is not possible in Louisiana. You and your spouse – even if everything is agreed upon – are opposing parties in a divorce lawsuit. This is an unwaivable conflict of interest for any attorney. The Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct do not permit an attorney to represent both parties in a lawsuit.
Your Metairie Divorce Attorney cannot represent you and your spouse. Neither can your Destrehan Divorce Lawyer. You and your spouse need to have a separate family law attorney in Louisiana.
An attorney owes the client many duties including confidentiality, impartiality, and must look out for their client’s best interest. This cannot happen if the attorney represents both sides – which is why the conflict cannot be waived.
Even if spouses agree, sharing a divorce attorney in Louisiana isn’t just a bad idea, it’s not allowed.
How can I save money in a divorce?
Now, what does happen from time to time is one party retains an attorney and the other does not. Even in these situations, the attorney is not allowed to give any legal advice. The party without an attorney should remember the attorney is not there to protect their interests or ensure fairness.
When to hire your own divorce lawyer
If your situation includes:
- complex finances,
- spousal support,
- child support or child custody issues,
- an imbalance of information, money, or power
Don’t be cheap - consult with a family lawyer before signing a settlement agreement as it could save you plenty more in the long run!
What is a 'tort'?
A tort is a wrongful act or an infringement of a right (other than under contract) leading to a civil legal liability.
One example of a tort is a car crash. The other driver may not have intended to hit you but due to either inattention or failure to obey highway laws or some other reason, they may have crashed into you infringing your right to the roadway. This is a negligent tort.
Another example is if someone punches you - a battery. This is an intentional tort.
What are the 3 types of torts?
The three main types of torts are negligence, strict liability, and intentional torts.
What is an example of a tort?
Examples of negligence torts include – automobile accidents, professional malpractice (medical, legal, accounting, engineering, etc.), dog bites, bicycle collisions, etc. Generally, any situation where another person or entity may have caused or contributed to any injury.
Strict Liability Tort
Examples of strict liability include claims like product liability, vaccine injury and premises liability.
Examples of intentional torts include things like assault and battery (fighting).
What about 'Tort Reform'?
So, when you hear of TORT Reform – think, someone is looking to reform the law because they don’t like being accountable for their own actions and responsibilities. Not surprisingly – most of the Tort Reform advocates and supporters are insurance companies and major business interests. And, instead of changing their behavior, they want to change the law and take away your rights.
Recently, “Tort Reform” advocates were successful in changing many of Louisiana’s laws to make it more difficult, costly, and burdensome to hold others accountable for their own negligence in an effort to “reduce costs” and “save money.” Now that they've tasted some victory after years of trying, we can bet they are not done in continuing to take away more of your rights to be made whole.
And while tort reform “advocates” have many statistics (you know what they say about statistics – “lies, damn lies, and statistics”), here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
- A Forbes (you know – the business magazine famous for identifying the 400 richest people in the world) contributor once said the devil’s “second greatest trick may be the insurance industry’s success in getting more than half the states to implement tort reform."
- A 2017 National Institutes of Health study on tort reform in Texas (passed 15 years earlier), found “reforming the malpractice environment has largely insignificant economic implications..”
- And here's the kicker! After extensive campaigning on the basis of reducing car insurance rates in Louisiana and AFTER the tort reform bill was signed into law, Jeff Albright, head of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of Louisiana admitted that the law would do nothing to reduce insurance rates. It was all a "strategy" to help big business at the expense of the consumer.
“Strategically, we did something different this year in pressing forward on tort reform,” Albright told the panel meeting on a video conference. “Historically, we’ve talked about tort reform from the perspective of ‘we need to improve the business environment, and tort reform is an important part of improving the business environment.’ We all get that.
“But it is not really an issue that is going to excite Joe Six-Pack to call their legislator and press for tort reform. And so, the change in strategy was we kind of tied tort reform to automobile insurance this time.”
Is someone referring to you as "Joe Six-Pack" really looking out for your best interests?
While everyone can agree that Louisiana’s insurance rates are high and we all would welcome relief, giving up your rights isn’t the way to do it and turns out won’t have an effect on insurance rates at all.
Look, as a person, a tax-payer, and business owner, I hate the high cost of insurance and litigation first mentality of so many. But, I see – from the front-lines, every day – the devastating effects “tort reform” has and continues to cause! Consider this:
- If you are injured due to someone else’s negligence – resulting in you losing a limb or losing life. What would that be worth?
- In an auto-accident with an 18-wheeler – it’s worth what the evidence and your community members (jury) say it’s worth.
- In a medical malpractice action – it’s worth what the evidence and your community members say it’s worth – unless it’s worth more than $500,000 because that is the arbitrary cap on general damages in these cases (which has not changed in almost 30 years)! Once you add up medical bills, treatment, and lost work, that number isn’t as big as it seems and certainly doesn’t go as far as it did 30 years ago.
- What about if a company fails to have a policy to check its floor for hazards and you slip and fall in a hazardous substance causing you to require multiple back surgeries?
- If the slip-and-fall happens at a hospital or casino or even a government building or school, you play by one set of rules and laws.
- If the slip-and-fall happens at your grocery store, department store, restaurant, or other “merchant”, you play by a completely different set of rules and laws designed to make it virtually impossible to receive compensation for your injuries.
- And this is most infuriating to me – the advocates of these reforms cannot say with any certainty that by removing your rights, you will actually see a benefit in the form of cheaper costs!!!!
Current tort-reform advocates want to put a cap on all commercial vehicle accidents at the same level it was set for medical malpractice cases 30 years ago! They further argue courts are so over-stressed with “frivolous” lawsuits, they cannot operate properly. But, studies indicate civil filings have decreased by almost 50% since 2010 in some states, and tort cases (those primarily filed by individuals against a business or insurance company) only account for about 4% of civil cases!
It’s not about lawyers “getting rich.” Everyone deserves the right to recover their medical expenses and lost wages after a serious car accident. You should not lose everything you have worked your whole life for just because someone was distracted on the road.
I encourage all of you to look deeper into any tort reform efforts. Look specifically at who is funding these efforts (hint: it’s not consumer advocates looking out for your best interests). And, make your voice heard by calling or writing your state representative and letting them know your stance on these measures designed to take away your rights – often at a time when you need them the most!