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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What kind of doctor should I see for my car accident injury?
This is a question I am frequently asked. I strongly recommend that anyone who is hurt in an auto accident go to the emergency room immediately. However, emergency rooms only determine if you have any emergency medical needs and provide basic medication such as anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxers, and minor non-addictive pain relievers. It is important to know that most injuries worsen a day or two after an accident and can become unbearable over time, thus the medications and treatment you receive at the emergency room can be of tremendous benefit.
After going to the emergency room, you’ll need follow up care and that MUST mean a facility with a medical doctor on staff who understands crash injuries and is skilled in treating these type of injuries.
Additionally, most of these facilities also have a massage therapist, chiropractors, nurse practitioners, and additional medical professionals on staff to help you through the treatment process. If your pain persists, most doctors will request for you to have an MRI to further evaluate the type of injury you have and determine your treatment needs.
If you have injuries such as knee, wrist, hip, ankle or other types of injuries besides neck and back injuries, you should follow up with an orthopedic doctor.
If your neck or back symptoms persist you may be referred to a neurologist, neurosurgeon, or orthopedic spinal surgeon for a consultation.
In summary, be sure to go to the emergency room after a car accident even if your pain is not significant because it may increase over time. Next, you should follow up with a facility that has a medical doctor on staff to treat your injuries and not just a chiropractic or massage therapist’s office. While massage therapists and chiropractors are an important part of the treatment process, you need a medical doctor directing and coordinating your treatment.
PTSD and Social Security Disability – What Do I Need To Show To Get Disability for PTSD?
Michael is a client of mine. He admirably served our great country in some very brutal and hostile territory. The horrors he described experiencing have clearly left a mark on him. While a decorated soldier and a certified tough guy, Michael struggles to deal with the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder his service left him with. He attends counseling sessions at the VA clinic in Reserve, Louisiana, meets with a psychologist and psychiatrist at VA New Orleans, and has trouble in his everyday life as a result. Michael called us looking for help obtaining Social Security disability benefits due to his PTSD.
PTSD is characterized by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic or stressful event or learning of a traumatic event occurring to a close family member or close friend, and the psychological aftermath of clinically significant effects on functioning. Symptoms and signs may include, but are not limited to, distressing memories, dreams, and flashbacks related to the trauma or stressor; avoidant behavior; diminished interest or participation in significant activities; persistent negative emotional states (for example, fear, anger) or persistent inability to experience positive emotions (for example, satisfaction, affection); anxiety; irritability; aggression; exaggerated startle response; difficulty concentrating; and sleep disturbance.
PTSD can be seen in our military veterans, in crime victims, and survivors of other traumatic or stressful events – such as car crashes, physical and verbal abuse, and similar events.
SSA recognized the seriousness of this disease in its most recent mental health listings. Listing 12.15 recognizes the severe effects of PTSD on survivors and others and provides a pathway to a favorable decision.
To meet the requirements of Listing 12.15, a person must show the following:
- Medical documentation of all of the following:
- Exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or violence;
- Subsequent involuntary re-experiencing of the traumatic event (for example, intrusive memories, dreams, or flashbacks);
- Avoidance of external reminders of the event;
- Disturbance in mood and behavior; and
- Increases in arousal and reactivity (for example, exaggerated startle response, sleep disturbance).
- Extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas of mental functioning:
- Understand, remember, or apply information.
- Interact with others.
- Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace.
- Adapt or manage oneself.
- Your mental disorder in this listing category is “serious and persistent;” that is, you have a medically documented history of the existence of the disorder over a period of at least 2 years, and there is evidence of both:
- Medical treatment, mental health therapy, psychosocial support(s), or a highly structured setting(s) that is ongoing and that diminishes the symptoms and signs of your mental disorder; and
- Marginal adjustment, that is, you have minimal capacity to adapt to changes in your environment or to demands that are not already part of your daily life.
If a person’s PTSD does not specifically meet the listing, a skilled and experienced Louisiana Social Security Disability attorney can help present a PTSD case in a strategic way to make sure all of the severe symptoms and limitations caused are taken into account by SSA.
For Michael, and others like him, SSA’s recognition of this debilitating disease in a specific listing is tremendously beneficial.
If you or someone you love suffers from PTSD and needs help with obtaining Louisiana Social Security Disability benefits, give our team at Louisiana Disability Law a call today: (985) 240-9773.
Please note that names are changed and circumstances may be combined for illustration purposes!
- Medical documentation of all of the following:
What are the different types of auto insurance coverage and how do they help me?
Some of the most common types of auto insurance coverages are:
- Property Damage Liability – This provides coverage for all property damages the insured is legally obligated to pay due to an accident. Louisiana law requires a minimum of $25,000 in property damage coverage.
- Bodily Injury (BI) – Bodily Injury provides coverage for death or serious and permanent injury to others when you are legally liable for an accident involving your automobile. Louisiana law requires a minimum of $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident.
- Medical Pay (Med Pay) – This covers medical treatment for the insured or resident family member resulting from an auto accident, regardless of fault, as well as any person occupying the covered auto. This is not a required coverage in Louisiana.
- Uninsured Motorist (UM) – This is coverage provided to the insured, resident family members and any other person occupying the covered automobile for bodily injury resulting from an accident involving an uninsured or under-insured driver. This is not a required coverage in Louisiana.
- Comprehensive Coverage – This is coverage for your own property damage in case of an uninsured, underinsured or self-caused accident. While this coverage is not required by Louisiana law, if your vehicle is financed then the bank/credit union/loan provider typically requires comprehensive coverage to protect their interests.
Can I afford a lawyer?
Yes! As a personal injury attorney, our firm only collects a fee if WE WIN or SETTLE your case. Our fees are contingent on us recovering MONEY for YOU – if no recovery, then no fees.
And, our firm charges less of a contingency fee than most other firms! We operate on a sliding scale for our fee that is based on the status of the case when we recover YOU money. This can result in you saving thousands of dollars!
You really have nothing to lose by hiring a lawyer to represent you!
Do I need a Louisiana Personal Injury Attorney to Settle My Case?
If you were involved in a car crash, industrial accident, or another incident, you may be wondering if you need an attorney to settle your claim.
Here is my answer – maybe, maybe not. It depends on the specifics of your case and your injury.
Do I really need a personal injury attorney?
In my opinion, some small injury cases do not require a personal injury lawyer. How do you know if your case is a small injury case?
Some things I see in small personal injury cases:
- minimal impact;
- limited or no doctor visits; or
- no ongoing treatment or limitations after a few weeks.
My office usually does not get involved in cases with very minor injuries requiring only a visit or two to the doctor because doing so is usually not cost-effective for you or us.
The amount of damages at issue in these smaller cases is not that much, and after paying an attorney’s fee and your medical bills, you may be left with very little or nothing. This is simply not fair to you.
When settling on your own after an auto accident, you need to collect your medical records, evidence of your lost wages (including sick days and paid time off), details about the accident, and evidence of liability.
It is important if you are handling your case after a car accident that Louisiana has a one-year prescription period, this is commonly known as the statute of limitations. You need to negotiate a settlement before this one year mark passes or you may lose your rights to recover your damages.
When should a personal injury lawyer be used?
However, for more serious and disabling injuries, accident victims will usually benefit from having an experienced Louisiana personal injury attorney represent them. Why?
An experienced accident and injury attorney is knowledgeable about legal authority and knows how to effectively utilize the court system.
In some cases, an insurance company will only make their best offer with a trial date approaching.
An experienced personal injury attorney can effectively prepare you and your case for trial, and try your case to a judge or jury if need be.
And – in 1999, the Insurance Research Council (an insurance industry non-profit) found that injured people who used an attorney received, on average, three and a half times more in settlement money than those who settled without hiring an attorney. This is not just lawyer talk.
The insurance industry’s own data shows how important having an attorney is for injured victims. Ever wonder why the insurance industry hates lawyers – because lawyers hold them accountable for the damages their insured’s cause.
But, if you have serious or disabling damages, the insurance industry’s own data suggests – hiring a lawyer may be a good idea.
How Do I File a Personal Injury Claim in St. Charles Parish? How do I file an injury claim in Metairie?
When you are seriously injured because of a car wreck in the River Parishes, Louisiana, you may want to file a personal injury lawsuit. While you should make the decision to contact an attorney to help you with this process, you may want to try handling the case on your own. Whether you hire an attorney or handle it on your own, there are a number of very important steps that you must take to file your personal injury claim.
Steps to Filing a Louisiana Personal Injury Claim
Filing a lawsuit in Louisiana properly is very important. If you file incorrectly, your claim can be dismissed and you may never recover from your injury and pain. Here are a few important things that you need to properly file a lawsuit:
- Proper name and correct address of at-fault party or parties;
- Proper name and correct address of at-fault party’s insurance company;
- Appropriate description of location of collision, incident or action that caused you damages;
- Appropriate description of collision, incident or action that caused you damages;
- Appropriate description of the damages (special and general) that you suffered due to the collision, incident or action;
- Properly drafted complaint/petition for damages (this document gives an overview of the case – it identifies you (plaintiff), the defendant, what happened, and other basic facts.
- File the complaint/petition in the proper court and before the case prescribes (or statute of limitations expires);
- Pay for the filing fee;
- Have the complaint/petition properly served on the defendant(s) at the correct address;
- Pay the service fee;
- Check to make sure service made properly and within required time frames;
- If service not made timely or properly, re-request service and pay additional fee for service;
- Make sure defendant(s) answer the suit timely. If not, take appropriate action to place defendant in default.
- If defendant answers suit timely, begin litigation with defendant.
This is a brief and non-exhaustive overview of the beginnings of a personal injury lawsuit. Your specific case may be different or require additional steps. In order to hold the insurance company and defendant accountable for your damages, you must complete all steps properly.
While this sounds daunting, a qualified Louisiana personal injury attorney can take care of this process and make sure things are done correctly.
This is just the beginning. After these steps, much more extensive information and steps will be required. These steps include discovery (answer questions from the defendant, having our questions answered by the defendant, requesting documents, producing documents, giving depositions, taking depositions, working with experts, etc.), negotiations, trial preparation, and going to trial. By cooperating with your Louisiana personal injury attorney, you will become a team, and by working together you’ll greatly increase the chances of negotiating a fair settlement or winning your personal injury claim in court.
Contacting A Louisiana Personal Injury Attorney
After a serious accident, while you are dealing with disabling injuries, large medical bills, car repairs, and insurance companies, having someone work for and with you can mean the world.
If the prospect of going through just the beginning steps alone seems daunting and you decide you need help, Louisiana disabling personal injury lawyer Loyd Bourgeois is ready to provide you the assistance you need! Contact us today to schedule a FREE no obligation legal consultation – (985) 240-9773.
What Is My Personal Injury or Car Accident Case Worth?
There is no simple formula or magic trick to figuring out how much your injury case is worth. If things were that simple - both sides would always agree on the value of a case, injured accident victims would not need to hire a personal injury lawyer, and there would be much fewer lawyers.
The truth is - injury cases are very subjective and each case too unique to arrive at a simple personal injury compensation formula. The same type of injury may affect one person differently than it affects another. For instance, a guitar player who loses a finger may have a substantial lost income claim if he or she can no longer perform but a cashier with the same injury may have very little or no lost income because having one less finger does not negatively impact job performance.
Why is so hard to tell what my case is worth?
Ultimately, the value of your personal injury case is what a jury may feel is fair to award or what you are willing to accept. But we never know that figure until the jury reaches a verdict or you decide to accept or reject a settlement offer.
Making things more complicated - separate juries would likely arrive at different awards even when presented with the same exact evidence. Juries are made up of individual persons, each with different backgrounds, experiences, and philosophies about awarding damages for injuries. Each jury is different.
From a settlement perspective – you may accept one amount on one day but a lower or higher amount on a different day. We simply do not know until we are faced with the decision!
Generally speaking, your personal injury damages include some or all of the following that impacts the case’s worth:
- Past and future medical bills;
- Past and future mental and physical pain and suffering;
- Past and future loss of enjoyment of life;
- Past and future loss of income or earning capacity;
- Loss of consortium;
Agreeing on the value of intangible damage such as mental and physical pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and disfigurement is difficult. Your results may vary greatly depending on your attorney’s skill and experience, trial presentation, the location of your trial, and how you present.
While the elements of damages are generally determined by the severity of a victim’s injuries and the resulting impact on your life, other factors also come into play:
- Your credibility and likeability;
- Was the defendant’s conduct a simple mistake or reckless behavior;
- Do you have any portion of fault;
- Did you have pre-existing injuries to the same areas of the body;
- Are the injuries permanent;
- Has your income been affected at all, temporarily or permanently;
- How much is past medical treatment;
- Do you need and how much is the cost for future medical treatment; and
- In which Louisiana parish the case is filed (some parishes are considered more conservative, others more liberal).
With so many variables affecting the value of a given case, you can see why no two cases are truly alike. Even if the injuries seem identical, other circumstances are not. Properly evaluating a personal injury case requires the knowledge, experience, intuition, and skill gained through years of involvement in handling them.
HURT IN A WRECK – GET HELP NOW!
If you are trying to figure out if you have a reasonable offer, you need to speak with a personal injury attorney in Louisiana who can help you figure it out! Loyd J. Bourgeois stands ready to help. Contact us to schedule your FREE legal consultation – (985) 240-9773.
What Does My Personal Injury Attorney Do?
When you are injured in an automobile accident, industrial incident, or other situation, you might consider hiring a personal injury attorney. Some of your friends and family, or the insurance company, may tell you that you do not need an attorney. When you are considering whether to hire an attorney or not, you should understand what a personal injury attorney can do for you.
While I am unable to speak for all personal injury attorneys, I can generally explain what I do for my own clients. Again each case is different, but a typical personal injury case, prepared properly, will require much or all of the following:
- Conduct an initial interview to get acquainted with the client;
- Learn the facts of the case;
- Learn about the potential defendants;
- Learn about my client’s injuries;
- Identify treating physicians, witnesses, etc.;
- Teach and educate the client about the litigation process in personal injury claims;
- Locate and gather all important initial documents and records to support the claim (these will typically include medical records and bills, accident report, past and current employment records and tax returns, among others);
- Obtain witness statements;
- Obtain physical evidence;
- Take or obtain photographs or diagrams of the accident scene;
- Investigate to determine who will be the appropriate defendants;
- Investigate to determine all potential sources of insurance coverage;
- Obtain, read and analyze all applicable insurance policies to determine all available coverage for the client’s damages;
- Evaluate client’s own insurance coverage;
- Suggest what coverages client may purchase for future protection;
- Examine the client’s health insurance, governmental or another benefit plan to determine whether any money they paid for accident-related medical bills must legally be repaid;
- If necessary, negotiate the amount to be repaid, if any, from any recovery to health insurers.
- Conferences with the client’s treating physicians in order to fully understand the client’s medical diagnosis and prognosis;
- Obtain reports or specific statements from client’s doctors on medical causation, diagnosis, and prognosis;
- Research, hire and obtain experts needed to support the client’s claim;
- Evaluate and research all legal issues that affect the case;
- Initiate contact with and periodically discuss with the insurance adjuster the client’s claim;
- Ensure insurance company has necessary information to set appropriate reserves;
- Discuss and make recommendation to client about settlement amounts based on specific facts of case;
- Negotiate with the insurance adjuster to attempt settlement of the claim prior to filing a lawsuit;
- Determine all courts where the suit can be filed, and determine which court is best;
- Preparing and draft the petition or complaint;
- Determine the exact names and addresses of the defendants as well as their agents for service of process, if any, so that the petition or complaint can be properly served.
- File and arrange for personal service of the petition or complaint upon the defendants as the law requires.
- Prepare, draft and issue written discovery questions including interrogatories, request for production of documents, and requests for admission of facts for the defendants to answer under oath;
- Respond to interrogatories, request for production of documents and request for admissions issued by the defendants to the client;
- Fully educate and prepare the client for deposition;
- Prepare notices of deposition for all witnesses we will depose;
- Prepare for and take the depositions of the defendants, independent fact witnesses, insurance company personnel, physicians or other expert witnesses;
- Meet with the client’s treating physicians to prepare them for deposition;
- Discuss with the client what to expect and otherwise prepare the client for any medical examination to be conducted by the defendants’ medical experts;
- Review, analyze and summarize all records, and bills from the client’s treating physicians and other healthcare providers;
- Prepare expert witnesses hired for their depositions;
- Review and evaluate all expert reports;
- File all necessary documents and pleadings in court as required;
- Prepare necessary motions for summary judgment;
- Prepare and respond to all defense motions;
- Prepare and argue any motions on evidence for trial;
- Prepare the client, physicians, expert and other witnesses for trial testimony;
- Organize and compile all medical records, bills and other written or exhibits for trial;
- Prepare enlargements of certain exhibits for display to the jury;
- Prepare models, timelines, charts, diagrams or other demonstrative evidence for trial;
- Prepare for and attend mediation if the case is mediated;
- Prepare and have served subpoenas upon all witnesses to command attendance at trial;
- Prepare and conduct for jury selection;
- Prepare and give opening statements;
- Prepare and take all testimony;
- Prepare and argue necessary trial motions;
- Prepare and give closing arguments;
- Try the case before a judge or jury;
- Evaluate the verdict rendered and research any new legal issues that arise during the course of trial;
- Draft any post-trial briefs or motions;
- Obtain trial transcripts and examine the trial record to determine if an appeal is warranted;
- Research and draft all briefs required if an appeal is filed by either side.
There may be other items necessary in any particular case and some of these items may take multiple steps. Your personal injury attorney should keep you advised about the progress of your case throughout this process.
Likewise, you should keep your attorney fully aware of any medical treatment or other developments relating to your injury. You and your attorney should stay on the same page regarding the progress of your case.
How Do I Prepare For a Deposition?
When you are seriously injured in a car crash or industrial incident, and you have to file a lawsuit, you will probably have to give a deposition at some point. What is a deposition? How do you prepare for a deposition? What should be on the lookout for in your deposition?
Your Louisiana attorney is the best source for instructions and information about preparing for your deposition. In St. Charles Parish, I advise my clients on the ins and outs of the deposition process and what to expect.
A deposition is a formal legal proceeding where you are sworn to tell the truth and your testimony is taken. It generally occurs at your lawyer’s office or another office, not in court. The deposition is basically a question-and-answer session with attorneys in the case asking you questions and you providing answers. The questions and answers along with all other conversations are transcribed by a court reporter and are sometimes videoed.
Depositions are usually taken of you, the defendant(s), and other witnesses (including doctors, experts, and others). The purpose is to obtain sworn statements and information about the case – details of the incident, details of the injury, details of damages, etc.
How to Prepare For Your Deposition
You should meet with your injury lawyer well before the deposition for preparation. Depending on the complexity of your case, the preparation can take anywhere from an hour or two to multiple hours or even days.
A quick note about dress and behavior. You should dress appropriately like you are going to court - no T-shirts or shorts, club wear, dirty/torn clothing or hats. This is especially important if the deposition is videoed. You need to be mindful of your mannerisms, posture and how you conduct yourself. These non-verbal cues can reveal a lot about you and can impact your credibility.
Questions to Prepare For Before your Deposition
When discussing depositions with my St. Charles Parish clients, I often talk about the questions they should expect. Your Louisiana personal injury attorney should discuss this with you as well. Some common deposition questions will revolve around the following:
- The details of the accident (date, time, where you were going, what you remember, what did you see, what were you doing, etc.)
- The details of your injury (when did it start, what treatment you receive, what doctors you see, how you deal with the injury, any prior injury, etc.)
- The details of your other financial losses (missed time from work, medical expenses, etc.)
- Other areas that have been affected (hobbies, relationships, household activities, etc.)
How to Respond
Before your deposition, you should try to think through how to behave and respond. Prepare yourself mentally to be called a liar, an exaggerator, a malingerer, and someone who is just trying to hit the lawsuit lottery. Know that the defense counsel will likely try to make you feel this way so that they can get you to say or do things out of character and use it against you. Regardless of how you are treated, try to remain calm, collected, and let your attorney stick up for you. Remember these tips:
- Do not get angry – Showing any hostility means you’re more likely to get flustered and say something without thinking. The other attorney may try to provoke you into an argument so it’s important to remain calm and control what you say.
- Do not guess – Don’t answer a question unless you are certain what the attorney means. Ask them to clarify if you don’t completely understand what they are asking. Tell the truth – not what you think the attorney wants to hear!
- Do not volunteer information – Answer all questions in concise statements, as the more you say, the more likely you are to volunteer potentially damaging information.
- Do wait for the attorney to finish the question – Take a moment to consider what the attorney just asked you and prepare your answer. Speaking without first thinking raises your risk of saying something you may regret.
What are common tricks?
Your New Orleans personal injury lawyer should be familiar with some of the trick questions defense attorneys ask to try to get damaging statements out of witnesses. Trick questions are often misleading or confusing. You should remember you always have the right to ask for clarification before answering.
Some typical trick questions you may get at your deposition include:
- Compound questions – Two questions joined into one.
- Questions that assume facts that are not true – For example; “Can you describe what happened after the car in front of you hit the brakes?” would be a dangerous question to answer if the car did not, in fact, hit the brakes.
- Summary questions – Questions that attempt to summarize your previous testimony, often hiding damaging or untrue statements within the key points.
- Questions asking for exact figures – If the attorney asks for the exact speed you were going or the exact time it was when your accident occurred, answer in estimates, not solid figures unless you can prove the concrete numbers.
Before you talk to the insurance companies, or submit to a deposition or examination under oath, you need to speak with a Louisiana personal injury attorney. Loyd J. Bourgeois stands ready to help. Contact us to schedule your FREE legal consultation – (985) 240-9773.
Can I sue the State of Louisiana? Can I sue my parish or city for my injury?
There is an old saying - “You can’t fight City Hall!” But, what happens if the State of Louisiana or your local parish or city government is responsible for your injury? Can you sue the State of Louisiana? Can you sue your parish or city/town?
The short answer is – probably. However, in some cases, the answer is no, or yes, but don’t expect to ever receive anything.
If you are injured as a result of the negligence of a state employee or parish/city/town employee, your claim is subject to special laws found in La R.S. 13:5101, et seq, also known as the “Louisiana Governmental Claims Act.”
Personal Injury Claims Against Government
A common claim against a governmental entity is for collisions with emergency vehicles. For example, you are driving and a police car flies through the intersection you have just legally entered. You hear the siren and see the lights, but you don’t have time to get out of the way before a collision occurs. Another example would be a wreck with your local parish’s public vehicle or if you are walking at a local park and the parish is cutting grass and something flies up and severely injures you. What if a bad roadway design contributed to your injury?
The State of Louisiana and your local parish and/or city/town governments are usually bound by the same rules of negligence that apply to all others. There are some changes depending on circumstances – like for an emergency vehicle responding to a call – but generally, the negligence laws apply.
Your case may be also subject to certain rules about where your lawsuit can be filed, when it must be filed, how much you can recover, and whether or not you can have a jury determine your damages.
Contact a St. Charles Parish Personal Injury Lawyer
As a knowledgeable St. Charles Parish personal injury attorney, I can help you decide if you have a claim against your local parish/city/town or the State of Louisiana and if so, together we can hold them accountable for your damages. If you feel you may have a personal injury claim against a government entity, contact us today at (985) 240-9773.