Proposed Louisiana Tort Reforms and How they Affect Injured Victims

Recently, Louisiana Senate Bill 418 passed through both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The bill is waiting on the signature of Governor John Bel Edwards to become law although SB 418 has the votes needed to override a potential veto. Proponents of the bill say that these tort reforms are necessary to reduce insurance rates for Louisiana drivers, which are among the highest in the country. Opponents of SB 418 however, point out that no specific rate cuts are promised by the bill, too many concessions are given to insurance companies, and that injured victims are left with fewer options for recovering compensation. Let’s take a closer look at SB 418 the Omnibus Premium Reduction Act of 2020

Five Ways Injured Victims Will be Affected by SB 418

1. Longer Statute of Limitations 

Currently in Louisiana, injured victims have one year to file a lawsuit after their accident. As a result, a number of lawsuits are filed every single year just to protect an injured victim’s rights. SB 418 proposes to raise the prescription, or statute of limitations, on injury cases from one year to two. This is one aspect of the bill that both opponents and proponents agree on. With extra time to negotiate a fair and reasonable settlement there should be less lawsuits filed with the court. This aspect of the bill will help injured victims, especially ones who require extensive medical treatment. Now that there is more time to file a lawsuit the full extent of a victim’s injuries and medical bills can be more accurately known and accounted for. 

2. Lower Jury Threshold 

The jury threshold refers to the amount of damages sought in order to get a trial in front of a jury. Currently, Louisiana has the highest jury threshold in the country at $50,000. SB 418 aims to lower the jury threshold figure to $5,000. If the bill passes the jury threshold figure will likely end up being greater than $5,000, but $5,000 is what the bill proposes. The way this will affect injured victims is two-fold. First, with a lower jury threshold the courts will be swamped with more cases and the process will take longer, essentially delaying any possible settlement or justice. Second, if the threshold is lowered, more cases will go to trial, and some of the most popular baton rouge personal injury lawyers don’t have any real trial experience. If you hire a personal injury attorney who doesn’t have trial experience, you will probably not do well in court or get the compensation you need to recover from your accident. 

3. Limit Recovery for Medical Bills

The way SB 418 is currently worded injured victims would only be able to recover compensation for actual medical payments made. Right now, Louisiana law allows injured victims to recover compensation for what health care providers typically charge rather than what they actually paid out. The problem with changing this aspect of tort law is that health insurance rarely covers all of the costs associated with medical care. By limiting a victim’s ability to recover compensation for medical services and treatments, injured victims might end up having to pay money out of their own pocket for injuries that were caused by the fault of someone else. Legislators are working on wording that would allow courts to consider the payments left uncovered by health insurance policies, but as SB 418 is currently written, injured victims would be left high and dry when it comes to recovering compensation for medical bills. 

4. Require Lawsuits to be Filed Against the Other Driver 

Currently, lawsuits can be filed against insurance companies in personal injury cases. SB 418 seeks to change this so that injury lawsuits would be filed against the other driver in car accident cases and not the insurance company. This part of the bill is what insurance companies really want. They want to hide themselves and their coverage from the jury. The popular thought is that juries are more likely to hammer an insurance company for compensation than an individual. If lawsuits can no longer be filed against insurance companies in accident cases, injured victims will likely receive less compensation for their injuries. 

5. Allow Judges and Juries to Consider Seatbelt Use

Finally, SB 418 would also allow judges and juries in Louisiana to consider reducing an injured victim’s damage awards if they were not wearing a seatbelt. Supporters of this language claim that injured victims shouldn’t benefit from breaking the law. The major flaw with this idea is that it will be nearly impossible and very costly to know what extent of the injuries a victim sustained were caused by not wearing a seatbelt. In the end, this portion of the bill will only hurt, and victim blame, injured parties in an effort to save insurance companies more money annually. 

Realistically, SB 418 is a bill pushed by big business and the special interests of insurance companies. The claim is that this legislation will lower car insurance costs for Louisiana drivers, but no specific figures or language is written to guarantee this. In the end, it will be up to insurance companies to decide how much to reduce their rates if at all. 100 of the 144 Louisiana state legislators received a combined total of $508,000 in campaign contributions from the Louisiana Association of Business & Industry and insurance industry political action committees (PACs). These groups are very interested in the passage of SB 418. 

Baton Rouge Personal Injury Attorneys with Trial Experience

It is likely that SB 418 will be signed into law soon. If and when it becomes law, trial experience is going to be very important in personal injury cases. Murphy Law Firm has over 150 years of combined litigation experience. We are not afraid to go to court, and we prepare all of our cases with the expectation that it will go to trial. Not all attorneys are skilled in the courtroom! Make sure you check to see if your personal injury attorney has trial experience before you choose them to represent you. Call Murphy Law Firm at (225) 928-8800 for a free consultation!


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