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Louisiana Passes Tort Reform Bill HB 57

This year’s first attempt to pass a tort reform bill, SB 418, The Omnibus Premium Reduction Act of 2020, failed when it was vetoed by Governor John Bel Edwards. Despite having a veto proof majority in support of SB 418 prior to the Governor’s veto, support for the bill fell apart after Edwards vetoed the bill. In a special legislative session Louisiana lawmakers were able to pass HB 57 known as The Civil Justice Reform Act of 2020. We have already written extensively on SB 418 and how it would affect injured victims. This blog will explore the differences between SB 418 and HB 57 and how car accident victims are affected by the changes.

Statute of Limitations (Prescription)

The original bill, SB 418, sought to increase the statute of limitations from one year to two years. The thought behind this, which was supported by both sides, was that if given more time car accident victims and insurance companies could reach fair settlement terms before going to court. Since the statute of limitations is only one year, a lot of lawsuits are filed just to protect an injured victim’s rights when they may have otherwise been able to reach a fair settlement. HB 57 does not make any changes to the statute of limitations for injury cases in Louisiana. Under this law the one year prescription period will remain the same. 

Jury Threshold 

Currently, all car and truck accident cases seeking less than 50,000 dollars in damages are heard by a judge in Louisiana. SB 418 sought to lower the threshold for a case to be argued in front of a jury from 50,000 to 5,000 dollars. Governor Edwards wanted the jury threshold figure to be 25,000 dollars, but lawmakers reached a compromise and HB 57 sets the jury threshold at 10,000 dollars. Car accident victims who hire settlement mill law firms or personal injury lawyers with little to no trial experience will suffer the most as a result of these changes. However, since more car accident cases will be tried in front of juries, the legal process for injured victims will most likely move slower and take longer to resolve. This means car accident victims could be waiting to get the compensation they need to cover their medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and more. 

Collateral Source

This part of the legislation was the most hotly contested. In SB 418, the law limited financial recovery for medical bills to what was actually paid by insurance. Opponents claimed that this left injured victims the responsibility to pay for medical services that insurance didn’t cover even when they were not at fault in the accident. HB 57 limits the amount of medical damages to the amount actually paid, but after the verdict, allows a judge to review the difference between what was actually billed and what was paid and either award up to 40 percent of the difference or decrease the award for medical damages. This will hurt injured victims in the long run and limit their ability to receive fair compensation for their injuries and medical bills. 

Seatbelt Use

Currently, judges and juries are forbidden to use the fact that a seatbelt was not worn at the time of a car accident to reduce damages received by an injured victim. SB 418 and HB 57 both proposed to change this aspect of the law. Now if an injured victim was not wearing a seatbelt, this evidence can be used to reduce the amount of damages they receive in court. Proponents of the measure say that people should not be rewarded for failing to wear a seatbelt. Opponents argue that in some cases it will be difficult, if not impossible, to tell which injuries resulted from not wearing a seatbelt. 

Naming the Insurer

SB 418 sought to shield insurance companies during car and truck accident trials by forbidding mention of which company or companies were insuring the drivers at fault. HB 57 limits the times when personal injury attorneys can mention which insurance companies are involved to the opening and closing of the trial. Proponents of the bill say that juries are far more likely to award larger settlements when they know that insurance companies will be footing the bill rather than an individual. Opponents of the measure say that lawmakers are shielding insurance companies from paying out what they owe injured victims. HB 57 offers protections for insurance companies, but it does not completely shield them like SB 418 sought to do. 

Will HB 57 Lower Car Insurance Rates?

The goal of HB 57 and SB 418 as stated by lawmakers was to lower car insurance rates for Louisiana drivers. Drivers in Louisiana pay some of the highest insurance rates in the country, and something needs to be done to help lower these costs. However, neither SB 418 or HB 57 included a single sentence or any language at all regarding insurance rates. HB 57 just like its predecessor SB 418 does not mandate insurance companies to lower their rates. In fact, insurance companies can raise their rates if they can show it is necessary to provide services. HB 57 much like SB 418 is a special interest bill driven by big insurance companies. This bill does little to actually help Louisiana drivers and only hurts car accident victims. If Governor John Bel Edwards signs HB 57 into law, which he has said he will, the new law will go into effect January 1st, 2021.

You Need a Seasoned Trial Attorney

HB 57 makes trial experienced personal injury lawyers even more valuable than they already were. Don’t make the mistake of hiring a settlement mill! Murphy Law Firm has a team of highly experienced personal injury attorneys that prepare every case for trial. Our team has over 150 years of litigation experience. If you’ve been hurt in a car or truck accident, get help from Murphy Law Firm. Call us today at (225) 928-8800 to speak with a car accident attorney about your case!

Tort Reform Bill SB 418 Vetoed by Governor

Governor John Bel Edwards has vetoed Senate Bill 418, the Omnibus Premium Reduction Act. The bill was intended to reduce insurance premiums for Louisiana drivers, but in reality SB 418 only protected insurance companies from lawsuits while not offering any concrete promise to actually lower the rate of car insurance in Louisiana, and limited the amount of compensation injured victims would have been able to recover for their medical care. 

Here is a direct quote from the Governor’s veto letter, “It is important to note that not a single insurance company testified in committee that Senate Bill 418 would actually reduce rates. Further, the rate reduction provision in the bill is permissive, rather than mandatory, and actually allows for rate increases if insurers are able to demonstrate one would be needed.” 

The Omnibus Premium Reduction Act, SB 418, was a special interest driven bill, and it did little to nothing for the citizens of Louisiana. SB 418 was returned to the Louisiana Legislature. If two-thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives vote to approve the bill, the Governor’s veto will be overridden and SB 418 will become law. 

How SB 418 Affects Louisiana Drivers

  • Raises the statute of limitations for injury cases to 2 years
  • Lowers the jury threshold for injury cases from 50K to 5K
  • Limits the amount of compensation that can be recovered for medical bills
  • Allows judges and juries to consider seatbelt use
  • Requires lawsuits to be filed against the other driver rather than the insurance company 

The Omnibus Premium Reduction Act can still become law in Louisiana. The original bill passed both chambers of the Louisiana Legislature with enough votes to override a Gubernatorial veto. We will see in the coming days whether or not SB 418 will pass with a two-thirds majority. 

Tort Reform Makes Trial Experience Even More Valuable

The proposed tort reforms in Louisiana make trial experience even more valuable for injured victims. Settlement mill personal injury lawyers are going to have a harder time making quick settlements if the jury threshold is lowered as proposed by law. More personal injury cases will go to trial, since it will be the only way for injured victims to fight for fair compensation, and personal injury attorneys without real trial experience will be forced out of their comfort zone and into a courtroom. If you’re hurt in a car accident, hire a personal injury lawyer with an abundance of trial experience. The team at Murphy Law Firm has over 150 years of combined litigation experience, they prepare every case for trial, and are not afraid to stand up to the big insurance companies and fight for what is fair. Call (225) 928-8800 to speak with a member of the Murphy Law Firm team today!

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!