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check-list-1150080Our thoughts go out to all of those affected by the recent flooding in Louisiana.  According to ABC News, over 30 inches of rain fell over the past weekend causing rivers across the state to rise to record levels. The Governor has declared a State of Emergency until September 10, 2016, unless terminated sooner. Unfortunately the flooding and rain has displaced families and taken a toll on local businesses. The most important concern is safety. But once you are safe, you are faced with a catastrophic loss that can take an emotional and economic toll on you. We have drafted this article to serve as a checklist to use when navigating the untoward waters of filing an insurance claim for flood and property damage:
  1. Find a copy of your Flood Policy, Renters Policy, or Business Policy, including the Declaration Page which is the part of the policy that tells you the type and how much you have in coverage. It includes the name and address of the insurance company, with information about the issuing agent, and it includes the contact information for the correct department when making a claim. It also states what is insured, for how much, under which circumstances, and for how long. It is a great idea to store these insurance policies and any other important legal documents in a safe deposit box in a secure facility. This will insure they cannot be stolen or damaged.
  2. Read and review your Policy. It is extremely important to understand your policy because there are certain rules that you must follow when filing a claim. Understanding these rules will make sure you are treated fairly and will not be taken advantage of. It is also important because these insurance policies may provide immediate financial assistance with food and shelter expenses.

New Orleans Carriage
The City of New Orleans is known for its eccentric, vibrant and welcoming attractions; but with fun comes human error. Tourists come to the city with one thing in mind, partying! On July 30th, tourists were partaking in an infamous tour of the city when a vehicle collided with a mule-drawn carriage in the French Quarter. News outlets reported the vehicle was going at a high speed when the driver turned the corner and exerted so much force that the carriage overturned.

Of the injured, three adults and a child were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, according to WWLTV. While the driver will likely be held responsible for the damages, many locals can attest that sometimes carriages do not always obey the traffic signals. According to the NOPD, the incident is considered an ongoing investigation.

Carriage rides are an attraction all over the United States. In New Orleans, horse and carriage rides date back to the 19th century. Along with the good comes the bad, as the mule-drawn rides have been the subject of countless lawsuits. In an effort to shield sponsors of farm animal activities from liability, Louisiana has enacted a special statute referred to among those in the legal community as the “farm animal immunity” statute. You can read the full text of the statute here.

Truxillo Cardone Law Firm Auto Accident
We have the pleasure of representing a family who lost their mother in a tragic car accident with a Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s deputy. The car accident occurred on April 11, 2016, approximately 4 months ago – and to date, the family has been denied access to the vehicle, denied access to the findings of the investigation and denied access to any other evidence. The Sheriff’s Office has still not returned their mother’s vehicle to the family, nor granted the family access to view the vehicle. This begs the question, is 4 months a reasonable time period to withhold evidence from a family who is seeking answers?

The Sheriff’s Office has declined to allow the family access to the evidence and information they are seeking based on La. R.S. § 44:3. La. R.S. § 44:3 is a special law in Louisiana which allows the Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney to deny access to evidence “pertaining to a pending criminal litigation or any criminal litigation which can be reasonably anticipated…” Per our communications with the Sheriff’s Office, it is standard operating procedure for every accident involving a deputy to be presented to the District Attorney’s Office. Once presented to the District Attorney’s Office, the reviewing attorney will determine whether anyone involved in the accident will be prosecuted. Other than this law, their are no other guidelines which govern the timeliness of an accident investigation or the District Attorney’s review period.

Timeliness in an accident investigation is critical. Today vehicles retain and store information in what are popularly known as a”black box” or event data recorder. Manufactures have been putting black boxes and event data recorders in vehicles since the mid 1990s. For an interesting article on black boxes and their history, check out this article by USA Today.

cardonelawfirmaccident

Technology is ever changing and at times the advancement can be a good thing. However, with the Tesla self-driving vehicles the recent autopilot accidents have many questioning the soundness of the car. On May 7, Joshua Brown was killed when his Tesla crashed into a tractor-trailer.

Preliminary reports state that Mr. Brown was driving his Model S with the acclaimed autopilot system. According to Tesla, “Autopilot allows Model S to steer within a lane, change lanes with the simple tap of a turn signal, and manage speed by using active, traffic-aware cruise control. Digital control of motors, brakes, and steering helps avoid collisions from the front and sides, and prevents the car from wandering off the road.” The issue in the May 7 crash is the fact that the system failed to live up to what the manufacturer guaranteed when the cameras did not recognize the tractor-trailer.

Similarly, on July 1, an owner of the Model X Tesla was involved in a crash in Pennsylvania when his vehicle veered into barricades and other lanes. The driver claimed he had his autopilot system on when he was driving, however, the manufacturer has reported that data revealed that he took his hands off the wheel which turned off the autopilot system.

Witness standA famous American movie producer was once quoted as saying, “There are three sides to every story:  your side, my side, and the truth.” This analysis is similar to what happens in civil litigation matters, such as auto accident cases. Each opposing party has a version that it asserts is the truth, while the whole truth may lie somewhere in between. In a dispute in which neither side has an “open and shut” case, success in your auto accident case can often come down to which side presents its case to the jury (or the judge in the case of a bench trial) in a way that seems more credible. A case decided earlier this year by the Louisiana Court of Appeal showed this in clear detail.

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CalendarEach DWI case is unique in its own way. A first-offense DWI charge contains its own set of challenges for the accused driver that are different from those faced by drivers accused of second-, third-, or fourth-offense DWI. In one recent case originating in Jefferson Parish, a man convicted of misdemeanor first-offense DWI lost opportunities to challenge the way the state prosecuted his case because he did not follow the correct court procedures or observe the court rules, which led the Louisiana Court of Appeal to leave his conviction in place.

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police lightsWhether it’s on the internet or on TV, chances are you’ve seen one or more videos of the wild scenes that sometimes unfold when drivers decide to try to outrun the police in their vehicles. While these videos can be entertaining to watch, they are, as law enforcement officers will attest, incredibly dangerous to anyone in the chase’s path. So, what happens if you’re harmed by a driver who’s trying to escape officers? The range of people (and insurance companies) you can sue depends on many facts, including the way that the relevant insurance policies are written. In a recent Louisiana Court of Appeal decision arising from a Jefferson Parish incident, an injured woman could not pursue an auto owner’s insurer because of the exception language in that insurance policy.

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2013 Yamaha RhinoIf you’ve been injured in a vehicle accident, such as an ATV crash, there may be multiple parties that could, depending on the facts of your case, be liable for your injuries. They might include the vehicle manufacturer, the driver, the vehicle owner, or the owner of the property where the crash occurred. In a recent case involving a woman whose arm was crushed in an ATV accident on a public street, the courts decided that she could not pursue a claim against the insurance company of the ATV’s owner. Due to who was driving and where the accident took place, the Louisiana Court of Appeal decided that the insurance company was, in this circumstance, entitled to conclude that its insurance policies did not cover the accident.

The woman’s injuries arose from a weekend birthday celebration gone wrong. Danielle Schelmety, her boyfriend, Michael Smith, and Smith’s roommate, James Johnson, decided to drive from their law school in Jackson, Miss. to Ruston, La. to attend a crawfish boil as part of Smith’s birthday celebration. Once in Ruston, the trio stayed at the home of Smith’s parents for the weekend. On Friday, Johnson took Schelmety for a ride in a Yamaha Rhino (a type of “side-by-side” four-wheel ATV) owned by the Smiths, with the Smiths’ permission. Johnson drove along several public streets and, while navigating a turn at the end of a cul-de-sac, flipped the vehicle, which pinned Schelmety’s arm to the ground. The accident shattered and crushed her forearm, wrist, and hand.

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dump truckA woman injured in a New Orleans wreck recently recovered more than $640,000 in damages. But it could have been more. If the jury that decided her case had not held her 15% at fault, the award would have exceeded $750,000. Despite an appeal, the damages award remained unchanged. The opinion issued by the Louisiana Court of Appeal in the case is a useful reminder about the amount of discretion the law gives juries in injury cases. In the case, the injured woman was determined to be 15% at fault, based upon her decision to use the highway and her failure to exercise “greater caution” while driving. The appeals court upheld this jury verdict, stating that the evidence in the case did not indicate that the allocation of fault was “clearly wrong.”

The case involved Hieu Phuong Hoang, who was injured when the car she was driving on US Highway 90 was struck by a dump truck driven by Kenneth Thornton. Hoang sued Thornton and his employer for her injuries. At trial, Hoang put a variety of witnesses on the stand. She called her neighbor, an expert witness, and herself to testify that the stretch of highway where the accident occurred was a dangerous area, due to heavy truck traffic and road construction. The parties also submitted photographs of the area where the wreck occurred.

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judge with gavelThe Louisiana Court of Appeal recently refused to throw out a man’s conviction on third-offense DWI despite his arguments that one of his prior convictions should not have counted against him in his current case. Although there were certain things the judge in the previous case did not tell the man about criminal law and trial procedure, none of those pieces of information was required by the Constitution, so the conviction was properly included as part of the basis for the man’s current charge.

Damion Billups’ most recent DWI case began when a state trooper observed him speeding along a rural road in Northeastern Louisiana. When the trooper stopped the driver, he thought the driver appeared intoxicated, put him through some field sobriety tests, and, based on those results, arrested the man for DWI. The state charged the matter as a third-offense DWI, since Billups had two previous DWI convictions, one each in 2008 and 2010. The driver challenged the charge brought against him, arguing that his 2010 plea was unconstitutional and that this offense should not count against him. After the trial judge concluded that both prior offenses were validly counted against the man, Billups entered a conditional guilty plea and was sentenced to one year of hard labor.

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