Posts tagged accident
Who is Liable When a Police Chase Causes an Accident?

It is no secret that we see a lot of crime in New Orleans and its surrounding areas and so the NOPD and its police officers are frequently faced with a suspect who attempts to flee their inquiry, arrest, or capture which can lead to a “police chase.” Sometimes, these pursuits involve NOPD vehicles and, unfortunately, sometimes these high speed pursuits can lead to serious injury.

Just this month, the NOPD pursued a high speed chase of a suspected stolen vehicle through the Broadmoor area. According to the Police Department, the officers spotted the vehicle near South Derbigny and Toledano streets and tried to pull over the driver, who then sped off.  A police chase ensued and the stolen vehicle crashed into a hair and beauty salon, Unity 1 Beauty Supply & Hair Salon, causing the salon to catch on fire. Two of the vehicle occupants died and one of the customers of the hair salon died in the fire with others suffering serious injury.

The Police Department's Public Integrity Bureau has started an investigation into the tragic Broadmoor beauty salon crash. The New Orleans Police Department officers have been temporarily reassigned due to possible violations of the NOPD vehicle pursuit policy. The accident is still under investigation.

When Should the Police Chase or Pursue a Suspect in a Car Chase?

On 12/6/15, the NOPD adopted a policy regarding suspect pursuit chases due to the federal consent decree and in recognition of the fact that they are inherently dangerous.

It states: “This Department's response to those who unlawfully flee from law enforcement action shall stress a balance between the importance of apprehending offenders and the highrisk nature of vehicle pursuits. Therefore, officers may engage in a pursuit only when they have a reasonable suspicion that a fleeing suspect has committed or has attempted to commit a crime of violence as defined by this Chapter and the escape of the subject would pose an imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury to the officer or to another person. Pursuits for property offenses, misdemeanor offenses, traffic, or civil infractions are prohibited. Officers must receive supervisory approval prior to initiating the pursuit. Officers are not authorized to engage in a vehicle pursuit in order to subdue an escaping suspect who presents no imminent threat of death or serious injury. Vehicle pursuits may never be used for the protection of property.”

According to the consent decree, pursuits for property offenses, misdemeanor offenses and traffic or civil infractions are prohibited for the Police Department. Officers need to receive supervisory approval before initiating a pursuit. The policy states:

Upon express supervisory approval, officers are authorized to initiate a pursuit ONLY when:

(a) an officer can articulate that a suspect is attempting to evade arrest or detention for a crime of violence as defined by this Chapter;

(b) the escape of the subject would pose an imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury to the officer or to another person; and

(c) the suspect is fleeing in a vehicle after having been given a signal to stop by a commissioned member who has identified themselves as a police officer (e.g., in uniform, in a marked police unit, showing badge and ID. – see: definition of Professional Presence Chapter 1.3 – Use of Force).

10. Officers must receive supervisory approval prior to initiating the pursuit. Pursuits for misdemeanor offenses, traffic, or civil infractions are prohibited. Dangerous driving during a pursuit does not justify a continued pursuit.

11. Factors that shall be considered, both individually and collectively, when deciding to initiate or continue a pursuit include:

(a) The seriousness of the known or reasonably suspected crime of violence as defined by this Chapter and its relationship to community safety.

(b) The importance of protecting the public and balancing the known or reasonably suspected offense, and the apparent need for immediate apprehension against the risks to officers, innocent motorists and others.

(c) The nature of the fleeing suspect (e.g., Whether the suspect represents a serious, ongoing threat to public safety. Reckless driving during the pursuit does not justify a continued pursuit).

(d) The identity of the suspect has been verified and there is minimal risk in allowing the suspect to be apprehended at a later time.

(e) The safety of the public in the area of the pursuit, including the type of area, time of day, the amount of vehicular and pedestrian traffic (e.g., school zones) and the speed of the pursuit relative to these factors.

(f) The pursuing officer's familiarity with the area of the pursuit, the quality of radio communication between the pursuing units and the dispatcher/supervisor, and the driving capabilities of the pursuing officers under the conditions of the pursuit.

(g) The weather, traffic and road conditions that unreasonably increase the danger of the pursuit when weighed against the risks resulting from the suspect's escape.

(h) The performance capabilities and type of authorized emergency vehicles used in the pursuit in relation to the speed and other conditions of the pursuit.

(i) Vehicle speeds.

(j) Other persons in or on the pursued vehicle (e.g., passengers, co-offenders and hostages).

(k) The availability of other resources (e.g., helicopter, airplane, drone, etc.).

(l) The police unit is carrying passengers other than on-duty police officers (e.g., ride-along, emergency transport of civilians, prisoners, etc.). Pursuits shall not be undertaken with a passenger in the pursuit vehicle.

When Should a NOPD Pursuit that was Lawfully Started by Stopped?

12. Pursuits should be terminated whenever the totality of the circumstances, known or which ought to be known to the officer or supervisor during the pursuit, indicate the present risk of continuing the pursuit appears to outweigh the risk resulting from the suspect's escape. While the Department has restricted pursuits to violent crimes, there are situations where conditions require these pursuits to be terminated.

13. The following factors should also be considered when deciding to terminate a pursuit:

(a) The distance between the pursuing officers and the fleeing vehicle is so great that further pursuit would be futile or require the pursuit to continue for an unreasonable time or distance.

(b) The pursued vehicle's location is no longer definitely known (visual contact is lost).

(c) The officer's pursuit vehicle sustains damage or a mechanical failure that renders it unsafe to operate.

(d) The pursuit vehicle has an emergency equipment failure that causes the vehicle to no longer qualify for authorized emergency vehicle status.

(e) The hazards to uninvolved bystanders or motorists.

(f) When the identity of the offender is known and it does not reasonably appear the need for immediate capture outweighs the risks associated with continuing the pursuit, officers should strongly consider discontinuing the pursuit and apprehending the offender at a later time.

(g) When directed to terminate the pursuit by the pursuit supervisor or a higher ranking supervisor.

(h) When the pursuit is futile, such as when the suspect continues to flee and there is no plan to get him or her to stop.

Additionally, the New Orleans Police Department’s own procedures state the mechanisms the NOPD must use to comply with the pursuit policy:

3. A vehicle pursuit shall be conducted using an authorized emergency vehicle that is equipped with a siren and proper emergency lighting. The officer shall ensure that they have given the suspect they are attempting to stop both a visual and an audible signal to stop by activating their vehicle’s emergency lights and siren (see. La. R.S. 14:108.1).

4. The officer driving an emergency vehicle may, when in pursuit of a suspect (La. R.S. 32:24):

(a) Proceed past a red light, stop signal or stop sign, but only after slowing down as may be necessary for safe operation.

(b) Exceed the speed limit so long as the officer does not endanger life or property.

(c) Disregard regulations governing direction of movement (however, movement against traffic flow is not authorized by this Department) or turning in specified directions as long as the officer does not endanger life or property.

(d) Park or stand in a roadway, irrespective of traffic regulations.

5. Officers shall drive with due regard for the safety of all persons. The failure to drive with due regard for the safety of all motorists can lead to disciplinary action, civil and even criminal charges. No call is of such importance and no task shall be expedited at such speeds or lack of reasonable driving that the principles of safety become secondary. Life is more important than property and protecting and preserving life must be placed above all other considerations.

What Happens if I was Injured During a Vehicle Pursuit by a New Orleans Police Department Officer?

Just like in any case in New Orleans or Louisiana, if you are injured by the negligence of another, you may have a personal injury claim for damages. Louisiana law allows for holding the police department liable for damages that it causes when it recklessly or negligently conducts a police chase. See, e.g., White v. Normand, 222 So.3d 205 (La. App. 5 Cir. 2017). However, just because a police officer conducts a vehicle pursuit that results in injury does not mean that they are automatically liable for the injury or damages. Vehicle pursuit cases involve a specialized analysis of the accident. An experienced personal injury attorney will need to evaluate the specific facts and circumstances of the pursuit and injury and determine who are purported responsible parties. Because Louisiana is a comparative law negligence state, even if a party is only partially at fault in causing an accident, they can be held responsible for some of your injuries. It is important to consult an experienced personal injury attorney in these cases because proving who is the at-fault driver, what standard the court will apply (ordinary negligence or gross negligence), and analyzing the police department pursuit guidelines is complicated.

In the Broodmoor Unity 1 Beauty Supply & Hair Salon fire and accident, for example, a personal injury attorney may attempt to make a claim against the NOPD if the NOPD officers violated the pursuit policy or conducted the vehicle pursuit in a negligent matter as well as the driver of the stolen vehicle.

This is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice.

Hiring can a New Orleans motorcycle accident lawyer after a motorcycle accident is important

Being injured in a motorcycle accident or a Vespa accident can be traumatizing.  Because driving a motorcycle or Vespa leaves you exposed with less protection if you are involved in an accident, there is a possibility that if you are involved in a New Orleans motorcycle accident or a vespa accident that your damages can be more serious. If you have been involved in a New Orleans motorcycle accident or a Vespa accident, it is important to contact the police and seek medical attention and to take immediate action to protect your health and your family well being.   Hiring a New Orleans motorcycle accident attorney early on in your case can help to secure valuable evidence soon after the accident.

How can a New Orleans motorcycle accident attorney help me early on in my case?

Hiring a New Orleans motorcycle accident attorney early on rather than attempting to negotiate with an insurance company directly can severely effect your recovery.  Insurance companies will attempt to take recorded statements of you so that they can use them later to attack your credibility.  Additionally, insurance companies have a team of adjusters whose number one job it is to settle you case early - before you know the full extent of your injuries, and for the lowest amount possible. Because we have decades of experience handling motorcycle accidents, we will be able to evaluate your injuries and any settlement offers and can help to negotiate on your behalf to get you the compensation you deserve for the injuries caused by the motorcycle accident.

Further, by hiring a New Orleans motorcycle accident attorney soon after the accident, the lawyer will be able to open an investigation immediately and help to secure valuable information that could disappear if you wait too long. For example, the other vehicle may contain devices that monitor the speed and travel of the other driver; you may have one on your motorcycle, there could be video of the accident on the dash cam of the 1other vehicle, or the accident may be captured on a crime camera or other surveillance camera.  Additionally, it is important to contact witnesses immediately - because this is exactly what the insurance company is doing.  An experienced New Orleans motorcycle accident attorney can also set up an inspection of your motorcycle, the accident scene, and the other vehicle and hire an accident reconstructionist to rebuild the accident. Waiting to hire a New Orleans motorcycle accident attorney may jeopardize the ability to get this evidence.

Who Can I make a claim against following a New Orleans motorcycle accident ?

If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident, you may be able to make a claim with any one of the other vehicles involved in the accident. If you have uninsured motorist insurance, you may be able to make a claim with your own insurance company as well.

How can our New Orleans motorcycle accident lawyers can help you with your case? 

The New Orleans motorcycle accident lawyers at Kiefer & Kiefer have decades of experience handling motorcycle accident cases and have recovered tens of millions of dollars for their clients that have been involved in accidents.  Do not make the mistake of hiring a motorcycle accident lawyer with no experience who is afraid to go to trial if the insurance company does not want to fairly compensate you following a motorcycle accident in New Orleans. We have a seasoned team of trial attorneys ready to fight for you. 

With State Farm Lowering its Car Insurance Rates, it May be time to Increase your Uninsured Motorist Coverage

This week, State Farm, who is Louisiana's largest auto insurer, announced that it will lower auto insurance rates starting in April by an average of 3.2 percent for its roughly 1 million Louisiana policyholders.  This is their third rate decrease in nine months.

This may be a good time to use those savings to up your uninsured motorist coverage.

When you sign up for automobile insurance,  you have the option of purchasing uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist insurance in addition to your liability coverage. Uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance is insurance that you purchase that steps in to cover you when another driver is not insured for injuries that they cause in a car accident or does not have enough insurance to cover your damages that you sustained after being injured in a car accident.  In fact, in Louisiana, you have to specifically reject this type of coverage if you do not want to purchase it.  While it may seem tempting to save money every month by declining this coverage, you may want to think twice.

In Louisiana, it is required under the law to have $15,000/30,000 of automobile insurance on a personal vehicle. Despite this requirement, it is estimated that 13 percent of drivers in Louisiana are not insured at all and an astounding number carry only the minimum amount of insurance on their vehicle and in New Orleans, that number is even higher.  That is, if you are involved in a car accident it is highly likely that the other driver is insured with only $15,000 of coverage if at all, which is not enough to cover even minor injuries in some cases that are caused by the car accident.  Too many times, we have had to break the news to seriously injured clients that the driver that injured them did not have enough insurance to compensate them for their injuries.  Accordingly, securing uninsured motorist insurance can help you to protect you in these situations. It will provide you the peace of mind that even if you are seriously injured in a car accident, you will be able to recover your medical bills, pain and suffering, and loss wages for any time you may have missed from work due to your injuries.

Call your insurance agent today to assess whether you are protecting yourself and your family adequately and if you can use these State Farm savings to re-invest in your security.

Megan C. Kiefer is a partner and trial attorney at Kiefer & Kiefer, who specializes in Metairie personal injury and New Orleans personal injury litigation and uninsured motorist litigation following a car accident. 

 This is being provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice.

Cruise Ship Accidents and Injuries Can be Complicated

New Orleans is one of the most popular destinations to embark on a vacation cruise, and it is the sixth largest port in the nation. In 2017, New Orleans serviced 1.15 million cruise passengers, which was a to date record.   We welcomed a 4,000 passenger Norwegian cruise ship in November of 2017, which was the largest passenger cruise ship to arrive in New Orleans ever. 

It is so popular, in fact, that Carnival has just debuted a New Orleans themed cruise ship called “Mardi Gras". This 180,000 ton ship is scheduled to set sail in 2020, and will service 5,000 passengers.  It will have a French-Quarter themed deck lined with bars, a traditional jazz club, and even a roller coaster.

Although the worst thing that happens to most cruisers will be a sunburn or a hangover, there are many instances where a passenger is injured on a cruise ship, sometimes seriously.  These injuries can include food poisoning, sexual assault and rape, battery, a slip and fall accident, injuries while on excursions, or even death or a missing person.  Unfortunately, legal regulations of cruise ships are complex, there is no traditional “law enforcement” on board, safety personnel onboard are limited and medical attention (often contracted out by the cruise line) is scarce.  

Because of the lack of services on the ship, it is most often incumbent on the passenger to take the investigation of their case into their own hands to document what occurred.  If you are injured on a cruise ship, make sure you seek medical attention, report the injury to cruise ship personnel, file a written report with security, collect the information of any witnesses, such as their names, phone numbers, and addresses, try to take photographs and video evidence, and contact an attorney so that they can protect your rights.

While each case is different, typically the ticket that you purchased to go on the cruise will govern what claims you can make, where you need to make them, and the timeline you agreed to make them within.  That is, your ticket may limit the time to bring a suit to just a year or less rather than the three years you may have otherwise had under maritime law.  Additionally many of the tickets require a lawsuit to be filed in Florida.  That’s right, even if you buy your cruise ticket in Arkansas, drive to New Orleans, and go to Mexico without ever getting near Florida, and get injured on your way back to New Orleans, you may have to bring claim in Florida.

If you have been injured on a cruise ship in New Orleans and are in search of a cruise ship lawyer, please give us a call. We are licensed in Louisiana, New York, California, and Florida.  We can handle these claims even if you do not live in Louisiana.

— Megan C. Kiefer is a partner at Kiefer & Kiefer who handles cruise ship injury litigation.

This is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice.  

Is there Insurance Coverage if I am Injured in a NEW ORLEANS Bicycle Accident?

Bicycle use is on the rise in New Orleans.  New Orleans adopted a Complete Streets ordinance in 2011.  As we have all seen, since that time, the City has more than doubled its bicycle lanes.  Blue Bikes is a bike share program that has recently launched in New Orleans, and the City has completed construction the Lafitte Greenway, making the use of bicycles for transport even more prevalent. The unfortunate downside to this is that we have more and more clients that are injured while using their bicycle in bicycle accidents and contact a New Orleans bicycle accident lawyer for guidance navigating how to make a claim for their damages.

What are the laws that apply to a New Orleans bicycle accident?

Although each case needs specific scrutiny, generally, if the bicycle accident is the fault of the other driver, in whole or in part, you can make a claim against them or their insurance or the insurance on the vehicle.  This is true even if you were partially at fault in causing the accident.  If the other driver or the owner of the vehicle do not have insurance or are under-insured, meaning that they do not have enough insurance to cover your injuries, you may be able to make a claim under your own insurance under your UM/UIM coverage even if you were riding your bicycle during the bicycle accident and not driving your car.  This may even apply if the driver flees the scene of the accident and you are unable to identify him or her.  Additionally, your policy may provide for coverage to pay your medical bills even if you are at fault for the accident.

Why should I consult a New Orleans bicycle accident lawyer?

It is important to consult a New Orleans bicycle accident lawyer soon after your accident so that she may investigate your case, obtain the police report from the bicycle accident, interview witnesses who may have witnessed the bicycle accident, and try to obtain video footage from surveillance cameras, crime cameras, or police cameras that may have captured the bicycle accident. An experienced New Orleans bicycle accident lawyer will be able to perform this investigation immediately. Additionally, she will be able to shield you from the insurance company, who may attempt to resolve your claim early, before you know the extent of your injuries, and for the lowest amount possible.

Insurance coverage issues can be complicated.  If you are involved in a bicycle accident in Metairie or New Orleans, it is important to consult with an experienced Metairie bicycle accident lawyer or a New Orleans bicycle accident lawyer as soon as possible. Give us a call for a free consultation on how we can assist you with this claim.If you have been injured in a bicycle accident, we provide a free evaluation of your possible claim.

- Megan C. Kiefer is a partner and trial attorney at Kiefer & Kiefer, who specializes in personal injury litigation and has handled many bicycle accident cases. 

 This is being provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice.




Can Same-Sex Couples Sue for Loss of Consortium following an Auto Accident or Other Injury?

In Obergefell v. Hodges, decided on June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court overruled Louisiana's ban on same-sex marriage, making same-sex marriage legal in Louisiana.

In doing so, the Supreme Court opened up a plethora of rights to same-sex couples; an often overlooked one is the right to sue for loss of consortium following an injury.

What is a loss of consortium claim?  Loss of consortium is a legal term used to describe the loss of love, companionship, or services a spouse may suffer if their loved one is injured in an accident.  The particularities of one's claim depends, of course, on the couple and the nature of the injuries, but this cause of action is meant to compensate a spouse for his or her detrimental alteration in lifestyle or loss of enjoyment of life resulting from the diminished relationship with the tort victim.  For example, if a spouse is unable to engage in activities she previously enjoyed doing with her spouse, such as vacationing, dancing, exercising, etc., filing a loss of consortium claim allows the spouse to directly recover for her loss. 

Since June 26, 2015, this cause of action is specifically available to same-sex spouses.   If you have been injured in a car accident or have suffered any other type of personal injury, contact us for a free consultation to discuss what claims you and your spouse may be able to allege. 

- Megan C. Kiefer is a partner at Kiefer & Kiefer.  She practices personal injury law and has filed loss of consortium claims on behalf of same-sex couples.

 This is being provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice.