Victims’ Rights After Serious and Fatal Drunk Driving Accidents in Louisiana

by | Jun 1, 2023 | Accidents

Drunk driving is a major problem in Louisiana. According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Louisiana’s rate of fatal drunk driving accidents is well above the national average. The CDC’s data also indicate that more than 1 in 50 surveyed adults in Louisiana admitted to getting behind the wheel after having too much to drink within the past 30 days.

As a result, if you have been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a drunk driving accident in Louisiana, you are not alone. Of course, this is of little comfort, and it does nothing to help you cope with your present circumstances. To move on, you will need to hold the drunk driver (and any other at-fault parties) accountable, and this starts with understanding your legal rights.

Understanding Your Legal Rights After a Drunk Driving Accident in Louisiana

You first need to know that drunk driving is negligent driving. Drivers can be held liable when their negligence causes an accident, and there is no question that drunk driving is a form of failure. Drunk driving is hazardous, and there is no excuse for getting behind the wheel and putting innocent drivers and passengers in harm’s way.

Here are some more important facts about your legal rights after a serious or fatal drunk driving accident in Louisiana:

1. You Have the Right to File a Claim Under the Drunk Driver’s Auto Insurance Policy

Since drunk driving is a form of negligence, you have the right to file a claim under the drunk driver’s auto insurance policy. Auto insurance covers all forms of negligence, and all drivers are required to carry auto insurance under Louisiana law. Specifically, the law requires that drivers have a minimum of:

  • $15,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per person
  • $30,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per accident
  • $25,000 in property damage liability coverage per accident

While these are the minimum requirements, many drivers purchase additional coverage. As a result, when you hire a lawyer to represent you or your family, one of the first steps your lawyer will take will be to determine how much insurance coverage the drunk driver has available. If the drunk driver has adequate coverage, filing a claim with his or her insurer may be the only step you need to take to recover the financial compensation you and your family deserve.

2. You Have the Right to File a Claim Under Your Auto Insurance Policy

If you have auto insurance (or if a member of your household has auto insurance), you may also be able to file a claim under your (or your family member’s) auto insurance policy.

In drunk driving accident cases, many victims and families will need to take advantage of their available uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. While this coverage is optional in Louisiana, many people buy it to protect themselves and their families. Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage applies in two main drunk driving accident scenarios:

  • The Drunk Driver Doesn’t Have Auto Insurance – Even though Louisiana law requires all drivers to be insured, not all drivers comply. If the drunk driver who hit you or your loved one is uninsured, you can file a UIM claim (provided that you have this coverage available).
  • The Drunk Driver Doesn’t Have Enough Auto Insurance to Cover Your (or Your Family’s) Losses – The “underinsured” aspect of UIM insurance comes into play when your losses exceed the coverage available through the drunk driver’s insurance policy. For example, the costs of injuries suffered in a drunk driving accident will far exceed $15,000 in many cases. If the drunk driver only has the minimum insurance required by law, you can use your UIM coverage (if you have it) to make up the difference.

3. You May Also Have a “Third Party” Claim

In addition to holding drunk drivers accountable for their mistakes, accident victims and families can sometimes file “third-party” claims. For example, if the drunk driver was underage, the establishment serving the driver before the accident may be liable. Or, if the drunk driver was working at the time of the crash, his or her employer could be responsible based on the law of vicarious liability.

4. You Only Have a Limited Amount of Time to Assert Your Legal Rights

Regardless of the claim (or claims), you can file, you only have a limited amount of time to assert your legal rights in Louisiana. In non-fatal drunk driving accident cases, the statute of limitations is one year from the accident date. In fatal drunk driving accident cases, the statute of limitations is generally one year from death.

5. The Sooner You Take Legal Action After a Drunk Driving Accident, the Better

Even if you still have a year to file your claim (or claims), it is best to assert your legal rights as soon as possible. Memories can fade, evidence can disappear, and unnecessary delays can lead to unnecessary challenges.

While many people think they have to wait for the drunk driver to be convicted of DUI, this is not true. Your (or your family’s) civil case is completely separate from the driver’s DUI case, and you can—and should—file a claim regardless of whether the state can prosecute the driver successfully. The burden of proof in criminal cases is higher than in civil cases, so even if the driver isn’t found criminally culpable, he or she could still be civilly liable for the crash.

Discuss Your Legal Rights with Alexandria, LA Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Chris J. Roy

Suppose you need to know more about your legal rights after a serious or fatal drunk driving accident in Louisiana. In that case, we invite you to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation. To speak with Alexandria, LA, drunk driving accident lawyer Chris J. Roy confidently, call 318-413-6731 or get in touch online today.


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