This past summer, the Louisiana legislature passed the Civil Justice Reform Act of 2020 (HB 57, the “Act”). Governor John Bel Edwards passed this “tort reform” law to address perceived litigation abuse by plaintiffs. Lobbyists favoring business interests and insurance assert that Louisiana car accidents are on par with national statistics, yet the state experiences an excessive number of injury lawsuits. On the other side, attorneys, judges, and medical providers contend that the changes will present significant barriers to injury victims. Injury victims must understand their rights and remedies because the Act, effective January 1, 2021, significantly impacts Louisiana personal injury lawsuits.
The legislation’s central features include changes to jury thresholds, the collateral source doctrine, and the admissibility of insurance evidence. Before the change, a judge rather than a jury would decide a case valued at $50,000 or higher. However, the jury threshold revision changed the amount in controversy required for a jury trial from $50,000 to $10,000. Next, before HB 57, the collateral source rule controlled how much a plaintiff could recover for past medical past expenses. The rule allowed recovery for amounts covered by health insurance providers, Medicare, and Medicaid. The change eliminates the possibility of a windfall, and limits recovery to the amount the victim actually paid.
The next change involves evidence of insurance. HB 57 prohibits addressing or naming the defendant’s insurance provider, and policy, other than at the conclusion of the trial. Insurance companies argue that this change was necessary because juries are more likely to award more significant damages if they know that the insurance company will be paying for any damages, rather than the defendant.
Supporters of HB 57 proposed changes to direct actions, prescription, and evidence of seat belt use. However, the Governor vetoed those portions of the bill, explaining that no insurance company testified that the provisions would reduce insurance rates. Moreover, the rate reductions are permissive and would allow for rate increases if companies could demonstrate need. The Governor claimed that high car insurance rates were related to driver error, poor road infrastructure, and discriminatory lending practices. HB 57 does repeal seat belt evidence laws and prevents a defendant from presenting evidence to a jury of whether the plaintiff was wearing a seat belt.
Tort reform supporters argue that they are working to reduce expenses to consumers; however, many believe that these laws merely reduce insurance company expenditures and prevent injury victims from recovering the compensation they deserve.
Have You Suffered Injuries in a Louisiana Accident?
If you or someone you love has suffered injuries or died in any type of accident, you should contact the dedicated attorneys at Manard Law. Our law firm attorneys have extensive experience successfully handling Louisiana car accident claims, wrongful death lawsuits, and other types of personal injury and class action lawsuits. Our attorneys understand the importance of keeping apprised of relevant changes in state and federal tort laws. Through our skills, resources, and experience, we have recovered significant amounts of compensation on behalf of Louisiana injury victims. Contact our office at 1-800-975-PAIN (7246) to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney at our firm.