If you’ve been injured in a car accident in the State of Louisiana, you may have questions about how the laws will affect your property damage and/or personal injury claim. In this article, we’ll review the laws most commonly associated with car accidents. To read the entirety of each law, click the link to the specific State of Louisiana statutes in each section.
Here are the Louisiana car accident and traffic laws we’ll cover:
Pedestrians and Crosswalks
When traffic-control signals are not in place or not in operation, the driver of a vehicle must stop and yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk.
Restrictions on Pedestrians Crossing Roadways
No pedestrian is permitted to suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield.
Pedestrian Control Signals
Whenever special pedestrian control signals, exhibiting the words Walk or Don’t Walk are in place such signals shall indicate as follows:
- Flashing or Steady WALK. Pedestrians facing such signal may proceed across the roadway in the direction of the signal and shall be given the right of way by the drivers of all vehicles.
- Flashing or Steady DON’T WALK. No pedestrian shall start to cross the roadway in the direction of such signal, whether flashing or steady. Any pedestrian who has partially completed the pedestrian’s crossing on the Walk signal shall complete the crossing to a sidewalk or safety island while the Don’t Walk signal is showing.
Crossing at Other Than Crosswalks
Pedestrians intending to cross a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles on the roadway.
Pedestrians on Roadway
Where sidewalks are provided, it is unlawful for any pedestrian to walk along and upon adjacent roadway.
Where sidewalks are not provided, pedestrians are permitted to walk only on or along the left side of the roadway or on it’s shoulder facing traffic from the opposite direction.
Pedestrians’ Right of Way on Sidewalks
The driver of a vehicle emerging from or entering an alley, building, private road, or driveway shall yield the right of way to any pedestrian on any sidewalk extending across such alley, road or driveway, or building entrance.
Drivers to Exercise Due Care
The driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian upon any roadway and shall give warning by sounding the driver’s horn when necessary and must exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or any confused or incapacitated person.
Obedience to Traffic Control Devices
A driver must obey any traffic control devices applicable to the driver.
Driving on Right Side of Roadway
Drivers must drive in the right lane of roadways with the following exceptions:
Passing On the Left
Driver proceeding in the same direction must pass to the left at at a safe distance and shall remain in the passing lane until it is safe to return to the right lane. Drivers being passed must not increase the speed of their vehicle until their vehicle is completely passed by the overtaking car.
Limitations on Overtaking on the Left
Drivers may drive to the left side of the center of the roadway in overtaking and passing another vehicle only when the driver can pass to the left at a safe distance, and not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle.
In every event the overtaking vehicle must return to the right-hand side of the roadway before coming within one hundred feet of any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction.
Passing On the Right
Drivers may pass on the right under the following conditions:
- When the driver about to be passed is about to make a left turn. However, the driver attempting to pass on the right must not do so without driving off the pavement of main-traveled portion of the roadway.
- When the roadway has two (2) or more lanes of traffic moving in the same direction.
- On a one-way street where the roadway is free from obstructions and wide enough for two or more lines of moving vehicles.
Following Too Closely
A driver must not follow another driver more closely than is “reasonable and prudent”, having due regard for the speed of other drivers and traffic conditions along the roadway.
Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices
Drivers must not drive while using a cellular phone, except for contacting emergency services.
Drivers must not drive while using a mobile electronic device to read, write, or send text messages, except for contacting emergency services.
Minors are not permitted to use any mobile electronic devices while driving, except for contacting emergency services.
Drivers and Intersections
When two (2) drivers approach an intersection at approximately the same time the driver on the left must yield to the driver to their right.
Drivers Intending to Turn Left at Intersections
A driver who intends to turn left at an intersection, or into an alley, private road or driveway must yield the right of way to drivers approaching from the opposite direction.
Drivers Entering or Crossing a Roadway
A driver about to enter or cross a roadway from any place other than another roadway must yield the right of way to all other vehicles on the roadway to be crossed.
Bicyclists must obey the same traffic laws as drivers of cars, and are subject to the same penalties as are drivers for violating traffic laws.
Motorcyclists and Lanes of Traffic
Motorcyclists are entitled to the full use of a traffic lane and drivers must not take any action to deprive a motorcyclist of his or her right to use a full lane on a roadway. A motorcyclist must not pass another driver in the same lane. Motorcyclists must not ride more than two (2) abreast in a single lane.
Motorcyclists must not pass another driver in the same lane. Commonly known as “lane splitting,” motorcyclists sometimes attempt to pass other drivers when traffic is slowed, or bumper to bumper. To move forward through traffic motorcyclists sometimes drive between cars. Doing so is not only illegal, but quite dangerous.
All motorcyclists must wear helmets while riding on roadways.
Motorcycles and Headlights
Every motorcycle riding on a roadway must be equipped with at least one and not more than two headlights.
Driving Offenses and Accident Requirements
Any person driving a motor vehicle must drive in a careful and prudent manner, so as not to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person.
Any driver who operates a vehicle in a criminally negligent or reckless manner is guilty of reckless driving.
Alcohol and Minors
Any driver who operates a vehicle when their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.02% or higher is guilty of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, and can be fined and imprisoned.
Driver’s Duty to Give Information and Render Aid
A driver involved in any accident must stop at the scene of the accident, give their identity (including their name, address, and vehicle registration number), and render reasonable aid. Any driver who fails to perform these tasks is guilty of hit-and-run driving.
Accidents Involving Death, Personal Injury, or Substantial Bodily Injury
A driver involved in any accident must stop at the scene of the accident, give their identity, and render reasonable aid. Any driver who fails to perform these tasks is guilty of hit-and-run driving.
A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury or death must give their name, address, and vehicle registration number, and upon request, exhibit their driver’s license to any person involved in the accident and any police officer investigating the accident.
Accidents Involving Only Damage to Another Car or Property
A driver involved in any accident must stop at the scene of the accident and give their identity (including their name, address, and vehicle registration number). Any driver who fails to perform these tasks is guilty of hit-and-run driving.
Driver’s Duty to Notify Police Department
The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury, death, or total property damage of $100 or more must forward a written report of the accident to the Department of Public Safety and Corrections within twenty-four hours after the accident.
A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury, death, or total damage of $500 or more must give their name, address, and vehicle registration number, and upon request, exhibit their driver’s license to any person involved in the accident and any police officer investigating the accident.
Accident Reports Filed By Police Departments
Within forty-eight hours after completing an accident investigation, the investigating law enforcement officer must forward a written report of the accident to the Department of Public Safety and Corrections.
Accident Report Forms
The Department of Public Safety and Corrections must prepare and, upon request, supply to police, coroners, sheriffs, and other suitable agencies or individuals, forms for accident reports, calling for sufficient detailed information about the cause, conditions then existing, and the persons and vehicles involved in an accident.
Open Alcohol Container Law
A driver or passenger must not be in possession of an opened container of an alcoholic beverage while the car is traveling on Louisiana roadways.
An opened alcoholic beverage container can be kept only in a locked glove compartment, in the trunk of a vehicle, or in the area behind the rearmost upright seat (in a place where a passenger would not normally sit).
Passengers of a self-contained motor home or a hired vehicle can possess an opened container.
Driving Under Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance
A driver must not drive after drinking an alcoholic beverage or consuming an intoxicant in an amount which renders the driver incapable of driving safely along roadways. In Louisiana, a driver is guilty of the offense of operating a vehicle while intoxicated if the driver has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or higher.
Ignition Interlock Device
A driver who is guilty of driving while under the influence of an intoxicant might be ordered to have installed at his or her own expenses an ignition interlock device. The ignition interlock device will serve to restore the driver’s driving privileges during the pendency of the driver’s probation. If an ignition device is installed, it must be installed in every car owned or operated by the driver.
An ignition interlock is a device which measures any amount of alcohol contained in a driver’s body. Before starting the car the driver must blow into a tube emanating from the ignition interlock device. If the device then detects a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) higher than is permitted by law the car will not start and the violation will be reported to the prosecutor, the probation officer, and/or the judge. At that point the driver may be subject to loss of driving privileges, immediate arrest and incarceration up to the maximum term provided by law.
Louisiana & Dram Shop Law
In Louisiana, the intoxicated person is liable for the personal injuries and property damage they cause as a result of being intoxicated. The person who sells or serves alcohol is not liable for the actions of the intoxicated person who is of legal drinking age.
Financial Responsibility Car Insurance Minimum Limits
In the State of Louisiana, each motor vehicle must be covered by an insurance policy that includes liability coverage of the following amounts for all damages resulting from an accident:
- At least $15,000 per person
- At least $30,000 for two or more people
- $25,000 per occurrence for property damage
Louisiana Insurance Information
For information about auto insurance in Louisiana, see the Louisiana Department of Insurance’s Consumer Guide to Auto Insurance.
In Louisiana, the victim in a car accident can sue the negligent driver for compensation. The victim’s liability in causing the accident, their comparative fault, affects the amount of compensation the victim receives. The compensation received by the victims is reduced by the victim’s percentage of fault in causing the accident.
Louisiana Civil Code: Section 2323
Example of Comparative Fault
One morning, Jackson was driving north on his way to work. At an intersection, he pulled into the left turn lane. At the same time, Melanie approached the intersection from the opposite direction. Suddenly, Jackson turned left into Melanie’s lane and their cars collided.
Melanie sustained serious brain injuries and damage to her car, totalling in $100,000 dollars worth of damages.
After their investigation, the police determined that Jackson had failed to yield according to traffic laws. A pedestrian witness told police he saw Melanie texting at the time Jackson’s car crashed into Melanie’s. As a result, the police issued Melanie a citation for using a mobile device while driving.
Melanie sued Jackson for $100,000 and claimed he was 100% at fault for the accident because he did not yield to her right-of-way. At trial, the jury found Jackson liable for failing to yield the right-of-way. However, the jury also found Melissa liable for using a mobile device while driving and partially responsible for the accident.
The verdict stated Jackson’s negligence equaled 70% of the accident, and Melanie’s equaled 30%. The jury awarded Melanie only $70,000 dollars.
Comparative Fault: Louisiana Civil Code: Section 2323
Right of Way: Section 32-122
Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices: Section 32-300.5
Louisiana’s Fault-based Car Insurance
In Louisiana, the degree to which a person contributed to an accident, or is at fault for an accident, determines the amount of compensation they can receive for the personal injuries and property damages they suffered as a result of an accident.
Statute of Limitations
Louisiana has a two (1) year statute of limitations for property damage and personal injury claims. This means if a driver, passenger, or passerby is injured or sustains property damage at the hands of a negligent driver, the victim must file a lawsuit within the one (1) year period following the accident or the victim is barred from pursuing the negligent driver in court.
Louisiana Civil Code: Section 3492
Small Claims Courts
In Louisiana, victims of car accidents can choose to sue the negligent driver in small claims court. The jurisdiction of a small claims court regarding personal injury and property damage is limited to a maximum of $5,000, exclusive of filing fees and court costs.
Louisiana Government Tort Claims – Sovereign Immunity
In Louisiana, it is possible to submit a claim against a governmental agency or its employees for personal injury or property damage as a result of negligence on the part of the governmental agency or its employees. The claim must refer to an lawful action on the part of the governmental agency or employee performed in the scope of their duties.
If the injury or property damage occurred as a result of an unlawful action, then the claimant can sue only the person(s) who caused injury or property damage individually. The governmental agency would not be liable.
If Melissa, an engineer with the New Orleans Planning Department, ran a red light on her way to a worksite and caused an accident, then the City of New Orleans would be liable for the property damage and personal injuries caused her.
If Melissa stopped for a few drinks and became intoxicated before heading to a worksite and causing an accident, then the City of New Orleans can claim sovereign immunity. Melissa performed an unlawful act and was not acting in the scope of her duties when she became intoxicated on her way to the worksite.
To seek compensation for damages, injured parties would have to sue Melissa personally. The determination of whether or not Melissa was acting within the scope of her duties would have to be decided during a trial.
Louisiana Constitution: Section 12-10