Every state has it’s own way of handling personal injury claims, including the way it apportions responsibility for a car crash.
Louisiana follows a doctrine known as “pure comparative negligence.” In practical terms, that means that (barring an instance where the other party intentionally caused your injuries) you can generally expect any damages you’re awarded in a car accident lawsuit to be reduced by whatever percentage of fault for the crash or your injuries ends up being attributed to you.
What does this look like in practice?
Imagine the following scenario: You’re driving along a local street, you’re paying attention to traffic and obeying the rules of the road. Another driver blows through a red light as you cross through an intersection without even slowing down — and T-bones you.
You’re seriously hurt, and it seems pretty clear that the other driver is at fault. Unfortunately, you had slipped your shoulder restraint behind you because you hadn’t wanted to wrinkle your suit jacket. When you file a claim, the other driver’s insurance company says that — while their client may be at fault for the actual collision — your injuries wouldn’t have been as severe if your shoulder belt had been in place.
In the end, the jury awards you $100,000 in damages but says that you’re 30% responsible for your own injuries because of the missing restraint. That means you’ll only receive $70,000 in compensation for your losses.
The pure comparative negligence doctrine can disadvantage the injured in unexpected ways, which is why it’s always wisest to put some space between you and the other guy’s insurance adjuster. You never really know what might get used against you to devalue your claim.