Last year, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards signed into law a bill to change child passenger safety seat laws, so any child younger than 2 must be restrained in a rear-facing child safety seat until they reach an appropriate weight or height limit.
That’s in a state where seat belt laws are primary and already cover drivers and passengers ages 13 and older in all seats. Part of the reason for passing the new seat belt law is that state lawmakers continue to grapple with ways to reduce Louisiana’s sky-high auto insurance costs.
Can seat belt laws actually impact auto insurance rates, and more importantly, can they impact accident claims? Let’s take a closer look at these issues.
What are Louisiana’s Seat Belt Laws?
Louisiana has safety belt laws similar to those in other states since federal law mandates safety belt law standards for all 50 states. So in Louisiana, “Buckle Up or Else” is the law.
The federal government also requires anyone transporting a child or children under the age of 13 to have them properly secured as well.
The new law requires that a child older than 2, who has outgrown the rear-facing child safety seats, must be placed in a forward-facing child safety seat. If they’re older than 4 and have outgrown the forward-facing safety seats, the child must be restrained by a belt-positioning booster seat secured with a seat belt, while a child who is 9 or older can use the car’s adult seat belt if it fits correctly.
Any children under the age of 13 must also be in a rear seat when available. While the law is designed to protect the safety of children, lawmakers have also been concerned about high auto insurance rates and ways to help make them more affordable.
The Zebra, an auto insurance comparison website, reports that Louisiana has the second-highest auto insurance rates in the nation, while New Orleans has the second-highest among U.S. cities.
Louisiana’s annual rate is $2,379, only lower than Michigan’s $3,096, while New Orleans has an annual $3,735 rate, below only Detroit’s $6,208 rate. In comparison, neighboring Texas ranked 30th with a $1,415 annual rate.
What Are Louisiana Lawmakers Doing to Reduce High Insurance Rates?
There have been different bills in the Louisiana Legislature to help lower the state’s auto insurance rates, including one by state Sen. Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge, to enact tort reform by sending more car accident trials to juries rather than judges, and extending the time to file a lawsuit from one year to two so both sides have more time to settle the case. The bill, which would also have limited what plaintiffs could collect from insurance companies for injuries, failed to pass after Talbot admitted he got no commitment from insurance companies that his bill would lower rates.
The state’s insurance industry has already said tort reform won’t lower rates. Property Casualty Insurers of America even noted that litigation was dead last among a list of factors affecting auto insurance premiums. More significant factors being cited include:
- Poor credit scores among driver
- Heavy urban congestion
- Poorly maintained roads
- Rising medical costs
- and distracted driving.
Clearly, the causes of auto insurance rates are complex and not easily assigned to a single factor. Still, Louisiana lawmakers have chosen to focus on stronger enforcement of seat belt laws as one step.
Will the New Law Lower Auto Insurance Rates?
Regardless of what lawmakers do, auto insurance rates are not likely to come down overnight. But we do know that by wearing seat belts and properly restraining children, drivers can reduce the risk of serious injury and death in a crash by half. We also know that while wearing your seat belt is required by law, driving without one can be very reckless and lead to serious injuries.
If you were in a car accident and hadn’t been wearing a seat belt, it’s important to note that Louisiana is a comparative negligence state, meaning drivers can collect damages even if they were partially at fault. When an accident happens, the fault or negligence of each driver is determined based on how much they individually contributed to the cause of the accident.
If you were involved in an accident and not wearing a seatbelt, you can face fines for violating seat belt laws, but your ability to receive compensation for your crash isn’t affected because you weren’t wearing one.
However, Louisiana is an at-fault state that requires auto insurance companies of the at-fault driver to pay for all of the damages caused by the accident. If the other driver wasn’t wearing a seat belt, you can be certain the insurance company will fight to put the blame entirely on that driver.
Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys in Louisiana
If you’re involved in a car accident in Louisiana and are not sure what to do next, the car accident attorneys at The Offices of E. Orum Young will use their decades of experience to assist you with your claim. With accolades that include the Gold Medal Congressional Award, you can be confident that we will handle your case thoroughly and with care.
Attorneys at E. Orum Young Law have filed more than 20,000 cases and have more than 35 years of experience. Give us a call today at 318-303-4194 for your free case review. It’s your right to know your options!