A jury threshold is a minimum amount that an injured party has to say his or her claim is worth to have the case decided by a jury. The current jury threshold in Louisiana is $50,000, meaning that if a lawsuit does not allege at least $50,000 in damages it will be heard only by a judge in what is called a bench trial. There has been a lot of push in Louisiana recently to lower or eliminate the jury threshold under the guise that it will somehow lower car insurance rates. Louisiana currently has the second highest car insurance rates in the nation but a change in the jury threshold is unlikely to have any affect on those rates.
One of the main reasons car insurance is so expensive in Louisiana is the high number of uninsured or under insured drivers. Nearly 13% of drivers in Louisiana do not have car insurance. Of those with insurance, about 40% carry the state minimum policy limits of $15,000 for injuries and $25,000 for property damage. Compare that to Virginia which has one of the lowest car insurance rates in the nation and where uninsured motorist coverage is a requirement. Virginia’s minimum policy limits provide $25,000 for injuries and $50,000 for property damage. One easy fix Louisiana could implement is to require everyone to carry uninsured motorist coverage and increase the minimum policy limits.
Some argue that the reason car insurance rates are so high is because of the number of lawsuits filed in Louisiana. Louisiana does have a relatively high number of lawsuits compared to other states. But one of the main reasons for the high number of lawsuits is that Louisiana has a shorter statute of limitations. In Louisiana, an injured party has one year from the date of an accident to file suit. Compare that to Maine where an injured party has six years to file a lawsuit, yet Maine has one of the lowest car insurance rates in the nation. The longer statute of limitations allows more time for claims to be resolved without the need for filing a lawsuit.
Insurance lobbyist and other political action groups argue that requiring every lawsuit to be decided by a jury will somehow lower insurance rates. There is no evidence to support this and the argument completely overlooks the other costs to taxpayers associated with having more jury trials. Jury trials are expensive. It costs a lot of money for the notices to get mailed out, to accommodate the people showing up for jury duty, and to keep a jury at the courthouse every day for a week or more while a trial is pending. Louisiana citizens should also get ready for more jury duty. If every case requires a jury people can expect a dramatic increase in how often they are summoned to the courthouse to perform their civic duty. Conversely, allowing smaller cases to be decided by a judge instead of a jury allows cases to get to court faster and with less expense to the parties and to the public. If you’ve been injured in an accident and have questions about whether your case should be tried before a judge or a jury, call Big River Trial Attorneys at (225) 963-9638 to schedule a no-cost consultation. We can help you understand the most efficient to way to get your case resolved quickly while still getting the compensation you deserve.