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Steps You Should Take if You’re Involved in an Uber Accident

Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing services have become widely used in recent years. As a cheaper and more user-friendly alternative to taxi cabs, Uber has become the go-to service for a trip to the airport or a ride home when you’ve had a few drinks. The vast majority of Uber rides will result in arriving at your destination without incident. But what happens if your Uber driver gets into a wreck and you suffer an injury?

Uber and Lyft provide its drivers with third-party liability coverage up to at least $1 million per accident.¹ This means that if your Uber/Lyft driver is at fault, this insurance will cover liability for any damages to a third party such as the passenger. Uber also provides uninsured or underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage to its drivers. This covers any passenger in the vehicle when another driver is at fault, but that driver doesn’t have sufficient insurance coverage for your injuries. This coverage also applies to hit-and-runs where the at-fault driver is never identified.

So, if you are injured during an accident where your driver is at fault in Louisiana, both Uber and Lyft have a policy through the James River Insurance Company that covers your injuries for up to $1 million.² It is important that you contact a lawyer to ensure the proper party is sued.³ You don’t necessarily sue just the at-fault driver. Your lawyer would also send a letter to Uber and your driver instructing them to preserve evidence, requiring them to save all data or information related to your ride.

When another driver is at fault, you would first determine if the other driver’s insurance policy can cover your damages. If your injuries are serious and the other driver’s policy cannot cover the medical costs, then Uber and Lyft both have policies through the James River Insurance Company that could cover you up to $1 million.

If you get into a wreck while in an Uber, here are some recommended steps to follow that will assist your injury claims:

  •     Call 911 and take pictures of the wreck, including the license plates of all vehicles involved.
  •     Take down the names, phone numbers, and email addresses of any potential witnesses to the              crash.
  •     Write down the name of your Uber driver and the other driver.
  •     Take screenshots on your phone of the Uber ride and receipt.
  •     Finally, if you are injured or incur any medical bills, hire an attorney to handle your personal injury        claims.

We understand it might be intimidating to take legal action against a large corporate entity like Uber, but you are not alone. With the help of legal assistance, people hurt by negligent drivers have been successful in recovering damages from Uber and other rideshare companies.

 


[1]https://www.uber.com/drive/insurance/

[2]https://www.uber.com/newsroom/an-update-on-insurance/

[3]http://time.com/money/4851877/my-uber-got-into-a-wreck-can-i-sue/


LOUISIANA’S 2017 CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM PACKAGE

Louisiana holds the unfortunate title of having the highest incarceration rate per capita in the world.¹  Being the number one incarcerator takes a toll on the state’s resources; Louisiana spent $625 million on adult corrections in 2017.²  With the hope of shedding that ranking and its associated costs, the Louisiana legislature passed a sweeping criminal justice reform package, which Governor John Bel Edwards signed into law.  The amended criminal laws aim to decrease our prison population and government spending, primarily by:

  • Reducing sentences and probationary periods for certain crimes
  • Easing eligibility requirements for drug court, reentry programs, probation, or suspension of sentence
  • Reducing sentencing enhancements for habitual offenders
  • Changing the calculation of “good time” credit for prisoners

Sentencing Guidelines

The justice reform package changed the sentencing guidelines for many non-violent felonies.³  Several of the maximum sentences were reduced and some mandatory minimum sentences were eliminated.  A few examples:

  • The mandatory minimum sentence for “Felon in possession of a firearm” was reduced from 10 years to 5 years.
  • “Money laundering” more than $100,000 was reduced from a 5 – 99 year sentence to 2 – 50 years.
  • The maximum sentence for “Unauthorized use of a motor vehicle” was reduced from 10 years to 2 years.
  • Simple arson no longer has a mandatory minimum sentence of 2 years, with a new sentencing range of 0 – 15 years.

Louisiana’s “Theft” statute bases the severity of punishment on the value of the property stolen. The new law adjusted the dollar value ranges, making some of the penalties more lenient.⁸  For example, a theft under $750 formerly resulted in a zero to six month sentence (misdemeanor) and anything more than that amount was a felony.  Now, the misdemeanor/theft threshold has been raised to $1,000.  Other similar statutes that use this dollar amount threshold followed the same pattern: issuing worthless checks, residential contractor fraud10, access device fraud11, and organized retail theft12, to name a few.

Probation, “Good Time,” and Parole

The changes to the criminal code expanded the ability of judges to suspend a sentence for certain crimes, placing the defendant on probation rather than in prison.13  Defendants charged with drug-related crimes are now eligible for substance abuse probation programs.  Also, entry into the drug division probation program was expanded to permit defendants charged with a crime of violence, as long as the crime was not against a family member or dating partner and does not carry a maximum sentence over 10 years.

Inmates will now earn “good time” more easily, which is a way for them to earn credit toward an earlier release from prison.  For non-violent and non-sex offenses, the new changes increase “good time” to a rate of 13 days for every 7 served, or an extra 130 days annually shaved off their sentence.  Certain inmates can reduce their prison time by participating in educational programs, drug programs, and work programs.

The new law changes the time the defendant must serve prior to becoming eligible for parole. Now, for non-violent crimes and non-sex offense crimes, defendants are parole eligible once 25 percent of their sentence has been served, including those sentenced as a non violent habitual offender.  Upon a first conviction for a crime of violence, a defendant with no prior sex crime convictions will be eligible for parole once 65 percent of the sentence is served.

Sentencing Enhancements for Habitual Offenders

Due to Louisiana’s habitual offender statute, a defendant convicted of a felony can receive a significantly enhanced sentence if they have a prior felony conviction.  Those enhancements are no longer quite as harsh.14  The mandatory minimum sentences have been reduced.  Also, for certain felonies, the “cleansing period” has been shortened from 10 years to 5 years.  The “cleansing period” means that after a certain amount of time has passed, prosecutors can no longer use a defendant’s previous convictions against him.

Conclusion

This article is merely a brief overview of what Louisiana’s criminal justice reform package entails.  The changes made to our criminal statutes were vast, but also highly specific depending on the crime. The date when certain aspects begin to take effect and to whom they apply will also vary person to person.  If you believe these changes may affect the charges you or a loved one face, or if they may affect your sentence or probation, do not hesitate to contact the Cazayoux Ewing Law Firm.  As former federal prosecutors, these experienced attorneys understand the nuances of the changes to our criminal law and will provide you with a tailored analysis of your situation.

 


[1] http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/05/louisiana_incarceration_rate.html

[2] http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/mar/16/louisiana-has-the-highest-incarceration-rate-in-th/

[3] Act 281/S.B. 220, 2017 Regular Session – http://www.legis.la.gov/Legis/ViewDocument.aspx?d=1051860

[4] (La. R.S. 14:95.1) – http://www.legis.la.gov/Legis/Law.aspx?d=78740

[5] (La. R.S. 14:230) – http://www.legis.la.gov/Legis/Law.aspx?d=78382

[6] (La. R.S. 14:68.4) – http://www.legis.la.gov/Legis/Law.aspx?d=78631

[7] (La. R.S. 14:52) – http://www.legis.la.gov/Legis/Law.aspx?d=78556

[8] (La. R.S. 14:67) – http://www.legis.la.gov/Legis/Law.aspx?d=78605

[9]  (La. R.S. 14:71) – http://www.legis.la.gov/Legis/Law.aspx?d=78645

[10] (La. R.S. 14:202.1) – http://www.legis.la.gov/Legis/Law.aspx?d=508538

[11] (La. R.S. 14:70.4) – http://www.legis.la.gov/Legis/Law.aspx?d=78642

[12] (La. R.S. 14:67.25) – http://www.legis.la.gov/Legis/Law.aspx?d=451833

[13] Act 280/S.B. 139, 2017 Regular Session – http://www.legis.la.gov/Legis/ViewDocument.aspx?d=1051859

[14] Act 282/S.B. 221, 2017 Regular Session – http://www.legis.la.gov/Legis/ViewDocument.aspx?d=1051861

 


Alexa and Uber Take the Stand: Your Data as a Witness

Silicon Valley’s amazing technology has made our lives easier. Voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa can tell us the weather, play our favorite music on command, and add grocery items to our shopping lists. With the tap of a button, we can catch a ride using the Uber app. Countless other products offer similar conveniences and provide greater simplicity to our lives. However, this added convenience comes with strings attached.

By using these products, we generate vast amounts of data. These giant tech companies store that information to improve their products (and their targeted advertising). This data is increasingly entering the crosshairs of law enforcement to investigate and prosecute crimes. By putting enough pieces of your digital footprint together, law enforcement can generate a pretty complete picture of a person’s life.

Law enforcement is relying more and more on digital evidence because of how enlightening (or incriminating) this information can be. Warrants for a cell phone search are commonplace in today’s world, but as Silicon Valley develops newer products, law enforcement sees additional opportunities to gather evidence.

Recently, police in Arkansas turned their sights on an Amazon Echo smart speaker found in a murder suspect’s home. The Amazon Echo has a built-in microphone that is always listening, waiting for the user to issue a command. According to Amazon, the speaker only starts recording once it hears “Alexa.” Amazon stores the recorded commands or questions that follow in a database to improve its voice-recognition accuracy.

Police issued Amazon a search warrant for any data the speaker may have recorded on the night of the murder. Since a judge signed off on the warrant, Amazon became the last line of defense against turning over the data. Amazon refused to grant the request, citing the privacy concerns of its customers.

The murder suspect ultimately granted Amazon his consent to provide the data, moving the resolution of this legal showdown to another day. While Amazon was likely more concerned about future customer’s fear of losing their privacy, the takeaway is that this data may be easily obtainable if the company possessing it complies with the request.

The focus of this case was past data already recorded and stored, but something to consider is the possibility of tapping into the Amazon Echo’s microphone in real time. Law enforcement can obtain judicial authorization for a wiretap of a suspect’s electronic communications. Any internet-connected smart device with a microphone can theoretically be remotely activated without the user knowing, creating a bugging device. On a scarier note, hackers have demonstrated the ability to do this with ease. The average citizen probably has nothing to worry about, but public figures, politicians, journalists, etc. may want to weigh whether the convenience of these devices is worth the privacy risks they pose.

Another recent target of law enforcement has been data generated by Uber riders and drivers. Just as in the Amazon case, a judge approved the subpoena for these records. The likely trend will be that judges grant these requests with regularity. One can imagine these records being requested in a divorce or custody proceeding, revealing a spouse’s habitual Uber rides from the bar or to his or her paramour’s house.

Technology will continue to progress and tech companies will continue to vacuum up more and more data about our daily lives. It’s possible we may never be able to delete that data, or only with varying degrees of difficulty. When enjoying the conveniences of Silicon Valley technology, it must always be assumed a detailed trail will be left behind.


Cazayoux Ewing Represents Case Against the Federal Government


Original post: Louisiana Record on March 10, 2017 by Michael Abella

LAFAYETTE – A Lafayette Parish resident alleges she was injured in a motor vehicle accident with a federal employee.

Crystal Gerard filed a complaint on March 3 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, Lafayette Division against the United States of America alleging that the government entity failed to perform its obligations.

According to the complaint, the plaintiff alleges that on Jan. 29, 2015, she filed a Federal Tort Claim Act claim against defendant due to an injury she allegedly sustained in a vehicular accident caused by Robert Bannon, an employee of defendant’s Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. As a result of the accident, she alleges she has suffered physical and mental pain, lost wages and medical expenses.

The plaintiff holds United States of America responsible because on Sept. 26, 2016, the Office of the General Counsel for the Department of Agriculture allegedly denied to pay her claim.

The plaintiff requests a trial by jury and seeks judgment against defendant in an amount which is just and reasonable in the premises, plus interest, all costs of these proceedings and all other relief that may be just and equitable. She is represented by Donald J. Cazayoux Jr. and J. Lane Ewing Jr. of Cazayoux Ewing LLC in Baton Rouge and Yul D. Lorio and Kevin P. Tauzin of Tauzin & Lorio, Attorney at Law in Lafayette.

U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, Lafayette Division Case number 6:17-cv-00348


Flood Damage Help is Available. How to Apply without Flood Insurance

Recent storms in Louisiana have led to severe flooding and widespread devastation. The area has been named a federal disaster area, as thousands of homeowners are stranded in the waters with nowhere to go. However, residents of East Baton Rouge, Tangipahoa, Livingston, and St. Helena parishes may be able to acquire temporary housing and other benefits from FEMA.

There are currently no Disaster Recovery Centers open, as efforts are focusing on search and rescue operations, but you can apply for the numerous forms of federal assistance available at https://www.disasterassistance.gov/. You may also call FEMA directly at (800) 621-3362.


Don Cazayoux weighs in on Attorney General’s visit to Baton Rouge

Attorney General Loretta Lynch met with Justice Department officials in Baton Rouge last week. The meeting was possibly to discuss ways for police and the communities they serve, according to former U.S. Attorney Don Cazayoux, of the Cazayoux Ewing Law Firm.

Cazayoux says that the Attorney General may be trying to understand the way communities are policed in light of Baton Rouge’s recent police tragedies. On July 5th, Alton Sterling was shot and killed by police officers while numerous bystanders filmed the incident. Days later, on the 17th, three Baton Rouge police officers were killed by a shooter. With similar events in St. Paul and Dallas, July has been a tense month for the relationship between police and minority communities.

Cazayoux believes that these issues were a primary topic of discussion during the AG’s visit. Learn more about Mr. Cazayoux’s input here.


DOJ Issues Corporate Accountability Guidelines

Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates sent out a memorandum to all U.S. Attorneys last September issuing guidelines for how to investigate cases against corporate entities. Corporations oftentimes are able to evade being held accountable for crimes because it can be challenging to find an individual to try.

However, the contents of the memo might encourage corporations to behave in a more guarded manner during investigations. This is because it requires attorneys to build cases against individuals in corporations as soon as an investigation is opened rather than after a great deal of information has been gathered. The idea is that lower-level employees should provide the government with information about higher ups who make decisions to violate laws. This means a corporation’s internal investigation might be compromised, as people will be less likely to bring up wrongdoing for fear of being blamed or prosecuted. It can also create issues of infighting within corporate employees.

In an article posted on businessreport.com, the Cazayoux Ewing Law Firm‘s own Don Cazayoux explains how this shift in policy may make it more challenging to receive cooperation from corporations who are facing criminal charges. He says that defining “full cooperation” in these investigations can already be difficult. Generally, corporations want to provide just enough information to say they’ve cooperated with an investigation, but they are likely to hold back more damaging facts about their actions.

Ideally, these guidelines will help deter corporate wrongdoing. However, their effect remains to be seen.


Cazayoux on Engster

Don Cazayoux, former U.S. Attorney, congressman and state representative, gives his insight on the end of the session and how this will affect Governor Jindal and his attempt for the presidency. Listen here


Hit-and-run crash involving school bus on Weller Avenue sends two students to hospital Monday morning

The Advocate
Ben Wallace
BWALLACE@THEADVOCATE.COM

A hit-and-run crash Monday morning involving a school bus in north Baton Rouge sent two students aboard the bus to a hospital, authorities said.

The crash occurred SHORTLY before 6:30 a.m. in the 2700 block of Weller Avenue near its intersection with Alliquippa Street, said Cpl. Don Coppola Jr., a Baton Rouge police spokesman.

A Geo Prizm rear-ended the school bus, Coppola said, and the Geo’s driver fled the scene following the crash. Police are looking for the CAR’S driver and the crash remains under investigation.

Two of the nine students aboard the school bus were taken to a hospital with minor injuries, said Mike Chustz, a spokesman for East Baton Rouge Parish’s Emergency Medical Services.

It wasn’t immediately clear which school the students were going to when the crash occurred.

If you or someone who you know was injured in an automobile accident that was not their fault, call Cazayoux Ewing Law Firm for help.  225-650-7400


Retirees Diagnosed with Cancer from Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos lung cancer is a rare cancer specifically induced by asbestos exposure. Due to patients inadvertently inhaling asbestos fibers, an estimated 4,800 victims die every year in the United States from this condition.

Sadly, this is not the only complication that arises from asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma and asbestosis are also major health complications. Due to the fact that asbestos is still used in the United States, victims are constantly diagnosed every day from asbestos exposure. This has led to asbestos litigation becoming the longest-running mass tort in the United States, with over 600,000 plaintiffs and 6,000 named defendants.

These asbestos lung cancer plaintiffs all similarly claim that their respective employers failed to protect them from harmful asbestos fibers while they were on the job, were not provided protective equipment, and were not warned of the potential health hazards of asbestos exposure.

Overview of Long-Term Occupational Asbestos Exposure

Military veterans and long-term retirees are among the highest at-risk groups for asbestos lung cancer because the U.S. military and other manufacturing companies commonly used asbestos as a building material.

Since the late 1800s, America has been mining asbestos for building materials because it was cheap to use and had fire and chemical resistant qualities. Unfortunately, it was not until much later that experts started alerting people to the health hazards that asbestos exposure could cause. Veterans who had served between the 1930s and 1980s were very likely to have been exposed to asbestos. Even after completing their service, veterans often sought work as laborers or other hands-on occupations that also would have put them at greater risk for asbestos exposure.

Most notoriously, shipyards have some of the highest rates of reported asbestos exposure, as well some of the worst safety records, with a high number of former employees from the mid 1970s reporting they have asbestos lung cancer. Some of these former employees have filed asbestos lung cancer lawsuits, claiming that they were not provided the necessary protective gear, which would have prevented them from developing asbestos lung cancer.

It is important to note that shipyards are not the only industry that potentially has dormant asbestos fibers, and that any employer that uses asbestos and does not provide protective gear could potentially endanger their employees.

Asbestos Lung Cancer Health Threat

Several medical institutions state that the level of asbestos exposure could influence the overall severity and likelihood of asbestos lung cancer. The Helsinki Criteria states that the risk of asbestos lung cancer development is increased by 4 percent with each year of asbestos exposure. Furthermore, it has been observed that long-term asbestos exposure often leads to lung scarring and inflammation, which ultimately contributes to lung cancer.

Medical experts warn that asbestos exposure does not lead to immediate consequences, as asbestos lung cancer often takes between 15 to 50 years to show any signs of the disease. As a result, many victims are often diagnosed at a latent stage of their development. While the prognosis and survival rate differ between patients, medical experts estimate the average patient’s remaining life span to be between 16 to 22 months even with the assistance of chemotherapy and other treatment drugs.

If you worked in an environment where you were exposed to asbestos and have been diagnosed with lung cancer, contact Cazayoux Ewing Law Firm to discuss your potential case.

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Phone: (225) 650-7400
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New Roads, LA 70760
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