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LEGAL CORNER: If another driver isn’t insured, can I sue them for my deductible?

Published: Jun. 22, 2022 at 12:01 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - Legal Corner answers viewers questions about civil matters.

QUESTION: A car hit the side of my car in a parking lot. The car that hit my car had no insurance. My insurance will pay for my repairs, but I have to pay deductible. Can I sue the other driver for the amount of my deductible?

ANSWER: Good question, and they answer is …. Absolutely. That is obviously how you were damaged. In theory, you could sue for all the damages your car sustained, but your insurance company would have the right to recoup that from you, or at least have a privilege on any amount you recovered, up to the amount they paid out.

CAVEAT - If you have a low deductible, it may not be worthwhile financially to sue the other driver. Plus, since the other driver did not have insurance, then there is a pretty good chance the other driver may be insolvent. Hence, you may not be able to collect even if you are successful. Remember, a judgment simply validates an obligation to pay. It does not result in an automatic payment to the plaintiff. If possible, try to assess the other driver’s ability to pay before filing a law suit.

QUESTION: My employer had me sign a non-compete clause when I was hired. Then I read that in Louisiana they are not enforceable. Why would they ask me to sign something that is not enforceable?

ANSWER: Non-compete clauses in most every state are valid, and only need pass a “reasonable test” – i.e. Is it standard time/place restrictions for that industry/business?

However, Louisiana law considers these clauses as restrictions on commerce, and they are therefore discouraged. The relevant statute is La. R.S. 23:921, titled “Restraint of business prohibited”, which sets forth in Section A(1): Every contract or agreement, or provision thereof, by which anyone is restrained from exercising a lawful profession, trade or business of any kind, except as provided in this section, shall be null and void.

The exceptions are: the agreement cannot exceed two years, must be limited to specific parishes or municipalities, and shall narrowly and accurately define the restricted business. (For example, it cannot say one cannot work “in the entertainment industry” or “in the food business.”)

Strangely enough, the statute highlights one profession against which NO non-compete clause will be deemed valid:

There shall be no contract or agreement or provision entered into by an automobile salesman … restraining him from selling automobiles.

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