How Common is Drowsy Driving and How Can You Prevent it?

In 2013, 72,000 vehicle accidents involved drowsy drivers. One in twenty-five adults admits to getting behind the wheel while fatigued in the last thirty days. For many Americans, stress levels, intense work schedules, and the need to find balance in family life makes getting a full seven to eight hours of sleep difficult. However, to protect yourself, your loved ones, and other drivers on the road, rest has to be a priority.

Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep loss is no laughing matter. As a necessary biological function, sleep helps your body rejuvenate, heal, and cleanse itself so that it can perform at peak efficiency. When you get less than seven hours of sleep you put yourself at risk for:

  • Short-Term Memory Loss: Your brain’s ability to quickly recall information decreases. You may also start to “lose” time. While driving, you may find yourself unable to recall the last few miles driven.
  • Slow Reaction Times: The brain’s synapses start to slow down with decreased sleep. That means messages don’t travel as quickly from or to the brain. Road conditions and situations can change in seconds. Without enough sleep, your brain may not be able to process information fast enough to make life-saving decisions while driving.
  • Poor/Slow Decision-Making Skills: Decision-making skills require problem-solving and reasoning that is made more difficult by lack of sleep. While you can still make decisions while sleep deprived, the quality of your decisions and speed at which you make them is compromised.

Put Safety First

Certain populations like commercial vehicle drivers, swing shift workers, business travelers, and teenagers are at higher risk for drowsy driving than others in the population. Their schedules make getting a good night’s rest difficult. But you can put safety first by recognizing the symptoms of drowsy driving and acting to make sure you’re not putting yourself and others at risk.

If you notice yourself having a hard time keeping your eyes open, drifting out of your traffic lane, missing exits or turns, or forgetting the last few miles traveled, you may need to:

  • Pull over in a safe place and take a short 15-30 minute nap.
  • Change drivers every two hours on long road trips.
  • Roll down the window or turn on loud, upbeat music.
  • Chew gum to stimulate the facial muscles and wake your senses.

Make Sleep a Priority

The best way to prevent drowsy driving accidents is to get enough sleep. When sleep becomes a priority, you’re setting yourself up for a safer and healthier lifestyle. To get better rest:

  • Be Consistent: The body thrives off of routine. Sleep on a cozy bed at the same time every day, even weekends. Along those same lines, be sure to wake up at the same time every day as well. When you keep a consistent schedule, your body accordingly adjusts the release of sleep-inducing hormones.
  • Move More and Eat Right: A healthy diet and regular exercise are a part of any health plan. Regular exercise keeps you strong, but it also helps the body feel more tired at night so you’re better prepared for bed. Your diet can have a powerful impact on your quality of sleep. Try to eat an early, light dinner to prevent discomfort from keeping you awake.
  • Avoid Stimulants and Screens: The caffeine found in soda, coffee, and energy drinks can leave you buzzing long into the night. Give your body time to get caffeine out of your system by stopping consumption four hours before bed. Your screen time can also keep you awake. Turn off the television, smartphone, laptop, and e-reader at least an hour before bed to prevent the bright light from confusing your brain into thinking it’s time to be awake.  

Guest Article Courtesy of the Tuck Sleep Foundation

What Are Louisiana Mandatory Minimums and How Do They Affect Me if I'm Charged with a Crime?

If you or a loved one has been charged with a serious crime, you understandably want the best possible outcome for him or her. And, you’ve likely been researching the crime you or your loved one has been charged with as well as average sentencing should he or she become convicted. During that research you may have even come across a confusing part of Louisiana crime sentencing law called “mandatory minimums.” What are these and how do they affect you or your loved one?

Mandatory Minimums Explained

Mandatory minimums are, in their easiest to understand form, minimum sentence lengths assigned to certain convictions. Mandatory minimums can be found throughout the United States. In 2017 Louisiana lawmakers approved criminal justice reform, which means certain crimes that used to carry mandatory strict sentencing now allow judges and district attorneys to use more of their own judicial discretion on a case by case basis. Other portions of this criminal law reform impose new mandatory minimums on certain crimes that didn’t have them before.

Louisiana’s 2017 Sentencing Law Changes

Effective August 3rd, 2017, the following Louisiana criminal sentencing laws have changed

  • More Judicial Discretion Allowed for Repeat Felony Offenders

Previously, if a Louisiana resident had three felonies, he or she would receive mandatory minimums that a judge couldn’t shorten. For certain felonies that has now changed and judges are now allowed to reduce the length of sentences on a case by case basis. However, mandatory minimums for repeat felony offenders can’t be reduced for violent crimes such as murder or other serious crimes such as kidnapping, child pornography, and certain types of fraudulent activities.

  • Judges Are Now Allowed to Shorten Sentences for Certain First-Time Violent Offenders

If you or a loved one is convicted of a violent crime that carries a prison term of 10 years or less, the judge hearing the case will now have the judicial discretion to shorten or suspend that sentence. This new provision doesn’t apply to more serious violent crimes, such as murder, kidnapping and armed robbery.

  • Repeat Drunk Drivers May Now Receive Drug and Alcohol Treatment in Lieu of Prison Sentencing

If you or a loved one are convicted of a fourth DWI - and have never been offered drug and alcohol treatment by the courts in the past - it’s possible that you won’t be sentenced to prison. Instead, if the district attorney agrees in your unique case that drug and alcohol treatment is the best next step for you, you can avoid prison time altogether.

  • New Options for Repeat Felons

In the past, if you were convicted of 3 or 4 felonies, your only option was prison time. Now, if the district attorney agrees, in lieu of prison you could be offered time in a mental health facility, substance abuse treatment center, or drug court. However, if you choose this alternative option, you could be placed on parole for up to 8 years, which is longer than the state of Louisiana previously allowed.

  • Certain Mandatory Minimums Dropped Altogether

Now in Louisiana, certain crimes don’t carry mandatory minimum sentences at all. These include arson, communicating false information about arson, home invasion and possession of less than 2 grams of certain drugs. There is also no longer mandatory prison sentence for a third felony prostitution conviction.

How Can This Information Help My Loved One?

If your loved one is being charged with a crime that used to carry a mandatory minimum sentence, or now offers mental health or substance abuse treatment as an alternative to prison time, he or she may receive a better outcome in court than was previously possible. These are options that you should have your attorney discuss with the prosecutor and the court.

At E&M Law Firm, we understand the new changes to the Louisiana criminal justice system and we’re here to help you fight for the best possible result. If you or a loved one has been arrested for a crime, don’t rely an overworked, underpaid public defender. Call the E&M Law Firm for a free consultation so at (225) 687-1111 so we can get started on your defense today.

What Your Baton Rouge Business Needs to Know About Workers’ Compensation Law

We’ve all heard of Workers’ Compensation. It’s a program that pays benefits to workers in the event they are injured on the job. But, as a business in Baton Rouge, do you know what your obligations are when it comes to carrying Workers’ Compensation Insurance? Read on to learn more.

All Louisiana Businesses That Employ Others Must Carry Workers’ Compensation Insurance

Whether your Louisiana business employs 1 or 1,000+ employees, as a business owner you are required by the state to purchase Workers’ Compensation insurance. That’s right. Whether your employees are full-time or part-time, seasonal or even minors under the age of 18, they must be covered by your Workers’ Compensation insurance from day 1 of their employment.

The Exceptions to Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Law

Of course, as with all things that have to do with the law, there are exceptions. If you have subcontractors or independent contractors, but not employees, they aren’t required to be covered by your Louisiana Workers’ Compensation insurance policy. But don’t think you can give those extra set of helping hands the title of “subcontractor” or “independent contractor” and call it a day. The state of Louisiana is very strict about who is and isn’t a subcontractor or independent contractor, meaning that if someone who performs work for you in a significant capacity, the state may consider them employees, even if you don’t call them that.

Additional exemptions to Workers’ Compensation Law include:

  • Domestic employees such as nannies and housekeepers
  • Most real estate agents
  • Uncompensated Directors and Officers of certain qualifying Non-Profit Organizations
  • Public Officials
  • Unpaid volunteer workers
  • Musicians and/or other artists and performers who are working as part of executing a performance contract
  • Employees who are covered by the Federal Employer’s Liability Act
  • Employees who are covered by the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
  • Offshore employees covered by the Jones Act
  • Oil and gas workers who are performing work related to the exploration, development, production or transportation of minerals
  • Railroad employees
  • Employees who work on other forms of transportation including interstate or foreign commerce.

That’s quite a bit of Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Law for businesses to navigate, isn’t it?

Make Sure Your Firm is Protected

As you can see, when it comes to whether or not you need to carry Workers’ Compensation Insurance, the Louisiana law isn’t so cut and dry. That’s where E&M Law Firm comes in. As a business attorney, Ashly Earl can help your organization navigate state law and determine your Workers’ Compensation liabilities. For a free consultation, call us today at (225) 687-1111.

Louisiana Criminal Law Attorney Costs

If you or a loved one has been charged with a misdemeanor or felony, you are likely facing very stressful and uncertain times. Obviously, you want the best possible outcome. And, you’re likely afraid that if you trust an overworked and unpaid public defender for the case, you might not get the proper legal defense you deserve.

As an experienced Louisiana criminal law attorney, I have handled hundreds of criminal law cases throughout many of our state’s parishes, including Ascension, Assumption, East Baton Rouge, Jefferson, Iberville, Livingston, St. James, St. Tammany, and West Baton Rouge. And having thoroughly investigated and prepared so many cases for trial, I have a deep understanding of just what it costs to prepare a proper defense depending on your unique background, circumstances, and charges.

The truth is, if you’re looking for a Louisiana criminal law attorney, many won’t be so up front about their costs, until you come in for a free consultation and they try to sell you on their services. And, the costs of a criminal law attorney vary greatly, depending on their location, caseload, and experience.

At the E&M Law Firm, we believe differently. We know that you are already under enough stress and facing what might be your biggest family emergency ever, and we want to be as transparent as possible to help make life a little easier on you.

While the cost of each Louisiana criminal law case varies depending on the seriousness of the charges, the circumstances of the case and any prior criminal history, below is a basic starting point for what the Earl Messer Law Firm charges for our Louisiana criminal law cases:

  • Expungement - No Hearing: $500 plus costs
  • Expungement - Hearing Necessary: $1,500 plus costs
  • Misdemeanor Charges: $2,500 and up
  • Felony Drug Possession: $5,000 and up
  • Non-aggravated Felonies: $7,500 and up
  • Aggravated Felonies: $10,000 and up
  • Immigration - Removal Proceedings: $5,000 and up

While these prices are only estimates, they should give you some idea of what it costs to hire an experienced Louisiana criminal defense attorney. Depending on the case, there could be additional costs for things like private investigators or expert witness fees, but any additional costs would be discussed with you well in advance. 

We understand that for many Louisiana families, these amounts of money might be seemingly impossible to pay. But, can you really afford not to give you or your loved one a strong defense? If you work with an inexperienced attorney or a busy public defender, you’ll likely spend just a few minutes with them and could end up with worse results, including delays in your case, longer sentences if convicted, and higher fines.

At the E&M Law Firm, we’re here to work with you and help you every step of the way. And, it’s our goal to be as transparent with you as possible. Come in for a consultation and we’ll be as upfront as possible with you about the estimated costs of our services.

Call Us Today for a Free Consultation

With our years of experience in criminal law, and our offer of a free consultation, you simply can’t afford to not call us to tell us your story. After that initial conversation, we’ll be able to have a better understanding of your estimated Louisiana criminal law case costs, and we’ll disclose that information to you. To schedule a free consultation with the Earl Messer Law Firm today, call (225) 687-1111.

Louisiana Child Support - Are You Paying the Right Amount?

If you’re a Baton Rouge area non-custodial parent who pays child support, we know that you want to do everything possible to make sure your child or children are well taken care of, both when they’re with you and when they’re with their custodial parent. But, we also understand that child support is expensive, especially when you have your own household to maintain, including everything your children need when they are in your care, too. And nobody helps you with the expenses you have when your children are with you, do they?

How is Child Support Calculated in Louisiana?

In Louisiana, when a child support order is created or modified, several factors are considered. These include:

●     Whether or not there are any pre-existing child support or spousal support orders in place for either the custodial or non-custodial parent.

●     The net costs of childcare due to employment or a job search, minus the federal tax credit for childcare.

●     The costs of health insurance for the children before the court.

●     Whether or not the children before the court have extraordinary medical expenses.

●     Private schooling costs, if both the custodial and non-custodial parents agree on private schooling placement.

The above list is just the tip of the iceberg. The truth is, Louisiana has a complicated worksheet that must be filled out by both parents in order to determine the exact amount of child support due to the custodial parent. And, one wrong calculation or entry could mean that you end up paying more than you should in child support.

How Do I Modify Child Support in Louisiana?

Even those with best co-parenting relationships can have contentious conversations when it comes to modifying child support. That’s why, if you have questions about modifying child support, it’s always important to consult with a family law attorney like the ones at Earl & Messer Law Firm in Baton Rouge. Based on our experience, many Louisiana non-custodial parents are eligible for a child support reduction, but don’t realize it. Situations that can allow for a child support modification that results in a reduction of payment include:

●     The child or children before the court were previously enrolled in a childcare program for which you were partially paying, but now they are no longer in childcare.

●     The custodial parent becomes disabled and is no longer able to work, or is receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Payments or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

●     The custodial parent is now making more money than they were when child support was previously ordered, and it’s been at least 3 years since your child support order was created.

As you can imagine, having these conversations with your co-parent can be difficult, and many co-parents are reluctant or completely refuse to disclose to the other parent how much money they are now making. That’s why, when it comes to a child support modification, it’s always important to have a trusted Baton Rouge family law attorney by your side.

Call Us if You Have Child Support Questions

If you think that your’s and your custodial parent’s circumstances have changed to the point that a child support modification is warranted, then give the Earl & Messer Law Firm a call. We’ll be happy to listen to your situation and offer you a free consultation. You can reach our Baton Rouge offices at (225) 687-1111.

Don't Let Law Enforcement Trick You into Making a Statement

Right after a person is arrested in Louisiana, and often times before the arrest, a law enforcement officer will attempt to get a defendant to make a statement, confession, or admission about the crime he is investigating. A person can usually rest assured that if law enforcement wants to speak with him or her about a crime, he or she is already a suspect and could be facing a Louisiana or Federal felony charge. The questioning often happens right after some stressful incident when the person may not be thinking clearly and attempts to talk his or her self out of an arrest. In my experience, no one ever talks themselves out of trouble with the police and the more one talks the more likely he or she is likely to wind up with a conviction based on the statement being used as evidence at trial.

To make matters worse, law enforcement officers have been known to bend the law when attempting to secure a damaging admission from a suspect. I recall one case when I was questioning a high ranking detective from the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office and he told me that it was okay to lie to a defendant to try and get a confession because the Constitution said he could. I had a trial in East Baton Rouge where two police officers from the same police department took the stand and told two separate versions of the same arrest – both under an oath to tell the truth. It’s important to remember that no matter how knowledgeable of the Louisiana criminal justice system a defendant may be, law enforcement will still try to get an admission out of him to weaken any defense and ensure a conviction.  While hiring the best Louisiana criminal defense attorney you can after your arrest is a start, keeping your mouth shut no matter what promises are made to you can be just as important to your chances of beating the charges.

While Law Enforcement Officers Often Trick a Defendant Into Making a Statement, It can be Difficult to Prove that the Statement was not Voluntary.

Any statement made during a custodial interrogation is not admissible unless a suspect has been first been given his Miranda warnings.  Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444 (1966). Before introducing a defendant's inculpatory statement made during a custodial interrogation, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was first advised of his Miranda rights, and that the statement was made “freely and voluntarily, and not under the influence of fear, intimidation, menaces, threats, inducement or promises.” State v. Rose, 05–770, p. 9 (La.App. 5 Cir. 2/27/06), 924 So.2d 1107, 1111. However, it usually takes little more than an officer’s testimony that he gave a Miranda warning before questioning a defendant. At trial it will be your word against the officer’s as to whether your statement was freely and voluntarily given.

Call a Good Criminal Defense Lawyer If You Are Arrested or Even Taken in for Questioning.

Law enforcement will take great effort to elicit damaging statements from suspects, including intimidating them into thinking that they must comply with requests for questioning. Officers also often will tell a suspect that he can go if just tells them what happened – with the suspect ultimately getting arrested. The simple way to avoid hurting your case when approached by police for questioning is to insist on your right to be represented by a Louisiana attorney. Whether you are in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Shreveport, or anywhere else in Louisiana, having a good criminal defense lawyer present at your questioning can help keep you from saying something that you will regret later.

If you’ve been arrested and have questions about your case you can call my office for a free consultation. Call Rusty Messer at (225) 384-6760 to discuss your case today.

What is a Stop-and-Frisk Search and is it Legal

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides that people have a right not to be subjected to unreasonable searches and seizures, and also sets forth the conditions necessary for a search warrant to be issued. However, despite the language of the Fourth Amendment, people are routinely searched when stopped by the police either during a traffic stop or some other encounter on the street. Any search without a warrant is presumed to be unreasonable, but there are a number of exceptions that apply to permit warrantless searches.

Probably the most common form of search is what is referred to as a Terry-stop or a stop-and-frisk. A Terry-stop happens when an officer observes someone committing what he or she suspects may be a crime and stops the person to investigate. The officer can pat down the suspect checking for guns, knives, or other dangerous weapons.  However, everything the officer finds during the search may not be admissible. The Louisiana Supreme Court has upheld the suppression of two small objects felt in a defendant’s pocket during a pat down search for weapons.[1] The officer could not identify the objects as either weapons or anything else illegal so he took them out to make a visual inspection. The Court held that the search went beyond what was allowed during a Terry-stop and prevented the objects from being used as evidence at trial. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that items other than weapons can be seized during a pat down can be seized and used at trial if they are immediately identifiable by touch, but the officer cannot squeeze or otherwise manipulate an item to try and determine what it is.[2]

A Terry search is not be limited to a stop and frisk of the person, but may extended to include a protective search of the passenger compartment of a vehicle if an officer possesses ‘‘a reasonable belief, based on specific and articulable facts . . . that the suspect is dangerous and . . . may gain immediate control of weapons.’’[3] However, if there is no evidence of a weapon or crime within plain view, the police may have exceeded their authority if search a vehicle and any evidence recovered from the search may be subject to being suppressed.

If you believe that you have may have been improperly searched during an encounter with the police, or that evidence against you may have been improperly obtained, call our office today for a free consultation. We regularly move to suppress improperly obtained evidence in order to put our clients in the best possible position for defending the charges against them. Call (225) 384-6760 to schedule a consultation.

[1] State v. Boyer, 2007-0476, pp. 22-24 (La.10/16/07), 967 So.2d 458.
[2] Minnesota v. Dickerson, 508 U.S. 366, 113 S.Ct. 2130, 124 L.Ed.2d 334 (1993).
[3] Michigan v. Long, 463 U.S. 1032 (1983) (Officer saw hunting knife on floor of vehicle and searched remainder of passenger compartment).

What is a Premises Liability Case?

While you may not have known the legal name of a premises liability case, you read about these types of situations in the news all the time. Someone is at a store with wet a floor that isn’t marked, slips and falls, and is hurt. A dog bites a neighbor’s child while she is visiting their home. Or a worker is injured in an elevator or on an escalator that is not working properly at a department store. Basically, any time you are injured at a property that you don’t own, there’s a possibility that your injury may qualify for a premises liability case and that you may have a claim to be compensated.

However, a Baton Rouge premises liability case isn’t simply based on the fact that you were injured on someone else’s property. These cases are based on negligence and the property owner or manager’s failure to reasonably ensure your safety while you were on their property.

For example, let’s say you’re in at a store in Baton Rouge, you slip and fall, and break your leg. In order to win a premises liability case, you have to prove that the store was negligent. This may mean that the floor was wet - and the store knew it - but it wasn’t marked with a caution sign. Or it could mean that the store had uneven flooring or steps that weren’t properly marked and knew that they posed dangerous conditions. It could also mean that a floor was wet and the store didn’t know it because it had not bothered to check. In all of these scenarios, the store could be found negligent for your accident and be legally required to pay your medical bills and compensate you for your time off work and your pain and suffering.

The same is true of dog bites. Perhaps you have a dog of a breed that is known to be vicious, like a pit bull. Or maybe you have a dog of a non-vicious breed, but it has a history of biting. If you know your dog has a history of biting and it bites someone again - even if your dog gets loose and bites someone in the middle of the street or in another neighborhood - you could be liable.

Premise Liability Cases Can Get Personal

While you always seem to hear about the premise liability cases that happen on commercial property, what you don’t hear about are the numerous cases that happen in someone’s own home while they are entertaining friends and family. And these cases can get personal. Part of the reason is that medical insurance companies demand they are compensated for medical bills related to an injury that was the result of someone else’s negligence. So, for example, if your sister trips and falls down broken stairs at your house, has to go to the hospital, and writes on the medical report that the accident happened at your house, her medical insurance company may force her to recover the cost of her medical bills from you, even if she doesn’t want to sue you! Unfortunately, these types of cases can rip families and friendships apart.

Whether You’re the One Injured, or Someone is Injured on Your Property, You Should Always Speak with a Baton Rouge Personal Injury Attorney to Find Out Your Rights

If you’re injured on another person’s or company’s property, or someone is injured at your house, you should always speak with a personal injury attorney like myself for a consultation. It’s a way to protect you and your interests, no matter which side of the fence you are on. If you need to speak to someone about a potential premise liability case, call me today at (225) 687-1111.

If Two People Were Injured in the Same Accident, Can They Use the Same Lawyer?

This situation happens in Baton Rouge all the time. You and a family member or friend are driving around town, and are injured in a car accident. You have medical bills, lost wages, and want to be compensated for your pain and suffering. You know you need a personal injury attorney like myself to help you with your case, but you’re wondering, can you both use the same lawyer? The answer depends on who was at fault for the accident, and whether or not there are enough funds available to pay for all parties’ injuries.

Let me explain a bit further.

A Driver and Passenger(s) Can’t Use the Same Baton Rouge Personal Injury Attorney If the Driver Was Partially at Fault.

Let’s say you were a passenger in a car accident. Clearly, you’re not at fault at all - you weren’t in control of any of the vehicles involved. But, your family member or friend who was driving was in control of his or her vehicle. And because Louisiana is a comparative negligence state, the car insurance companies may try to say your driver was partially at fault for the accident - even if the other driver was mainly at fault.

This could be the case if your family member or friend who was driving was going slightly over the speed limit, didn’t use a turn signal, was texting while driving, etc. If you were a passenger in a car with a driver who is partially at fault for the accident, even only 10 or 20%, your personal injury attorney will fight to recover that portion of your damages from your driver’s car insurance company. Clearly, as a Baton Rouge personal injury attorney, I can’t help a passenger sue a driver that I also represent. In this case, the driver and the passenger would need to get different attorneys.

Personal Injury Attorneys Can’t Represent Two or More Seriously Injured People If There Are Limited Insurance Funds

 In the state of Louisiana, motorists are required to carry a minimum $15,000 of bodily injury liability coverage per person, with at least $30,000 per accident. That seems like a lot of money, until you factor in just how much medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering can be in a serious car accident.

First, it’s important to know that for the most part, case law has determined what each type of injury is “worth.” For example, if you and your fellow passenger require a one level cervical fusion after a car accident, both of your pain and suffering claims can be worth anywhere between $100,000 to $150,000. But if the driver at fault only carries the minimum amount of insurance required by Louisiana law, and doesn’t have supplemental umbrella insurance, or you don’t have sufficient under insured motorist coverage, there isn’t enough money to go around. I would be put in a situation in which I’m fighting for more money for one client, and less for another - which is clearly unethical. In this case, both injured parties would need to use two different personal injury attorneys.

Call Me if You’re Injured in a Baton Rouge Car Wreck

Car accident cases can be complicated. If you were injured in a Baton Rouge car accident, the best thing you can do is give me a call so I can consult with you on your next steps. You can call me today at (225) 687-1111.

How Much Do You Charge to Represent Me in a Workers’ Compensation Case?

Workers’ compensation cases are always very sensitive issues. If you’ve been injured on the job, you want and deserve to be compensated for your medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering. But, as the old saying goes, you don’t want to “bite the hand that feeds you” either, do you?

Don’t let this old quip stop you from getting the compensation you deserve. When you work with a workers’ compensation attorney like myself - I’m not actually fighting your employer for the benefits you deserve. Instead, I’m fighting against your employer’s insurance company, which, at the end of the day, doesn’t care about you or your employer, but only about keeping as much of the money they make through insurance premiums as possible.

Many Louisiana residents mistakenly think that if they hire a workers compensation attorney that they’ll 1) have to pay a lot of money up front and out of pocket and 2) be at risk of losing their job just because they’re fighting for the compensation they deserve. I’m here to tell you that none of these cases are true.

When you work with a Baton Rouge workers’ compensation attorney like myself, you don’t pay anything until you win your benefits. And, even better, my fee is capped by statute at 20%. That means the law guarantees that you’ll keep 80% of your winnings! Additionally, because I also understand how workers’ compensation cases affect employment law, I know how to protect you and your job, all along the way.

Of course, you can try working with the insurance companies yourself. But, as an experienced Baton Rouge workers’ compensation attorney, I must tell you that’s not recommended. A workers’ compensation insurance company is no different from any other type of insurance company - they’re all in the business of keeping as much money as possible, and offering as little awards as they can get away with.

If you speak directly with a workers’ compensation insurance company, you’ll probably be met by a friendly person who seems concerned about you and your injuries. That friendly person will also try to ease you into making a recorded statement. Don’t do it! These are all tricks that workers’ compensation insurance companies do to try to get out of paying you the winnings you deserve. They try to “catch” you on tape making statements that might seem contradictory to things you say later. You should also be aware of the insurance company trying to video you while you are working in the yard or shopping in the grocery store. Don’t be surprised at what tricks the insurance companies will pull to try and keep from paying what you deserve.

When you’re injured on the job, your first call should be for help - typically to 911 if your injuries are severe - and you should alert your employer of your injury as soon as possible. Your next call should be to a Baton Rouge workers’ compensation attorney like me, who can help you navigate the complicated process of getting your medical bills paid and helping you recover for pain and suffering and lost wages from the injury you obtained on the job.

If you’ve been injured at work - even if you’ve already spoken to the insurance companies - I may still be able to help you. Call me today for a free consultation at (225) 687-1111.

What Do You Charge for a Personal Injury Case?

As a Baton Rouge personal injury attorney, one of the most common questions I get from people who’ve been hurt in car wrecks is, “What do you charge?” It’s easy to understand why. Many people have a preconceived notion that working with a lawyer will be expensive, and that there will be several fees to pay up front. That’s simply not the case. In the world of personal injury, there is no attorney fee unless you win.
In my Baton Rouge practice, I charge a standard rate of 33% if your case settles before trial and 40% if your case goes to trial. If you work with me, you’re guaranteed to keep most of your case’s earnings, so that you can pay your medical bills, make up for lost wages, pay for your vehicle repair or a new vehicle, as well as be properly compensated for your pain and suffering.
Why Is There a Difference in Fees Between Trials that Settle and Trials that Go to Court?
In the real world, the legal industry is much more different than how it is portrayed on TV, where every lawyer and every case makes it to a courtroom. In actuality, most lawsuits are settled before they ever make it to a jury. When you’re injured in a Baton Rouge car wreck because of another careless driver’s actions, it’s in that driver’s insurance company’s best interest to settle out of court - so they can avoid the costs of using their expensive attorneys to work on your case.
Because going to trial is so expensive for insurance companies, many of them will try to settle your case out of court. My job as your Baton Rouge personal injury attorney, is to make sure they are offering you a fair deal - one that fully compensates you and one that will set you up for a better future - especially if you’ve suffered injuries that you’ll be incurring for several years, or the rest of your life.
However, the insurance companies don’t care about your medical bills, lost wages, vehicle damage or pain and suffering. They only care about paying out as little to you as possible. Because of this, sometimes they offer a settlement which, based on years of research, experience and case study, I might feel is too low for your particular situation. If this occurs, I will recommend we take the extra step of going to trial, which will involve a lot more work in terms of preparing the case and witnesses, jury selection, and presenting the case before the jury. That is why I charge an extra 7% for cases that go to trial.
How Do I Pay You?
Because my payment as a Baton Rouge personal injury attorney is based on your winnings, you pay me from the money that you get from the insurance companies. There’s no upfront fees, no hidden charges and no expectation for you to put forth a single penny until you’ve received your check from the insurance companies.
If you’ve been injured in a Baton Rouge car wreck, you’re much more likely to receive fair winnings if you’re represented by an experienced personal injury attorney like myself. Call me today for a free consultation at (225) 384-6760.

What Does Louisiana's "No Pay/No Play" Law Mean?

When it comes to making sure that you pay your car insurance, the state of Louisiana is serious. In fact, the state has enacted a law commonly referred to as “no Pay/No Play.” What this means is that if you fall on hard times and are unable to pay for car insurance, or accidentally miss a payment and lapse in coverage, you could face big financial consequences if you are in a car wreck in Louisiana. According to Louisiana’s No Pay/No Play law found at Louisiana Revised Statute 32:866, an uninsured or underinsured motorist in a not-at-fault Baton Rouge car wreck, is not allowed to collect the first $15,000 of bodily injury damages, and the first $25,000 of property damages from the at-fault party’s car insurance policy. You read that correctly. Louisiana is so serious about making sure that all drivers carry car insurance, that uninsured and underinsured motorists are on the hook for thousands of dollars in medical and property damages even if the car wreck they were in was caused by someone else.
So If I’m Uninsured and Someone Causes a Wreck and Injures Me, Am I Completely Out of Luck
The good news for uninsured and underinsured motorists is that there are some exceptions to Louisiana’s No Pay/No Play law. As a Baton Rouge personal injury attorney, I am extremely knowledgeable of these exceptions. If you’re an uninsured motorist and you were in a Baton Rouge car wreck caused by someone else, here’s how I can help you get around Louisiana’s No Pay/No Play Law:

  • Your Car Was Hit When You Were Legally ParkedParking lot accidents happen all the time. Baton Rouge motorists drive too fast in parking lots, are looking at their cell phones, or are otherwise distracted and hit parked cars. How is it your fault if you’re not even driving when your car is hit? Thankfully, the state of Louisiana recognizes that even if you don’t have car insurance, you shouldn’t be responsible for paying for any bodily injury or property damages if your car is legally parked at the time of an accident, even if you don’t have any car insurance, or don’t have enough insurance as is required by state law. If you’re an uninsured motorist and your car was parked while it was hit, call me so I can evaluate your case and help you win the insurance payments you deserve.
  • The Other Driver Was Under the Influence of Alcohol or Another Mind-Altering Substance
    If the at-fault driver was cited for driving under the influence at the time of the accident and is later convicted. Since the other driver needs to be convicted in order for this exception to apply, it is important to make sure that someone familiar with the legal system tracks the progress of the driver’s case to make sure that you don’t lose your rights because of some plea deal in the driver’s criminal case. As an experienced Baton Rouge attorney, I know how to stay on top of the at-fault driver’s case and the importance of staying in contact with the prosecutor to protect your rights.
  • You’re An Out of State Driver Who Was Passing Through Louisiana When You Were in a Baton Rouge Car Wreck
    Louisiana may have strict insurance laws for its own motorists, but it recognizes it can’t enforce these laws on residents of other states. If you are an out of state driver whose state doesn’t require you to carry liability insurance and someone hits your car while you’re in Baton Rouge, you can get around Louisiana’s No Pay/No Play Law. I know it’s difficult to be dealing with a car wreck in another state, so trust me as your Baton Rouge personal injury attorney and I can deal with all of the local authorities for you.
  • You Were Hit By Someone Who Was Breaking Certain Laws
    There’s no doubt about it – Louisiana is tough on crime. That’s why the state’s No Pay/No Play Law doesn’t apply to uninsured or underinsured motorists if they were in a car accident caused by someone driving while intoxicated, someone who intentionally caused the Baton Rouge wreck (as is the case in certain road rage incidents), someone who fled the scene of the car accident or someone who was in the accident while also committing a felony. Thank goodness Louisiana recognizes that drivers like you who can’t afford car insurance shouldn’t be responsible for paying for bodily injuries or property damages if you were hit by a criminal!
  • You Were a Passenger in a Car of Someone Who Was Uninsured
    If you’re riding in a car with a friend or family member who doesn’t have car insurance, it’s not your fault they aren’t properly covered. Louisiana recognizes this, which is why the No Pay/No Play Law doesn’t apply to passengers of uninsured or underinsured car accident victims.

Don’t Let The Insurance Companies Tell You That You Don’t Qualify for Benefits
If you were in a car accident and are being told you can’t collect damages because of Louisiana’s No Pay/No Play Law, always get a consultation from a Baton Rouge personal injury attorney like myself, first. As you can see from the list above, there are several exceptions to this law, ones that I’m ready to help you pursue so you can get the damages you deserve. Call me today for a free consultation at (225) 384-6760.

What is a Settlement?

If you’ve been injured in a car accident, or sustained damages to your vehicle because of another Baton Rouge driver’s careless actions, the at-fault party’s insurance company may be offering you a settlement. This offer, which may appear to be a large amount of money, may look extremely attractive at first. After all, you’ve got medical bills to pay and a vehicle to repair. How else are you supposed to pay for these expenses without accepting the settlement?
When you choose to accept an insurance company’s settlement, you’ll be asked to sign a lot of documents. The fine print in these documents can be damaging for you. These settlement agreements, which are legally binding once you sign them, will prevent you from recovering any further money for vehicle damages, medical expenses and pain and suffering. 

As a Baton Rouge personal injury attorney, I must advise you against accepting what we in the industry often call “quick settlements.” These “deals” are typically offered soon after your car accident before you may know the full extent of your vehicle damages and medical expenses, not to mention how injuries from a car accident may affect your everyday life or your ability to perform the job you used to do before you were in the Baton Rouge car accident. In fact, from all my experience in practicing personal injury law in the states of Louisiana and Texas, I must say that if you’re the victim of a car accident, you shouldn’t be talking to the insurance companies at all without the representation of a reputable personal injury attorney.

Automobile insurance companies aren’t in the business of helping you; they’re in the business of making money. So, when they see an opportunity to cut corners and offer you less money than you really deserve, they’ll do any and everything in their power to try to get you to sign those settlement documents – quickly. The adjuster for the at-fault party’s insurance company may seem like an honest, friendly person, but make no mistake, that person’s job is to pay you as little in monetary damages as possible.

If you’re in a Baton Rouge car accident, as a personal injury attorney, my recommendation is that you first call 911. Even if the accident initially appears minor or you don’t think you or anyone else is injured, you may discover a day or two later that you’re in pain. Getting a police report of the incidents that led to the accident is the best way to document what happened. My next recommendation is that you call a personal injury attorney. I know the insurance companies will say that you should call them immediately. But remember, they’re in the business of making money – and paying you as little as possible for your damages, medical bills and pain and suffering.

Personal injury attorneys like myself have the legal training and experience to review settlement offers, and fight for all the monetary damages you deserve. If you’ve been in a Baton Rouge car wreck, don’t accept the first settlement you’re offered. Call me for a free consultation of your case at (225) 384-6760.

Do I Have to Use the Body Shop the Insurance Company Wants me to Use?

If you’re in a Baton Rouge car wreck and have damages to your car, the insurance company of the at-fault party may be telling you to go to a specific body shop that they contract with, saying that you’ll get “preferred service” through them. But what if you already know of a reputable body shop that you’d like to go to? Do you have to go to the body shop to which the auto insurance company is directing you?
As a Baton Rouge personal injury attorney, I am here to tell you that the answer is “No!” As a victim of a Baton Rouge car wreck, you have the ability to choose who you want to work on your vehicle and restore it to the condition that it was in before you were hit. And, no matter what the auto insurance companies may be telling you, the at-fault party is responsible for paying for the full cost of your repairs.
Let’s say you’re the victim of a Baton Rouge car accident in which your car is significantly damaged, but not totaled. The at-fault party’s auto insurance company may be telling you that you need to take your car to a particular body shop that the insurance company works with. But, perhaps you have a car shop that you have dealt with in the past or that is recommended to you someone you trust. Why should you be forced to have your vehicle repaired at a sub-standard auto body shop that might cut corners to keep their client, the insurance company, happy.
The truth is, when you work with a Baton Rouge personal injury attorney like myself after becoming the victim of a car wreck, I’ll help you fight the insurance companies so that you can take your car to a body shop that you have confidence in. Many people who are victims of car accidents don’t realize that when they have damages to their cars, they can refuse taking their car to the “preferred” body shop and instead request that an insurance adjuster from the at-fault party’s insurance company come out to perform an estimate on the car. But, don’t sign away for the check they’re offering you just yet. As trained as insurance adjusters may be, they’re not vehicle repair experts and they can’t always know the total cost of what it will take to restore your car to the condition that it was in before your Baton Rouge car wreck. Sometimes the full extent of the damages is now known until damaged parts are removed and additional damage is found underneath.
As a personal injury attorney, I recommend that all my Baton Rouge car wreck clients pick a body shop that they have confidence in and get an independent estimate before having work performed. This way, you have a professional body shop’s opinion on how much it will take to repair your car. If the insurance company disagrees with this written estimate, then we can take them to court to get the total amount of money that you deserve to repair your vehicle.
If you’ve been in a Baton Rouge car accident, don’t fight the insurance companies alone. Call Rusty Messer today at (225) 384-6760 for a free consultation, today.

What Should I do if I'm Injured Using a Defective Product?

You hear about them on the news, and see warning posts about them on social media all the time; products being recalled because they’re defective and dangerous, and have injured (and unfortunately sometimes even resulted in the deaths of) some of their users. In fact, every year defective and dangerous products injure Baton Rouge residents, sometimes resulting in costly medical bills or even permanent disability.
Unfortunately, big business and insurance companies have fought hard to limit the rights of innocent Baton Rouge and other Louisiana consumers like you that have been injured because of a defective product. Louisiana product liability law outlines a series of rules that determine who is responsible for a dangerous or defective product and how consumers like you can recover damages. A Baton Rouge personal injury attorney like myself can help you navigate the difficult process of interpreting Louisiana product liability law, and fighting the manufacturers, distributors and sellers of products that cause injuries.
What Should You Do if You’re Injured by a Product
If you’re ever injured by using a product as directed, you should immediately seek medical attention. Make sure that when you are at the emergency room or doctor’s office that you have the doctor record that you were injured while using the product. Be specific about the product name and model type, if known. You’ll need this information documented in your medical records to fight the manufacturer, distributor and seller of the product, all of whom will hire high-powered corporate attorneys to try to convince a jury that it was your fault that you were injured. Ask the doctor to take pictures of your injuries to put in your medical file, and if he or she doesn’t, immediately take pictures yourself, preferably with a date and time stamp on the image.
Stop Using the Product Immediately - But Don’t Throw it Away
One of the key elements of proving that a product was liable for your injury is that you were using the product as directed or marketed, or as a reasonable person would use such a product. And if a product injures you, you should immediately discontinue its use. Continuing to use a product after it injures you might signal to a jury that you don’t really think the product was the cause of the injury, you were using the product not as directed or in an irresponsible way, or might leave some other doubt in the jurors’ minds that the product is not defective. But, never throw the product away. It will most likely be used as evidence in your case to show how certain elements of it - whether it be sharp edges or defective pieces that fell off - caused your injury.
Call A Baton Rouge Personal Injury Attorney First
If you’re injured by a product your first call should be to a Baton Rouge personal injury attorney like myself. Never call a product manufacturer or store and tell them that a product they sold you injured you. They might try to trick you into signing paperwork that relieves them of responsibility or record your phone call in attempts to catch you saying contradicting statements - all to protect themselves from having to pay for your medical bills and compensate you for your pain, suffering and other losses.
A personal injury attorney like myself knows how to document product liability and identify which party in the product distribution chain was responsible for your injury - whether it be the manufacturer who developed a bad product design, a supplier who provided a faulty part, or a retail store who mis-marketed a product and its intended use.
Call Today for a Free Consultation
If you’ve been injured by using a product the way it was intended or marketed to be used, you need to speak with a personal injury attorney immediately. Call me today for a free product liability consultation at (225) 384-6760.

How Soon After I Get in to an Accident Should I Contact an Attorney?

If you’ve been the victim of someone’s careless driving, and were injured or had your vehicle seriously damaged in a Baton Rouge car accident, you might be wondering at what point you need to get a Baton Rouge personal injury attorney involved. After all, we all remember the process we’re supposed to follow from driver’s education class; if you’re in a Baton Rouge car accident, you exchange information with the other party, then call your insurance company to report the wreck, right? Well, unfortunately, that’s wrong.
If you’re in a Baton Rouge car accident, your first call should be to 911 to get any medical assistance that may be necessary, and to get the much-needed police report to document what happened in the wreck. Even if a Baton Rouge car accident seems just like a minor fender bender, you should always get a police report - always. After your medical injuries have been treated, if any were sustained, your second call should be to a Baton Rouge personal injury attorney like myself.
When you contact a Baton Rouge personal injury attorney like myself for a free consultation, I’ll listen to your account of what happened in the car wreck and ask you important questions to get a better understanding of who was at fault, and who should be paying your medical and vehicle repair bills. I’ll also be able to get a better sense of just how likely it is that the other party will provide an honest account of what happened in the car accident, which is especially important if you didn’t get a police report.
Driving, not to mention Baton Rouge car accidents, can make people emotional. Sometimes, a car accident is the result of road rage, and you must deal with another driver who is heated and angry and may try to blame you for the wreck, even if you were following the rules of the road. Other times, even if a car accident was just that - a simple accident - the involved parties may be so upset that they cause a scene.
Most Baton Rouge car accidents happen between strangers. And even if the other party of a car accident seems like a nice person while you are exchanging information and reporting the incidents of the wreck to the police, you never know just how honest - or dishonest - that person is actually going to be. Unfortunately, not everyone tells the truth, and some people involved in Baton Rouge car accidents will lie about what happened, try to pass on pre-existing damages to their vehicle as having been caused by your wreck, or claim to be more injured than they actually are.
As a Baton Rouge personal injury attorney, I’ve seen it all and I know the steps to take to protect you during your accident claims process, and to get your vehicle and medical bills paid. First, I’ll call the insurance companies for you to report the accident, and I’ll never let the insurance companies pressure you into making a recorded statement of the accident - something car insurance companies like to do to try to “catch” you on tape making conflicting statements about what happened in the accident to try to “prove” that you are lying or at fault. I’ll also review every document that the insurance companies send you to make sure it’s safe to sign, and fight for you to get as much compensation for your injuries, vehicle damages, and pain and suffering as possible.
So remember, if you’re in a Baton Rouge car accident, your first call should be to 911. Your next call should be to me, Rusty Messer, at (225) 384-6760.

If I'm Injured in an Accident, How Will my Medical Bills be Paid?

If you were injured in a car accident in Baton Rouge that someone else caused, the hospital and doctors have probably wasted no time in sending you medical bills. And as these bills have come piling in, you’re probably wondering, “Who’s going to pay for these?” After all, hospital and doctor co-pays are expensive and add up quickly, especially if you’ve needed to repeatedly see a doctor, physical therapist or chiropractor as a result of your Baton Rouge car wreck injuries.
Unfortunately, Louisiana law does not require car accident defendants - meaning the careless driver who caused the wreck - to pay for your medical bills as they come in. Instead, you are on the hook for paying your medical bills on time and then you must fight the other driver’s car insurance company in order to get reimbursed for your expenses. Even worse, as soon as your health insurance company realizes that your medical bills are the result of a Baton Rouge car accident, it is going to demand to be refunded for any expenses it has paid to hospitals and doctors. If you had X-rays, MRIs, Cat-Scans or other expensive tests, this means your health insurance company is going to be coming after you, the innocent driver, for thousands of dollars!
It doesn’t seem fair, does it? As an experienced Baton Rouge personal injury lawyer, I can tell you from experience that it can get even worse. If you speak to the other driver’s car insurance company without the representation of a personal injury lawyer, an insurance adjuster is going to try one of several tricks to try to pay you as little money as possible, and much less money than you actually deserve. One of the first tricks that car insurance companies use is to offer you what is called a “quick settlement” - an amount of money that may seem large initially, but once you add up the cost of all your medical co-pays, missed work, and the amount of money you owe your health insurance for their portion of your medical expenses, is nowhere big enough to reimburse you for your actual needs.
Another trick that car insurance companies use when you don’t work with a Baton Rouge personal injury lawyer is to try to get you to make a recorded statement. An adjuster will tell you that it is just part of an investigation but don’t fall for it. The car insurance companies are trying to catch you on tape saying something contradictory that they can use as evidence in court to claim you are lying about what really happened in the car accident so that they can pay you less benefits than you deserve. Finally, car insurance companies have even been known to send spies out to follow you around Baton Rouge hoping to catch you on video doing something against doctor’s orders - all in efforts to prove that you aren’t really as injured as you actually are.
With all the tricks that big insurance companies use to try and get out of paying for your bills, it makes you wonder why would anyone in Louisiana would fight a car insurance company without the help of a personal injury lawyer. When you work with a Baton Rouge personal injury lawyer like myself, I listen to your account of what happened in the car accident, I investigate the claim, and then I deal with the car insurance companies for you - protecting you from their schemes. I fight to get you the benefits that you deserve, including payment for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering
If you’ve been injured in a car accident in Louisiana, then don’t waste any time. Call attorney Rusty Messer at (225) 384-6760 to schedule a free consultation today. And remember, there is no fee for my services until I win the benefits you deserve.