Series of Louisiana car accidents under investigation

The Louisiana Department of Insurance is investigating the possibility of fraud involving at least one accident at a Gentilly truck stop -- although other accidents are also raising questions.

Louisiana has some of the most painfully high automobile insurance rates in the country. In fact, the average annual insurance auto insurance premium in Louisiana is $1,900 -- which is $600 more than the national average. Only Michigan residents pay more.

Experts say that the high number of accident claims -- and high payouts from those claims -- are largely behind the outrageous premiums. That's why allegations of insurance fraud attract so much attention.

And there does seem to be something curious going on. In the case currently being heard in court, a semi driver was approached after he stopped his vehicle in the truck stop's parking lot by a woman. Although the trucker was unaware of any incident, the woman claimed their vehicles had connected on the road as the truck was turning.

There was little visible damage to the woman's car, and she told responding officers that she wasn't injured. Later, however, the woman and three of her passengers all claimed serious injuries as a result of the accident. They're now suing.

Attorneys representing the trucker's insurance company claim that this is one of nine cases with similar stories. The attorneys believe truck drivers are seen as easy -- and lucrative -- targets due to the amount of insurance they carry.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs, however, contend that the insurance companies are merely trying a familiar tactic to avoid paying what they should to injured victims. Alleging fraud, they say, is just a standard attempt at intimidation.

While it's unclear what will happen in this case, it's important to recognize that every auto accident can lead to conflicts that escalate in court as each side presses its case. It isn't unusual for the plaintiff and defendant to present very different pictures of what happened before, during and after an accident.

If you're involved in a vehicular accident of any kind, take steps to protect your rights. For one thing, always seek treatment if you even suspect you might be injured. That helps reduce the chances that someone will call your credibility into question later if you do have to file a claim.

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