Motor Vehicles and Accidents
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Personal Injury and Accidents
The value of a personal injury case is based in part on the nature and extent of the injuries sustained. A list including the names, addresses, and phone numbers of healthcare providers, the dates and types of treatment, and the cost of each treatment is helpful. Copies of bills/invoices/statements rendered by, and medical records of, health care providers will need to be reviewed. Authorizations allowing these to be obtained by your lawyer may be signed.
Any photographs of a collision scene or injured person; or vehicles or objects involved in the collision or injury are helpful. A collision report and statements from witnesses must be obtained, when available, and reviewed. Pictures of appliances (casts, canes, breathing equipment and the like) are helpful. An investigation may be undertaken by your lawyer’s office, depending on the circumstances of the injury, which may include hiring outside investigators and experts.
When juries or insurance adjusters analyze who or what is responsible for a collision or other or injury, in Kansas and Missouri they apply a law called “comparative negligence.” They estimate percentages of who or what is at fault for causing the collision or injury. Subject to certain rules that vary from state to state, the percentage of fault attributable to an injured person may reduce or eliminate his or her settlement or verdict.
In Kansas, if the percentage of fault attributable to a party is less than the negligence of the parties against whom claim is made, the claiming parties’ recovery is reduced by that percentage. If 50 per cent or more fault is attributable to a claiming party, that party receives nothing.
In Missouri, the claiming party’s recovery is reduced, but not eliminated, by his or her percentage of fault.
For example, if someone slips and falls on an icy sidewalk, the injured person may assert the property owner should have removed the ice before the fall. The property owner may assert the injured person was not watching where he or she was going. Or, in a rear-end collision, the injured person may assert the driver behind was not paying attention, causing the impact. The driver behind may say the injured person slammed on the brakes, allowing no time for reaction. The percentage to which the jury or adjuster believes the negligent event was the fault of the injured person is the process of comparing the negligence of the parties, which may reduce or eliminate recovery.
Attorneys monitor jury verdicts in the greater metropolitan area and gather information from other sources to stay informed about how these percentages may be allocated under specific circumstances.
Statutes of limitation
All personal injury cases are governed by statutes of limitation, which means that a lawsuit must be filed within a certain time after the injury occurred or was discovered, or the lawsuit can never be filed. Your lawyer will advise you about the applicable deadlines for your circumstances. You will need to know the date and state in which the injury occurred so the statutes of limitation may be determined.
PIP and Med Pay benefits
If you are involved in an auto collision, you may have available under your or your driver’s Kansas policy of insurance benefits known as Personal Injury Protection benefits. These provide payment of your “reasonable and necessary” healthcare bills and lost wages, up to the policy limits for these coverages, without regard to who was at fault for the collision. Many times, however, you and your insurance company may disagree as to what bills are “reasonable and necessary,” and whether your company will pay them at all. You may be requested, before being paid lost wages, to provide proof of your income. Similar benefits, called “Med Pay,” are available under insurance policies issued in Missouri.
There are circumstances, generally called “subrogation,” in which health and lost wage benefits paid by an insurance company to an injured person may have to be repaid to the insurance which paid them.
Further, if you have turned in some of your medical bills to your, or someone elses, health insurance carrier, for example because your PIP or Med Pay benefits are exhausted, you may be required to repay these benefits as well.
The injured person may have insurance (for example medical pay or personal injury protection benefits) that will pay, up to the policy limit, a portion of medical bills and lost wages without regard to fault. Forms for this coverage may be obtained from the injured person’s insurance company. A statement (often recorded) from the injured person’s insurance company may be obtained. Proof of income and medical bills will be required by the injured person’s insurer prior to payment.
After medical treatment is substantially completed, settlement with the other party’s insurance company is attempted, and if settlement is unsuccessful, a lawsuit may be filed, which may ultimately, if not settled, be decided by a judge or jury.
How long it takes
The length of time it takes to resolve a personal injury case depends on the severity of the injury, the length of time spent undergoing medical treatment, and, if the case is not settled, the court in which the case is filed. A lawyer can estimate, but never guarantee, this information.