Car Accident Attorneys in Kansas City, MO
Securing the services of an attorney after a car accident is the best way to protect your rights moving forward. Regardless of who was at fault in your car accident, a Kansas City car accident attorney can help you wade through insurance claims, injury liability information, and defense against legal action.
Car accidents can include a number of unanticipated legal challenges like the presence of a pedestrian, uninsured drivers, employer liability, and premises liability. There are also a number of different types of auto accidents, including but not limited too:
- Truck Accidents
- Motorcycle Accidents
- Drunk Driver Collisions
- Rear End Accidents
- Head on Collisions
- Distracted Driving Crash
- Pedestrian Accidents
- Bicycle Accidents
Auto Accident Statistics
Auto accident statistics, including the number and types of automobile related collisions and deaths varies vastly among the 50 different states in the U.S. Depending on a specific state’s population is just one of the many factors that effects the number of motor vehicle deaths. Fatality rates per capita and per vehicle miles traveled provide a way of examining automobile deaths relative to the population and amount of driving. However, many factors can affect these rates, including types of vehicles driven, travel speeds, state traffic laws, rates of licensure, weather, and many more.
In 2013 there were 30,057 fatal automobile related accidents in the United States. This total number of fatal accidents resulted in 32,719 deaths. In the United States during 2013 there were motor vehicle crash death rates of 10.3 deaths per 100,000 people and 1.11 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. The fatality rate per 100,000 people ranged from a low of 3.1 in the District of Columbia to a high of 22.6 in Montana. The death rates per 100 million vehicle miles traveled ranged from 0.56 in the District of Columbia to 1.96 in Montana.
Depending upon the severity of the accident, those involved can sustain extremely serious – often fatal – injuries. In fact, between 2011 and 2013, there were 431 people killed and 3,179 people seriously injured in car accidents in Kansas City alone.
When comparing younger drivers and senior drivers, we notice seniors are more likely to be involved in certain types of collisions, angle crashes, overtaking or merging crashes, and especially intersection crashes. Among passenger vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2013, crashes involving more then one automobile at intersections accounted for 40 percent of the crashes for drivers 80 and older, compared with 19 percent for drivers ages 16-59.
Specific physical, cognitive and visual abilities may decline with advancing age. However, there are large individual differences in the onset and degree of functional impairments, so age alone is not sufficient information to judge driving ability.
The chart below illustrates both the fatalities and serious injuries by vehicle type.
Kansas City Car Accident Fatalities 2011 - 2013
Car accident laws vary by state, and determining liability in an accident is one of the most crucial factors in determining a case outcome. In some states, there are “no fault” statutes that require all parties to use individual insurance coverage regardless of who was at fault. The state of Missouri is not one of these states.
To prove liability in a car accident case, the following conditions must be present:
- The driver had a duty to exercise reasonable caution on the road.
- The driver who caused the accident was negligent and did not fulfill the duty of exercising reasonable caution when driving.
- The actions of the negligent driver caused injury or wrongful death.
In some cases, there may be shared liability. A driver who was injured in an accident and was partially at fault may still be awarded damages. In these cases, the court will determine percentages of liability and both parties will be awarded accordingly. This type of shared liability is called pure comparative fault. Product liability can also be a cause of auto accidents, but as long as you hire the right car accident and product liability attorney to protect your legal rights, you will be okay.
Parties may encounter modified comparative fault in some states. In these cases, a party can only collect damages if he or she is liable for less than 50% of the cause of the accident. A third type of shared liability is called contributory negligence. For this type of liability, any person who is partially or wholly the cause of an accident will not be able to collect compensation in a case.
Auto Accident Injuries
While there are a number of different types of auto accidents, there are also many different types of serious injuries auto accidents victims can suffer, including but not limited too:
- Broken Bones
- Spinal Cord Injury
- Brain Injury
- Burn Injuries
- Psychological and Emotional Injury/Damage
- Neck Injuries
- Long Term Injuries
Serious and fatal injuries are sustained all too often in car accidents and when they do, more often than not they are the direct result of one of four negligent behaviors. Distracted driving, aggressive driving, speeding, and alcohol impaired driving are the most common factors involved in car accidents in the U.S. and it’s no different here in Kansas City.
The following charts show how many fatalities and serious injuries were attributed to these 4 factors in Kansas between 2011-2013.
Occupants Killed in Kansas City Car Accidents By Factor 2011-2013`
Young and Old Occupants Killed In Car Accidents
The chart above shows the total number of young and older drivers killed in Kansas City car accidents between 2011-2013.
Car Accident Statistics in Kansas City and Missouri
At Fowler Pickert Eisenmenger Norfleet, we want to help you deal with the physical and emotional stress of car accidents. However, we only takes the cases we firmly believe we can win, so we can give you more individualized attention. It’s important to gain all the accident knowledge you can, which helps our staff help you. One example of such knowledge is basic car accident statistics in Kansas City and Missouri.
Crashes on Missouri’s Highway System
In 2013, car accidents caused 757 fatalities in the Missouri highway system. Of those, 148, or 19.55%, took place in Kansas City. In the same year, Missouri experienced 4,939 serious injuries due to car crashes, 1,023 of which were in Kansas City.
Within Kansas City, the causes of car accidents are myriad – everything from off-road crashes to driving while intoxicated. Recent reports indicate that in 2013, 330 serious injuries resulted from off-road crashes; when combined with similar injuries in 2011-2012, the number increased to 950. Young drivers caused the second highest number of serious injuries between 2011 and 2013 – 703 total, 201 in 2013 alone. Distraction, aggressive driving, and horizontal curves came in with disturbingly high numbers as well.
Some less common causes of car accidents in Kansas City and Missouri include collisions with utility poles, head-on collisions, and accidents within work zones. Additionally, only 46 bicyclists have been injured in car accidents between 2011 and 2013. However, 46 injured or killed bicyclists are 46 too many.
Fowler Pickert Eisenmenger Norfleet urges former and potential clients to exercise particular caution around bicyclists and motorcyclists on the road. He also urges Kansas City residents to be vigilant if they know they’ll be traveling with older drivers (65 and over) or student drivers (16-21). Fatalities caused by older drivers totaled 67 between 2011 and 2013. Student drivers caused even more, with 158 total fatalities attributed to drivers ages 15-21, including unlicensed drivers.
If an Accident Happens
If you are involved in a car accident, do not panic. Our staff is highly experienced in dealing with several types of vehicle accidents. These include truck accidents, collisions involving motorcyclists, and cases involving distracted or drunk driving. We encourage settlements during the discovery process, but will uphold your claim in court when necessary. Our staff is committed to prosecuting your case while making as few court appearances as possible.
We encourage all clients to stay calm and levelheaded during the accident discovery process. Never speak about who is at fault or why, and do not speculate about accident details. For instance, do not share suspicions that another driver was intoxicated or distracted, even if evidence points to those conclusions. However, you should speak to fellow witnesses and gather as much accurate information as possible. Spencer Einsenmenger recommends taking notes on the following if you are able –
- Road conditions
- Vehicle conditions
- How many vehicles and drivers were involved
- Injuries, no matter how minor – note all bumps and bruises
- Weather conditions, particularly if heavy precipitation is involved
Fowler Pickert Eisenmenger Norfleet recommends taking pictures when possible, as photographic evidence is more reliable than verbal testimony. Additionally, get medical attention as soon as possible. Some injuries don’t show up until weeks after the car accident, so it’s important your physician gives you a thorough exam. He or she can tell you what symptoms to watch for – bruises, residual soreness, or reduced ability to use certain limbs or digits. A full medical exam will also determine the presence of any internal injuries. These may require operations or physical and occupational therapy, which may influence your case’s outcome.
How is Liability or Negligence Determined in Kansas City Car Accidents?
One of the most difficult and stressful parts of any car accident is determining fault and if negligence was involved. The person at fault will likely bear the financial burden if the case goes to court. If negligence was a factor, criminal charges may be involved.
At Fowler Pickert Eisenmenger Norfleet, we help you determine who is at fault quickly, with as little fallout as possible. We have found this is easier to do when our clients are familiar with how liability or negligence is determined. Below, we’ve outlined the basics of liability in Kansas City.
How Kansas City Determines Liability
Kansas City has the unusual distinction of being a town in both Missouri and Kansas. Each state has its own negligence and liability laws. Missouri is a pure comparative negligence state, while Kansas is a modified comparative negligence state.
Comparative negligence is used to determine whether any negligence on the part of the plaintiff contributed to car accident damages more than the combined negligence of any other drivers or accident participants. Pure comparative negligence, practiced in Missouri and by extension Kansas City, MO, states that a plaintiff who is 90% to blame for an accident can only recover 10% of his or her losses. On the other hand, the defendant can recover up to 90% of losses, although this recovery rate is not guaranteed in every case.
By contrast, Kansas is a modified comparative negligence state. Modified comparative negligence takes two forms. In the first, the plaintiff may only recover losses if his or her negligence is not greater than the defendant’s. For example, if the plaintiff’s negligence is greater than 50%, he or she cannot recover losses. The second form of comparative negligence states the plaintiff may recover losses only if the plaintiff’s negligence is not greater than the defendant’s.
At first glance, there seems to be no difference between these types of comparative negligence. The difference in comparative negligence often comes down to what the jury decides if the case goes to trial. Juries are often not willing to award damages to a plaintiff whose negligence was equal to or worse than the defendant’s. For instance, if it is found the plaintiff was distracted at the time of the accident, the jury is not as likely to allow recovery of losses.
Other Factors in Determining Liability
State laws are crucial in determining liability, but other factors may influence how your car accident is handled and the losses you are able to recover. Other factors may include –
- Monetary thresholds. Many states have specific monetary thresholds that must be met to justify a lawsuit. If the damages in your car accident do not meet the threshold, you may be better off settling out of court.
- Injury thresholds. Your injuries, as well as the length and type of medical treatment you need, may influence how the jury apportions damages, which in turn influences what percentage of losses you are able to recover. Internal injuries, semi-permanent or permanent disabilities, or projected lengthy therapy, are likely to influence your case.
- Hard evidence. While verbal testimony is crucial, it often is not enough to prove fault in court. It’s easier to prove fault if you have physical evidence. Take photos of the scene if possible and note the conditions of the road, vehicles, and other drivers. Written and photographic evidence can help you recover more of your losses and prove fault if other drivers are nonresponsive or make false claims.
- Fault patterns. Most states’ legislation says that the vehicle at the end of an accident bears the most responsibility. In other words, the driver of the last car involved will probably bear the brunt of fault.
What Happens if an Uninsured Driver Hits You?
No one starts the day imagining themselves in a car accident. They are always unexpected, which is why car insurance is crucial for all drivers. Sometimes an accident will involve an uninsured or under-insured driver, which will influence your options for settlement and loss recovery. If you’ve been involved in an accident with an uninsured or under-insured motorist, Fowler Pickert Eisenmenger Norfleet has the resources to assist you in determining your best options with as little stress as possible.
Laws Pertaining to Uninsured Drivers in Kansas City
In Kansas City, Missouri, car insurance is required, but some motorists still drive without it. This causes a burden for insured motorists, as they are the ones who have to cover the other driver’s expenses in the event of an accident. At minimum, an uninsured driver could be asked to pay $25,000 in bodily injury damages per person injured and/or $50,000 for all bodily injuries per accident.
If an uninsured driver is unable to pay for car insurance, however, he or she may purchase uninsured motorist coverage. This protects the driver from lawsuits filed by injured parties, but does not necessarily cover the financial responsibility required to operate a vehicle. Therefore, if you are involved in an accident with an uninsured driver, you may be better off settling out of court than filing a lawsuit, as it will likely be your responsibility to pay attorney fees.
While drivers in Kansas are required to buy both uninsured and underinsured coverage, drivers in Missouri are not. Many motorists drive underinsured, meaning they often don’t have the liability coverage needed to fully compensate injured parties for damages, medical treatment, and so forth. Thus, the insurance company cannot make up the difference, and both you and the driver at fault get stuck with high repair bills and possible medical fees.
What to Do if an Uninsured Motorist Hits You
If an uninsured motorist hits you, you need to know the proper procedures to follow. First and foremost, call the police. They will take statements from all involved parties and can help any injured parties access medical attention. The police will need as many details as possible, so if you are able, write down or take photographs of anything you can see at the accident scene. This includes vehicle conditions, road conditions, injuries to yourself and other motorists or bystanders, and weather conditions. Remember that heavy precipitation causes many accidents, so make particular note of that if it’s present. Never leave the scene of an accident or move vehicles without police clearance.
Get the other driver’s contact information – name, phone number, and email address. Afterward, call your insurance company and an attorney. At Fowler Pickert Eisenmenger Norfleet, we try to keep as many cases out of court as possible to reduce legal fees and client hardship, but we will take your case to court if we feel it can be prosecuted and won.
You do have options if an uninsured motorist hits you, but they are more limited than if that person had full coverage. In many cases, underinsured drivers are harder to deal with than uninsured ones, because they have an insurance company whose job it is to prove they were not at fault. This can result in all monetary requirements falling to you, the adequately covered driver. Additionally, it’s easy for insurance companies to get into disputes that can last weeks or months while you attempt to recover from an accident. Again, your best option in this case is to contact a professional.
Missouri Distracted Driver Accident Laws
A distracted driver who fails to pay attention to the road can cause a catastrophic accident in a matter of seconds. When a driver takes his or her eyes off the road for just two seconds while driving at 30 miles per hour, it’s the equivalent of driving blind for about 85 feet. Reading a text message takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of five seconds – the equivalent of driving blindfolded across a football field at 55 miles per hour. In these few seconds, a distracted driver runs the risk of colliding with other vehicles, bicyclists, animals, and pedestrians.
The Distracted Driving Epidemic
According to statistics, distracted driving accidents have risen in tandem with the use of mobile devices. Drivers must resist the urge to send emails, use apps, and browse the internet while driving. Text messaging requires a driver’s visual, manual, and cognitive attention – all which should be focused on the road. This makes it the most dangerous form of driver distraction. Using a mobile device not only takes away a driver’s attention from the road, but it continues to distract a driver long after putting down the phone. A driver might still think about his or her emails and apps rather than the road ahead.
For instance, in 2014, car accidents involving distracted drivers injured about 431,000 people and killed 3,179. Teenage drivers tend to use mobile devices to send text messages, scroll through social media, or even record Snapchat videos. They also represent the largest proportion of distracted drivers involved in car accidents.
Driver inattention also occurs from eating, adjusting the radio, talking to passengers, personal grooming, and fiddling with a GPS. Driving while angry, sad, or when a driver is otherwise emotionally compromised can also affect judgment, leading to brash decision-making and high risk of collision. All distractions endanger drivers, passengers, and pedestrians on the roadway.
Missouri’s Anti-Texting and Distracted Driving Laws
The tremendous upsurge in distracted driving accidents prompted Missouri state lawmakers to draft laws restricting mobile use on the road. Missouri’s cell phone laws are somewhat lax compared to other states – there is no law against talking on the phone while driving – but the state does ban drivers under the age of 22 from texting while driving. A distracted driver faces fines up to $200 and two points on his or her driver’s licenses.
There are safe driving campaigns to increase awareness of distracted driving, specifically targeting young drivers. The Missouri Department of Insurance, for example, has a “MO Eyes on the Road” campaign, encouraging parents to talk to teens about safe driving and advocating the use of electronic systems to monitor teens’ driving habits.
The police can charge a driver who swerves off the road, floats between lanes, rolls through a stop sign, speeds, or causes a collision as a result of distracted driving with reckless driving. In Missouri, reckless driving is generally a Class B misdemeanor offense, punishable with fines up to $500, incarceration up to six months, and four points on a driver’s license. If the reckless driving causes an accident, then it is a Class A misdemeanor offense, punishable with fines up to $1,000, incarceration up to one year, and four points on a driver’s license. If someone files a personal injury or wrongful death claim against the distracted driver, he or she can face additional penalties and fines.
If you sustained injury or property damage in a car accident caused by a distracted driver, litigation against the negligent driver may be the only opportunity to obtain the compensation you need to recover from your injuries.
Are Car Accident Settlements Taxable?
Research suggests that most of us will be in at least one accident in our lifetimes. Once your vehicle is repaired and you have recovered from your injuries, you must still handle the details of the aftermath. While a settlement is a financial relief, keep in mind that, in certain instances, the money can still be taxed. You may be able to write off certain elements of car accidents depending on the circumstances. This can save you money, which can help you recover from any injuries or losses.
Knowing Whether Your Settlement is Taxable
In general, car accidents themselves are not taxable because so many elements are involved – who’s at fault, whether your state uses pure or modified comparative negligence, sustained injuries, and so forth. Yet the car accident settlement itself is taxable. How it is taxed depends heavily on how funds are allocated and what they are intended to do.
Allocation of funds will depend on what areas the accident affected most. For example, if a car accident keeps you out of work for several weeks or even months, you might get $20,000 or more in damages out of a $100,000 settlement. However, if you sustained minor physical injuries, only $15,000 of that $100,000 might be allocated for medical bills. The amounts of specific funds will influence how much you are taxed, but all elements are taxable. There may, however, be specific exceptions in some areas.
Lost wages are taxed in a “one-to-one comparison.” That is, you will be taxed for the exact amount of income you lost just as if you had come in to work on days you missed. There may be exceptions if your injuries result in long-term disability or psychological distress; ask your attorney and tax advisor for counsel on this issue.
You may be taxed depending on the types of injuries you sustained as well. Physical injury funds are considered taxable unless you have not previously taken deductions for out-of-pocket medical expenses. If you have not been reimbursed for previous out-of-pocket medical costs, your accident settlement funds may be exempt. Otherwise, those allocations will be taxed. Emotional and mental suffering damage will be taxed as well. Even though emotional damage cannot be easily seen, you still need to pay taxes on any funds allocated for the treatment of depression, post-traumatic stress, or other emotional disorders. However, the medical bills themselves aren’t considered taxable.
Punitive damages, which occur if someone purposely and maliciously injured you, are still taxable. This may seem counterintuitive, but in most cases punitive damages aren’t considered part of physical or emotional suffering. Rather, punitive damages are based on the other person’s behavior – whether or not he or she was found to be malicious and thus held responsible. Any monetary reward you reap from that decision is still taxable because it is not directly tied to your own suffering.
In most cases, your attorney will advise you to try to settle car accident claims out of court. When this happens, you’re likely to get a lump sum in damages. Even if you go to court, the judge may not allocate funds for specific purposes such as medical bills, physical suffering, and so forth. If your funds are not allocated, you’ll need to speak to an accountant or other tax advisor as soon as possible. Your attorney may be able to assist you, but there is no guarantee he or she can get funds re-allocated. Your tax advisor can help you determine which obligations you should meet first and whether or not you qualify for any write-offs or exemptions.
Car accident cases may be settled outside of court through negotiations by both parties involved. After you file a suit in a car accident case, your claim will go through a discovery process. Sometimes during this process, attorneys and all parties will reach an understanding for settlement. During negotiations, an auto accident attorney in Kansas City, MO will make a demand for compensation which may be accepted or rejected by the defendant. Evidence such as medical records and depositions that allow for under-oath testimony will also be part of the settlement process before a case goes to court.
A settlement outside of court is beneficial for all parties involved to decrease legal fees and avoid multiple court appearances and jury unpredictability. Any damages awarded during a settlement will also be received much faster than they would if a case goes to court. A skilled Kansas City accident attorney will help you through the legal process after a car accident, whether that means reaching a settlement or taking your case to court.
Kansas City, MO Auto Accident Attorney Free Consultation
Following a car accident, you should never speak about who is at fault, and only speak with your Kansas City auto accident attorney about the details of your case. If you are able, take as many notes and pictures, and gather as much evidence, as possible. The more information you have from the start, the better your chances of building a solid case. Record any witness information, as well as descriptions of the conditions of the road, weather, and vehicles involved.
Always get medical attention immediately, even if you only feel a few bumps or bruises. Some car accident injuries will not be felt until weeks after an accident. Getting cleared by a physician is the best way to determine the severity of your injuries from the start. Contact and retain an experienced Kansas City personal injury attorney in Kansas City, Missouri, who can help you with your case from start to finish.