14 Questions to Ask a Personal Injury Lawyer – FAQs

How To Collect Evidence for a Personal Injury Case?

If you file a legal claim in Kansas City, it will be your burden to prove the defendant’s fault for your injuries and damages in a personal injury case. The legal burden of proof always falls to the plaintiff in a civil case. You do not have as strict a burden of proof as during a criminal case. Rather than proof beyond a reasonable doubt, you must only prove your case is more likely to be true than untrue. Winning your personal injury case, however, will require a demonstration of key evidence.

How Can Photos Help My Personal Injury Case?

Evidence collection is largely a task completed by attorneys and investigators if you hire a Kansas City personal injury attorney to handle your case. Professional lawyers have resources and connections to make accident investigation and evidence collection easier for you. As the injured victim, however, you can help with evidence gathering while still at the scene of the accident. If you are well and able, collect information about the accident.

  • Photographs
  • Videos
  • The names of others involved
  • The names of eyewitnesses
  • Witness contact information
  • Insurance information
  • Date, time and location
  • Police report number

Photographs are the most important type of evidence to collect at the scene of an accident. Pictures and videos can provide undeniable proof of fault. Photographic evidence can prove that a condition existed the way you describe it, such as a dangerous property defect or vehicle damages. Photos can also help investigators and reconstructionists piece together how the accident happened to demonstrate fault to a judge or jury. Take photos at the scene of the accident and your injuries from different angles. Shoot a video as well, if possible. Turn on the date feature to capture the date and time on the digital file.

Should I See a Doctor After an Injury?

Once you leave the scene of an accident, your ability to collect evidence continues. It is critical to your personal injury case to see a doctor immediately after an injury. Delaying medical care can paint you as a plaintiff whose injuries were not serious, or who contributed to the severity of injuries by not seeing a doctor right away. Both can diminish the value of your claim and make it more difficult to recover. Some injuries have hidden symptoms. Visit a hospital after an accident even if you feel fine.

Document your medical journey as you undergo tests and treatments. The insurance company receiving your claim will want to see evidence of your injuries and medical bills. Keep copies of evidence such as test results, diagnostic statements, treatment plans, prescriptions, bills, notices from your health insurance company and letters from your physician. Medical records, documents and x-rays can help you prove the extent and type of injury you have, as well as how long your injury will take you out of work. If you wish to file a lost wage claim, keep copies of your pay stubs and letters from your employer as well.

What Other Evidence Should I Collect?

A large part of many personal injury judgment awards is pain and suffering damages. Pain and suffering describes your intangible losses, such as physical pain, emotional distress, psychological damage, lost quality of life, inconvenience and humiliation. It is up to a jury how much money to award a plaintiff in pain and suffering compensation. You can help your case by keeping an injury journal.

Starting as soon after your accident as possible, write down the details of your personal injuries. Document everything you are feeling and experiencing in writing. Describe your physical pain, emotional suffering and how your injury has impacted your life. An injury journal is something your lawyer can use as evidence to help you obtain a fair and full pain and suffering award.

What To Expect During Your First Meeting With a Personal Injury Attorney?

Meeting with a personal injury attorney for the first time can be daunting. The attorney, however, is on your side and wants to help. The attorney is there to answer your questions and provide knowledgeable legal advice. Knowing what to expect during your first meeting can help you feel more at ease when the day of your consultation with a personal injury lawyer arrives. Make your meeting as smooth and productive as possible by preparing ahead of time.

Prepare Questions for the Meeting With the Attorney

The initial consultation with a personal injury attorney is your chance to ask questions about your case. Unless you have a legal background, you most likely have a number of questions about how and why your injury happened, who may be liable, how long your case will take to resolve, and what it might be worth. To make things more efficient and ensure you do not forget any important questions, make a list before you arrive. Think of the who, what, where, when and why of your accident.

These are questions that the attorney will ask you. Tell the attorney what you can remember from the accident and bring organized notes. The attorney will listen to your story and help you fill in the blanks based on relevant laws. Then, the attorney can give you tailored advice about what to do next. Don’t forget to ask questions to determine whether or not the attorney is the right fit for you and your case.

You do not have to retain the very first personal injury lawyer you meet. Instead, schedule free consultations with a few different options in Kansas City and ask around to see which is the best match. Ask questions about the attorney’s practice area experience, years in the field, past case results and legal methods.

Ask About Attorney Fees and Contingency Fee Basis

It is important to fully understand how the attorney charges and how much his or her services will cost. Do not be afraid to ask these questions during your initial consultation. Most personal injury lawyers operate on either an hourly rate or a contingency fee basis. A contingency fee basis means the lawyer does not charge any fees for his or her legal services unless the lawyer succeeds in securing the client financial compensation. If you hire an attorney that works on a contingency fee basis, you can avoid the financial risks associated with your lawsuit. The law firm will front the costs of litigating your case. Then, if the attorney wins a settlement or jury verdict on your behalf, he or she will deduct attorney’s fees as a percentage of the overall award. If the attorney does not win financial compensation, you won’t owe anything. Ask for details about the attorney’s fee arrangement, including the percentage charged if he or she operates on a contingency fee basis.

Important Things to Remember to Bring to a Personal Injury Consultation

Finally, bring a few things with you to the consultation to give the personal injury attorney a better understanding of your case. This can help the lawyer assess your case to determine if it has merit and what it might be worth. Create an organized folder that contains copies of key documents and medical records related to your accident and injury. If you can, bring the following items to show the lawyer:

  • All of your accident-related medical treatment and medical information, bills, records and x-rays
  • Photographs of the accident, if you have any
  • A copy of the police accident report
  • A copy of your insurance policy
  • Documentation of any wages or work missed

Do not worry if you cannot bring these items to your initial consultation. If the attorney offers to represent you and you accept, collecting evidence and documentation to prove your case is one of the services the attorney can perform for you. The more information you bring about your case, however, the more you can get out of your first visit during the meeting with the attorney. If you are ready to schedule your initial consultation with a personal injury attorney in Kansas City, Missouri, contact The Dickerson Oxton Law Firm to request an initial meeting today.


What To Expect From Insurance Companies During a Personal Injury Claim?

As an injured victim of an accident, you are at risk of being taken advantage of during the personal injury claims process. Insurance companies – including your own insurance provider – do not want what is best for you. They will prioritize their own profitability and bottom lines over your wellbeing and financial recovery. It is important to know what to expect from insurance companies during your claim, so that you can protect your rights.

Insurance Representatives May Attempt to Shift Blame

Insurance companies will try many different tactics to avoid having to pay for your injuries and losses after an accident. If you get injured in a car crash, for example, the insurance company that receives your claim may try to shift blame for the collision away from its policyholder and onto you. It may attempt to do this using a police report or eyewitness statements, as well as experts and investigators hired by the insurance company. Reduce the odds of this being an issue by never admitting fault for your accident to anyone. This includes the other party involved in the accident, the police or authorities, and any representative or agent working for the insurance company. Even if insurance representatives phrase their questions to make it seem like they have proof that you are to blame, do not admit fault or accept the blame. Instead, consult with an attorney for assistance negotiating with the insurance provider. This may be a tactic the insurer is using to wrongfully deny coverage.

Should I Send a Demand Letter?

Insurance company representatives often try to convince or pressure policyholders to settle for lower amounts than they may be eligible to receive at a later date. They do this by using phrases such as “This is the best or final offer.” They may also encourage accepting a diminished value early on in the case by contacting you before you fully understand the full extent of your injuries and the medical treatment required. If you believe an insurance company is doing this in your personal injury claim, consider sending a demand letter. A demand letter is your opportunity to state your side of the case and give an amount you are willing to accept for your injuries and losses. The demand letter succinctly describes the accident, explains why the insurance company is liable and spells out your requests as the plaintiff. Upon sending your demand letter, settlement negotiations with the insurance company will begin at the number you and your personal injury attorney believe to be fair. From there, your attorney can submit a counteroffer and negotiate with the insurance provider until coming to a fair settlement.

Do I Have to Make a Statement to an Insurance Representative?

No law requires you to make a recorded statement to an insurance representative. It is typically in your best interest not to do so. Do not let scare tactics pressure you into saying yes, such as the insurance adjuster telling you that he or she cannot process your claim without a recorded statement. Be polite but affirmative in saying no to the request. The recorded statement is a tactic insurance representatives use to obtain information from you they can use against you during your case. If you underestimate your injuries in the recorded statement because it is still early in your medical treatment, for example, the insurer could use this statement as a reason to diminish the value of your claim later. Rather than giving a recorded statement over the phone when it is still too early for you to fully understand the details of your personal injury claim, contact an attorney to help you draft a written statement to send to the insurance company. Submitting a written statement will give you the time to carefully phrase your statement in a way that will not hurt your claim or diminish its value. A lawyer can protect you from all tactics an insurance company may use during your personal injury case.

What Should I Prepare For a First Consultation With an Attorney?

It is essential to come prepared for a consultation with an attorney. Many attorneys offer free consultations to prospective clients, but nothing requires them to do so. If you plan to meet with an attorney for a consultation, take time to prepare accordingly. Gather and any all paperwork related to your claims such as hospital bills, police reports, correspondence with insurance companies, or anything else that may have bearing on your claim. Before your consultation, prepare a list of questions that cover all the concerns you have about your claim.

Ask About the Attorney’s Qualifications

Start interviewing a potential attorney by asking the attorney about his or her qualifications.

  • How long have you practiced law? While some fresh attorneys may be extremely talented, you want to know your attorney has the experience necessary to navigate you to a positive result.
  • How much experience have you had with this type of claim? You would not want to hire a medical malpractice lawyer for an auto accident claim, nor would you want an employment attorney for a dog bite case. Make sure your attorney has experience with your type of claim.
  • What special credentials do you hold? See if the attorney has obtained certification from any legal associations or professional organizations, especially those pertaining to your specific claim type.

These are just a few examples. Remember, the attorney is going to work for you, so you need to ensure you hire the best person for the job and feel confident about your decision.

Ask Your Attorney About Your Damages and Potential Compensation

Your attorney should be able to give you an idea of the compensation available for your claim.

  • What type of economic damages can I recover? Your attorney should be able to address obvious economic damages like medical bills and lost income, but a good attorney will also explore additional avenues of compensation that you may not have considered, such as lost valuation on investments after a family member’s wrongful death.
  • What do I do about my expenses until I receive a settlement or case award? Your attorney should be able to offer guidance for handling mounting financial issues while you await a result in your case.

Request an Honest Opinion of Your Claim

Many Kansas City personal injury attorneys offer contingency fee billing as a means of preserving their winning track records and ensuring satisfying results for their clients. With a contingency fee, the client pays nothing in legal fees unless his or her attorney wins the case. After winning, the attorney’s fees come out of the case award or settlement.

  • What type of billing do you use? If the attorney offers contingency fee billing and offers to take your case, this is a good sign you have a valid claim. An attorney will not risk wasting time and resources on a case that is likely to fail.
  • Do you think I can win? Your case may appear straightforward at first, or there could be elements in play working in your favor you may not have realized. Your attorney should be able to provide an accurate assessment of the strength of your claim.
  • How long will my case take? The vast majority of personal injury claims settle out of court, so the attorney should let you know if he or she sees any indication your claim could take longer and identify potentially complicating factors.

These are just a few examples of questions you should ask a potential attorney. Ultimately, you need to feel confident about your choice of lawyer, so take time to develop more questions unique to your case so you can come to your first case review prepared.

Do All Personal Injury Cases Have to Go to Trial?

For some injured accident victims, the hesitation to reach out to an attorney and file a personal injury claim comes from a reluctance to go to trial. An injury trial can be long and drawn-out, as well as expensive for those involved. Luckily, the vast majority of personal injury cases do not go to trial. Instead, they successfully settle during one of a few options for alternative dispute resolution.

How to Settle a Personal Injury Case Out of Court

Your personal injury case will not proceed immediately to trial after you file a claim against one or multiple parties for allegedly causing your injuries. The first step will be discussions and negotiations with the defendant’s insurance company if the company accepts your claim. If the company does not accept your claim, you may need to take the defendant straight to trial. In most cases, however, an insurance company will agree to negotiate a settlement with an injured claimant in Kansas City.

  • Settlement negotiations. Most personal injury claims only go to the insurance settlement stage before resolving. Settlement negotiations involve you (or your lawyer) and the insurance company of the at-fault party going back and forth with amounts you both believe are fair to settle the case. You may receive an offer from the insurance company, counter it with your own offer and continue negotiations until you both reach an amount that satisfies you. If the insurer does not offer a suitable amount, continue to the next stage.
  • Mediation is a popular type of alternative dispute resolution in which you, the defendant and your lawyers (if desired) meet with a mediator to work out an agreement. The mediator will not have the power to issue a decree or order you or the defendant to reach an agreement. Mediation works simply by offering an unbiased third party’s perspective to help clarify the matter and allow both parties to compromise. Mediation can be as informal or formal as the parties wish.
  • If mediation fails, you and the defendant can try arbitration before going to trial. Arbitration is similar to mediation in design, except that the arbitrator overseeing the process will have the power to create a binding decision for the parties involved. If both parties agree to the arbitrator’s decision, the personal injury claim can end here. If one or both parties do not accept the decision, the case may have to go to trial.

The best way to improve your chances of settling a personal injury case out of court is to contact an attorney. An injury lawyer can represent you as a plaintiff during all pre-trial negotiations and alternative dispute resolutions. Legal representation can increase the odds of reaching a successful settlement with an insurance company, as a lawyer will know what tactics and strategies to use against a claims adjuster. Your lawyer also will not let you settle for less than your claim demands. If the insurer refuses to offer a fair settlement during alternative dispute resolutions, your lawyer can help make an injury trial easier.

Tips for Successful Alternative Dispute Resolution

In most cases, the plaintiff and defendant can work out a suitable arrangement during some type of pre-trial negotiation. Most plaintiffs wish to avoid trials to save time and stress, while most defendants wish to avoid the expense. Both parties are motivated to work something out without attending a personal injury trial. As an injured party, you may be able to improve your chances of avoiding your day in court by entering into negotiations with an open mind. Both parties should be open to hearing the other side’s offer, negotiating and compromising. You should not, however, feel pressured to accept a lowball offer. Use a personal injury attorney to help you achieve a positive outcome, recover fair compensation and avoid a trial, if possible.


What Is the Difference Between Personal Injury & Bodily Injury?

They may sound the same, but personal injury and bodily injury are two different things on a legal level. You may hear the phrase personal injury during a civil claim, while bodily injury is more common in a criminal case. They also refer to two different types of auto insurance coverage. Understanding the difference between these two terms can help you navigate the legal process during an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit in Missouri. A personal injury attorney can explain these concepts in more detail during a free consultation.

What Is Personal Injury?

Personal injury is a type of civil lawsuit in Missouri. It is a legal remedy available to victims who have been injured by the negligent or reckless acts of others. If someone is negligent, it means that person has been careless and has injured someone else. Examples of negligence are texting while driving and failing to maintain a safe premises. Filing a personal injury claim in Missouri can result in financial compensation to make the victim whole again. This compensation can pay for the following damages:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Property damage
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Punitive damages

The burden of proof in a personal injury claim in Missouri is a preponderance of the evidence. This means enough evidence to prove that the defendant more likely than not caused the injuries and damages in question. A personal injury lawyer can help you with this burden of proof by collecting evidence to show that the defendant owed you a duty of care (a requirement to act in a reasonable manner), breached this duty and caused your accident.

What Is Bodily Injury?

Bodily injury is a term more commonly found in criminal law. In the criminal justice system, a bodily injury is a physical injury to a victim’s body. For example, if a physical assault caused a victim a significant bodily injury, the defendant may face harsher penalties. You may also hear the term bodily injury during your personal injury lawsuit. In this respect, bodily injury refers to the specific physical injury you suffered in the accident, such as broken bones, back injuries or lacerations. It does not refer to mental, emotional or psychological injuries.

Can Personal Injury Protection Insurance Help in a Personal or Bodily Injury?

Another main difference between personal injury and bodily injury exists within the insurance system. Personal injury protection insurance, or PIP, is a required type of auto insurance in no-fault states. In these states, drivers seek benefits from their own PIP insurance, regardless of fault for the car accident. Bodily injury liability insurance, on the other hand, pays for someone else’s losses after an accident the driver causes in a fault-based state. Missouri is a fault state, meaning personal injury protection insurance is not mandatory. If you do have this optional type of coverage on your policy, however, it can pay for your medical bills if you suffer a personal or bodily injury in a car accident. Your PIP insurance can pay for medical costs whether you caused the accident or not. It can also pay if you were in a collision involving an uninsured or underinsured driver. If you did not cause the car accident, you will most likely seek financial compensation from the auto insurance provider of the at-fault driver. All drivers in Missouri must carry minimum amounts of bodily injury liability insurance. The other driver’s insurance would pay for your medical bills. If you were at fault for the collision but do not have personal injury protection insurance, however, you may have to pay for your medical costs out of pocket.

Do I Need to Hire a Personal Injury Attorney to File a Claim?

If you get injured in an accident in Kansas City, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Whether or not you need to hire a personal injury attorney to represent you during the claim depends on the details of your case. Although no law requires you to hire a lawyer, it can be beneficial to plaintiffs and defendants alike. Find out the best circumstances to hire a personal injury attorney.

Cases That Often Require Professional Legal Assistance

You are not obligated to hire an attorney in a civil lawsuit in Missouri. Doing so, however, could be integral to the success of your case. Most people can handle simple or small injury claims on their own to save on legal fees. If you have a serious or complicated personal injury case, however, you could benefit from hiring an attorney. Some examples of cases that may require an attorney include:

  • High-stakes cases, such as those involving catastrophic injuries
  • Claims that are worth more than $10,000
  • Cases with liability disputes or multiple defendants
  • Cases where the plaintiff shares liability
  • Claims where the insurance company is taking advantage of the claimant
  • Cases involving the wrongful death of a victim

In general, you should hire a personal injury lawyer if you suffered serious injuries, you have already maxed out the available insurance limits, you need assistance negotiating with an insurance company or you don’t wish to research the law on your own. You can always schedule a free consultation in Kansas City to learn more about your case and the surrounding laws at no cost or obligation.

Can I Hire a Personal Injury Attorney for Small Claims in Missouri?

In most instances, you do not need an attorney for a small claim, or a claim that is worth less than $10,000. You should be able to handle this type of case on your own and still recover fair financial compensation for your losses. That being said, there are situations when consulting with an attorney can be beneficial. If you are unsure of the value of your claim or whether an insurance company is offering an adequate settlement, for example, an attorney can answer these questions for you.  You may need to hire a lawyer for a small claim if you run into obstacles during your claim or if the other side of your case has hired a lawyer. Certain personal injury lawyers will not take on clients in the small claims court. This is because the payout would not be worth the attorney’s time, as most personal injury lawyers work for a percentage of the client’s final payout. You will have to search for an attorney who specifically accepts small claims. 

What Are the Benefits of Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer?

If you’re on the fence about hiring a personal injury attorney to represent you, consider the pros and cons. Although each case is unique, in general, having an attorney represent you can lead to the following advantages:

  • You can rest and relax while an attorney does the legal work for you.
  • You don’t have to understand the law or how to navigate a lawsuit.
  • You won’t rush into a settlement that undervalues your injuries.
  • You will have the means to fight for maximum financial compensation for a serious injury.
  • You will increase the chances of a successful case outcome.

If you want to hire a lawyer but are worried about how much one will cost, find an attorney who is willing to take your case on a contingency fee basis. At Dickerson Oxton, for example, our personal injury lawyers only charge if they win the case. If we succeed in securing financial compensation for you, you will pay out of your settlement or judgment award. This means you’ll never pay out of pocket for your attorney. 

Can I File a Personal Injury Case If My Child Was Injured?

Children are just as prone to serious injuries from accidents as adults, if not more so. Motor vehicle collisions, school and daycare accidents, falls, dog attacks, defective toys, playground accidents, and drowning lead to thousands of child injuries each year. According to Stanford Children’s Health, approximately 12,000 children are killed by unintentional injuries annually. If your child was injured by someone else’s careless or reckless act in Missouri, you may be able to file a personal injury case for financial compensation for your losses.

What Damages Can Be Recovered?

Bringing a personal injury claim for an injury to a child could lead to monetary compensation for both the losses your child suffered and the losses of your family. If another person or party is found liable (legally responsible) for your child’s injury, that party will have to pay for your present and future related expenses. The financial compensation, or damages, that could be recovered with this type of claim include:

  • Medical costs (past and future)
  • Physical therapy and rehabilitation
  • Disability accommodations and special education
  • Your lost wages from having to take time off of work
  • Your child’s pain and suffering
  • Your emotional distress
  • Punitive damages (for a defendant’s egregious wrongdoing)
  • Legal expenses and out-of-pocket costs
  • Funeral and burial costs, in the case of wrongful death

The value of your personal injury case is based on the severity of your child’s injuries, whether your child will suffer long-term symptoms from the injury, the cost of your medical expenses, your child’s age and overall health, the amount of insurance available, and many other factors.

What Elements Are Needed for a Child Injury Case?

Before you and your family can recover compensation, you or your child injury lawyer must establish negligence. Negligence is the grounds on which most personal injury lawsuits are based in Missouri. The legal definition of negligence is failing to act with a reasonable degree of care, resulting in injury or harm to others. Your lawyer must establish four elements to prove negligence in a child injury case:

  1. Duty of care. The at-fault party (defendant) must have had an obligation to act in a reasonable manner toward your child.
  2. Dereliction of duty. There must be evidence that the defendant acted outside of his or her duty of care. In other words, that the defendant was negligent.
  3. Direct cause. The defendant’s act or omission must be the direct cause of your child’s injury, illness or death.
  4. Your child and/or family must have suffered specific damages as a result of the defendant’s actions.

The burden of proof is a preponderance of the evidence, or clear and convincing evidence that the defendant is at least 50 percent responsible for the injury. An attorney can help you meet this burden of proof by preserving and gathering evidence, hiring qualified experts, and taking other steps to build a compelling claim on your child’s behalf. An attorney can also file your lawsuit by Missouri’s deadline – when the child reaches age 21.

What If I Can’t Afford an Attorney’s Legal Fees?

Hiring an attorney is an important part of a child injury lawsuit. If you are worried about how your family will afford an attorney’s legal fees, find an attorney who operates on a contingency basis. With this fee setup, your family won’t pay attorney’s fees unless your lawyer obtains financial compensation on your behalf. At Dickerson Oxton, LLC, our No-Win, No-Fee Promise means that if we don’t win your case, you won’t pay – guaranteed. If we do win, we will deduct our fees directly from the settlement or jury verdict obtained rather than billing you out of pocket. This ensures that every family has access to high-quality legal representation for a case involving a child injury. Contact us today for more information.

How Do I Pay Medical Bills After a Personal Injury?

When dealing with a personal injury, your finances might be the last thing you wish to think about. Yet in the days following your accident, you could receive phone calls from medical providers, insurance companies and bill collectors demanding payment. Whether you can afford your medical bills out of pocket or not, you may not lawfully have an obligation to pay them. Someone else could be responsible for covering the costs of your personal injury treatments in Kansas City.

Fault vs. No-Fault States (for Auto Accidents)

Special rules apply to car accident cases as opposed to other types of personal injuries, such as slip and falls. As a general rule, the person who caused your auto accident will not have to pay for your medical bills on an ongoing basis. Instead, another party (such as you or your insurance company) will have to pay upfront, then wait for a settlement or judgment award from the defendant to reimburse you for what you have spent, as well as what you will foreseeably spend in the future. This is the typical process in a fault-based car insurance state, such as Missouri.

In a no-fault state, however, such as Kansas, you may receive payment upfront from your insurance company instead of having to wait. Your personal injury protection car insurance will cover your medical bills regardless of who caused the accident. Your insurance company will front your medical costs up to the limits of your policy, after which you will have to pay out of pocket. If you have health insurance, your health insurer may pick up the remaining costs. You may also be able to file a claim against the at-fault driver in a no-fault state if you suffered serious enough injuries.

Med Pay Car Insurance

Another exception to the rule after a car accident is if you have med pay insurance. This is an optional form of insurance in most states that will cover the costs of your medical bills even if you were at fault for the crash. If you have med pay on your auto insurance policy, your own provider will pay for your medical expenses. Then, your provider may file a claim with the at-fault driver for reimbursement later.

Non-Car Accident Claims

If you suffer an injury in an accident other than a car crash, you may have to pay your medical bills out of pocket or through your health insurance company until you can obtain a settlement from the at-fault party. If you cannot afford to pay your medical bills, consider hiring an experienced Kansas City personal injury attorney. A lawyer may be able to negotiate with a health insurance company for upfront coverage of the costs of your medical bills until the successful resolution of your case. Then, your lawyer can help you file a claim or lawsuit against the defendant for compensation. Upon receiving a settlement or verdict, part of your award will go to the insurer to repay your medical debts.

Workplace Accidents

Work-related accidents could lead to serious and debilitating injuries. You may suffer a catastrophic injury that requires thousands of dollars in medical care and forces you to stay home from work. The entity responsible for paying your medical bills after a workplace accident depends on the situation.

In most cases (unless you caused your own injuries through horseplay or a broken law), your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance should pay your medical costs. Filing a workers’ comp claim will lead to regular checks to pay for your lost wages and medical costs until the date you recover from your injuries. You should not have to pay for your medical care out of pocket after a workplace accident and a workplace injury lawyer will help you through the process.

Is a Personal Injury Lawsuit Settlement Taxable?

If you recently won a substantial settlement or jury verdict in a personal injury lawsuit, you may wonder how much of your windfall the government can take in taxes. Depending on the type of compensation you received, the government may not have the ability to tax it, and your attorney can help you determine which types of compensation could qualify for taxation.

Taxation for Different Types of Compensation

Both federal and state laws prevent taxation of any proceeds from a personal injury claim involving a physical injury or illness. For accidents, a plaintiff who succeeds with a personal injury claim for a back injury after a car accident could receive compensation for his or her medical expenses, ongoing treatment and rehabilitation costs, lost income from time missed from work, and the pain and suffering caused by his or her injuries. Since these damages resulted from a physical injury, the government would not tax any of it. The law is very clear, however, concerning the distinction of “physical” injury. The plaintiff in a personal injury claim must have suffered some kind of measurable, observable injury or illness resulting from the defendant’s negligence to ensure his or her lawsuit proceeds are safe from taxation. For example, if you filed a personal injury claim purely for economic losses or for emotional suffering, the proceeds would not be immune to taxation since they did not result from a physical injury or illness.

Multiple Claims in One Lawsuit

It is also possible for a plaintiff to claim compensation for different kinds of damages in a single lawsuit. For example, a person hires a contractor to renovate his or her house, and the contract stipulates the contractor will ensure worksite safety. The contractor fails to do so and not only causes an accident resulting in severe property damage but also injures the client. In this situation, the client would have grounds for both a breach of contract lawsuit and a personal injury lawsuit due to the contractor’s negligence. In this example, the damages collected from the breach of contract claim would qualify for taxation since they do not pertain to a physical injury. The damages related to the personal injury claim, such as the plaintiff’s medical expenses, lost income from recovery time, and pain and suffering, would not qualify for taxation. If you have a claim against someone else that involves different claims, you must ensure your attorney can explain how your compensation applies to your damages. Following the example of a breach of contract in conjunction with a personal injury, it is in the plaintiff’s best interests tax-wise to claim the majority of compensation through the personal injury damages, not the breach of contract.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages in a personal injury lawsuit are almost always taxable. If you receive any type of punitive damages from your lawsuit it is best to ask the judge for a clear explanation of your damages so you can prove your tax obligation to the IRS if necessary. Punitive damages are a means of further punishing a defendant in a personal injury claim for egregiously negligent or criminal behavior. The defendant may face criminal charges from the state as well, but the state’s job is to ensure justice, not to provide recovery to the victim. Punitive damages are therefore a punitive form of compensation and do not qualify for tax-exemption like other damages. If you have any concerns about your tax obligations from a personal injury settlement or jury award, you should consult your Kansas City personal injury lawyer and see how he or she plans to delineate the different types of compensation in your claim for tax purposes. If you fail to pay taxes as required on your lawsuit, you may face a heavy tax penalty, fines, or possibly even fraud charges.

How Long Will My Personal Injury Case Take?

One aspect of personal injury law that many potential plaintiffs fail to address when they start their claims is the time it can take to reach a settlement or jury verdict. Even seemingly straightforward personal injury claims can take months or even years to reach any kind of result, and the plaintiff may worry about mounting personal expenses and other financial issues as they await compensation for their damages.

Navigating State Laws

The first step in determining how long your personal injury case will take is to ensure your claim meets the statute of limitations. In most states, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is two years starting on the date the injury occurs, but the statute could be three years or longer in some states. It is crucial to file your complaint within the statute of limitations, otherwise, the defendant can simply file a motion to dismiss due to the missed time limit. Once a plaintiff’s Kansas City personal injury attorney serves the defendant with the complaint, the lawsuit process officially begins. The defense has an opportunity to respond to the initial complaint. If little room for argument exists and fault for the plaintiff’s claimed damages is clear, the defendant may move to settle the claim as soon as possible.

Settlement: Pros and Cons

The vast majority of personal injury lawsuits never reach a courtroom; it is generally in the best interests of both parties to settle the matter as quickly as possible. The longer the case continues, the more expensive each side’s legal fees become. The plaintiff may face economic damages and need a settlement as soon as possible, so he or she could agree to a lower settlement in exchange for a speedier resolution. On the other side of the table, the defense may pay a little more than originally expected if fault is clear and he or she simply wants to move past the issue as soon as possible. Settlement offers an opportunity to settle a personal injury case quickly, but any plaintiff should recognize the difference between the settlement value of a claim and its potential trial value. A plaintiff can generally win a much more substantial claim by taking a case to trial, but this is a much longer process than settlement. If the plaintiff’s damages are relatively small, settling quickly is usually the best option. If the plaintiff incurred tens of thousands of dollars in damages and suffered severe, painful injuries, moving to a trial can help ensure an appropriate amount of compensation.

Time-Consuming Factors of Personal Injury Litigation

If settlement negotiations fail in a personal injury claim, the case will proceed to the trial phase. The trial preparation stage is complicated and requires a great deal of research, investigation, and correspondence between the two parties. Some personal injury claims may involve more than two parties, further complicating an already complex process. The different sides of the case must exchange all their evidence, documentation, and other materials related to a case in a process called discovery. This can take weeks, months, or even longer for highly complex claims. The different sides of a personal injury case will also conduct depositions with the participating members of both sides of the case. A deposition is a question-and-answer session taken under oath, and the different sides of the case will likely conduct several rounds of questioning, interrogatories, and other meetings to prepare for the trial. Some personal injury cases like brain injury lawsuits, spinal cord injury claims, or auto accident claims involving multiple drivers can also involve a great deal of investigation. Expert witnesses may review the evidence available in the case and provide professional insights in different capacities. A plaintiff’s attorney may call on an expert to testify in support of the plaintiff’s claim for lost future earning capacity. A defense attorney could consult a safety expert to prove the plaintiff was partially negligent for a claimed auto accident. Ultimately, any personal injury case has the potential to escalate into a time-consuming, complicated ordeal that can take months or even years to resolve, but most will settle relatively quickly without ever going to trial.

What Is the Personal Injury Claims Process in Missouri?

If you have reason to file a personal injury claim, prepare for what may be a long and complicated legal process. Although you may wish to resolve your claim as quickly as possible, it is important not to rush into a settlement. With help from a personal injury lawyer in Missouri, you can navigate the personal injury claims process in a way that will optimize your results.

Attorney Will Examine If the PI Case Is Worth Pursuing

First, you will meet with a personal injury attorney for an initial consultation. The consultation allows you to ask questions and get answers from a trained and experienced legal professional. It also serves as a case evaluation, where the attorney will examine whether or not your case is worth pursuing, along with the probability of success. To prepare for your initial consultation, create a list of questions about your accident. Ask questions about the attorney’s experience and credentials, as well. If you have any documents related to your accident, such as medical records, evidence of missed work or an accident report, bring these with you to the consultation. If the lawyer believes your case has merit, he or she may offer to represent you.

Independent Medical Examination After Injury

In general, an injured victim will seek medical care from the nearest hospital or his or her primary care doctor after an accident. If you get injured in an accident, you decide who is in charge of your initial medical treatment. Your attorney or the attorney for the defendant’s side of your personal injury case, however, may request that you also get an independent medical examination (IME). An IME is normally performed by a licensed doctor who has experience or special training in the area of medicine related to your case. Although the name makes it seem like an IME is unbiased, your lawyer will tell you it is anything but; in many personal injury cases, the insurance company chooses the doctor performing the IME for a reason. Your lawyer can advise you on whether or not to submit to an independent medical examination, what to expect during your IME, and how the IME report might factor into your claim.

The Attorney Negotiates for a Settlement

Almost all personal injury claims in Missouri settle. This means the parties involved in the dispute resolve the case on their own, without involving a judge or jury. Your personal injury attorneys will attempt to reach a settlement by preparing a demand letter and sending it to the defendant’s insurance provider. Your lawyer will frame the demand letter in a way that will increase your odds of obtaining a fair and full amount for injuries and losses. Your lawyer can add up your economic damages and accurately calculate your noneconomic damages (pain and suffering) to demand the right amount. Then, your lawyer can negotiate with the insurance claims adjuster for the settlement you deserve.

A Personal Injury Lawsuit Is Filed

If the insurance company refuses to acknowledge the real value of your case, or if you receive a wrongful claim denial, your attorney can file a personal injury lawsuit with the civil courts in your county against the defendant. A lawsuit has several parts:

  1. Discovery phase
  2. Mediation and negotiation
  3. Pretrial motions
  4. Jury selection
  5. Personal injury trial
  6. Jury deliberation and verdict
  7. Appeal, in some cases

What Is Personal Injury Protection And What Does It Cover?

Personal injury protection insurance, also known as PIP insurance, is a mandatory type of auto insurance in no-fault states. It is a kind of first-party insurance coverage, meaning it pays for the expenses of the policyholder rather than a third party after an auto accident. Only certain states require personal injury protection insurance. Find out if and when personal injury protection coverage may impact your car accident claim in Kansas City, Missouri.

Does Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Cover Medical Bills?

Yes, personal injury protection insurance covers your medical bills after an auto accident. Regardless of who caused the crash – including if you were at fault or if you were the only driver involved in the crash – your own PIP insurance will pay for your past and future medical costs, up to your policy’s coverage limit. Coverage for medical expenses can pay for:

  • Ambulance fees
  • Hospital stays
  • Time spent in an ICU
  • Diagnostic services, such as x-rays
  • Emergency surgeries and other treatments
  • Specialists
  • Travel costs to see a doctor
  • Dental and optometric treatment
  • Medications and prescriptions
  • Medical devices and prosthetics
  • Physical therapy
  • Rehabilitation
  • Live-in care

In addition to medical bills, PIP insurance can also cover lost wages if you are unable to work due to your car accident. If a crash causes the death of a loved one, PIP insurance can also help pay for funeral expenses. Finally, personal injury protection insurance can pay for substitute household services in some cases, such as cleaning your home, if you are unable to fulfill these tasks yourself due to your injury.

PIP insurance does not cover injuries to others injured in an auto accident, other than passengers in your vehicle. Only bodily injury liability insurance covers victims outside of your vehicle. PIP coverage also does not pay for property damage to your vehicle or other people’s property. You would need collision or comprehensive car insurance to cover these damages using a first-party claim.

How Much Is the Average Personal Injury Protection Settlement?

This answer depends on the facts and details specific to the car accident case. The value of a PIP insurance settlement is based on factors such as the severity of the victim’s injury, the cost of medical expenses, permanent debilitation and more. It also depends on the coverage limits, as PIP insurance will not pay for damages that exceed the maximum amount on the policy.

A victim may be able to obtain a greater sum for his or her auto accident injuries with a third-party insurance claim against another driver, such as a driver who carelessly or recklessly caused the crash. In this case, the other driver’s insurance company can supplement the victim’s personal injury protection insurance to fully reimburse the victim for losses.

If the driver lives in a no-fault insurance state that requires PIP insurance, however, he or she can most likely only file a third-party claim if the driver suffered serious bodily injuries. The injuries must be severe enough to meet the state’s serious injury threshold before filing a fault-based claim outside of the PIP insurance system.

Is Personal Injury Protection Required in Missouri?

Currently, 17 states require personal injury protection insurance. In five states and the District of Columbia, PIP is available but not a required type of insurance. Missouri is not a state that requires PIP insurance. It is a fault-based state that does not require its drivers to seek coverage from their own insurance providers if someone else is at fault.

If you get into a car accident in Missouri, you will have the right to seek financial compensation from the liability insurance coverage of the at-fault driver. If you caused the accident, however, or the other driver does not have insurance, you will need to turn to your own provider for coverage. A car accident attorney in Missouri can help you with your claim.

What If You Miss the Filing Deadline for a Personal Injury Claim in Missouri?

Every state has deadlines on bringing personal injury claims. The laws that enact these deadlines are called statutes of limitations. It is critical to know and obey your deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit in Missouri. Otherwise, your case may not stand, and the defendant’s attorney will most likely file a motion to dismiss.

What Is the Filing Deadline for a Personal Injury Claim in Missouri?

According to the Revised Statutes of Missouri (RSMo) Section 516.120, all personal injury actions must be brought within five years from the date of injury. This Missouri Statute states that all claimants – with only a few exceptions – have five years from the date of the underlying accident and injury to file a formal complaint. This deadline applies whether the case is brought on the basis of negligence or an intentional tort.

Different types of civil claims come with different deadlines. If you wish to bring a lawsuit for the wrongful death of a loved one, for example, the statute of limitations in Missouri is three years from the date of death. If the defendant(s) in your case is a government entity, you only have 90 days from the date of injury to file a formal complaint against the state or city.

Can I Still File a Claim After the Statute of Limitations Has Passed?

For the most part, if you try to file a claim after the statute of limitations has passed, it will not proceed to the next step. The civil courthouse where you file your paperwork will refuse to hear the cause of action due to the missed deadline. Even if the courts accept your case, expect the defendant(s) to file a motion to dismiss the case since the statute of limitations has passed.

A motion to dismiss is a legal request that can be filed by either side of a personal injury lawsuit at any time during legal proceedings in an attempt to have the courts dismiss the case. It is most commonly filed by a defendant at the start of a lawsuit. There can be many reasons for a motion to dismiss, including administrative errors such as a missed statute of limitations. If the court grants the motion to dismiss, it rules the complaint legally invalid – effectively ending the claim.

Are There Exceptions to the Five-Year Statute of Limitations?

The majority of personal injury claims in Missouri must be filed within at least five years of the date of the injury. Waiting too long will bar you from financial recovery, even if you had valid grounds for a lawsuit. There are, however, some exceptions to the five-year statute of limitations. If an exception applies to your case, it can toll – or extend – the deadline, giving you more time to file. Three of these exceptions are:

  1. The discovery rule. Not all injuries are immediately apparent. If you do not discover your injury or illness right away, you will have five years from the date you discovered or reasonably should have discovered your injury through due diligence to file.
  2. Legal disability. RSMo Section 516.170 states that an injured person under 21 years of age or who is mentally incapacitated has five years to bring the case once the period of “legal disability” is over.
  3. Out-of-state defendant. According to RSMo Section 516.200, there is an extension if the defendant travels to a different state. In most cases, the period of absence will not count toward Missouri’s five-year statute of limitations.

Contact a Kansas City Personal Injury Lawyer 

It is important to contact a personal injury lawyer in Missouri as soon as possible after an auto accident or injury you believe was caused by someone else’s careless or wrongful acts. Consulting with personal injury attorneys right away can ensure that you bring your claim by the state’s deadline. A Kansas City lawyer can explain your statute of limitations, make case filing more efficient and guide you through the rest of the legal process for optimal results. To discuss the specifics of your case with our experienced injury attorneys contact us for a free consultation.