Traffic accidents remain a significant source of personal injury and death in Kansas City. In 2008, the National Traffic Safety Administration reported that 32 people were killed each month in passenger car accidents statewide. Over 5.8 million auto accidents occurred nationwide that same year injuring more than 1.6 million people. The shocking reality is that car accidents are incredibly common and when they do happen, the aftermath of their wake leaves victims injured and families forever changed. Along with personal injury, automobile accident victims and families often incur enormous medical bills for visits to emergency rooms and specialists. Because of this, it is crucial to hire a Kansas City car accident attorney who will fight for you and help you recover damages and secure the fair compensation you deserve.
No one expects to be involved in a serious car accident, but when it happens it’s important to be prepared. Finding a quality Kansas City car accident attorney will make the process of dealing with insurance and processing a lawsuit.
Accidents can happen at anytime and involve many types of motorists. At Dickerson Oxton, LLC, our car accident attorneys have experience dealing with numerous forms of auto accidents, and all of the legal troubles that come with them, including but not limited to:
- Drunk Driver Collisions
- Truck Accidents
- Motorcycle Accidents
- Distracted Driver Crash
- Pedestrian Accidents
- Bicycle Accidents
- Rear-end Collisions
Car Accident Statistics in Kansas and Missouri (2015)
In 2015, more than 35,000 people were killed in auto accidents across the country, the most since 2008 and a 4.5 percent increase over 2014. While car accident fatalities are on the rise overall, it varies at the state level. For instance, Kansas saw 355 fatalities in 2015, a 7.8 percent decrease from 2014. Meanwhile, Missouri saw 869 fatalities for a 13.4 percent increase over 2014. Corresponding with the uptick in 2015, Missouri’s motor vehicle fatality rate has historically hovered slightly above the national average.
Car Accident Fatalities
In recent years, there has been a sizable reduction in DUI accidents, along with an increase in safety belt usage, but the total number of fatal and injury accidents have gone up. One possible culprit of this is distracted driving, much of which is related to increased cell phone use.
In Kansas alone, driver inattention was the number one cause of accidents, at 20.7 percent. In Missouri, they caused 27 percent. Texting and driving is the most dangerous form of this, because it takes your mind, hands and eyes off the road. In fact, your eyes are off the road for an average of five seconds when using your phone while driving; if you are traveling 55 mph, that’s enough time to travel the length of an entire football field.
Contrary to popular belief, new drivers (those aged 14-19) were not the most common culprit of distracted driving. In Kansas, drivers aged 20-24 were responsible for roughly 25 percent of injury accidents involving cell phone use. More than one-third of drivers have admitted to using a cell phone while driving. As more young drivers are getting their license and cell phone use is continually rising, many efforts are being made to curb cell phone use.
Young drivers are also much more likely to be behind the wheel in accidents involving excessive speed – both fatal and non-fatal crashes. In Kansas, over 55 percent of speed related crashes were attributed to drivers between the age of 15 and 29.
Age Distribution of Drivers In Kansas Speed Related Crashes (2014)
Determining Who Is At Fault
Under state law, Kansas City automobile accident fault is determined by the law of negligence. Drivers commuting on public and private roads have what is known as a “Duty of Care” to those sharing the road with them. This duty was created to ensure the safety of those around the driver and extends to pedestrians and cyclists alike. When a driver breaches this duty, thus acting negligently, then that driver is said to be “at fault” or the “causation of” a given accident. Negligence by definition is a conduct that a person engages in which is culpable in that it falls short of what a reasonable person would or would not do in a given situation.
Missouri and Kansas Liability Laws
In order for someone to be proven negligent in a car accident in which an injury occurs, five things would have to be true.
- Duty – The other person, a.k.a the defendant, owed a duty of care to you, the plaintiff. This is true every time a person drives a car. A duty is owed to all the other drivers that you drive as safely as possible.
- Breach of Duty – By failing to exercise reasonable care, the defendant put you in jeopardy. If the defendant was speeding, inattentive or under the influence, these would all qualify as actions which breached the duty of care.
- Cause in Fact – The actions of the defendant directly caused harm to you and/or your property, and would not have happened otherwise if the defendant wasn’t careless.
- Proximate Cause – This means that the potential harm caused by the plaintiff should have been foreseeable, which may be the most difficult aspect of negligence to prove, depending on the situation.
All four of these things would have to be true in a negligence claim stemming from an injury accident. Deciding how much they were at fault may be another issue.
Missouri operates under the comparative fault rule, which means that fault is determined as a percentage. For example, if you are awarded $10,000 in damages from an auto accident, but were found to be 25 percent at fault, you would only receive $7,500 of that. Things that may change your percentage of fault depend on whether you were wearing a seatbelt or whether you disobeyed any rules of the road. Kansas has a modified comparative fault rule, which means that if you are found to be 50 percent or more at fault, you won’t receive any compensation at all.
While many different behaviors and acts can constitute negligent driving, several stand out as the root for a majority of Kansas City automobile accidents. Such acts include:
- Traveling with excessive speed
- Driving under the influence (DUI)
- Running stop signs or ignoring other posted signage
- Failing to yield the right of way
- Texting while driving
As mentioned before, there are a number of varying situations that give rise to automobile accidents. If you feel that a negligent driver was at fault in your accident, contact an experienced Kansas City car accident attorney as soon as possible.
Statute of Limitations in Kansas and Missouri
In Kansas, the statute of limitations to file an injury claim is two years. In Missouri, it’s five years. In both states, the clock starts from when the incident first occurred that caused the injury or damage, as opposed to when the injury was discovered. These limitations only apply to the deadline for filing a case in court; the deadlines and process for filing an insurance claim may very well be different.
The statute of limitation laws are why it’s crucial to seek medical attention as soon as possible after an accident. Because neither state operates under the discovery rule, it doesn’t matter when an injury is discovered. However, if you do not go to a doctor as soon as possible, the defendant’s insurance may try to deny compensation by saying that your injuries must not have been bad enough to require extensive care.
How To File An Auto Insurance Claim in Missouri
Missouri has a required minimum insurance coverage of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident, along with $10,000 to cover any third-party property damage. In order to file a claim, you will need the following information:
- Your full name and policy number, along with its start and end date.
- Date and time of the accident.
- Names, addresses and phone numbers of all other involved drivers.
- Driver’s license and license plate numbers of the other driver.
All of this is why documenting the scene of the accident is so important. Along with collecting the pertinent information of the other driver, you should photograph any street signs or lights, talk to witnesses and accurately assess property damage, if you are able. The more facts you have, the more likely you are to win your settlement claim. It bears repeating that you should never admit fault; even saying “I’m sorry” could be misconstrued as an admission of guilt. At the scene, limit your conversation of the accident to the police officer and your own insurance agent.
After the accident, call your insurance as soon as possible to give them these details. Every situation is different and may require unique documentation; your insurer will provide you with any necessary forms. There will need to be a damage assessment on your vehicle in order to determine the cost of the repairs. Filing a claim with your insurance has become much simpler. If your insurer has an app, you can do so without even talking to anyone.
Should I Give a Written Statement to Insurance?
This is not required by law and is generally a bad idea. The other person’s insurance adjuster may ask whether you took any over-the-counter medicine or if something upset you earlier on the day of the accident. Your answers to these questions, however mundane and irrelevant you think they are, could be used against you as proof that you were at fault.
It’s a different story if you are talking to your own insurance. They may require you to sign something as part of their own protocol. If you are unsure what to do in this regard, or if something just doesn’t seem right to you, an experienced car accident attorney can help you determine any potentially compromising actions in the aftermath of an accident.
When Not To Talk
After you have been in an automobile accident, you can pretty much be guaranteed that you will be contacted by the other party’s insurance company. This communication may come via letter or phone call. It is of the utmost importance to respectfully decline to speak with anyone associated with their insurance company without legal counsel present. Insurance adjusters will often call you asking for more information or an option to “settle now.” These tactics were developed by insurance agencies in order for them to maximize profits and leave victims devoid of any kind of compensation.
What Should I Do If I’m In An Accident With An Uninsured Motorist?
Nine percent and 13 percent of drivers, in Kansas and Missouri respectively, are uninsured. The coverage rates have been improving over the last five years. So while the chances of being in an accident with one are rare, it’s important to know what to do should you find yourself in this situation.
What you should do immediately after the accident – documenting the scene, talking with witnesses, assessing damage – is the same. If the driver actually sticks around, take down whatever information they may have. In Missouri, you’ll have to contact the Driver’s License Bureau, and they will investigate whether to enforce mandatory liability. You will more than likely have to file a police report, but if you have proper insurance you will be covered for your injuries.
In 2013, Missouri passed a law which limited an uninsured motorist’s ability to sue for noneconomic damages to try and encourage drivers to purchase insurance. Unless the insured driver was under the influence, the uninsured wouldn’t be able to recoup these losses even if it was the insured’s fault. Uninsured motorist protection at $25,000/$50,000 is required in Kansas and Missouri, but it only protects for bodily injury, not property damage. It’s common for an uninsured motorist to commit a hit-and-run, so uninsured motorist protection ensures that you can be compensated even if the other driver has no ability to pay or flees the scene.
How Do I File A Police Report after a car accident in Kansas City?
If injuries occur, then yes it is required that a police report be filed. Even in the case where there was only property damage, a police report can provide accuracy to a compensation claim. If the police don’t show up to the scene, you can still file one at the police department or with the DMV after the fact.
A police report will document all of the injuries and property damage, so that if one driver tries to claim that damage to the vehicle was the result of the accident later on, it can be proven false by the report. When you are seeking compensation, the less “he said, she said” you have is better. Verifiable evidence, such as those contained in a police report, will help you throughout the claims process and expedite the payout.
When filing a report with police at the scene of the accident, you’ll need all the same information necessary for filing a claim with insurance: name, address, driver’s license number, description of the accident. If the police are unable to get there, you can do one of three things:
- File a report at the police station. In Kansas City there are seven precincts at which you can report an accident. If the accident occurred in another city throughout Missouri, you would have to go to the local station.
- File an accident report online. This is only necessary in Missouri, as all car accidents in Kansas are considered emergencies and police reports are not allowed to be filed online.
- You can call the local station in which the accident occurred and file a report over the phone as well.
You would only file a report If property damage was greater than $500 and/or there were injuries, or the incident involved an uninsured motorist. In any of these cases, you will likely have to file a report with the state’s DMV office as well. Police and accident reports can be retrieved online through the city’s police department website for a fee. Be as detailed as possible in the report, so as to leave no room for ambiguity.
Why Hire a Car Accident Lawyer?
Many people say to themselves, “I don’t want to pay for a lawyer, I’ll just deal with the claim myself.” Why not just handle the insurance company directly? Well, without a lawyer, the insurance company may very well try to get you to take compensation that is not very fair to you. A lawyer can handle the claims process and take on the legwork of negotiating an insurance settlement, which can allow you to focus on recovering from your injuries.
Medical expenses and lost wages due to missed work can be easily calculated, but it’s more difficult to place a monetary value on the loss of quality of life. Injuries that cause permanent or long-term disabilities can place a strain on relationships and keep you from enjoying life. This is where hiring a lawyer can be crucial, because they will fight for your rights and just compensation not just for the injuries themselves, but for the pain they caused.
Seek Justice After a Kansas City Auto Accident
The mangled steel and broken glass that litters accident scenes pales in comparison to the personal injury that victims of car accidents suffer. Many of these injuries last a lifetime. Tragically, the lives they cut short can never be replaced. If you or someone close to you has been the victim of an automobile accident, contact an experienced Kansas City car accident attorney at Dickerson Oxton, LLC. At our law firm, our attorneys offer client specific strategies to help make your case a success.
You can reach one of our knowledgeable Kansas City personal injury lawyers at (913) 428-8220 or you can fill out our free case evaluation form on our website and we will get back to you promptly.
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