Month: August 2015

Joplin Personal Injury Attorneys - Which Attorney Should You Pick?

Joplin Personal Injury Attorneys: Which Attorney Should You Pick?

Searching for a personal injury attorney can be a difficult task. With all of the law firms and law offices in Joplin, Missouri, people looking for Joplin personal injury attorneys to represent them in their personal injury claim face many choices. The task of choosing the right Joplin personal injury attorney can become daunting for someone who just suffered a personal injury.

So how can you be sure you are picking the right attorney? First, don’t just pick a Joplin personal injury attorney because you have heard their name over and over on the television. Good advertising does not always equal good lawyering. Many times, lawyers who advertise on television are focused on generating lots of cases that they can settle quickly and cheaply. They are not, however, focused on maximizing the recovery of each client they take on. Their business model may be good for them, but it is bad for you.

Instead of focusing on advertising, make your choice based on the experiences you had with the law firms you contacted. When you called each law firm, did you speak with the attorney who will be handling your case or somebody else? Rest assured that if you did not receive personal attention from the attorney while he was trying to earn your business, you certainly will not receive it after you have committed to hire his law firm.

Also, how much time did the attorney take to speak with you and answer all of your questions? Did he seem rushed or irritated? If the Joplin personal injury attorney you were thinking about hiring did not have the time to answer all your questions, he definitely does not have time to take your case. You will likely end up on the backburner.

You also need to thoroughly check out the attorney’s website to see if he practices in only personal injury claims. Is he also advertising for DUI/DWI, divorce, family law, traffic tickets, criminal law, etc.? If so, it is likely that only a small portion of his practice is actually dedicated to personal injury claims.

Another good tip is to establish from the outset if the lawyer who you think you are hiring will actually be the attorney handling your case. If you cannot get a firm commitment that your personal injury case will be handled by the lawyer you initially spoke with, then you will need to decide whether you are comfortable with your case being handed off to someone else at the law firm whom you may have never met.

If you are thinking about hiring a Joplin personal injury attorney, then please see our Home Page for more information about our firm, or call us today for a free consultation at (417) 385-1338. Also, feel free to send us a question through our website by clicking here.


Car Accident Lawyer

Missouri Wrongful Death Lawyer Explains Missouri’s Wrongful Death Law

As we have discussed in our Practice Areas page, a wrongful death claim may be brought in Missouri by the family of someone who is killed by the unsafe actions of a person or company. Wrongful death claims are usually very complicated and almost always require a wrongful death lawyer. Even when a wrongful death claim is settled, a lawsuit must be filed to obtain court approval of the wrongful death settlement.

People frequently call our law office in Joplin, Missouri asking exactly which family members can bring the claim. As you may have guessed, the answer depends on the situation. Missouri has passed a law, R.S.Mo. 537.080.1, which outlines exactly which family members can and cannot bring a claim for wrongful death.

R.S.Mo. 537.080.1 creates two classes of family members who are entitled to bring a claim for wrongful death:

Class 1: Surviving spouse, children, and parents of the deceased.  Grandchildren are also included in Class 1 if the grandchildren’s parents are deceased.

Class 2: Surviving siblings, nephews, and nieces of the deceased.

If the deceased leaves behind any family members belonging to Class 1, then only those family members are entitled to bring a claim for wrongful death. Class 2 family members will be completely excluded.

In situations where there are multiple family members belonging to Class 1, any one of the family members may bring and/or settle the claim for wrongful death. A Court hearing is always required to approve of a Missouri wrongful death settlement, and the Court will usually hear evidence to determine how to allocate the money from the settlement amongst the Class 1 family members. An important point to remember is that even if only one Class 1 family member brings the lawsuit, the Court will still want all the remaining Class 1 family members to attend the settlement hearing in order to ensure that the proceeds are split fairly amongst each person.

In situations where there are no surviving Class 1 family members, any one of the Class 2 family members is entitled to bring a claim for wrongful death. As is the case when there are multiple Class 1 claimants, any one of the Class 2 claimants may bring and settle the wrongful death claim, however, all Class 2 claimants will need to attend the settlement hearing so that the judge can hear from them to determine what share of the proceeds they should receive.

If your are thinking about hiring a wrongful death lawyer, or just have some questions, then please see our Practice Areas page for more information about Missouri wrongful death claims. Also, you can call us today at (417) 385-1338 to speak with a local wrongful death lawyer for free. If you prefer email, feel free to shoot us a question through our website by clicking here. A wrongful death lawyer will respond to your questions shortly.

Can You Sue if You’re Injured on Somebody Else’s Property?

Many people believe that if you are injured on somebody else’s property, then you automatically have a personal injury claim against the property owner. This belief is legally inaccurate in every state, including Missouri. Instead, you only have a claim against the property owner if your injury was caused by an unsafe condition on the property.

If you fell simply because you were not paying attention, then you have no legal recourse against the property owner. If, however, you fell because the stairs were out of code, a slick substance was on the floor, or because of a sudden change in floor elevation, then you may have claim.

Your chances of successfully recovering an amount for your injuries also depends on the reason you were on the property. If you were injured by a dangerous condition at a store (i.e. Wal-Mart, Lowes, Home Depot, Aldi, etc.), then your chances of recovery are greater than if you were injured by a dangerous condition at your neighbor’s house. This is because the law holds stores who open their doors to the general public to a higher standard than a private property owner.

Claims Against Stores

In order to recover against a store, your lawyer would have to prove the following elements:

  1. A dangerous condition existed on the store property.
  2. The store either knew or should have known of the dangerous condition.
  3. The store chose to not fix or warn of the dangerous condition.
  4. The dangerous condition injured you, the customer of the store.

Claims Against Private Property Owners

In order to recover against a non-business private property owner, your lawyer would have to prove the following, different elements:

  1. A dangerous condition existed on the property.
  2. The owner of the property actually knew of the dangerous condition.
  3. The owner of the property chose not to fix or warn of the dangerous condition.
  4. The dangerous condition injured you, a guest on the property.

Did you notice the difference? In a claim against a private property owner, your lawyer is required to prove the property owner actually knew of the dangerous condition. In a claim against a store, however, your lawyer only has to prove that the store either knew or should have known of the danger.

There is a world of difference between the two standards. The following real cases I handled in Missouri illustrate the difference quite well. The first case involves a slip and fall injury in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant. The injured person, my client, broke his leg when he fell on black ice in the parking lot. He was walking to the store from an adjacent property where he worked, and the moment he crossed onto the restaurant’s property he fell on invisible black ice.

My investigation revealed that snow had fallen a couple of days before my client fell. The restaurant paid to have the snow removed from the parking lot, but tried to save money by not paying the snow removal company to put down rock salt. The small amount of remaining snow melted in the daytime sun, but refroze the night before my client’s fall, which occurred early in the morning.

Because the black ice which my client fell on was invisible (and on the edge of the parking lot away from where customers park), I might have had a difficult time proving the store actually knew the black ice was there. Thankfully, I did not have to. Instead, all I had to prove was that the store would have known it was there had they been acting carefully. This was easily proven by the fact that there was black ice that had refrozen near the entrance of the restaurant, and, according to the employees, the district manager had brought by a 5 pound bag of rock salt and instructed the employees to spread it only on the handicap spots and front entrance. This action by the district manager clearly demonstrated that the restaurant was aware of refreezing black ice on the property, but consciously decided to only treat the handicap parking spots and front entrance. Had they done the right thing and decided to treat the entire parking lot, they would have discovered the black ice where my client fell and would have been able to apply rock salt to prevent the danger which caused my client’s injury. The case settled for six figures without even filing a lawsuit.

The second case involves a client of mine who broke her ankle when she fell on the deck stairs at a house she was visiting in Joplin, Missouri. The stairs violated city code because the height of each individual step varied from the previous step, making the stairs very dangerous to traverse. In this case, I actually had to prove the homeowner knew that the stairs violated city code. Luckily, I was able to get him to admit that he built the deck stairs himself (which explains the code violation), so I was able to prove he knew they were uneven and unsafe. Had a contractor built the stairs, my poor client may not have been able to recover anything.

Please see our Practice Areas page for more information about premises liability claims, or call us today for a free consultation at (417) 385-1338.

Texting and Driving Joplin MO

Should Texting and Driving Carry the Same Penalty as a DUI?

Everyone has seen it: a vehicle swerving lanes and traveling slowly in the middle of the day, perhaps during your morning commute or on the way home from work. It looks like a drunk driver, but is somebody really out driving drunk at this time of day? You pull up next to them and see that the driver is actually looking down at their cellphone. “Texting,” you think to yourself. “How dangerous.” Your right. It is dangerous, perhaps more than most than most people realize.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly one in five injury crashes in 2011 were caused by distracted driving. According to the same study, 387,000 people were injured in car crashes caused by distracted driving the same year. Those numbers are estimated to have greatly increased.

Current statistics published by are downright startling:

  • Texting makes a driver 23X more likely to crash.
  • 55% of young adult drivers claim it’s easy to text while they drive.
  • Teens who text while driving spend approximately 10% of their driving time outside of their lane.
  • Texting drivers on average take their eyes off the road for at least 5 full seconds before checking the road again while they are reading or responding to a text.
  • At 55 mph, that equals driving the length of a football field without looking at the road.

So how do these numbers stack up against drunk driving? According to a new study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, texting while driving has surpassed drinking and driving as the number one cause of death amongst teens.

So law enforcement is probably out cracking down on these texting drivers, right? No, at least not in the State of Missouri. Missouri has no specific law that makes it a crime for adults to text and drive. In 2009, Missouri passed H.B. 62, which made it traffic violation for anyone under 21 to text and drive. The current version of the law, however, still does nothing to prevent adults from texting and driving. If someone under 21 is caught violating the law, the fine is only about the cost of a speeding ticket.

While Missouri is behind the curve in outlawing texting for drivers of all ages (its completely illegal in over 40 states), almost every state that outlaws texting while driving treats violations like regular traffic tickets. Nationwide the laws against texting and driving fail to recognize how dangerous the behavior really is.

Alaska, however, seems to have internalized the dangers of texting and driving has made it a serious crime punishable by a fine of up to $10,000.00 and one year in prison. Chances are the judge would not throw the book at first time offenders, and the maximum penalty would be reserved those who repeatedly break the law. The possibility of such serious punishment, however, should go a long way in deterring drivers from texting and driving. If more states enacted tougher laws for texting drivers, perhaps more people would come to understand that texting and driving is not acceptable. Thousands of lives could be saved.

In the meantime, make a commitment to yourself and those who depend on your continued existence to not text and drive. If you catch your teenager’s texting and driving, ground them and take their phone away. If they do it again, smash their phone into little pieces. They won’t be needing it because they will be riding the school bus and coming straight home every day until they get it, right? If that sounds like an unfair punishment, ask yourself if it would be fair for a teenager who was caught drinking and driving. Then remember that your teenager is more likely to die from texting and driving.

Taking a tough stance against texting and driving may save your child’s life. You might also be saving my child’s life. Certainly, you will be reducing the chances of you or your child being the subject of a legal claim brought by my office. And remember, texting and driving is always negligent driving. Therefore, if you text and drive, and injure somebody as a result, you are legally responsible for their injuries.

Take the text free pledge at