Year: 2015

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 TextingandDriving.com 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 http://textingwhiledrivingbands.com/text-free-driving-pledge/

Beware of Dog Bites - Joplin, MO

What to Do if You’ve Been Attacked or Bitten by a Dog?

The two most important things you can do after a dog attack is call the police and seek medical treatment right away. The police and animal control should respond to your location to capture the dog and prevent it from biting anybody else. An immediate police response will also help identify the dog and its owner, which is extremely important for holding the owner legally responsible and preventing future attacks. Animal control will also attempt to confirm whether the dog has an up-to-date rabies vaccination. If the dog’s vaccination status cannot be confirmed, standard operating procedure is to quarantine the dog and observe for signs and symptoms of rabies.

Seek immediate medical treatment for large or deep bites or any bites to the face, head, or neck. Large dogs usually cause deep puncture wounds in the area of the bite. Bacteria from the dog’s mouth is usually implanted deep in the wounds and carries a very serious risk of infection. Your emergency room doctor will usually prescribe a course of antibiotics and inspect the wound for any damage to muscle, tendons, or bones. Be sure to follow-up with your regular doctor in the following days so he can monitor the bite sight for infection as it heals. Never ignore signs of an infection. These signs include a fever, nausea, and redness, swelling, or pain at the sight of the bite.

Very serious dog bites may require immediate surgery to reconstruct the tissue at the sight of the bite. Surgery is commonplace for bites to the face, head, and neck, or when there is extensive damage to the skin, muscles, or tendons of the victim. Often these very serious bites require multiple surgeries to repair the damaged tissue and minimize scarring.

Even if the dog bite does not appear to be serious, you should still get checked out the next day by your regular doctor. Of course, immediately wash the wound with soap and water to help minimize the chance of infection.

In the days following your dog bite or attack, you should call and speak to an attorney knowledgeable about handling dog bite cases. The owner of the dog is probably insured and his insurance company is responsible for paying your medical bills and lost wages, as well as a fair amount or any scarring, disfigurement, and pain and suffering. It is very important to contact an attorney early on so he or she can identify the dog, its owner, and any witnesses, and confirm the dog’s rabies vaccination status.

Please see our Practice Areas page for additional information regarding dog bites, or call us today for a free consultation at (417) 385-1338.

Insurance Coverage for Dog Attacks

Missouri Dog Bite Law

Missouri has one of the best laws in the nation for protecting victims of dog bites. In Missouri, the owner of a dog that bites is automatically responsible to the victim of the dog bite so long as the victim was not trespassing and did not provoke the dog. R.S.Mo. 273.036.1. Contrast this to the law in Kansas which requires the victim to prove that the owner of the dog knew the dog was dangerous. Lawyers call the Missouri law “strict liability,” while the Kansas law is referred to as the “one free bite rule” since dog owners usually escape responsibility unless the victim can prove the dog previously bit somebody else.

While lawyers frequently debate which law is the most fair, more and more states nationwide are abandoning the “one free bite rule” in favor of strict liability for dog bites. Certainly Missouri’s law and others like it provide the most protection for dog bite victims by shifting the financial responsibility for dog bites away from innocent victims and onto the owner of the dog that attacked the victim. This shift of financial responsibility makes even more sense when one considers that most dog owners are insured for dog bites through their homeowner’s or renter’s insurance.

Please see our Practice Areas page for additional information regarding dog bites, or call us today for a free consultation at (417) 385-1338.

Should You Hire an Attorney After an Injury?

There is a misconception that people who hire an attorney after an injury are motivated by money. Most times money is far down on the list. Instead, what people want most is answers. They want to make sense of what happened to them. They also want those responsible for causing their injury to be held accountable. People want to effect change and make sure whatever happened to them does not happen to somebody else.

A good personal injury attorney conducts an investigation to discover exactly what led to your injury and takes steps to prevent those responsible from hurting others. Many personal injury settlements include an agreement whereby the at-fault company must change its policies and procedures to correct the danger that caused the injury.

When money is at issue, it is not that someone is trying to get rich. Seriously injured people have thousands of dollars in medical bills, they have missed time from work, and many need to pay for future medical treatment. Insurance companies usually do not offer unrepresented folks a fair settlement. They know that person can’t successfully try their own case in court and therefore will not pay them a fair amount for their injuries.

Insurance industry statistics demonstrate that hiring any attorney is often necessary to receive fair compensation after an injury. According to an article published by the Insurance Research Council, injured victims who hire an attorney after a car wreck on average receive settlements that are 3.5 times greater than unrepresented victims. Auto Injuries: Claim Behaving and its Impact on Insurance Cost.

People also hire an attorney for peace of mind. They want to make sure that their claim is handled by a professional. They also want to be able to focus on getting better while letting the attorney deal with the insurance company and the court system.

Historic Gryphon Building Turns 100

By 1913, the Inter-State Grocer Company had outgrown its complex on South Virginia Street and began plans for the construction of a much larger, more efficient edifice. The company officers chose a site just across the railroad tracks to the south where the former S.C. Henderson Wholesale Grocer Company had occupied a late nineteenth century building on South Main Street since circa 1902. Just two years later, in 1915, the result was the beautiful building we now call the Gryphon building.

Austin Bradley Law Firm moved into the historic Gryphon building at 10th and Main in 2015 just when it celebrated its 100th birthday. Not only is this building of historical significance but it is now in its fully glory with plush office suites and amazing downtown Joplin views.

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