Category: personal injury

What is a Personal Injury Attorney?

A personal injury attorney is a licensed attorney that focuses his or her practice on helping those who have been injured. The main job of a personal injury attorney is to collect insurance money for the injured clients he represents. The insurance money is used to pay the client’s medical bills, lost wages, and to help make up for the injured person’s pain and suffering.

Personal Injury attorneys frequently represent people that have been injured in car crashes and workplace accidents. Car crashes and workplace accidents are two of the most common personal injury claims. Other claims frequently handled by personal injury attorneys include dog bites, motorcycle accidents, wrongful death, and product liability (when a dangerous product injures someone).

The process of collecting money from an insurance company can be long and difficult, particularly without  an attorney. Insurance companies are in the business of denying and underpaying claims. They are not in the business of paying a full and fair amount for every claim in a timely manner. A good personal injury attorney knows the ins and out of insurance companies. They will know how to maximize the amount of money an insurance company is willing to pay to settle a claim. The will also know how to file a lawsuit in a court of law if the insurance company refuses to pay a fair amount to settle a claim. Good personal injury attorneys also know how to take a case in front of a judge and jury when necessary.

In addition to handling the insurance company, a personal injury attorney will also be able to negotiate your medical bills. This will ensure that you do not overpay for the medical services you were provided. Medical providers are regularly paid out of the settlement proceeds. While medical providers should be paid a fair amount for the services they provide, medical providers frequently send inflated bills. A thorough personal injury will be able to help negotiate any inflated medical bills downs to a fair amount.

Personal injury attorneys usually get paid on a contingency fee basis. This means the attorney who handles the case pays for all the expenses involved in pursuing the claim. If money is recovered for the client, the attorney then gets paid a percentage of the financial recovery. If no money is recovered, the client does not owe the attorney anything.

Missouri Attorney

Missouri Attorney Discusses Extending the Nets at Royals’ Games

In a Royals home game in 2011, 4-year-old Alexis Hoskey was sitting with her parents in seats located a few rows off the field on the third base side. During the game, left handed hitter Wilson Betemit hit a line drive foul ball into the stands. It struck Alexis in the face, fracturing her skull and causing a bleed in her brain.

Similar injuries have occurred in nearly all major league ballparks, and happen quite often. According to a 2014 Bloomberg Report, on average 1,750 fans are injured every year by foul balls and flying bats. Just this year, a woman at Fenway Park sustained life threatening injuries when a broken bat flew into the stands and struck her in the face. That injury garnered national attention and has led to renewed calls for Major League baseball to do more to protect fans.

Following that game, Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie tweeted that Major League Baseball should extend the protective netting at least to the dugouts. Guthrie has previously represented the players union in labor talks where he asked that the netting be extended to protect players and fans.

Currently, the netting is only behind home plate, and protects fans from foul balls and errant pitches that go straight back. Despite all of the injuries that occur past the netting, Major League Baseball and the team owners have collectively resisted extending the nets. The repeated reason cited is that it will negatively affect the fan experience.

As an avid Royals fans who has attended a ton of games, I call baloney on that. I have been lucky enough to sit behind home plate several times and I can tell you each time it was an amazing baseball experience. And, of course, the entire experience is from behind the protective netting. Before graduating law school and passing the bar, most of my Royals’ games were experienced from the cheap seats, free from any protective netting. I will take the view behind the netting any day.

One can also just look at the economics of ticket pricing. At Kaufmann Stadium, the seats directly behind home plate are some of the most expensive seats in the stadium. They cost upwards $250.00 a ticket, and that is for a regular season game. The same seats for Game 1 of the World Series are currently selling for over $7,000.00 a seat on StubHub! The price of the behind the net tickets alone shows the netting does not negatively affect ticket purchasing.  

Since the most expensive seats are behind the nets, it is difficult to conclude that Major League Baseball really believes extending the nets will negatively affect ticket purchasing or fan experience. What then, is responsible for baseball’s resistance to extending the nets? It is hard to say for sure. Tradition probably is a factor. The added cost of installing longer nets might play a roll, although that amount is probably very small compared to a major league team’s overall budget. Perhaps baseball is worried that extending the nets will start baseball down a road where more and more changes will be called for in the name of safety.

As a Missouri attorney who practices injury law, I know that the legal system does not do enough to encourage Major League Baseball to extend the nets. Missouri, and nearly every other state, provide legal immunity to baseball team owners and Major League Baseball for fan injuries that result from flying bats and balls. In the legal world, this immunity is simply known as “the baseball rule.” The baseball rule is nearly as old as the game itself. It is not in a statute passed by legislators. Instead, the baseball rule was created by judges who have long thought that a baseball fan assumes the risk of being injured when they enter the stadium. For a long time, the judges’ reasoning mirrored public sentiment.

As society progresses, technology keeps finding new ways to protect us and our families. These advances have made us as a society less tolerant of needless dangers. Our cars now have airbags, backup cameras, collision sensors, crash avoidance systems, stability control, and anti-lock brakes. When the baseball rule was created, cars did not even have seatbelts.

Our roads and bridges have guardrails that prevent us from rolling down an embankment or careening into a river. Railroad crossings have gates that warn us of approaching trains and prevent us from driving across the tracks when a train is approaching. The list goes on.

These safety improvements are, at least in part, the result of jury verdicts in favor of those who were injured by unsafe cars, roads, and bridges. There is no absolute legal immunity from a lawsuit for the producer of an unsafe car, or the designer of an unsafe roadway. Instead, when someone is injured by a defectively designed car or a dangerously designed roadway, a jury gets to pass judgment. Because of this jury system, the tools and products we use every day are designed to be safe.

Baseball stadiums should not be held to different standard. If Major League Baseball and its owners were subject to the same system as the rest of us, juries, not judges, would get to decide how far the nets should go. The result would likely be a safer ballpark, where parents can take their children to the game and be protected from a possibly life-threatening injury, even in the cheap seats.


Car Accident Claims Take Time

How Long Does it take to Settle a Car Accident Claim or other Personal Injury Claim?

It usually takes about 12 to 18 months to settle a routine car accident claim or other personal injury claim, but the amount of time can vary greatly depending on the severity of your injuries, the duration of your medical treatment, and the willingness of the insurance company to offer full and fair compensation.

Several things need to happen before you will be in a position to settle your personal injury claim for a fair amount. First, you will need to give yourself time to heal from your injuries. You never want to settle your personal injury case before you have received thorough medical treatment and have a very good idea of what injuries you sustained and what your prognosis is. After you have completed or nearly completed your medical treatment, your attorney will need to order all of your related medical records and bills so that he can provide them to the insurance company with a settlement offer. If you will need future treatment for your injuries, or have suffered a permanent disability from your injuries, your lawyer may also need to obtain a written medical opinion from a licensed physician. In order to give an accurate medical opinion regarding your disability and future medical treatment, the physician will perform a physical examination and review all of your medical records and radiology films. He will then issue a written opinion, which will be provided to the insurance company with your bills and records when your attorney makes a written settlement demand.

After the settlement demand is made, there usually will be negotiations with the insurance company. This process can take several months. If, at the end of the negotiation process, the insurance company is offering to pay full and fair compensation for your injuries, then your case will settle without a lawsuit being filed. In many cases, unfortunately, insurance companies are not willing to pay a fair amount, and a lawsuit will need to be filed. The same physician who provided a written opinion about your injuries will usually testify about your injuries in a deposition. You will probably also testify during a deposition, as will the person or persons who injured you.

After all the depositions have been concluded, your case will be set for a jury trial. The insurance company may offer you a fairer settlement once the depositions have been concluded and the case is ready for trial, but that is not always case. If the insurance company still refuses to pay a fair amount, your lawyer will try your case in front of a jury, who will then allow an amount that they think is fair to compensate you for your injuries. Usually, cases that have to be tried will not be concluded within the 12-18 month time period mentioned above. Those cases can take upwards of three years to be completed. That is one reason insurance companies do not frequently offer a fair settlement early in the process. They hope they can wear you out and get you to settle your case for an unfair amount. A good personal injury attorney will be able to help you stay motivated and will fight the battle for you, resulting in a fairer settlement.

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.


Injury Attorney for Car Accidents

Joplin Personal Injury Attorney Sees Increase in Car Accidents Over Labor Day Weekend

Labor Day weekend is the official end of summer for most of us. It is also a time that we travel to see family and friends, or maybe to get one more weekend at the lake before the weather really starts to cool down. It is also a time when an injury attorney receives more phone calls from people who have been injured in car accidents.

According to AAA’s Labor Day travel forecast, 35.5 million Americans will be packing their bags and hitting the road this weekend. The increase in the number of vehicles on the road predictably results in an increase in car accidents and car crashes. Gas prices are also down this Labor Day weekend, which will result in an increase in travel throughout Missouri and the rest of the United States. According to AAA’s monthly gas report, gas is 99 cents per gallon cheaper than Labor Day last year. Gas is also at its lowest price since 2004 for Labor Day weekend.

So enjoy the long weekend, but be mindful of the increased traffic and drive safe! And remember, never text while driving and never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Also, if you can avoid driving at night this weekend, that is a great way to reduce your risk of being injured by a drunk driver.

If you are thinking about hiring a 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.


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.


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.

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.