Archive for November, 2013

Drug and Alcohol Related Wrongful Death Accidents in Missouri

Monday, November 18th, 2013

Although we are all aware of the potentially devastating consequences of driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, many Americans continue to do so with complete disregard. Repeated studies by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration show that over half of drivers killed in the United States from car accidents had alcohol or drugs in their systems when the crash took place. A study examining data from 2005-2009 confirmed over 20,000 fatally injured drivers, where approximately 57 percent tested positive for at least one drug.  The study also revealed that one in five fatally injured drivers had more than one drug in their system at the time of the accident, the most common being alcohol. However, marijuana and various amphetamines were also pervasive.

Other findings from the study revealed that men were more likely to have alcohol or drugs in their systems at the time of a crash than women.  Less than 50 percent of women that were fatally inured in a crash tested positive for alcohol or drugs, whereas roughly 60 percent of men had drugs or alcohol in their systems. Not surprisingly was the greater likelihood of testing positive when killed in the evening or over the weekend.

Additionally, Native Americans were the most likely to have alcohol or drugs in their system, while African Americans and Caucasians tested equally, followed by Asians, who were the least likely.

It must also be noted that although the data from such studies does in fact provide a level of veracity as to alcohol or drugs playing a role in car accident fatalities, it does not accurately reflect on the impairment of the driver at the time of the crash. This is largely due to the fact that it is impossible to definitively determine a driver’s level of intoxication or whether intoxication was actually the cause of the crash. For example, in scenarios involving drugs including prescription drugs, a user may test positive for several days after ingestion.

Above all, impaired driving continues to be problematic despite heightened awareness of the risks involved when driving under the influence or drugs or alcohol. Despite increased public awareness about the consequences and danger resulting from such negligent and reckless acts, statistics have not improved and seem to be getting worse. Many people contribute such so-called irresponsibility to the “invincibility factor,” where people are unwilling to take the message seriously because they think an accident will not happen to them.

Fortunately, driving impaired can carry serious penalties, especially if it causes an accident inflicting serious injuries or the death of another. Typically, the following individuals can have standing to sue in cases where injuries or death resulted from an individual driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol:

  • Adults. Any adult who is injured by the negligence of a drunk driver or close family survivors of someone killed by a drunk driver can bring a lawsuit against the drunk driver. This includes a certain category of people emotionally and physically injured in collisions involving a drunk driver. Customarily, this category is determined by State law, and varies accordingly.    Additionally, the spouse of an injured or deceased plaintiff can also bring a claim of damages for loss of consortium, which includes the loss of comfort, love and care of the injured or deceased plaintiff.
  • Minors. Although a minors is technically not allowed to bring a case on their own against a drunk driver, they are able to bring the claim through a parent or guardian, and will be equally entitled to the rights of all other victims.

  • Household members who are passengers. It should be noted that this is a less common class of plaintiffs, and typically involves a passenger in the vehicle of the drink driver.  Generally, by law passengers in the drunk driver’s vehicle can sue the drunk driver. However, if they belong to the drunk driver’s household, the family’s insurance policy may prevent them from recovering against the insurance company. Instead, damages would only be directly recoverable from the drunk driver.

If you have suffered from an accident and are seeking legal advice, contact the Missouri wrongful death lawyers at Hubbard & Kurtz at (816) 472-HOPE (4673), for more information on how to pursue your personal injury claim. Our law firm has extensive experience and knowledge with personal injury law in Missouri. We are eager to provide you with the expertise required to settle your claim successfully!

Missouri Personal Injury Claims: An Overview of Independent Medical Exams

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

When filing a lawsuit for a personal injury claim and seeking compensation for injuries, there is a likelihood that the person or entity being sued, or an insurance company may request for you to participate in an independent medical examination. Generally, there are a few reasons behind such a request. For example, the insurance company or defendant may want to verify that your injuries are as serious as claimed, or become better informed of the precise scope of your injuries.

Customarily, there are threshold requirements for conducting an independent medical examination.  Oftentimes, immediately following an accident, the injured person visits a doctor of their choice to perform an initial medical examination. As expected, the insurance company or defendant will want to verify the initial medical diagnosis by acquiring a second opinion in the form of an IME. Depending on the jurisdiction, qualification requirements of a medical professional performing the IME vary, usually requiring an M.D. or D.O. Additionally, the medical professional performing the IME should be qualified in two areas: (1) medical knowledge or training specific to the subject-matter relating to the case and (2) experience, training, and specialization in the area of such types of medical examinations.  Qualifications are case specific, but certain minimum standards are required in order to ensure the most thorough and reliable quality IME.

As mentioned previously, each jurisdiction has their own standards and procedure for an Independent Medical Examination, including the steps required for all participants involved. If an injured person refuses to submit to a medical exam, he/she may be compelled to do so by law in certain scenarios. For example, in a case where physical injuries are alleged, a court may compel the injured person to attend an independent medical examination.  Another example includes a scenario where a person files a lawsuit claiming extensive physical injuries, but then refuses an IME.  By the court’s own volition or upon motion by the defendant, a plaintiff may be compelled to participate in the IME.

The structure of an independent medical examination report comprises a comprehensive summary of the injuries sustained by the plaintiff in a personal injury case. The report is created upon completion of the IME, and usually reviewed by both parties. Typically, there is an introduction with general data and description, and continues further into a more detailed overview that includes dates of the injuries sustained, as well as a summary of all medical conclusions. Also, the report usually includes a thorough description of the initial dialogue between the injured person and medical examiner.  Lastly, a diagnosis must be given by the medical examiner.

Oftentimes, an insurance company, rather than a defendant, requests an IME. Most policies for insurance companies contain clauses that stipulate requirements for an IME.  It’s common for insurance companies to request a large number of IMEs annually, and as a result, likely use the same doctors on multiple occasions. For obvious reasons, bias is a prevalent concern with these cases, where medical examiners come across accusatory, acting like an insurance claims adjuster, and not an objective medical examiner. It should also be noted that in many jurisdictions, a person subjected to an IME is allowed to bring his/her own physician or witness.

Preparation for an insurance claim IME is extremely important. It is necessary to take all relevant medical records with you. Prior to the exam, your attorney will help ensure you are thoroughly prepared for the examination. If you do not have legal representation, it is advised that you keep answers very brief, yes or no if possible. However, there is no need to be unresponsive or difficult, this attitude is never recommended. Be aware that all questions should be answered truthfully. It is important that all health complications and issues are included in the record.

If you have suffered physical injuries from an auto accident and seeking legal advice on how to pursue your claim, contact Hubbard & Kurtz at (816) 472-HOPE (4673), for more information today. Our staff of experienced attorneys has extensive knowledge of personal injury law in Missouri, and can provide you with the necessary expertise required to get you the damages you deserve!

Pursuing a Wrongful Death Claim: The Legal Process

Friday, November 1st, 2013

When pursuing a wrongful death claim, there are several steps to consider when taking action. A general summary of the appropriate and recommended legal procedure when addressing a potential wrongful death claim, includes the following:

  • Investigation. Investigating all aspects surrounding the circumstances of your case is the first step in pursing a claim. This process can be can be quite timely, and take much longer than originally expected. Investigation commonly includes researching the law, collecting and organizing the facts of you case, speaking with witnesses, and/or consulting with experts.  As a client, it is imperative to provide to your attorney with all documents and information you have in your possession regarding your claim. Keep in mind, that oftentimes gathering outside information from witnesses or experts may be challenging due unavailability, or difficulty coordinating schedules.

  • Strategy. In terms of an overall game plan when pursuing a wrongful death claim, your attorney will determine a strategy based not only on their legal experience, but also the circumstances surrounding your case.  It is important you are comfortable and confident with the strategy your attorney suggests you pursue, and if you have any hesitation, questions or concerns, to voice them immediately, prior to embarking on a course of action.  This decision will likely take place once the investigation has been concluded, and you and your attorney have discovered and are aware of all aspects of your claim.

  • Demand Package/Mediation/Lawsuit. Once your attorney has determined a strategy, demand and mediation procedures may be pursued before a judge or jury hears your case.  Generally, mediation takes place before a trial. Settling a case out of court is typically the most efficient, beneficial way of resolving the matter regarding time and money. A demand package, which is typically a demand letter or filing for relief, requires an attorney to pursue action against the party you are making a claim against.  Many cases do in fact settle out of court. However, in the event both parties are unable to reach an agreement through demand or mediation, then your claim will have to be heard at trial.

  • Resolution. Resolution for your wrongful death claim may come in several forms, and take place either prior to trial or at the end it. If both parties are fortunate to reach an agreement during mediation, then the details and terms of the settlement will govern how the case will be resolved.  If no resolution is agreed upon during mediation and the case continues to trial, then damages will be determined by a jury.  Wrongful death claims can be complex and seem lengthy to pursue, often taking a considerable amount of time to resolve.

Hiring an attorney to give guidance and help handle your wrongful death claim is one of the most significant decisions you will make in resolving your case successfully.  Choosing the right attorney is an important decision, and in doing so requires the consideration of several factors, namely time limitations, competence, organization, reputation, and overall communication. Do not simply choose the first attorney you meet with because you feel rushed due to the statute of limitations passing.   Make sure you take the time to look into an attorney’s experience in the field of wrongful death claims, and how competent and confident they feel about the your particular subject matter and taking your case.  An attorney’s reputation and experience within the specific area of wrongful death claims should undoubtedly be considered. Oftentimes, such claims can involve highly complicated issues and therefore, requires the attention and knowledge of an expert in the area.  Most importantly, make certain you choose an attorney you are willing to be open with, and comfortable confiding in as well.

If you are seeking to pursue a wrongful death claim in Missouri, contact a Missouri wrongful death attorney at Hubbard & Kurtz at (816) 472-HOPE (4673), for more information on how to move forward with the legal process.  Our law firm has extensive experience and knowledge with wrongful death lawsuits, and can handle your case with the skill, care and diligence required for a successful outcome!