Archive for February, 2014

Traumatic Brain Injuries are a Serious Consequence of Missouri Accidents

Friday, February 28th, 2014

There are many terrible consequences of a car accident or other horrific event, but a victim who suffers from traumatic brain injury following an accident endures some of the most debilitating pain and challenging recoveries.  A traumatic brain injury results from an impact to the head that occurs in a fall or an impact event.  The two categories of traumatic brain injury (often referred to as TBI) are:

  • A penetrating injury: An injury that involves an intrusion into the brain area by a foreign object.  The damage occurs along the path of penetration as well as the final impact point.  These types of injuries may be caused by a bullet or shrapnel, as well as an object forced into the brain during a serious car accident, including parts of the metal car frame.
  • A closed head injury: When there is an impact to the head, the brain may be jarred inside the skull, causing damage to the brain tissue.  This can happen in a fall where the person strikes his head or a car accident, when the victim’s head strikes the steering wheel, window, or dashboard.

In the United States, there are 1.7 million victims who suffer from a TBI each year.  These serious injuries can lead to death, but if the damage to the tissue is not too severe, the person may recover over time.  Many accident victims suffer from the consequences of a TBI for the remainder of their lives after the time of the injury.  Falls result in the greatest number of TBIs each year with motor vehicle accidents coming in second at seventeen percent (17%).  However, vehicle accidents result in the highest percentage of fatalities from TBIs.

The nature of the injury means that there are many immediate signs of trauma, including:

  • Intracranial pressure that can have devastating consequences if not treated immediately (this pressure build-up leads to many deaths from TBIs);
  • Swelling of the brain itself;
  • Hematomas;
  • Epilepsy or other seizure disorders;
  • Anemia;
  • Cardiac abnormalities; and
  • Behavioral changes.

The long-term effects on the victim of a TBI may include debilitating pain and severe headaches, loss of muscle control impacting movement and coordination, vision, hearing, or speech impairment or loss, emotional turmoil, and cognitive impairment.  A child who suffers from a TBI may not be able to return to the educational program that he or she attended before the accident.  He may need adaptive technology, round-the-clock assistance, modifications to the home and family vehicle, and intensive medical rehabilitation.  These specialized, and expensive, requirements may be necessary for the rest of the child’s life, meaning that there must be funds available to provide the appropriate level of care after the parents are no longer able to care for the child.

An adult with a traumatic brain injury may no longer have the ability to perform the job that he or she held before the accident.  This injury may prevent him from working at all, especially if the tissue damage was extensive and the damage is permanent.  Family members may have to give up a career, or take reduced hours, in order to provide the type of support that a TBI victim needs, including driving him to medical appointments and providing basic care.  Many times, it is necessary to hire in-home nursing care.  In order to ensure that the victim has the best quality of life possible, even if a return to normal is never possible, it is imperative that the settlement or jury award takes every physical, emotional, and financial need into account.

When you or a loved one has been severely injured in an accident, it is critical to have the right attorneys who understand that it is not merely the suffering of the moment that must be considered, but the long-term consequences of the accident that must be raised before it is too late to recover.  The skilled and caring Missouri Car Accident Attorneys at Hubbard & Kurtz, LLP are dedicated to getting the justice that our clients deserve.  To set up an initial consultation to discuss what happened to you and how we can help, please call us at (877) 535-1163.


Missouri Injury Attorney Discusses Wrongful Death Actions for Workplace Accidents

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

There are many tragic events where a person will suffer an accident at work and will die as a result of the sustained injuries.  Although many times, there are restrictions on the types of litigation that may be brought under these circumstances, it is possible to pursue a successful wrongful death claim depending on the unique facts of the case.

A wrongful death action permits a victim’s family to recover for:

  • Any medical bills that were incurred by the victim prior to death as a result of the accident;
  • Expenses relating to the funeral and burial;
  • The reasonable value of the nature and extent of the relationship that was lost, looking at companionship, consortium, services provided, guidance, counsel, and financial support; and
  • Compensation for any suffering of the deceased that he experienced before death as a result of the accident.

See Missouri Revised Statutes 537.090.

Nearly a decade ago, in 2005, Missouri underwent a sweeping revision to its tort laws, which impacted many different types of legal actions, but which had the effect of protecting many employers from wrongful death actions because of an overhaul to Missouri’s workers’ compensation regulations.  Despite these changes, it is possible to bring a wrongful death action against wrongdoers related to the employment accidents under specific circumstances.

An expansion of workers’ compensation coverage means that many workplace deaths are covered by the Workers’ Compensation Law (WCL) and it is the WCL that deals with the employer’s liability exclusively.  However, a careful analysis into the facts of the case may reveal that third-parties were partially or completely responsible for the death, including the manufacturer of defective products or other companies and contractors hired by the employer who negligently caused the accident.  In addition, the wrongful death action will be precluded under the WCL only if there is a factual determination that the victim was a statutory employee.

Under Missouri law, a statutory employee who is covered by WCL in the event of a severe accident must satisfy the following criteria:

  1. He must be an employee who performed work pursuant to a contract;
  2. The injury occurred while the employee was in or around the business location of the alleged statutory employer; and
  3. The injury occurred during the regular course of the employer’s business.

The determination that these three factors were present at the time of the accident that led to the death of the victim is not a simple analysis.  The court may determine that the victim was not a statutory employee at the time of the accident.  Many times, the court will find that there was a divergence from the normal course of business activities.  This is a very fact intensive inquiry and it is important to have experienced wrongful death attorneys who understand what evidence needs to be collected.

The reason that undertaking this analysis is critical for the victim’s family is that the WCL provisions severely limit the amount of money that can be recovered after a workplace death.

The death of someone who has gone to work to provide for family and loved ones always is tragic.  When that death is the result of negligence during the course of the employment, it may seem like there is little that can be done to get sufficient compensation to support the family left behind.  However, the skilled and dedicated Missouri Wrongful Death Attorneys at Hubbard & Kurtz, LLP have the experience and commitment to get you the best possible results.  We will sit down with you, learn the facts of what happened and develop a legal strategy that works for you and your family.  Then we will fight for your rights while you focus on healing.  Please call us at (877) 535-1163 to schedule an initial consultation.

Missouri Personal Injury Attorney Explains Missouri Wrongful Death Actions

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

When a loved one has died, it is a devastating event that throws the emotional and financial lives of the survivors into chaos.  It may be difficult to know what legal rights that a surviving family member has and when a person can seek justice through the court system.  Although it may seem a little confusing upon first review, Missouri does have a clearly established hierarchy of when people can seek relief.

There is a tiered classification system of individuals who may pursue a wrongful death action based upon what level into which they fall and whether there is anyone in the higher tiers.  Although this sounds complicated, it is rather straightforward.  The class orders in which a person may legally maintain a wrongful death action are:

  • Tier 1 – The spouse or children of the victim or the lineal descendants of the victim’s children who have predeceased the accident victim (these would be the grandchildren or great-grandchildren of the victim).  The children who may maintain a legal action may be adopted or natural and do not have to be legitimate.  The parents of the victim also may bring a wrongful death case.  However, it is important to remember that there may only be one lawsuit.
  • Tier 2 – If there are no members of the Tier 1 classification, then the siblings of the accident victim may bring a wrongful death action if they are able to establish an entitlement to damages pursuant to Missouri Revised Statutes 537.090, which looks at expenses that the individuals may have incurred as a result of the death, along with the nature and extent of the relationship between the person seeking to bring the action and the decedent.
  • Tier 3 – If there are no eligible individuals in the Tier 1 or Tier 2 classifications, then the court may appoint a plaintiff ad litem, who will have the authority to bring a wrongful death action.  This step is taken when an application has been made to the court by a person who would have a right to a portion of any proceeds recovered in a wrongful death action.  The plaintiff ad litem is charged with pursuing the legal action in a fair and competent manner.  Some courts will require a bond to ensure that the plaintiff ad litem performs his role in the appropriate manner.  A person who may apply to the court for an appointment of a plaintiff ad litem includes cousins or more removed relatives who would inherit under a will or Missouri’s laws relating to intestacy, when a person dies without a will.

Under the current laws, stepchildren are not a part of the Tier 1 classification, which may lead to injustice under certain circumstances.  To correct this to the extent possible, Missouri courts may apply a legal doctrine known as equitable adoption under certain circumstances.  This device sets up a designation where the stepchild is deemed to have been adopted prior to the death of the accident victim, which creates legal grounds for a dependent stepchild to maintain a legal death action.  Although this does allow some otherwise ineligible individuals to bring a wrongful death action, it does not create a legal status that is equal to legal adoption.  The judge also may decide not to allow an equitable adoption designation if there is insufficient evidence to show that the dependent stepchild would suffer from a serious financial detriment if not permitted to pursue the case.

Losing someone you love in an accident can be devastating.  It is hard to think about bringing a legal action when you are trying to deal with the aftermath of the death.  However, it is important to get compassionate and knowledgeable wrongful death attorneys fighting for your rights as soon as possible.  At Hubbard & Kurtz, LLP, our team of Missouri Personal Injury Attorneys understands that you need to focus on your family, so we are ready to represent your interests and get the compensation that you deserve.  To schedule a time to learn about how we can help you through this terrible time, please call us at (877) 535-1163.