Archive for April, 2014

Wrongful Death of Missouri Firefighter

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

In February 2014, a Columbia, Missouri firefighter was called to the scene of a collapsed building at the University Village Apartments, which are part of the University of Missouri.   The building served as housing for graduate students, as well as undergraduates who were married or had children.  While looking for trapped residents on the second floor of the building, the walkway gave way beneath the firefighter and he was killed.  The firefighter’s wife now has brought an action on behalf of herself and as Next Friend for the decedent’s minor daughter.

This action was filed pursuant to Missouri’s Wrongful Death Statute, section 537.080 et. seq. of the Missouri Revised Statutes, which provides a cause of action for the close relatives or court appointed representative of a decedent to pursue a legal action when the person’s death was caused by the behavior of another person, often as the result of the negligent or reckless actions of someone other than the decedent.  In this case, the firefighter’s wife brought the action based on allegations that the building, constructed in 1956, was structurally unsafe and had not been maintained properly. 

The cause of action that is the basis for this wrongful death action is said to lie within the area of premises liability.  A wrongful death action may be brought for many different types of fatal accidents, including car accidents, slip and falls, medical malpractice, and product liability.  A legal action can be brought against an individual, a business, or a governmental entity based on allegations that the defendant acted negligently, failed to take the actions that were required by law, or intentionally acting in such a manner as to cause the death of another.

The complaint in this case stated that the Curators for the University of Missouri knew or should have known about the dangerous condition of the University Village Apartments and that the decedent would not have died if the property had been renovated and/or properly maintained.

The wife and child of the deceased firefighter stated that as a result of the alleged wrongful death, they have been deprived of the victim’s:

  • Companionship;
  • Services;
  • Instruction;
  • Guidance;
  • Training;
  • Comfort;
  • Counsel;
  • Consortium;
  • Love;
  • Society; and
  • Support.

Under the Wrongful Death Statute, damages are based upon the trier of fact’s determination about what is fair and just based on the loss of the loved one.  The determination involves an analysis of the economic impact of the loss, including wages and other benefits that would no longer be earned, medical expenses incurred as a result of the (ultimately) fatal event, funeral expenses, and other associated costs surrounding the death.  However, the trier of fact also is charged with assessing the non-economic loss that the family members left behind will experience over the long-term as the result of the wrongful death.  The various losses detailed above have to be assigned a reasonable value, which does factor in the age and career of the deceased.  There is no monetary value assessed for the grief and bereavement suffered by family members after the death of the victim.  (See section 537.090 of the Missouri Revised Statutes).

Unlike some other states, including Kansas, Missouri does not place a damages cap on most wrongful death cases.  There is a cap in place in medical malpractice cases.

When a family member has died as the result of the actions of someone else, it is difficult to understand the long-term impact that the loss will cause.  The compassionate and experienced Missouri Personal Injury Attorneys at Hubbard & Kurtz, LLP know how to get those left behind the compensation that they need to move forward without the support of their loved one.  We will fight for you while you grieve your loss.  Call us at (877) 535-1163 to discuss what happened to your loved one.


Distracted Driving Remains a Serious Threat in Missouri

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

A person traveling in a vehicle may not even realize that they are driving while distracted.  It is normal to reach for that travel mug with the necessary caffeine to jump start the day or to surf the satellite options, looking for the right song.  As typical as these behaviors are, when a driver takes his focus off the road, whether that it his visual or mental attention, the risks of getting into a serious accident increase tremendously.  When the distraction is even more involved, such as taking a “selfie” and updating a social networking site, the consequences can be deadly.

In the news recently was the tragic story of a young woman who wanted to tell the world that she was in a great mood.  That impulse was so strong that she did not want to wait until she arrived at her destination to broadcast her update.  Unfortunately, this decision resulted in a fatal car accident.  While driving to work in North Carolina, this woman crossed the center section and collided with a recycling truck.  There was no evidence that speed, alcohol, or drugs were an issue in this crash.  The woman’s friends alerted authorities to the near simultaneous posts and crash times.  In this case, only the driver who was on the Internet while driving was killed, but many distracted driving accidents result in more than one victim.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving leads to ten percent of fatal traffic crashes and 18 percent of accidents that result in injuries.  According to the NHTSA’s recent Distracted Driving Safety Facts sheet, 16 percent of all accidents involve distracted driving.  In 2012, this resulted in more than 3,300 fatalities and 421,000 injuries.  Young drivers, ages 15 to 19 years, are involved in the greatest number of distracted driving crashes.

Distracted driving, which is included as a subset of inattentive (fatigue, emotional or physical conditions, etc.) driving by some researchers, includes many different behaviors.  Part of the problem is that most drivers do not think about the many of the following circumstances as a distraction to be avoided:

  • Eating in the car – drive-thrus were created for the propensity of people to multi-task, but this leads to a serious loss of focus;
  • Looking at the billboards – they were designed to catch drivers’ attention and they are affective;
  • Daydreaming – when traveling the same route for years, many people will zone out in their commute, but this distraction could have severe consequences;
  • Bringing your pet in the car – while pet owners may be committed to giving their animals as much time as possible, a loose pet can distract a driver at a critical moment;
  • Checking the directions on the GPS – as a way to get where a person is going, GPS devices are wonderful, but when a person picks it up to review the map, it could delay permanently getting to the desired destination;
  • Paying attention to the children in the backseat – when a parent is watching what his kids are doing, he is not paying attention to the stopped traffic in front of him;
  • Applying makeup or fixing hair – traveling at 65 miles per hour is not the right time to make certain that a person is camera-ready;
  • Using electronic devices – this is what most people think of when distracted driving is discussed.

Distracted driving leads to tragic accidents that are entirely preventable but for the negligence of the driver. 

A serious accident that results injuries always is traumatic for the victims.  When the crash was caused by the negligence of another person, it is important to have a knowledgeable attorney who can get the compensation that you deserve for the harm that you suffered.  The experienced Missouri Car Accident Attorneys at Hubbard & Kurtz, LLP are ready to advocate on your behalf.  Call us at (877) 535-1163 so we can discuss what happened to you and develop an effective legal strategy.

The Dangers of Tractor-Trailer Accidents

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

A tractor-trailer in Missouri may weigh as much as 80,000 with a trailer length of up to 53 feet.  The massive dimensions of this commercial vehicle result in terrible destruction when it impacts another vehicle.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in its most recent report for 2012 accident statistics, more than 3,900 people were killed in crashes involving large trucks and 104,000 people were injured.  These are the numbers for one year.  In its report, the NHTSA reviewed crash statistics for those trucks that had a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10,000 pounds.

The statistics show that there was an increase in the number of fatalities between 2011 and 2012.  When there were fatalities as the result of a commercial truck crash, approximately 72 percent of the deaths were occupants of other vehicles involved in the accident, while 18 percent were riding in the truck, and another 10 percent were outside of the vehicles, such as pedestrians and bicyclists.  While there was a four percent (4%) increase in fatalities, there was an 18 percent increase in people injured in these types of crashes, going from 88,000 in 2011 to 104,000 in 2012.  This is a significant increase in injuries and is part of an overall upward trend for the past three years after truck accident injuries and fatalities went down for the previous four years.  For these accidents, 73 percent of those injured were in the other vehicles involved in the crash, 24 percent were occupants of the truck, and three percent were designated “nonoccupants.”

A serious truck accident usually involves more than one vehicle.  The majority of the accidents occurred when both vehicles were traveling in a straight line, while other accidents involved turning vehicles, negotiating a curve, or stopped traffic.  Thirty-one percent of the 2012 truck accidents with two vehicles involved the large truck striking the other vehicle with its front end, as opposed to a side or rear impact point.  From this very basic overview, it is easy to understand why victims of tractor-trailer crashes suffer from such severe harm.

For those people who survived the accident, they often sustained serious injuries, including:

  • Spinal cord injuries, including paralysis – the tremendous forces of the crash often lead to a structural collapse of the impacted vehicle, leading to the wrenching of the occupants of the smaller vehicle.  Devastating damage to the spine is all-too-common;
  • Traumatic brain injuries – the impact to the head of a victim, whether penetrating or not, may cause bleeding and swelling of the brain, leading to long-term harm;
  • Broken or fractured bones – most accidents involving a tractor-trailer and a car will lead to broken bones as a result of the impact forces;
  • Burns – the severity of the crash may lead to the rupture of fuel tanks or lines, resulting in terrible fires while victims still are trapped in the wreck.  Burn injuries often require years of medical treatment and the pain is terrible;
  • Internal bleeding – crush injuries from a horrible crash may include damage to internal organs, including the liver, kidneys, spleen, pancreas, and bladder; and
  • Deep lacerations – a truck accident may result in severe lacerations that take a long time to heal and often leave a victim with permanent disfigurement.

If the tractor-trailer accident resulted in the death of a loved one, it may be possible to bring a wrongful death action against the truck driver and the trucking company, depending on the circumstances of the crash.

When you have been involved in a serious accident involving a tractor-trailer, your focus may be on recovering from your injuries, but it is important to consult with a qualified attorney as soon as possible in order to protect your rights.  The skilled and hardworking Missouri Truck Accident Attorneys at Hubbard & Kurtz, LLP are ready to fight for you.  To schedule an initial case evaluation, call us at (877) 535-1163.