Archive for January, 2016

Loss of Physical and Mental Driving Skills Increases the Risk of Collisions Involving Elderly Motorists

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

Many elderly drivers exercise a high degree of caution and diligence behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.  However, data suggests it is important to more closely monitor elderly loved ones who continue driving.  A study conducted by Carnegie Melon University found that drivers who are over the age of 85 have a 400% greater chance of dying in a car accident than inexperienced teen drivers.  The study also revealed that drivers between the ages of 75 and 85 have the same likelihood of being involved in a fatal car accident as teen drivers between the ages of 16-20.  Researchers predict that a growing number of elderly people in the U.S. will mean that 25 percent of all fatal collisions will involve seniors by 2030.  These numbers translate into a 73 percent increase over today’s traffic fatality rates for elderly motorists.

Certainly, many elderly motorists continue to remain safe and attentive even at the later stages in their lives.  However, an older driver’s sensory skills, physical abilities, and cognitive functioning can decline with age, which creates the following increased accident risks:

  • Hearing declines making it harder to hear horns, sirens, and motorcycles.
  • Poor vision can make it difficult to see down the road and distort depth perception.
  • Reflexes can be slower and increase the reaction time needed to respond to hazards.
  • Some elderly drivers experience impaired cognitive abilities that affect the decision-making process.

Many of us have ridden with an elderly family member and had a white knuckle ride.  It can be extremely difficult to approach the topic of discontinuing driving with elderly motorists.  Driving is a sign of freedom and independence that many older Kansas drivers have no desire to surrender.  The attempt to take car keys away from a senior citizen can lead to hard feelings and outright refusal.  However, the consequences of not taking action to prevent an elderly motorist with declining driving skills from taking to the road can mean death or serious injury.

If you have a loved one that might represent an unreasonable risk of causing a car accident, there are some approaches that you can take to assist your aging family member in preserving their independence:

  • Set up a buddy system so that a person is always available to ride in the passenger seat
  • Arrange for local van service, which can be prepaid
  • Schedule outings where you or someone else can transport your loved one
  • Make your elderly relative appear at DMV for a behind the wheel driving test and vision exam
  • Ride with your family member periodically so that you can evaluate their driving

Our experienced Kansas City Auto Accident Attorneys at Hubbard and Kurtz L.L.P. have over 80 years of collective legal experience.  We offer a free consultation to evaluate your case, so we invite you to call us today at 877-535-1163 or email us to schedule a time to discuss your car accident claim.

Types of Damages in Kansas Personal Injury Cases

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

Whether you are the victim of a motor vehicle accident, slip and fall, or a defective product, you are entitled to compensation (called “damages”) for your injuries.  Damages represent a judge or jury’s attempt to value your loss and compensate you for your injuries.  Broadly speaking, the general classification of damages includes compensatory damages (special and general damages) and punitive damages.  The process of calculating damages in any particular lawsuit can be complex.  This blog post provides a general overview of damages in personal injury lawsuits in Kansas.  However, the best way to learn about the types of compensation available in your case is to speak to an experienced Kansas personal injury attorney.

The purpose of compensatory damages is to place the injured victim in the position that he or she would have been if not for the accident.  This might sound straightforward.  However, it can be complicated particularly when calculating a form of loss that is intangible or that involves complex calculations of future lost earnings reduced to present value.  There are certain types of loss for which a person cannot truly be “compensated”, such as a lost sense of safety, freedom from pain, loss of the full use of one’s limbs, or a diminished quality of life.  A skilled Kansas personal injury attorney, sometimes with the help of an economic expert, will help a judge or jury assign a value to such intangible, and in some sense irreplaceable, forms of loss.

Fortunately, many forms of compensatory damages often are reasonably easy to quantify.  “Special damages” in a personal injury lawsuit are also sometimes referred to as “economic damages”.  These include the following:

  • Past and current medical bills
  • Future medical expenses
  • Rehabilitative therapy
  • Property damage (i.e. damage to your vehicle and its contents)
  • Lost wages
  • Lost anticipated future earnings
  • Funeral and burial expenses

“General damages” cover losses that are harder to quantify but often are more substantial.  The loss of the love and support of a family member and the ability to engage in ordinary daily activities are losses that are harder to quantify.  However, the value of such a loss far exceeds the value of mending bones or repairing a motor vehicle.  General damages are designed to address intangible loss of this type, such as:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of consortium (loss of love, emotional support and services of a spouse)
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

In some cases, a court does more than try to just compensate an injury victim for his or her loss.  A court may award “punitive damages” to punish or discourage conduct that is particularly egregious.  Kansas permits punitive damages if it is shown by “clear and convincing” evidence that the wrongdoer’s conduct was “wanton, willful, fraudulent or malicious”.

Admittedly, no lawsuit can truly put an injury victim in the position that they would have been in prior to an accident, particularly where the injury victim suffers catastrophic or permanent injuries.  However, an experienced Kansas personal injury attorney can help you pursue the maximum financial compensation to which you are entitled under law.  If you have been injured and have more specific questions about compensation and damages, our experienced personal injury attorneys can provide more information based on the specific facts and circumstances of your case.  Our experienced Kansas City Car Accident Lawyers at Hubbard and Kurtz L.L.P. have over 80 years of collective legal experience.  We offer a free consultation to evaluate your case, so we invite you to call us today at 877-535-1163 or email us to schedule a time to discuss your car accident claim.