Answers to Your Personal Injury, Workers Compensation, and Medical Malpractice Legal Questions
Your Questions Answered - Your Legal Options Explained
At KCAIA we know that it is essential for every injury victim to get good information about how to pursue their accident claim. Following an accident that causes serious injury to you or a loved one, there are often many unanswered questions.
Listed below are some of the most frequently asked questions we get from new clients. You can browse by category using the dropdown menu. Alternatively, for a quicker, more customized search, try typing your question into the search bar above.
Don't see what you are looking for? If you don't find the answers you need, contact us today for answers to your specific questions. Remember, the consultation is FREE and there is no obligation.
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Is a car accident settlement taxable?
In general, car accident settlements are not taxed by IRS. This is because most people receive their proceeds in a lump sum payment that doesn't delineate what it's for.
However, there are circumstances when you could owe income taxes on a settlement or jury award.
When Could You Owe Taxes on Your Settlement or Judgment?
When a negligent driver causes your car accident, you're entitled to compensation for your medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering. IRS regulations provide that you won't owe taxes on damages received in a settlement or award if they're to compensate you for personal physical injuries or illness. When you receive a lump sum settlement that doesn't itemize the damages, it will most likely be treated as compensation for physical injuries and not taxed by IRS.
Even if the amount is itemized in your settlement or jury award, some of it won't be taxable. For example, you won't owe taxes on the amounts paid to reimburse you for medical bills or property damage.
However, it can be complicated if you receive compensation for other types of damages. Here's what you should know:
- Lost wages. This portion of your settlement will most likely be taxed just like income, similar to how taxes are deducted from your paycheck when you're working.
- Pain and suffering. If you receive pain and suffering compensation due to your physical injuries, it shouldn't be taxable. However, if you suffered psychological injuries, such as depression, anxiety, or PTSD, they're not considered physical injuries. If itemized as such in your settlement, these damages could be considered taxable.
- Punitive damages. Punitive damages are only awarded to punish the negligent party for especially egregious actions. This type of compensation is rare, but if you receive it, you would owe taxes on it.
You never want to settle an auto collision claim without first consulting with an experienced car accident attorney to ensure you receive rightful compensation. To have your questions answered and learn how our legal team can help, contact us online or call our Kansas City office today at 817.471.5111 to schedule your free initial consultation.
Will my personal injury have to go to court or trial?
It's unlikely your car accident or other personal injury case would go to a jury trial. Over 90 percent of these cases settle before trial. However, you shouldn't count on this.
It's essential that your injury claim be investigated, handled, and prepared as if it were going to court. If there are holes and weaknesses in your case, or an insurance company adjuster doesn't believe you're fully prepared to go to trial, it's unlikely he or she will offer you a fair settlement offer.
Why Insurance Companies Often Settle Personal Injury Cases
Both accident victims and insurance companies can benefit from settling a claim out of court. Some of the reasons that insurance companies will ultimately settle a case include:
- Juries are unpredictable, no matter how strong a party’s claim or defense is.
- The insurance company will incur more legal fees if a case goes to trial.
- When a case goes to trial rather than settles, the insurance carrier loses control of the outcome.
- Trials are public and can lead to more claims. Settlements can remain private between a victim and the insurance company.
Reasons it can be beneficial for an accident victim to settle a claim are similar:
- There's no guarantee a jury will award more than a settlement offer—assuming the offer is fair.
- The process of going to trial is lengthy.
- It could cost more in attorney fees, expert witness fees, and other expenses if a case goes to trial.
- A victim can receive his compensation more quickly if a case is settled.
When Could a Jury Trial Be Necessary?
While most claims settle out of court, this doesn't mean a lawsuit won't need to be filed if the carrier is completely unreasonable, or the statute of limitations to file it will soon expire. Many of these cases are settled during the litigation process before the date set for a jury trial.
However, when an insurance provider refuses to offer a reasonable settlement or denies a claim, a victim may have to take his case to trial.
Even when you believe you may settle your claim quickly, you need the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible after your accident. He will help you avoid common mistakes many victims make which irreparably hurt their claims, and can collect the evidence you need to prove the other party’s negligence before it's lost or destroyed.
At Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys, we have decades of experience fighting for the rights of victims of car accident and other personal injury cases. To learn how we can assist you, start an online chat today and schedule your free consultation.
Can I sue for punitive damages if I was injured in an accident with a drunk driver?
Yes, if you're injured by a drunk driver, you can recover punitive damages in both Missouri and Kansas, in addition to collecting for your actual injuries and damages incurred.
The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the drunk driver for his grossly negligent behaviors and not to compensate you. While the reason behind these damages is the same in both states, the laws that govern your right to receive this type of compensation are different.
Your Right to Punitive Damages in Missouri
In Missouri, you must prove the negligent motorist acted with a conscious disregard or complete indifference to your wellbeing and safety. Your burden of proof is greater when requesting punitive damages than for your negligence claim. The judge decides whether you meet this requirement and if so, the jury considers awarding punitive damages.
There used to be a cap on the amount of punitive damages awarded, but the Missouri Supreme Court ruled the provision was unconstitutional. Without this cap, a jury can consider the negligent party’s net worth in reaching its verdict. However, half of what is awarded is paid to the State of Missouri.
Punitive Damages in Drunk Driving Cases in Kansas
To be entitled to punitive damages in Kansas, you need to show the other driver’s conduct was wanton, malicious, willful, or fraudulent. Like Missouri, your standard of proof is greater. You need to file a motion to amend your original complaint to ask for punitive damages. The judge decides if there is sufficient evidence for the jury to award them.
While the jury decides your right to punitive damages, the judge determines the amount you should receive at a separate hearing. He or she considers these factors for his decision:
- Likelihood at the time of the crash that you would be seriously harmed.
- How aware the drunk driver was of the danger to you.
- Profitability of his actions.
- How long the inebriated motorist engaged in his wrongful actions and whether he concealed them.
- His attitude when your accident occurred.
- His financial condition.
- Deterrent effect of damages and other punishments on the drunk driver.
There's a cap on the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded, which is complicated to calculate.
This amount can be no more than the lessor of:
- Drunk driver’s annual gross income, based on the highest gross income earned for any of the last five years prior to the accident
- Five million dollars
Punitive damages aren't commonly awarded in car accident cases. However, a drunk driving victim is more likely to receive them due to the catastrophic nature of these accidents and the grossly negligent actions of the intoxicated motorist.
Let Us Help You
It's unlikely that you would receive punitive damages in your case without the assistance of an experienced drunk driving attorney who understands the complexities of these claims and the high standards of proof necessary. To discuss your right to these damages and other compensation for your injuries, contact our office to schedule your free consultation with our skilled legal team.
Can I sue the drunk driver who caused my injuries in an accident if I was a passenger in his car?
Maybe. As an injured passenger in the vehicle of a drunk driver, you certainly deserve to cover the costs of your medical care and other damages. However, his insurance company may argue that you were partially at fault because you willingly got into a motor vehicle with somebody who was intoxicated.
What Is the Drunk Driver’s Duty to You as a Passenger?
Every motorist is accountable for taking reasonable care to drive safely to not cause harm to you as a passenger as well as to pedestrians and other motorists. If he drove while intoxicated and this was the cause of your injuries, he would be considered negligent and thus, responsible for compensating you for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
This is true even when you voluntarily got into the car.
How Comparative Negligence Could Affect Your Claim for Compensation
Although the intoxicated driver could face liability for the crash, you may also be found partially at fault for getting into the vehicle. Under comparative negligence laws in Kansas and Missouri, this could result in you receiving less than you would otherwise be entitled to. Here’s how comparative negligence works in both states:
- Kansas follows a modified comparative negligence rule. It provides that you would be barred from receiving any money if you were 50 percent or more at fault in causing the crash—unlikely since the intoxicated driver would be primarily negligent. If you were less than 50 percent to blame, you would still be entitled to compensation, but it would be reduced by your percentage of fault.
- Missouri is a pure comparative negligence state. Under this rule, you would be entitled to compensation no matter how much you were to blame for your injuries. However, as in Kansas, the amount you receive would be reduced by your level of negligence.
Your share of negligence depends on the facts in your case. Some of these factors may include:
- Whether you were aware of the driver’s intoxication
- Whether you purchased any of the alcohol consumed
- Whether you encouraged the person to continue to drink and then drive
To learn more about your rights after a drunk driving accident in Kansas or Missouri, take advantage of our free initial consultation. Contact us online or call our Kansas City office directly at 816.471.5111 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced drunk driving accident attorneys.
What is GAP insurance, and how will it help me if my car is totaled in an accident?
When individuals purchase collision coverage for their vehicles, they're often under the mistaken impression that it fully covers their vehicles if totaled in an accident.
However, this isn't necessarily true, especially if you financed your car purchase—which the majority of people do. To protect yourself more fully, you may want to purchase optional GAP insurance, which stands for Guaranteed Auto Protection.
Why You May Need GAP Insurance
Whenever you purchase a vehicle and drive it off the lot, it depreciates rather than appreciates in value.
If your car is totaled in a crash and you have collision insurance, your carrier will pay you the actual cash value of your vehicle.
This is what the negligent driver’s insurance company would pay, too—most likely less than the purchase price, and less than what you owe on your auto loan. The insurance company would issue payment for the car’s value to the lender that financed your loan.
However, you still owe a balance on your car loan, and have no money for a new vehicle. This is where GAP insurance can help. It pays the difference between what the insurance company compensates you for the vehicle's value and what you owe on the auto loan.
You should consider purchasing this additional coverage in these situations:
- You paid less than $2,000 in a down payment when purchasing the vehicle.
- You're leasing a vehicle.
- You financed a vehicle loan over a long period of time.
If you're leasing a vehicle, lease GAP insurance is a variation of traditional GAP insurance that pays the difference between what you owe under the agreement and the vehicle’s actual cash value.
You can often purchase GAP policies from your auto insurance carrier.
Were you or a loved one involved in a car accident? Our experienced car accident attorneys are ready to answer your questions and pursue your claim for compensation. To get started, contact us online or call our office directly at 816.471.5111 to schedule your free consultation.
Who can I sue for my drunk driving accident in Missouri or Kansas?
Because you're more likely to suffer catastrophic injuries or death if a drunk driver causes your accident, it's vital to your recovery that you receive all of the compensation you deserve—for both past and future damages.
One way to do this is by investigating the liability of all possible parties that contributed to the incident. However, who could be liable in your drunk driving case is different if your collision happened in Kansas or Missouri.
Possible Responsible Parties in Your Kansas and Missouri Drunk Driving Case
In many states, a drunk driving victim has more potential liable parties to pursue claims against than in a traditional crash case.
Here are the entities that may be responsible in a drunk driving accident in Missouri and Kansas:
- Driver. In both Kansas and Missouri, the drunk driver who caused your crash could be responsible for compensating for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
- Bars and restaurants. Most states enacted dram shop laws that hold the individual or establishment who supplied the alcohol to the drunk driver responsible for injury compensation. In Missouri, owners of bars, taverns, and restaurants can face liability for serving alcohol to a visibly-intoxicated person, or any minor under 18. Kansas is one of the few states that doesn't have a dram shop law.
- Social hosts. Social host laws stipulate that people who serve alcohol at their residences to a minor under 18, or to a person who is obviously intoxicated, can be sued by a victim of a drunk driving accident. Neither Missouri nor Kansas has a social host law. However, in Missouri, a social host who serves alcohol to a minor can face criminal charges with penalties of up to one year in jail.
Any car accident can be traumatic, but an alcohol-related crash resulting in serious injuries or death is especially difficult to endure. Our experienced car accident attorneys are here to help you pursue claims for compensation against the negligent driver and any other responsible parties. To get your questions answered and learn about your legal options, start an online chat to schedule your free consultation.
Can I change attorneys in the middle of my car accident case?
Even if you carefully researched attorneys and interviewed your car accident attorney before retaining him, this doesn't guarantee that you'll be satisfied with his services.
You do have the right to fire your attorney if you are unhappy with how he handles your case. However, you don't want to take this decision lightly.
Reasons You May Need to Retain a New Attorney
Before firing your attorney, be certain expectations about your claim are realistic and that your frustrations are really caused by your attorney’s actions and not the insurance company. In most instances, it's best to let one attorney handle the case.
However, you may need to hire a new attorney if:
- He isn't working on your car accident case or not making sufficient progress in settling or litigating it. While your lawyer has a right to work on other cases, he should also be taking necessary steps in your case, such as investigating the cause of your crash, collecting medical records and other evidence, and negotiating your settlement with the insurance adjuster.
- He doesn't answer your questions, or follow your requests in matters that you have a right to decide, such as accepting or rejecting a settlement offer.
- Your telephone calls or emails aren't answered promptly, or you're not receiving proper updates about the progress in your case. There are some times that an attorney may genuinely be too busy to do this. However, he should designate a paralegal or administrative assistant to respond to or update you, and then schedule a time to talk as soon as possible.
- You discover he doesn't have the right experience handling car crash cases. Like with other areas of the law, these cases have specific laws and unique challenges. You want an experienced car accident attorney with a track record of success.
- Your current counsel engages in unethical behaviors, such as lying about your injuries or falsifying documents.
Are you considering firing the attorney handling your auto crash case? Our experienced car accident attorneys are here to discuss your situation and your legal options. Contact us online or call us directly at 816.471.5111 to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.
How does PIP help me if I am hurt in a car accident in Kansas?
Under Kansas law, you're required to purchase a minimum amount of automobile insurance coverage in order to drive your vehicle. Because Kansas is a no-fault state, the types and amounts of insurance you'll need is different than in at-fault states, where the negligent driver is responsible for fully compensating victims for their injuries. In the Sunflower State, you must first file a claim with your insurance company for injury compensation.
An important coverage you're required to add to your policy is personal injury protection (PIP), which helps if you're hurt in a motor vehicle accident.
Benefits of PIP Coverage
Every insurance policy in Kansas is required to have a minimum amount of PIP coverage.
You also have the option of increasing your limits, which you should do if you can. The minimum amounts of coverage you could have include:
- $4,500 per person for injuries caused in the car accident
- $900 per month for up to a year for disability or the loss of wages
- $25 per day for in-home services, such as cleaning or cooking, that you cannot perform due to your injury
- $4,500 for rehabilitation services, which can include psychological services and occupational rehabilitation
Personal injury protection benefits only pay for out-of-pocket expenses following a motor vehicle accident. This means it won't cover pain and suffering damages that victims in an at-fault state would receive.
In addition, loved ones of a deceased victim are entitled to PIP survivor benefits which include:
- $2,000 for funeral, burial, or cremation services
- Disability or lost wages of up to $900 per month for one year
- $25 per day for in-home services for up to one year
Who Is Eligible for PIP Benefits Following an Auto Crash?
In order to be eligible for PIP benefits, a person has to be covered under the auto insurance policy. This generally includes the following:
- Policyholder. The person(s) named as policyholders would be entitled to PIP benefits.
- Family. Family members of the person insured under the policy who live at the residence would be covered for injuries if they were driving the vehicle(s) covered under the policy or were passengers.
- Passengers. Other passengers who aren't family household members injured in the accident could be eligible for PIP benefits. However, if they already have auto insurance, they would need to apply for PIP benefits under their policy instead of yours.
What Happens If PIP Benefits Don't Provide Full Compensation
The amount of PIP benefits depends on how much coverage you purchased. In order to pursue a claim against the negligent driver for your pain and suffering, as well as other compensation, your claim must meet certain threshold requirements.
Your expenses must exceed $2,000, and your injuries must meet a set definition of a serious injury such as:
- Fracture of a weight-bearing bone
- Compound, compressed, or displaced fracture of any bone
- Permanent disfigurement
- Permanent injury
- Permanent loss of a body function
Although you're filing a claim for PIP benefits with your insurance provider, you need the assistance of an experienced car accident attorney to ensure you receive all of the benefits you deserve. He can also review your medical records and pursue your claim against the negligent driver if your injury qualifies under Kansas law.
The knowledgeable legal team at Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys has helped many clients fight for the PIP and other compensation to complete their recovery. Let us help you pursue all possible avenues of justice. To schedule your free consultation, call our office today.
Who pays my medical bills if I'm injured in a car accident in Kansas or Missouri?
If you were injured in a car accident, one of your major concerns after receiving initial medical care may be how to pay your mounting bills. These unexpected treatments and expenses caused by the accident probably weren't anything you planned for in your emergency savings fund.
Even if an insurance company or negligent driver is responsible for reimbursing you, you're ultimately liable for paying your doctor bills and other medical expenses, and creditors don't have to wait for a settlement of your claim to be paid.
Fortunately, you have options for funds to pay your medical bills, but they're different depending on whether your accident was in Kansas or Missouri.
Options for Paying Accident-Related Medical Expenses in Kansas
Kansas is a no-fault state, which means victims of car accidents must first turn to their auto insurance company for compensation for medical expenses. Here are your options:
- Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. Under Kansas law, you're required to have a minimum amount of PIP coverage to pay out-of-pocket expenses, such as wage losses and medical bills. When establishing this coverage on your policy, you can choose whatever limits work best. Regardless of who was at fault for the accident, PIP coverage is what the provider will use for injury compensation, and you'll file a claim here first.
- Health insurance company. If you have health insurance coverage through your employer or an individual policy, the health insurance company is the second option for paying your medical bills. Most likely, your health coverage reimbursement won't kick in until it has proof that you've exhausted your PIP policy. It may also require reimbursement if you successfully pursue a claim against the negligent driver.
- Negligent driver. If you meet certain threshold requirements, you may still be able to sue the negligent driver for medical expenses not covered by PIP. You can pursue this claim if your medical bills exceed $2,000 and you suffered certain injuries, such as a compound fracture, permanent scarring, or permanent disability.
How to Pay Medical Bills Following an Auto Accident in Missouri
Like most states in the U.S., Missouri is an at-fault state, which holds the negligent driver who caused your injuries fully responsible for compensation. However, it could take months or longer for you to settle your claim with his or her insurance company. Here are other options for paying your medical bills:
- MedPay. MedPay is optional medical insurance coverage you can add to an automobile insurance policy. It pays for your medical bills—even if you caused the accident—up to the coverage limits. You'll first submit any medical expenses through your MedPay coverage.
- Health insurance. If you have health insurance, it will pay your medical bills, but may first require proof that you used any available MedPay coverage. In addition, your health insurance provider will most likely require reimbursement of the payments they extended from your settlement with the negligent driver’s insurance company.
- Medical lien. Some medical care providers will agree to hold off on collection of their bills until the settlement of your claim. They place a lien on your settlement that requires any proceeds to fully reimburse them before you realize actual compensation.
Did you suffer injuries in a car accident in Missouri or Kansas? Even if you're filing a claim with your auto insurance company, you need the help of an experienced car accident attorney to negotiate your settlement so you receive fair and just compensation. To learn more about your legal options, contact us online or call our office directly at 816.471.5111 to schedule your free case evaluation.
Are there any kinds of accidents that my Kansas personal injury protection (PIP) won’t cover?
Kansas is a no-fault car insurance state—one of 13 in the U.S. This means you're required to purchase an additional automobile insurance policy item to cover your injuries in an accident, regardless of who was at fault.
This additional coverage is known as personal injury protection, or PIP. In most cases, PIP reimburses you for medical expenses up to your purchased policy limits. However, there are certain circumstances when you may be ineligible for benefits.
What Are PIP Benefits?
Under Kansas law, you're required to purchase a minimum of $4,500 in PIP coverage and have the option increments—as much as $50,000.
PIP can be used to compensate you and any passengers injured in a motor vehicle
accident, regardless of who caused it.
If you have the minimum coverage, PIP pays:
- $4,500 for medical expenses per person
- $900 per month for lost wages and disability for up to one year to an injured victim or his family if he died in the accident
- $25 per day in in-home services for one year
- $2,000 for funeral, burial, and cremation services
- $4,500 for rehabilitation costs
What Are Exceptions to PIP Benefit Coverage?
While you're entitled to PIP benefits in most automobile accidents even if you were at fault, there are exceptions, including:
- Intentional act. If you caused the accident on purpose, you may be disqualified from receiving PIP benefits.
- Motorcycle. You're not entitled to PIP benefits under your auto insurance policy if injuries were caused in a motorcycle accident. You would need to purchase PIP coverage for your motorcycle separately. This coverage isn't required under Kansas law.
- Work. If your accident occurred while driving for your job, you may not be entitled to personal injury protection payments. You'll most likely be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, and should first file a claim with your employer.
Were you injured in a car accident in Kansas? You need the assistance of an experienced car accident attorney to negotiate your rights and pursue a claim against the negligent driver if possible. To learn more about your legal options and our experience in these cases, contact us online or call us directly at 816.471.511 to schedule your free case evaluation.