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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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. Call our Kansas City office today 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.
How does MedPay help me if I'm hurt in an accident in Missouri?
Missouri is an at-fault state when it comes to automobile accidents. This means the negligent driver is responsible for fully compensating for your injuries.
However, this doesn't mean that you shouldn't obtain the best automobile insurance coverage in order to protect yourself. There are many coverage options you can add to your policy. One you might find helpful is MedPay coverage to help pay your medical expenses after a serious car crash.
Why a Negligent Driver’s Liability Coverage May Not Be Enough
You may wonder why you need any additional insurance coverage of your own if the negligent driver is responsible for paying you. However, this coverage is often insufficient to fully reimburse you. In Missouri, all drivers are required to purchase a minimum amount of automobile liability insurance coverage in order to drive on Missouri roads. This minimum required amount is set by law and includes the following:
- $25,000 in bodily injury per person
- $50,000 in bodily injury per accident
- $25,000 in property damage per accident
If the negligent driver only had the minimum in liability coverage, you would only be entitled to a maximum of $25,000 to pay for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Unless you suffered a very minor injury, this coverage most likely will not cover even the cost of your medical care.
In addition, you cannot count on the negligent driver being insured even though he is required to have this insurance by law. In 2015, 14 percent of motorists drove in Missouri when they were uninsured. This means that there is a good chance that you could be involved in an auto crash that was no fault of your own where the negligent driver had no insurance or other assets to pay you what you are owed. By having MedPay coverage, you ensure that your medical bills will be paid up to the coverage limit in your policy.
How MedPay Auto Insurance Coverage Helps If You're Injured
MedPay coverage pays for the medical bills you or your passengers may incur due to accident injury. This is an optional insurance coverage you add to your existing policy, and coverage amounts range between $1,000 to $10,000. The additional MedPay premium on your policy may be a few dollars each month up to approximately $30 per month. Your insurance agent can line item the expense for you.
Here are some key points regarding MedPay coverage:
- Fault. You and your passengers are entitled to this payment regardless of who was at fault for causing the accident—even you.
- Health insurance. If you have health insurance through your employment or otherwise, you may wonder why you need MedPay coverage. However, most health insurance companies require individuals to exhaust MedPay before paying medical bills for injuries caused in a car accident. In addition, most health insurance policies require reimbursement out of a victim’s settlement for any payments they initially covered. This means your overall settlement will be less.
- No reimbursement. Because you purchased the MedPay coverage, you're not required to reimburse the insurance company for medical bills that are paid as part of your settlement. This can increase the amount of your overall settlement and make it more likely that you'll be fully compensated.
- Collection. Many auto accident claims with a negligent driver’s insurance company can take months or longer to settle if the company fights to reduce or deny the claim. If you don't have other health insurance or MedPay to cover injury expenses, the medical provider could refer your account to a collection agency. This can result in you receiving threatening calls and letters, or being sued. A deferment to a collection agency also impacts your ability to obtain credit. .
Before submitting any bills to MedPay for payment, you want to discuss this with an experienced car accident attorney for advice on which bills should be submitted first. For example, he may believe he can reach favorable settlements with some of your medical care providers to reduce what you owe. This means he may want you to first pay off difficult accounts, such as an ambulance company, that often don't negotiate.
Whether you need to file a claim with a negligent driver’s insurance company or through your own automobile insurance policy, our experienced car accident attorneys are here to help. Get started now by contacting us online or calling us directly at 816.471.5111 to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.
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How do personal injury claims differ from workers’ compensation claims?
If you were involved in a workplace accident, it may be confusing to determine whether you need to file a workers’ compensation claim or a personal injury claim against your employer. In Kansas and Missouri, you most likely will need to file a workers’ compensation claim. You should know how this option differs from a personal injury claim, because it affects your rights to compensation.
Workers’ Comp and Personal Injury Claims: The Question of Liability
One of the key differences between personal injury and workers' compensation claims is the issue of fault. Personal injury cases involve many different types of injury claims, such as car accidents, slip and falls, and medical malpractice. In a personal injury case, you must prove the negligent party’s fault in causing your injuries in order to receive compensation.
Workers’ compensation operates differently. It's a no-fault system that provides you with benefits if you're injured in a workplace accident, regardless of who was at fault for causing it.
This means you could be entitled to benefits even if you were the negligent party.
Compensation in Personal Injury vs. Workers’ Comp Cases
Potential compensation in workers’ compensation is different than personal injury cases. Under workers’ compensation laws, you're entitled to benefits to pay your medical bills, a fixed portion of your wages, vocational rehabilitation and, if applicable, permanent disability benefits. You're not entitled to any pain and suffering damages.
In a personal injury case, you have the possibility of recovering to the full amount of your losses if you prove the other party’s negligence. This can make your claim worth more than in a workers’ compensation case. Types of compensation you may receive include:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future lost wages and benefits of your job, such as commissions, bonuses, and sick and vacation time
- Lost earning capacity if you must make a career change or are permanently disabled
- Pain and suffering
Can You Sue an Employer in a Workers’ Compensation Case?
Your rights to sue when you suffer an injury at your job are more limited than in a personal injury accident. In exchange for the more guaranteed right of compensation that workers’ compensation provides, you give up the right to sue your employer and any co-workers whose negligence may have caused your injuries, except in limited circumstances. However, you do retain the right to file a lawsuit against third parties that were partially or completely at fault in causing your workplace accident.
In a personal injury case, you can—and should—pursue a claim for compensation against any potentially liable party. By doing so, you increase the likelihood you'll receive all you deserve for injury recovery.
Process of Filing a Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury Claim
If you're hurt at work, you have to file a claim with your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company. In a personal injury case, you would file a claim with the negligent party’s insurance carrier. This could be a driver’s automobile insurance, a homeowner’s insurance policy, or a business’ liability insurance coverage.
If there are disputes about your right to compensation, here's what happens:
- Workers’ compensation. Your claim would be filed with your state workers’ compensation agency, and an administrative judge decides your case. There are special laws and procedures governing workers’ compensation cases.
- Personal injury. When you cannot settle a personal injury case, you must file a lawsuit in civil court, where your case would be decided by a jury if it's not resolved during the litigation process.
Personal injury and workers’ compensation claims are similar in a few ways. In both, you may need to fight for the compensation you deserve. In addition, when filing either type of claim, you may need the assistance of an experienced attorney who handles the type of case you have to protect your interests and ensure a full chance at financial recovery.
Were you injured in a workplace accident? Our skilled workers’ compensation attorneys are here to explain your rights and to fight for your benefits. We also represent clients in personal injury claims, and can pursue litigation for you. Contact us online or call us directly at 816.471.5111 to schedule your free consultation.