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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Who is responsible for compensating me if I am in a crash involving an Uber or Lyft driver?
Unfortunately, the quick answer to this question is the multi-billion dollar companies behind these ride-hailing services cannot be held liable for damages if you're injured in a car accident due to the actions of one of their drivers. This is because Uber and Lyft drivers are independent contractors and not employees of the corporation.
However, that doesn't mean these drivers aren't regulated and insured. In this article, we discuss your options when you are injured in a ride-sharing accident.
How Do Ride-Sharing Services Work?
Thanks to legislation signed in April of 2017, ride-sharing services are now permitted to operate throughout Missouri and have become popular in Kansas City. Nationally, these services have taken off, answering a demand for transportation that traditional taxicabs and public transportation were unable to meet.
Unlike taxis, which you have to hail in the street or call a central number to request, ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft offer customers the ease of requesting a ride via an app on their smartphone. The app notifies the closest drivers of your request, and when one accepts your request, you're given the driver’s information and arrival time.
Payment is also handled through the app, so you do not have to have cash on hand to pay the driver. While Lyft has always offered a tipping option through the app, Uber just added this feature in the summer of 2017, but informs customers that it's entirely optional.
Not only have these companies provided a convenient transportation option to residents of Kansas City and other cities, but they also have given many unemployed and underemployed adults an easy way to make extra money. Who are these drivers, though, and how do you know if your driver is going to be safe?
Regulations for Uber Drivers
In order to drive for Uber, you must be at least 21 years old and have at least three years of driving experience in the U.S. A valid U.S. driver’s license is required, as is access to an approved 4-door vehicle. Drivers must complete an online application that includes a criminal background check and a clean driving record. It's also mandatory that drivers have valid car insurance.
Because many car insurance companies will not cover drivers who “drive for hire” on personal insurance policies, these drivers often must purchase commercial auto insurance. Uber also offers supplemental policies for its drivers, but they're only valid when the driver is “on duty”—meaning his or her Uber app is running and accepting requests.
Here’s how Uber’s supplemental insurance works:
- When the driver has his Uber app off, he's only covered by his personal auto insurance policy.
- When the driver has his Uber app on but isn't carrying a paying passenger, a low-level liability policy kicks in. This would cover pedestrians or passengers in other vehicles injured by the Uber driver’s negligence.
- When the driver has a paying passenger, a higher level of coverage is activated and will cover any injuries incurred as a result of a crash caused by the Uber driver.
Both Uber and Lyft provide supplemental insurance policies of $1 million during the active duty drive times.
What to Do If You're Injured by an Rideshare Driver
If you're seriously injured as a pedestrian or passenger by an Uber or Lyft driver, your source of compensation will be the driver’s personal or commercial auto insurance policy and any supplemental polices active at the time of the crash.
Because of the added complications in this type of case, it would be wise to hire an attorney to assist with it, but in the meantime, you should write down the name and phone number of the driver—if it’s not already in your phone—and take a screenshot of the Uber trip and receipts on your phone. This could become valuable evidence of which level of insurance was active at the time of the crash. If you're a pedestrian who was hit by an Uber driver, you must get the driver’s name and number, as you will have no record of it on your app.
Have you been injured in a car accident while using one of these ride share services? If so you should speak with an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call us directly at 816.471.5111 for your free consultation today.
What is a workers’ compensation Independent Medical Exam?
When you're injured at work or become ill due to exposure to a toxic substance in the workplace, you're entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ comp is an insurance program employers are required to enroll in that is designed to cover the medical expenses and other damages suffered by employees while on the job.
However, these insurance payouts are expensive for companies, so representatives do everything they can to make sure the claims are legitimate, and then enable workers stop collecting benefits and return to their jobs as soon as they are able. To ensure this, your employer may require you to undergo an Independent Medical Exam (IME). We explain what that means and why you may need an attorney.
How Does Workers’ Compensation Work?
There are many ways to be injured at work—it's not just construction workers and warehouse employees who get hurt on the job. People in healthcare, food service, retail stores, and even offices can suffer slip and fall or repetitive use injuries, or experience toxic exposure illnesses.
Whether or not the accident that left you injured was your fault, if it happened at work or while you were offsite but on the clock, you should receive workers’ comp benefits to cover your medical bills and pay you while you are unable to work. Your employer wants proof the accident occurred at work and that you're actually injured or ill.
To fulfill the first requirement, you should report the incident to your supervisor as soon as possible. You may also need witness statements or surveillance video footage to support your claim. To prove you're actually injured or ill, you'll need medical tests and a doctor’s report. However, you employer or his insurance company may not trust your personal physician’s diagnosis and may require you to see one of their own doctors for an IME.
How Does an Independent Medical Exam Work?
If you want to receive workers’ comp benefits, you have to follow your employer’s instructions to have an IME. You'll be sent to a doctor of the workers’ comp insurance company’s choosing. Most states maintain a list of doctors approved to conduct IMEs and your employer tells you where to go.
The insurance company is legally obligated to ensure its requirement is “reasonable.” This means you shouldn't have to travel a great distance or submit to an excessive number of examinations. If you're required to travel to see the approved doctor, worker’s comp benefits should reimburse you for your travel expenses.
Some employers require you to have an IME before approving your benefits. Others accept your incident report and emergency medical treatment report as sufficient to grant your initial benefits. In either case, if your recovery is lengthy, you'll likely be asked to attend follow-up IMEs as deemed necessary by the insurance company. Again, the insurer is required to be “reasonable” in its request, but may require you to submit to multiple medical evaluations.
In an IME, the doctor is determining the following:
- Were you injured?
- Is your injury as serious as you claim?
- Is your injury consistent with your description of the workplace accident?
- Have you fully recovered?
If the doctor concludes as a result of the IME that you've recovered and are capable of returning to work, your benefits may be revoked, and you'll be required to return to work, despite how you feel or what your personal physician might say.
When You Need A Workers' Compensation Attorney
As a no-fault system, workers’ comp programs are designed to be fairly straightforward. However, if your employer denies your claim following an IME, or an IME determines that you're ready to return to work and you and your doctor disagree, you should consider hiring an experienced workers’ comp attorney.
We know many of the approved workers’ comp doctors in the area and we know when you may have legitimate grounds for an appeal. Contact us online or call us directly at 816.471.5111 for your free consultation.
Am I covered by workers’ comp when I'm injured on the way to or from my job?The simple answer to this question is no—but there may be exceptions. Workers’ compensation insurance is provided to cover employees for injuries or illnesses they suffer while on the clock at their jobs. Because workers aren't being paid for the time it takes to and from their jobs, they're not covered by workers’ compensation during that time.
However, some workers are paid for travel time, which makes them eligible for workers’ comp if they are injured while traveling. There may be other exceptions as well.
Why the Limits on Coverage?
The purpose of workers’ comp is to cover the medical expenses and lost wages of employees who are injured on the job or made ill by exposure to a dangerous substance at work. When an employer carries workers’ comp insurance—which every company with over five employees in Kansas and Missouri must do—he is also exempt from being sued by the worker because of an accident.
Workers’ comp is considered “no fault” insurance because it applies whether the employee was injured by his own carelessness or because of the negligence of a co-worker or employer. But if a worker is impaired by alcohol or drugs or hurts himself intentionally, his workers’ comp claim will likely be denied.
In most cases, the sticking point is whether or not the worker was actually injured on the job. Workers’ comp insurance adjusters will dispute claims if they suspect the worker is trying to get benefits for an injury he sustained outside of work or for an illness unrelated to his work environment.
Exceptions to the Going and Coming Rule
Even though you could argue that commuting to and from your place of employment is “work related” and should, therefore, be covered, the going and coming rule says otherwise. If you're driving to or from work; walking from your car to the building; or out on a lunch break when you slip and fall or get in a car accident, you would not be covered by workers’ comp.
Some exceptions might include the following:
- Driving a company car. If you have a company car and are in an accident while driving it to or from work, you'll probably be covered by workers’ comp.
- Traveling as a job duty. If you're a delivery truck driver, messenger, bus driver, police officer, or have another job that requires travel, and are injured while traveling, your injuries will be covered by workers’ comp because you're on the clock and the travel is part of your job description.
- Traveling between job sites. If you work at multiple sites throughout the day and are in an accident while traveling between sites, this is generally considered job-related and will be covered.
- Running an official errand. If your manager sends you on an errand—including a coffee run or personal errand—and you're injured, you should be covered by workers’ comp.
If you're injured outside of your workplace and aren’t sure if you're eligible for workers’ comp, report your injury to your supervisor immediately and contact an experienced Kansas City workers’ compensation attorney. He or she will be able to tell you if you have a case.
Examples Of "Going and Coming" Workers' Comp Case Exceptions
Recent workers’ comp appeals in Kansas and Missouri illustrate the uncertainty involving the "going and coming" rule.
In a 2014 case in Kansas (Williams v Petromark Drilling, LLC), a young oil worker was denied workers’ comp when he suffered a rollover accident after leaving a remote job site in a co-worker’s car. Even though traveling to the site was considered work-related, he turned down a ride from his supervisor and chose to drive for his own convenience. Thus, his injuries were deemed not related to work.
In an unusual ruling in a 2011 case in Missouri (Lantie Wilson v Buchanan County), the appeals court found that an employee who slipped on ice in his employer’s parking lot on his way into work was eligible for workers’ comp, because he would not have been in the parking lot if he was not reporting for work.
These cases show the "going and coming" rule is open to some degree to interpretation.
If you're injured on your way to or from work and you believe there are special circumstances related to your accident, contact us online or call us directly at 816.471.511 for a free consultation.
Who is liable when high-speed police pursuits end in bystander injury or death?
Despite many tragic stories of innocent bystanders being injured or killed by a vehicle engaged in a high speed police chase in the Kansas City area, there's not much victims can do to hold the responsible parties accountable.
Because the police have broad powers to carry out their duties to prevent and punish criminal acts, they're often untouchable when it comes to seeking justice for innocent victims. While someone can seek damages from the driver being pursued at the time of the crash, she's unlikely to be successful in suing a police officer, his department, or the municipality that employs him.
How Bad Is the Problem?
It’s not clear just how many innocent people are injured or killed in high speed police chases each year. Statistics on this occurrence aren't gathered in a consistent manner across the country.
According to an investigative story published 2015 in The Kansas City Star, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 333 people were killed during police pursuits. Many believe that number leaves out at least 100 additional fatalities related to police chases. There's not a formal system for tracking the number of crashes or injuries nationwide each year.
According to NHTSA statistics, there were 127 deaths in Missouri and 47 in Kansas related to police high-speed chases between 2003 and 2013.
In the Kansas City area, data on police crashes is collected in Kansas but not in Missouri. On the Kansas side of the city, there were 558 pursuit-related crashes between 2003 and 2013, including 13 deaths and over 300 injuries. The data that is available from Missouri indicates that there were as many as 148 crashes in the same 10-year period, but no additional data is available.
No Consistent Policy
Perhaps because of the lack of consistent data documenting the dangers of high-speed chases, police agencies across Kansas and Missouri lack a standard policy for when a police officer should and should not pursue a suspect.
Sometimes, officers follow suspects across multiple county lines, regardless of the policies for high-speed chases in those jurisdictions. When innocent people are injured or killed in these chases, it can be difficult to know who is responsible for compensating the victims.
Following the tragic deaths of two innocent victims in separate crashes in 2014, the Kansas City, Kansas, (KCK) police department enacted a policy later that year to only pursue suspects who had already committed a serious felony.
However, in June 2017, the KCK revised that policy, pledging to pursue anyone fleeing the police as long as there is probable cause. This change was the result of a spike in crime caused in part, according to KCK, by suspects knowing they wouldn't be chased if they fled.
Police Are Usually Protected from Prosecution
A police officer must be able to do what he feels is necessary to protect the public. That's his duty. However, when an officer pursues a fleeing suspect through busy city streets at high speeds, running stop signs and red lights, he's not protecting the public by catching a criminal:
He's putting the public in danger of a high-speed collision. The police argue—and the Supreme Court has agreed—they cannot fulfill their duties to protect the public if they cannot pursue criminals.
Whether the victim is hit by the fleeing suspect or the pursuing police car, the question is: who's at fault? Courts often reach the conclusion that—no matter which car hits you—it's the suspect who's to blame because by committing a crime or fleeing from the police, he initiated the chase. However, the family of an innocent victim may argue the police officer shouldn't have continued the chase once it became dangerous to bystanders. This argument, while valid, isn't often successful in being awarded compensation from police departments or municipalities.
Our Accident Attorneys Will Steer You in the Right Direction
If you or a loved one was injured in a police chase, schedule a consultation with the accident attorneys in our Overland Park office. We'll look at the facts of your case and help you decide what to do. We stand by victims, but won't send you on a wild goose chase.
Can I sue a third party when I'm injured at work and still receive workers’ comp benefits?
No matter what your work environment is, you can have an accident that leaves you injured. Some of these accidents are just that—an accident that's no one’s fault. Other accidents are caused by the worker’s carelessness and still others are caused by employer negligence.
Regardless of the injury cause, an employee is entitled to collect workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits are considered to be no-fault benefits, so the worker doesn't have to show he wasn't at fault to receive them.
However, when an employee is injured due to defective equipment, in a car or truck accident, or on property not owned by the employer, he or she may be able to sue a third party for negligence and receive compensation. The employer may also be entitled to some of that money.
Third-Party Liability for Work Injuries
When you suffer an accident at work, it's a good idea to determine the cause of the accident to see if you can hold a third party liable. In general, if your employer has workers’ comp insurance, you cannot sue him for an on-the-job injury, but you may be able to seek compensation from a third party.
If you're injured on faulty equipment, during a slip and fall on a dangerous surface, or through some other way, another party may be partially to blame for your injury. Some examples of third-party liability include the following:
- You're hit by another motorist while driving on company business. You would qualify for workers’ comp because you're performing work duties, but you could also sue the driver who hit you for additional compensation.
- While working on an assembly line, the machinery jams and your hand is crushed. Worker’s comp will cover your medical expenses up to a point, but the manufacturer of the machinery could also be held liable for your injuries.
- You fall from an unstable scaffold as a contractor on a construction site. Your employer should be carrying workers’ comp insurance, but the owner of the construction site may be held liable for creating an unsafe work environment.
- You're attacked and injured by a co-worker. If the incident happens at work, you'll be eligible for workers’ comp, but you can also take civil action against the person who attacked you.
It can be difficult to prove third-party liability, and it often takes a long time to settle a claim. Workers’ comp benefits will become important in the meantime, allowing you to pay your medical bills and make up for lost income if you have to miss work.
However, if you're successful in your third-party lawsuit, your employer may be entitled to a portion of your settlement to reimburse his company for the workers’ comp benefits.
Workers’ Comp Subrogation
Your employer’s worker’s comp insurance representative is likely paying close attention to any additional legal action you choose to take. If you file suit against a negligent third party, your employer will probably also file a subrogation claim. This filing will place a lien on the proceeds you get from any third-party award. The purpose of this is to recoup the losses the company experienced through your workers’ comp payout.
If you win your suit against the third party, your employer will first be reimbursed for workers’ comp benefits before you receive your settlement. This only happens when the employer files a subrogation claim. If a claim isn't filed, you'll keep the whole settlement.
Working With an Attorney Can Help
When you hire the workers’ comp attorneys at Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys, you'll get trustworthy advice about filing a third-party claim and learn about your chances for success. If your injuries aren't serious and your workers’ comp benefits will cover your expenses, it probably isn’t worth filing a third-party claim. Contact us online or call us directly at 888.348.2616 to learn more about workers’ comp claims.
Will permanent facial scarring affect the value of my car accident injury claim?
Following a car or truck accident, any sort of catastrophic or permanent injury will increase the value of a claim. After all, the costs of treating a person with a life-long condition or permanent disability are significantly higher than treating and curing a less serious injury. A person with a permanent physical disability may need care and assistance for a lifetime.
However, when a car, truck, or motorcycle crash results in permanent scarring or disfigurement which doesn't technically affect the victim’s abilities, will he or she be entitled to a higher settlement? Probably, but will need strong legal representation.
How Vehicle Accidents Can Cause Disfigurement
Occupants of cars and motorcycles are at risk of suffering various catastrophic injuries in a collision. Broken bones, traumatic brain injury, and spinal cord damage can all have serious and permanent consequences for the victim.
Vehicle crashes can also result in facial trauma and disfiguring scars in the following ways:
- Burns. Violent crashes, especially those involving a truck transporting flammable materials, can result in explosions and fires. A person trapped in a burning car is likely to suffer burns to his face will that require skin grafts. While some damage can be repaired, the victim may carry disfiguring scars for a lifetime.
- Bone fractures. There are more than 14 bones in the face, and fractures are a common result of a collision. When facial bones are broken, reconstructive surgery is often required. While victims may successfully regain function, their appearances are usually changed permanently—and not for the better.
- Lacerations. Shattered glass or road debris can impact a face, causing multiple deep cuts, some requiring stitches. Lacerations can cause significant scarring that will never completely go away, creating a changed appearance.
- Eye injuries. It's possible for a projectile to penetrate the eye in a collision. A victim may lose that eye, resulting in partial blindness and lifelong disfigurement. Fractures of the eye sockets can also cause a dramatic change in appearance.
- Soft tissue injuries. Damage to facial ligaments, cartilage, tendons, or muscles are the most common craniofacial injuries suffered in car crashes. These types of injury can impair facial features and function and may be irreparable.
Because a person’s face is always visible, it's impossible to completely conceal facial scars and injuries. Even when these injuries don’t affect facial function such as speech, blinking, chewing, smiling, yawning, tear and saliva production, and more, the physical disfigurement can be life-altering.
What Facial Scarring Can Cost the Victim
Craniofacial injuries often result in loss of important facial functions, which can be documented and submitted as part of an injury claim. However, when no permanent loss of function occurs, it can be more difficult to calculate damages. Facial disfigurement and scarring can cause significant pain and suffering, affecting the victim in the following ways:
- Poor self-image
- Loss of confidence
- Loss of job or inability to find employment
- Constant reminder of car crash trauma
- Decrease in social interaction
- Stares and comments from strangers
It's not easy to calculate non-economic damages such as these and, without qualified legal representation, victims are often cheated out of the compensation they deserve.
How to Recover Fair Damages
If you or a loved one has suffered disfiguring facial injuries in a car crash, you'll need the assistance of a legal team experienced in calculating and negotiating for non-economic damages. Your attorney will consult with your doctors and plastic surgeons in order to understand and quantify the extent of your physical injuries. He'll also arrange for you to be evaluated by a therapist who can assess the emotional and psychological effects the injuries have had on you. An economic expert can determine the potential losses you face in your career field because of scars. Another factor your legal team will consider is the loss of potential relationships and social interactions you could suffer because of the changes to your appearance.
The insurance adjuster for the at-fault driver in your accident won't be sympathetic to your potential non-economic losses. Don't accept a settlement offer without talking to an attorney. You deserve more—don’t settle for less. Contact us online or call us directly at 888.348.2616.
Why aren’t people using their turn signals anymore?
Have you noticed this, too? It seems that fewer people are bothering to signal before they turn or change lanes. The answer may be related to another major danger—driving while distracted. The fact is, signaling your intentions to other drivers before you make a maneuver is an easy way to prevent what could be a serious collision. Yes, cars have much more sophisticated safety technology these days, but this little device—which has been common on vehicles since the 1940s—may be just as effective for saving lives.
How Many People Actually Use Turn Signals?
It’s one of the first things we learn in driver’s education courses. When making a lane change:
- Check the rear and side view mirrors
- Engage the turn signal
- Check over your shoulder to ensure clear right-of-way
- Carefully make the change
We were also taught to signal before making a turn, even when stopped at an intersection in a turn-only lane.
This simple device lets others know what your intention is—something not always easily determined. If you feel like turn signaling is a dying art, you’re not wrong. A study conducted by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) in 2012 found that 25 percent of drivers fail to signal before making a left- or right-hand turn. Even more drivers—48 percent—don't signal before changing lanes. By extrapolating their findings, the study authors estimated that failure to use a turn signal may directly cause as many as two million crashes every year.
Why Are People Refusing to Signal?
Many people aren't aware that using your turn signal to let people know you are making a turn is required by law. In Kansas, the statute reads as follows:
- No person shall turn a vehicle or move right or left upon a roadway unless and until such movement can be made with reasonable safety, nor without giving an appropriate signal in the manner hereinafter provided.
- A signal of intention to turn or move right or left when required shall be given continuously during not less than the last one hundred (100) feet traveled by the vehicle before turning.
Thus, any time you make a turn or change lanes without signaling, you're breaking the law. By following the law and extending common courtesy, every driver who signals helps the flow of traffic.
So why do so many people fail to do it? Here are some common reasons:
- Simple laziness. For many drivers, signaling is simply not a habit they ever got into. They may not be speeding or making erratic lane changes, but their lazy driving can be just as dangerous.
- Aggressive driving. When people speed and drive aggressively, they don't leave themselves the opportunity to signal an action ahead of time. The last thing on their minds is paying other drivers the courtesy of letting them know where they intend to go.
- Distraction. It’s hard to activate the turn signal when you are driving with one hand and holding a cell phone or cup of coffee with the other. Even when both hands are on the wheel, if the driver is distracted by a hands-free phone conversation or something on the radio or an untethered pet in the passenger seat, he or she is unlikely to remember to signal a turn.
Whatever the reason, there's no question that failing to signal can lead to a collision.
How Signaling Protects Drivers
A good, defensive driver is aware of her surroundings and looks for clues from other drivers about what their next moves are so that she knows what's safe for her to do. Brake lights let drivers know that a car is slowing down or stopping. Turn signals are just as important.
When a driver signals appropriately, other drivers know the following:
- It's safe to pull out onto a street.
- A car is about to move into your lane in front of you.
- The car in front of you will soon be slowing down to make a turn.
Just as signaling before a turn is important, so is shutting off your signal after the turn is complete. Most turn signals are designed to do this automatically, but if yours doesn’t, it can be hazardous to leave it on because other drivers will be expecting you to do something you're not going to do.
Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys provides these helpful FAQs because we care about the safety of our friends and neighbors in Missouri and Kansas. If you have a legal question about a car wreck or motorcycle accident, do not hesitate to call us at 888.348.2626 or contact us online.
Do I have to pay taxes on my car accident settlement award?
As with any tax question, there isn't a simple answer to that. Some damages are taxable, others aren't. Once you're awarded damages—whether through settlement negotiations or by a judge following a trial—you'll have to figure out what, if any, portion of it is taxable.
When you work with a car accident attorney to file a claim, he will make every effort to ensure that the bulk of your settlement isn't taxable. We break down which damages are taxable and which are not.
Damages for Medical Expenses Are Not Taxable
If you were injured in a car accident that wasn't your fault, the bulk of your compensation will likely be for your medical expenses. You won't have to pay taxes on this portion of the settlement. These damages cover the following types of expenses:
- Emergency room costs
- Doctor visits
- Physical or psychological therapy
- Scans and x-rays
- Surgeries and hospital stays
- Assistive devices
- Any other medical expenses
These damages are clearly tied to the physical injury, so there's generally no question about them being taxed.
You may also be awarded damages associated with a physical injury that aren't for medical expenses. If they're part of an award directly related to your physical injury, they're not subject to taxation. However, sometimes they're harder to prove to a judge. These damages may include money to compensate for the following:
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
- Property damage
In order for the IRS to accept these damages as non-taxable income, the settlement will have to be clearly identified as the result of a personal injury claim.
Damages Awarded for Emotional Injury Are Taxable
If you're awarded a settlement for emotional injuries associated with a car accident, that money would be taxable.
In other words, if you weren't physically injured in a car crash, but you were emotionally traumatized by the experience, you may be awarded damages for pain and suffering, but those damages would be subject to taxation. This would include damage awards for depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
If you're awarded damages for lost wages related to an emotional trauma, that money would also be taxed. However, compensation for the cost of medical treatment for emotional trauma would not be taxable.
Punitive Damages Are Taxable
Sometimes, juries award punitive damages as a way to punish an egregious offense. These damages can be significant, as the goal is to make the offender suffer for what he has done.
For example, a drunk driver may be ordered to pay punitive damages for intentionally endangering others by driving under the influence. While these damages are awarded to the victim, they're not considered part of the settlement for physical injury, and are therefore considered taxable income. You would pay income tax on the amount just as you would any other income.
How a Car Accident Attorney Can Help
When you work with an experienced car accident attorney to negotiate your settlement or, if necessary, to represent you in court, he will present your claim so there's a clear delineation between taxable and non-taxable damages. He may file two separate claims: one for personal injury and one for non-personal injury, so it's clear to the IRS which portion is taxable. He will also make every effort to connect your pain and suffering and lost wages directly to your physical injuries so the damages won't be subject to taxation.
When you try to go it alone in a car accident claim involving injuries, it may put you at a tax disadvantage. Contact us online or call us directly at 888.348.2616 to learn more.
What dangers are present when working with robots?
Automation may be the wave of the future, but many Kansas City workers are already sharing their workplace with robots and other automated machines. While robots are ideal for performing strenuous and repetitive actions on an assembly line, they're not capable of problem solving when something out of the ordinary happens. This limitation puts human employees at serious risk of injury, or, even worse, the possibility of wrongful death while on the job.
When you work in a partially-automated environment, what should your employer do to ensure your safety? What can you do if you're injured by a malfunctioning robot?
The Danger Is Real
While there are not yet a large number of publicized workplace deaths caused by machinery, when they do happen, they're gruesome.
In a tragic 2015 incident at an automotive stamping plant in Michigan, a maintenance technician was working in an area when a robot entered, attempting to load a hitch assembly to a fixture that was already loaded with an assembly. With no place to release its load, the robot hit the worker and crushed her skull, killing her. In another incident in 2016 in Alabama, also at an auto parts manufacturing plant, a worker entered a robotic station to clear a sensor fault after the assembly line shut down. The machinery unexpectedly restarted, crushing the worker. In both cases, family members filed wrongful death lawsuits, claiming a lack of safety procedures and worker protection.
The safety of robotics in the workplace has been a concern since the technology was first available, and it's up to employers to ensure the safety of workers. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the following are the types of accidents that can occur when working with robots:
- Impact or collision accidents. Unpredicted movements, component malfunctions, or unpredicted program changes related to the robot's arm or peripheral equipment can result in contact accidents.
- Crushing and trapping accidents. A worker's limb or another body part can be trapped between a robot's arm and other peripheral equipment, or the individual may be physically driven into and crushed by other peripheral equipment.
- Mechanical part accidents. The breakdown of the robot's drive components, tooling or end-effector, peripheral equipment, or its power source is a mechanical accident. The release of parts, failure of gripper mechanism, or the failure of end-effector power tools (e.g., grinding wheels, buffing wheels, deburring tools, power screwdrivers, and nut runners) are a few types of mechanical failures.
- Other accidents. Other accidents can result from working with robots. Equipment that supplies robot power and control represents potential electrical and pressurized fluid hazards. Ruptured hydraulic lines could create dangerous high-pressure cutting streams or whipping hose hazards. Environmental accidents from arc flash, metal spatter, dust, electromagnetic, or radio-frequency interference can also occur. In addition, equipment and power cables on the floor present tripping hazards.
What Are the Safety Standards?
Although these safety recommendations date back to 1984, they're still the go-to standards for automation in the workplace. Developed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), these standards have also been adopted by OSHA.
NIOSH identifies three key areas to focus safety efforts: robotic system design, worker training, and worker supervision. The following are key recommendations:
- Include physical barriers that incorporate gates equipped with electrical interlocks so that operation of the robot stops when the gate is opened.
- Include remote diagnostic instrumentation as much as possible so that the maximum amount of troubleshooting of the system can be done from areas outside the operating range of the robot.
- Employees must be familiar with all working aspects of the robot—including full range of motion, known hazards, how the robot is programmed, emergency stop buttons, and safety barriers—before operating or performing maintenance work at robotic work stations.
- Operators should never be in reach of the robot while it's operating.
- Supervisors should assure that no one is allowed to enter the operational area of a robot without first putting the robot on "hold," in a "power down" condition, or at a reduced operating speed mode.
Although these recommendations are over 30 years old, had they been in place in the auto plants described above, tragic deaths would have been prevented.
Concerned About Safety in Your Workplace?
If you work with industrial robots, you may be concerned about your safety. If you're injured in an accident involving automated machinery, your claim for workers’ compensation should be quickly approved, as determination of fault isn't required for a workers’ comp claim. If your claim is denied for any reason, you should call an experienced workers’ comp attorney to assist you. If you have concerns about the safety of your workplace, contact OSHA or your state agency to report your concerns. You could save a life.
Have you been injured on the job? Contact us online or call us directly at 888.438.2616 to discuss your claim.
How do I calculate lost income and future lost income?
The losses a person suffers in a serious car accident are nearly impossible to fully quantify. While medical expenses may be demonstrated with billing statements from clinics and hospitals, how do you put a price tag on the suffering you've endured?
Equally difficult can be figuring out how much you've lost in earnings and potential earnings because of the accident. Many factors go into this calculation, and you should make sure your attorney has all the information he needs to demand a fair amount of compensation for your lost income.
When Is Time Away From Work Compensable?
If you're injured in a car crash that wasn't your fault, you're entitled to compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. In addition to payment of medical bills, you should also receive damages for other costs and losses you incurred as a result of the accident.
Many people involved in serious car accidents must miss work for an extended period of time to seek medical treatment and to recover from injuries. They may also miss work for meetings with attorneys or insurance adjusters and, in some cases, for time spent in court at trial. It doesn't matter if you're a full-time, part-time, hourly, or even self-employed worker—you're still eligible to recover the money you lost because of the accident. If you used sick leave or vacation time to recuperate, that time should be reimbursed in the settlement, since you wouldn't have taken the days if you hadn't been injured.
Documenting Lost Income
In order to show that you did indeed lose income because of the accident, you'll have to provide documentation of what you normally earn and how you missed out on those wages because of the accident.
You should be prepared to show the following:
- A letter from your employer. This document, ideally on company letterhead, should verify your employment, your rate of pay, the hours you normally work, and the time you missed because of the accident. It doesn't matter if the hours you took were vacation or sick time.
- Proof of self-employment. If you're self-employed, it will be more difficult to prove lost hours. Billing statements, invoices, appointment calendars, and meeting minutes can be used to show how much you earned on a daily basis before the accident.
- Proof of earnings. The best evidence of earnings would be your most recent tax return, but if that's not indicative of a normal year’s earnings, you may want to provide several years’ worth. All you need to show is your gross income; deductions and exemptions aren't relevant.
- Evidence of lost opportunities. If you missed out on an interview for a promotion or the chance at holiday overtime because of the accident, you should provide evidence of that. A statement from your employer will likely be sufficient.
When showing evidence of lost income, it is important that you think of all sources of earnings, including overtime pay, bonuses, and other benefits.
Showing Loss of Potential Earnings
If your car accident left you permanently injured or disabled in some way, you may not be able to return to the same position you were in before the accident. You may have to take a position that pays less than you were earning or that has fewer opportunities for advancement and raises.
To show this, you'll have to calculate what you would have earned in the years to come had you remained in your original position, and compare that to potential earnings in your new position.
While you may not know what to say to an insurance company after a crash, an experienced personal injury attorney will be able to help you gather the information you need to support your demand for compensation for lost income. Please call the car accident attorneys at Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys for more information about the damages you may be owed.