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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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.
How do workers’ compensation guidelines define an independent contractor?
If you work in any field and are classified as an independent contractor, you should understand that you won't be covered by an employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. Even in dangerous jobs such as roofing, building, road construction, and warehouse work, if you're not a regular employee, your injuries and illnesses won't be covered by workers’ comp insurance. However, many workers are classified as independent contractors when they shouldn't be. Learn more about work status classification and your right to benefits, including workers’ comp.
What Is an Independent Contractor?
While employers in many industries are happy to hire workers as contractors, it may not always be legal. There are strict guidelines for classification as a contract worker, and many employers are in violation of these guidelines. Hiring a worker as a contractor saves the employer a great deal of money in state and federal taxes and in workers’ comp insurance premiums. Even if you're desperate for work and happy with the pay rate, you should understand when you're truly an independent contractor and when you're not.
According to the Internal Revenue Service, an independent contractor meets all of the following requirements:
- Does the same work for multiple employers
- Has his own tools and equipment and can hire, supervise, and pay assistants
- Can make a profit or suffer a loss
- Sets his own hours and work schedule
- Has a business license
A traditional employee, on the other hand, fits the following description:
- Has a continuing relationship with an employer
- Is furnished equipment and supplies by the employer
- Can quit at any time without incurring liability
- Must comply with instructions about how, when, and where to work
- Is trained by the employer
If, according to these definitions, you're truly a self-employed independent contractor, then you won't be eligible for workers’ comp benefits if you're injured on the job, or made ill due to exposure to something at work. If this happens in the course of your employment, you should be covered by your health insurance, assuming you have it.
However, being an independent contractor doesn't prohibit you from seeking compensation if your injury or illness was caused by the employer’s negligence. In fact, in this case, you have an advantage over a traditional employee.
Suing an Employer for Negligence
Regular employees covered by workers’ compensation insurance are prohibited by law from suing an employer for damages for a workplace injury or illness. Workers’ comp benefits are awarded to an injured worker no matter who's at fault.
However, independent contractors aren't limited in the same way. If you're injured on a construction site, for example, due to faulty equipment or a lack of worker protections and you're an independent contractor, you may be able to sue the employer. Most companies carry liability policies of at least $1 million, but can be compelled to pay even more in damages if your injuries require it.
Determining Your Status
Before you're in a situation where you're seeking damages for an injury, make sure you're legally classified in your workplace. Filing a workers’ comp claim is much easier than suing an employer for negligence, so if your work relationship and job duties indicate that you're indeed a regular employee, approach your employer as soon as you discover the error—don't wait until you're already injured or require some other guaranteed benefit. Employers who classify workers illegally can face considerable tax penalties, and should be motivated to correct the situation.
If you're legitimately an independent contractor, make sure you have adequate health insurance to cover any potential workplace injuries. You may also consider purchasing accident insurance to ensure full coverage for medical costs and lost wages.
We Can Help With Your Workers’ Comp Claim
If you have a legitimate workers’ compensation claim and it's been denied by your employer, our workers’ comp attorneys may be able to help. Connect with us through the link on this page for more information.
Why does my lawyer want to send me to another law firm?
After a devastating car accident or workplace injury, you were relieved to find an attorney to take your case. Whether seeking damages from a car insurance company or trying to secure workers’ comp benefits, you felt better knowing you have legal representation on your side.
However, you were shocked when your attorney informed you that he was referring your case to another lawyer, and now you're worried about your case. There may be no need to worry. In fact, he may be doing you a favor.
Why a Lawyer May Refer Your Case to Another Law Firm
There are many reasons a lawyer may decide he can no longer handle your case. It’s important for you to find out why he's made this decision before you decide what to do next.
Some common reasons for referral include:
- Type of case. Most people have very little use for an attorney in their day-to-day lives. If you've been through a divorce, written an estate plan, or sold real estate, you may have a relationship with a lawyer you like and trust. However, that doesn't mean he or she is the best person for a personal injury claim. One reason attorneys refer cases is they're not experienced with that particular area of law. While an estate planning attorney may agree to look at the details of your case, if it's not a cut-and-dried claim, he may decide to refer you to car accident attorney. In this situation, you would be smart to take his advice and look for a new attorney.
- Up-front costs. Complicated car accident cases can require significant up-front costs to investigate and hire crash experts. If you start with a small firm or an independent attorney, he may not have the resources to cover these costs. Since car accident claims are generally taken on a contingency fee basis, you don’t pay unless you win the case, so the attorney will use the firm’s money to pay these costs. If he doesn’t have the ready cash, he may refer your case to a law firm that does. Again, it would be to your benefit to change lawyers in this situation.
- Case load. Attorneys are often working on several cases at once. However, if a big case comes in right after accepting your case, the attorney may realize he will not have the time to do your case justice and may refer your case to another lawyer. While it may be upsetting to be pushed aside for a more lucrative case, it’s best that you know he cannot put in the time your case needs and move on to a new legal team.
- Jurisdiction. If a lawyer researches your case and discovers you'll be required to appear in a court in which he cannot, such as in another state or in court to which he has not been admitted, he may pass your case on to a qualified attorney.
Rather than being upset or offended when your attorney has to refer your case, ask for his reasons and understand that it is probably better for your case in the long run.
Choosing the Right Attorney
While the attorney who is removing himself from your case will likely refer you to another professional, you're under no obligation to comply. But, if the original attorney is one you know and trust and he's providing you with an expert recommendation, you should at least meet the other attorney and ask some questions.
You could also use this transition to look for a legal advisor who has experience with your exact situation. If your first choice can't handle your case, Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys may be a good fit if you were involved in any of the following in Kansas or Missouri:
- Motorcycle crash
- Car accident
- Truck crash
- A denied workers’ compensation claim
- Wrongful death
- Slip and fall
- Construction accident
- Medical malpractice
Connect with us via the link on this page to find out more about our firm and the cases we accept. We are looking forward to hearing from you.
How do I determine if I'm ready to ride a motorcycle?
People own motorcycles for many reasons. For some, a bike is an economical form of transportation that uses less gas and takes up less space. For others, it’s a gateway to a thrilling experience that makes their lives more exciting. There are as many reasons as there are riders, but that doesn’t mean riding a motorcycle is right for everyone. In fact, some people shouldn't even consider buying a motorcycle.
Risks Associated With Motorcycles
Members of our team at Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys ride motorcycles. We're proud to represent motorcyclists when they're denied access to fair settlements because an insurance agent or an attorney is making unfair assumptions about their characters.
However, we also believe that safety should always come first, and that a biker should never take unnecessary risks. Before deciding to buy a motorcycle, you should understand the risks that come with the territory.
According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), close to 5,000 people died in motorcycle crashes in 2015. The organization estimates that a motorcyclist is 27 times more likely to die in a crash than occupants of passenger cars. In addition, 88,000 people were injured in motorcycle crashes in 2015.
The III cites the following as risk factors for motorcycle fatalities:
- Age: In 2014, 54 percent of the riders who died in motorcycle crashes were over the age of 40. While this age group generally engages in less risky behavior than younger riders, they tend to sustain more severe injuries because they're older. The steepest rise in injury rates were for riders over the age of 60, an age group that is increasing every year in ridership.
- Alcohol: 29 percent of riders involved in a fatal accident had blood alcohol contents over the legal limit of .08 percent, making alcohol a major contributing factor in fatalities. Riders aged 35-39 showed the highest rate of alcohol use.
- Speeding: According to data cited by the III, 33 percent of riders involved in fatal crashes were exceeding the speed limit.
- Licensing: 28 percent of fatal motorcycle crashes involved a rider who didn't have a valid operator’s license. Only 13 percent of fatal car crashes involve an unlicensed driver.
- Type of bike. Not surprisingly, the faster and more powerful the bike is, the greater the risk for a rider to die in a crash. Riders of “super sport” bikes are four times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes than riders of other bikes.
The first step in the decision to buy a motorcycle should be to eliminate as many of these risks as possible. If you are over 60, be sure you are healthy enough to ride. Avoid drinking and riding, and maintain a safe speed at all times. Obtain a valid motorcycle license and take safety courses regularly to keep your skills sharp. Finally, buy a bike that is reasonably safe. On top of these factors, you may also want to consider additional factors.
Suggestions From the Motorcycle Safety Foundation
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation also believes that motorcycles aren’t for everyone. It offers a quick self-assessment questionnaire for people considering taking the plunge. In general, the Foundation suggests motorcyclists should possess the following skills and traits:
- Not a risk-taker
- Can ride a bicycle
- Can drive a car with a manual transmission
- Has good vision
- Is mechanically-inclined
- Is safety-minded
- Shows respect for dangerous machinery
- Is not easily distracted
- Can handle a car in an emergency
- Is committed to learning how to ride properly
If you don’t feel these qualities describe you, you may be choosing a motorcycle for the wrong reasons. It's entirely possible to ride a bike your entire adult life and never have an accident, but only if you're riding for the right reasons.
We Are Here to Help Motorcyclists
While we're a motorcycle-friendly law firm, we don’t condone purposely dangerous behavior on bikes. If you were obeying traffic laws and were cut off by a car, or if you are being denied the insurance coverage you're entitled to, call our motorcycle accident attorneys today. We'll be proud to stand by your side.
Will I be protected if I report my employer for OSHA violations?
No matter where you work, you're entitled to working conditions that are free of dangerous hazards. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides safety guidelines to employers in all industries. Business owners and managers are required to comply with these guidelines.
If you're aware of safety violations in your workplace, you have the right to request they be corrected, and to report the violations to OSHA without fear of being punished by your employer. When you face injury or illness at work due to unsafe conditions, it may be up to you to take action to ensure your safety and the safety of your coworkers.
Worker Rights Under OSHA Guidelines
Workers in industries such as construction, assembly, and food service face many dangers on a daily basis. Some of these dangers are inherent to the nature of the work, but it's up to your employer to make sure all required safeguards are in place so that the work is as safe as possible.
As a worker, OSHA guarantees certain rights for your protection, including the right to:
- Be trained in a language you understand
- Work on safe machines
- Be provided required safety gear, such as gloves, or a harness and lifeline for fall prevention
- Be protected from toxic chemicals
- Request an OSHA inspection, and the opportunity to speak to the inspector
- Report an injury or illness, and get copies of your medical records
- See copies of the workplace injury and illness log
- Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses
- Get copies of results for any tests conducted to find hazards in the workplace
Federal law permits you to report your employer for violation of these rights without fear of retaliation. Specifically, the law protects you from the following employer actions:
- Applying or issuing a policy which provides for an unfavorable personnel action due to activity protected by a whistleblower law enforced by OSHA
- Denying overtime or promotion
- Denying benefits
- Failing to hire or rehire
- Firing or laying off
- Making threats
- Reassignment to a less desirable position, including one adversely affecting prospects for promotion
- Reducing pay or hours
If you believe your employer engaged in any of these actions in response to you reporting a safety violation, you also have a right to file a complaint with OSHA.
Reporting Employer Retaliation
Reporting a violation of your rights to OSHA is simply a matter of sending your complaint to the appropriate office. You should be aware of the time limit for reporting, which differs depending on which federal act applies to your industry. For example, you have 30 days to report a violation of the OSHA Act, but 180 days to report a violation of the Federal Railroad Safety Act. Learn more about whistleblower rights.
An employee can file a complaint with OSHA by visiting or calling the local office or sending a written complaint to the closest OSHA regional or area office. The Administration accepts written complaints by email, fax, personal delivery, or U.S. mail. No particular form is required and complaints may be submitted in any language.
Your complaint will be reviewed, investigated and, if your employer is found to be at fault, a representative from OSHA will issue an order requiring the employer to make amends by reinstating you, paying wages, restoring benefits, or other remedies.
Common OSHA Violations
Many workers aren't aware of all of the OSHA's safety requirements for their industry, but OSHA doesn't require that you know the specific safety rule that was violated by your employer. Any situation that's resulted in injuries to workers, or simply doesn't feel safe, may be reported without fear of retaliation. Being aware of common safety hazards may help you understand the protections to which you're entitled.
The following are the top ten violations reported to OSHA each year:
- Fall protection
- Hazard communication
- Respiratory protection
- Powered industrial trucks
- Machine guarding
- Electrical wiring
- Electrical, general requirements
If violation of these or any other safety expectation leads to your injury, you're eligible for workers’ compensation. If your employer denies your claim, you may need the help of a workers’ comp attorney. Please contact our office to share your workplace injury story and see if we can help.
How do rules against truck driver coercion protect commercial drivers and others on the road?
There's no more dangerous combination on America’s roadways than a fatigued or impaired commercial driver and a 40-ton semi-trailer truck. Unfortunately, this combination is all too common. While many commercial truckers make the poor decision to drive when they're tired independently of any other factor, some drivers report being coerced to break hours of service rules by their employers. In an attempt to eliminate this problem, the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) passed an anti-coercion rule that went into effect in January, 29, 2016. We take a look at the rule and how it protects commercial drivers and motorists alike.
Prohibiting Coercion of Commercial Vehicle Drivers
The FMCSA’s Final Rule, addresses a problem reported to FMSCA by commercial drivers. Some drivers claim that they exceed hours of service rules and break other federal rules because they are pushed by their employers and shippers to do so.
Drivers reported they were coerced to break the law with threats of the following actions:
- Job termination
- Denial of subsequent trips
- Reduced pay
- Forfeiture of favorable work hours or jobs
The anti-coercion rule provides the FMSCA with authority to take action against not only motor carriers, but also against shippers, receivers, freight-forwarders, and brokers who demand a driver meets a schedule that he cannot do so safely. It also provides drivers with a procedure for reporting incidents of coercion.
Along with violating hours of service rules, drivers report being coerced to violate the following federal safety rules:
- Commercial driver’s license requirements
- Drug and alcohol testing
- Transportation of hazardous materials
- Other commercial regulations
The rule stipulates penalties for entities that engage in coercion of drivers, including fines of up to $16,000 per incident.
Responses to the Ruling
Fleet owners and shippers initially balked at some of the components of the new regulation, fearing drivers who violate hours of service rules of their own free will would simply blame a shipper or broker to avoid punishment. However, the FMCSA ruling requires proof of coercion that wouldn't be easy to fake. There's also concern in the industry that the FMCSA is overstepping its reach by regulating not just the motor carrier industry, but also shippers, receivers, and intermediaries which have not previously fallen under its jurisdiction.
Drivers, however, have had a positive response to the ruling, as it offers more whistleblower protections than they had prior to the change in 2016. While the rule doesn't stop drivers from willingly breaking federal safety regulations of their own accord, it does give drivers the power to fight back against coercion.
Mandatory Electronic Logging Devices
Another rule that will go into effect at the end of 2017 will offer further protections against fatigued drivers exceeding hours of service rules. By December 18, 2017, all commercial truck drivers will be required to track driving hours with an electronic logging device (ELD).
Currently, many drivers are still permitted to log their hours with paper and pencil. These logs are easily manipulated, by both drivers and employers. However, ELDs are much harder to falsify. These devices are installed in the truck and automatically track trips and breaks for the driver. This rule prevents both drivers and trucking companies from falsifying records to comply with the FMCSA rules.
Investigating the Cause of the Truck Crash That Left You Injured
If you're injured or a loved one is killed in a crash with a commercial truck, you'll need the knowledge and experience a truck accident attorney can provide for investigating the cause of the crash. If the driver claims he was coerced by his employer into breaking federal safety regulations, our attorneys will further investigate the possibility the trucking company may be at fault. These cases are too difficult to navigate on your own. Contact us online or call us directly at 816.471.5111 for your free consultation today.
Should I choose a structured settlement or a lump sum payment for my car crash settlement?
The hard part is over. You survived a devastating accident and were able to win compensation from the driver who caused the accident. You're fighting to get better and are grateful to have the money from the settlement to help in your continued recovery.
At this point, you may be faced with a question about how you want to receive the settlement. Do you want to accept the total amount now as a lump sum payment, or negotiate a structured settlement so that you're paid over a period of time? We explain your options here.
How Does a Structured Settlement Work?
In a structured settlement, the at-fault party pays out the total amount that's been determined—usually through an insurance company—but instead of compensation paid directly to the victim, it goes into an annuity. The annuity contract specifies how victim receives payments.
You may choose to receive payments from a structured settlement in any of the following ways:
- The entire amount in equal payments over a period of time.
- The entire amount in unequal payments over a period of time. For example, the payments may increase or decrease in amount over time.
- Payments until the recipient dies.
- The entire amount in payments until the recipient’s death, at which point a beneficiary becomes the new recipient of payments until the term of the agreement has ended.
- A lump sum payment after the annuity is awarded, or at a later date, such as with a deferred annuity.
- A lump sum initially for a part of the total amount, followed by recurring payments until the end of term.
- Delayed payments that may begin at a certain date or age, such as when the recipient reaches adulthood or enters retirement.
An attorney or financial advisor can help you choose the option that works best for you. In general, the major advantage of a structured settlement is that you have a better future guarantee of income than you would if you received all the money at once and then spent it quickly.
Interestingly, the whole concept of a structured settlement arose from the Thalidomide crisis of the 1970s to ensure that the babies who were the true victims of the drug would be guaranteed money for their entire lives. Today, structured settlements are often used to benefit children and to protect settlements from predatory family members. However, there may be service fees involved, and there could be penalties if you find a need to withdraw funds early.
How Lump Sum Payments Work
Most personal injury, wrongful death, and workers’ comp settlements are made as a lump sum payment. This means that the at-fault party pays the entire award amount to the victim immediately.
Some advantages of lump sum payments include immediate access to the full amount to pay all medical bills and other damages; and the ability to invest the money in ways that allow the money to grow over the years. However, lump sum payments are often subject to taxation. A lump sum payment also exposes the recipient to the temptation to spend extravagantly, rather than saving for tuition, retirement, or future medical expenses.
How to Choose Between the Two Options
If you're given the choice between a lump sum payment and a structured settlement, you'll have to examine your needs and be honest about spending habits. Some questions to consider include the following:
- Do you have upcoming large expenses such as mortgage or tuition payments? How far away are they?
- How risky are your spending habits?
- Will family members expect financial assistance from you?
- Are you financially skilled enough to manage and invest a lump sum payment?
- Will you be able to budget and spend the full award responsibly?
- Will a lump sum payment affect your tax obligations?
- Will your injuries, such as a spinal cord injury or paralysis, require lifelong care?
- Do you have young children you want to provide for in the future?
Discussing these questions with your attorney or financial advisor will help you make the right decision regarding your personal injury settlement. The car accident attorneys at Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys will be by your side when you first make your claim and to help you make a decision about your settlement payout, bringing their years of experience to your case.
What can we do in Kansas and Missouri to protect motorcyclists from careless drivers?
There are many things a motorcyclist can do to protect himself on the road. Riding defensively, wearing protective gear, avoiding distractions, never drinking and riding, and keeping skills sharp by taking riding classes are some of steps a rider can take to increase his chances of arriving safely at his destination. However, despite all of these measures, riders are still vulnerable to careless and negligent drivers who fail to give them adequate space. Both Kansas and Missouri participate in the federal Share the Road program to raise awareness of motorcycles in an effort to protect them.
What Risks Do Motorcyclists Face?
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, fatality rates among motorcycle riders are on the rise. With a 10 percent increase in motorcycle fatalities from 2014 to 2015, the total number of deaths exceeded 5,000 for the first time in six years.
Despite representing only 3 percent of all registered vehicles on the road, motorcyclists account for 14 percent of traffic fatalities nationwide. Biker fatalities in both Kansas and Missouri represent 12 percent of all traffic fatalities. Per miles driven, motorcyclists have a fatality rate 26 times that of other motorists.
Clearly, some of the reason for the increased risk is that motorcycles simply have less protection for riders than cars and trucks. However, when drivers of cars and trucks fail to see bikers or refuse to grant them the same space and respect as other vehicles, that risk is magnified.
What Can Motorists Do?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) promotes the Share the Road program to raise awareness of everyone who is less protected on the roads, including pedestrians, bicycles, scooters, and motorcycles. Both Kansas and Missouri participate in this program through driver awareness campaigns, traffic stops, and road signs.
NHTSA offers the following tips to help motorists share the road with motorcycles:
- Never drive distracted. An increase in driver distraction could help to explain the increase in motorcycle fatalities. Driving while distracted can result in tragic consequences for motorcyclists.
- Allow a motorcyclist a full lane width. Although it may seem that there is enough room in the traffic lane for a car and a motorcycle, the motorcycle needs the room to maneuver safely. Don't share the lane.
- Always use turn signals. Motorcyclists expect that you don’t see them, so signaling your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic allows them to anticipate traffic flow and find a safe lane position.
- Check blind spots. Because of its smaller size, a motorcycle can be hidden in a vehicle's blind spot. Always scout for motorcycles by checking mirrors and looking over your shoulder before entering or leaving a lane of traffic and at intersections.
- Pay attention to motorcycle turn signals. Although a biker's turn signal may be harder to see, look for it before proceeding to pass or make a lane change in front of him. Also, understand that turn signals on motorcycles are not self-canceling and riders sometimes forget to turn them off. Allow enough time to determine the motorcyclist's intention before you proceed.
- Understand motorcycle hazards. Remember that road conditions which are minor annoyances to motorists can pose major hazards to motorcyclists. Motorcycle riders may change speed or adjust position within a lane suddenly in reaction to potholes, gravel, wet or slippery surfaces, pavement seams, railroad crossings, and grooved pavement.
- Allow more following distance. Motorcycles are capable of much quicker stops than cars, so allot for three or four seconds when following a motorcycle. This also allows the motorcycle rider enough time to maneuver around a hazard.
The most important thing to remember is that motorcyclists are just like you—they've simply chosen a different way to get to their destinations. They deserve the same space and respect on the road that you regularly give to other cars and bigger trucks.We hope you'll remember and share these tips with other drivers so we can all work together to share the road in the Kansas City Area.