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.
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If I suffer a heart attack at work, will I be covered by workers’ comp?
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question. In general, both Kansas and Missouri do not provide coverage for a heart attack suffered at work unless it can be proven that the work environment or work activities directly caused the heart attack. You can rest assured that your employer and their insurer will fight your claim for coverage for a heart attack, so you do not want to take this on alone. It would be a mistake to attempt a claim for a heart attack without an experienced workers’ comp law firm on your side.
The Law in Kansas
Kansas workers’ compensation law states, “The law does not provide compensation for coronary or coronary artery disease unless it is shown that the exertion of the work that caused the injury was beyond that required by the employee’s usual job duties. Another exception is vascular injury caused by extreme heat.” In other words, if it is proven that that the employee was required to exert herself in some work-related task beyond what her normal job description called for and she suffered a heart attack, her injuries would be covered under workers’ comp. However, if she was predisposed to a heart attack due to health conditions unrelated to her job duties and happened to have a heart attack while at work, she would not be covered by workers’ comp.
The Law in Missouri
Under Missouri law, “An injury resulting directly or indirectly from idiopathic causes is not compensable.” Idiopathic causes are defined as “conditions … peculiar to the individual; innate.” In order for the Missouri board of workers’ comp to deny a claim for a heart attack, it must provide evidence to prove that “the event results from some cause personal to the individual, such as a physical defect or disease.” If an employee’s heart attack is caused by a congenital disorder, for example, it would not be compensable under workers’ comp, but, like in Kansas, if it can be shown that work conditions or exposures contributed to the heart attack, then it may be covered. Again, you will need a law firm with experience in obtaining evidence and medical records in order to make your claim.
What Can Cause Heart Attacks at Work
No matter where you work, the key to obtaining workers’ comp for a heart attack is proving a connection between the heart attack and the work environment. If a person is suffering from coronary heart disease and has a heart attack at work, this is not attributable to a workplace factor. However, a coronary artery spasm can be caused by non-disease-related factors, including factors present in many work environments. Some major causes of coronary artery spasm include:
- Stress. Stressful situations can increase blood pressure and expose your body to elevated levels of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which can lead to a heart attack. High-pressure jobs, tight deadlines, and unforgiving supervisors can all lead to high levels of workplace stress.
- Exertion. If you are not used to regular aerobic exercise, sudden and strenuous physical exertion can lead to a heart attack. Moving heavy materials, performing physical tasks in a hurry, or being suddenly frightened or surprised can all cause a heart attack at work.
- Exposure to extreme heat or cold. Extreme cold temperatures can constrict blood vessels, which can prevent blood flow to the heart and result in a heart attack. Likewise, working in extreme heat causes extra work for the heart, as well as loss of sodium and potassium through sweat, and an increase in stress hormones. This can lead to heat stroke and heart attack in construction workers, road crews, and landscapers.
- Occupational exposure. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, carbon disulfide, nitroglycerin, and carbon monoxide are a few of the specific toxins encountered occupationally that are known to affect the heart. Of these, carbon monoxide from vehicle exhaust is the most common occupational exposure. If you are exposed to these toxins on a regular basis and suffered a heart attack—at work or at home—you may be able to prove that the workplace exposure led to the heart attack, in which case, your heart attack would be covered under workers’ comp.
An Experienced Workers’ Comp Attorney Can Help
If you suffered a heart attack at work, you will probably be told by your employer that it is not covered by workers’ comp. However, it is worth contacting our office for a review of your case before you give up on getting the benefits you may be entitled to. Fill out the form on this page and we will be in touch shortly.
Are recreational vehicles unsafe to drive?
A recreational vehicle is a house on wheels—what could be more fun for a retiree adventure or family vacation? Everything you need—including the kitchen sink—is with you as you explore national and state parks, beaches, and even city centers. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize how dangerous it can be to be a passenger in an RV during a crash. Depending on the class rating of the motorhome, it may not even be inspected for safety issues. Learn more about how to stay safe on your RV adventure.
Class A, B, or C: Which Is Safest?
Each class of motorhome is subject to different safety codes and offers safety advantages and disadvantages. A key piece of information to understand is that, while the driving parts of RVs are usually built by automotive manufacturers and adhere to the same safety standards as ordinary cars and trucks, the living parts of them are manufactured by smaller, specialized companies and are not subject to automotive safety standards. Also, it is never safe to walk around in an RV while it is in motion, to sit on chairs or benches in the living compartment without a seatbelt, or to lie down or sleep on beds while the vehicle is moving. We discuss each class and the safety implications here:
- Class A. Class A motorhomes are the big, pricey buses you see cruising down the highway. It would seem that their size and weight would make them the safest vehicles on the road, but it all depends on the price tag. Class A motorhomes that are built on a commercial diesel bus chassis are among the most expensive, but are also the most crashworthy. Most Class A RVs, however, are built on a flat truck chassis from an auto manufacturer such as GM or Ford. These are more affordable, but less stable and less crashworthy because there is not as much support of the living area of the RV. Class A motorhomes have seatbelts, but usually no airbags and the driver and front seat passenger have little buffer between themselves and whatever they may be colliding with.
- Class B. Also known as camper vans, these RVs are often built by major automotive manufacturers and adhere to strict safety standards. They are usually equipped with airbags and have been crash tested. As with any RV, passengers are safest buckled in the seat next to the driver, not sitting or walking around in the back.
- Class C. These vehicles are built on a truck cabin chassis and are as safe as any truck for drivers and passengers wearing seatbelts in the driving compartment. However, the living cabin is not crash-tested and will disintegrate in a rollover or major collision. Passengers should never travel in the living compartment.
Another camping option that takes advantage of modern automotive safety technology is to pull a camping trailer behind a standard truck or SUV. Passengers should never ride in a trailer while in motion, of course, but this option allows all travelers to be buckled in in a crash-tested vehicle with airbags and other safety features. Make sure your vehicle is approved to tow the weight of the camper and that the driver has taken a class in driving with a large trailer.
Another safety concern with recreational vehicles is driver skill and experience. In Missouri, there are no special licensing requirements for drivers of any size RV. This is a concern as these large vehicles can be difficult to drive. Kansas requires a non-commercial Class A or B license to drive an RV weighing over 26,000 pounds (a large Class A motorhome). Despite the legal requirements, all drivers should practice extensively before heading out with the family on a cross-country trip.
When You Are Injured
At Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys, we preach safety first. Always take every possible safety precaution when driving your spouse or your family in a motorhome. Never travel in the living compartment and drive cautiously. If you are involved in a crash caused by another driver and you or your passengers are injured, we are here to help. Call our experienced car and truck accident attorneys at (888) 348-2616.
How many people are killed every year in motorcycle accidents in Kansas and Missouri?
While traveling by motorcycle is often enjoyable, some trips can unfortunately have an unhappy ending. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that more than 4,668 people were killed and 88,000 were injured in motorcycle accidents across the country in 2013. Sadly, a number of these accidents occur in the states of Kansas and Missouri. The causes of motorcycle accidents are numerous, ranging from speeding to distracted driving to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Key Motorcycle Accident Statistics in Kansas
According to the Kansas Department of Transportation, 2014 saw the following motorcycle accident statistics:
- There were a total of 960 motorcycle accidents.
- Motorcycle accidents accounted for 1.6% of all traffic accidents.
- Of the 960 motorcycle accidents that occurred, 44 were fatal.
- 743 motorcycle riders were injured in crashes.
- The total number of motorcycle accidents in Kansas rose slightly from 2013, when 955 such accidents occurred.
Victims of motorcycle accidents must act quickly in order to protect their legal rights. It is important to consult with an experienced attorney who can provide guidance.
Key Motorcycle Accident Statistics in Missouri
Unfortunately, Kansas is not the only state that sees frequent motorcycle accident injuries and fatalities. The Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Statistical Analysis Center reports the following information about motorcycle accidents for 2014, the most recent year for which data is available:
- There were a total of 1,734 motorcycle accidents involving personal injuries.
- 86 motorcycle crashes involved fatalities.
- 88 people were killed as a result of a motorcycle accident.
- 1,979 people were injured as a result of a motorcycle accident.
- As compared to 2013, when 1,755 motorcycle accidents occurred involving personal injuries, 2014 saw a slight decline. However, the year saw an increase in the number of motorcycle crash fatalities, as 71 such deaths took place in 2013.
After a motorcycle accident, it is crucial for injured victims to consider a legal claim for compensation. This compensation may be necessary given the significant physical, emotional, and financial toll that often accompanies a motorcycle crash. We have helped many clients protect their legal rights after a motorcycle accident, and we are here to assist you as well. We encourage you to check out our many successful case results for more information.
Should I sign any releases following my car accident?
As a general rule of thumb, you should not sign anything following a car accident without consulting an attorney who is representing you. The forms you will be asked to sign may be called “releases” or “authorizations,” but, either way, it is not in your best interest to sign them, especially if they are presented to you by the liable party’s insurance agent or attorney. There are three basic releases you may be asked to sign. Understanding what exactly they “release” is important to protecting your injury claim. The three releases you may encounter following your car accident are a medical authorization release, a release of all liability and claims, and a property damage release.
What the Medical Authorization Release Allows
In order to prove that you are actually injured and that your injuries are as severe as you say they are, you will have to share some medical records with the insurance company. However, signing a blanket authorization is not the way to do this. A medical authorization release gives the insurance company permission to view all of your medical records, not just those pertaining to your current claim. Giving the liable party access to the following information could actually hurt your claim in the long run:
- Past medical records. The liable insurance company will sift through your medical history to find evidence of previous complaints that could explain your current injuries. For example, if you suffered a back injury in the crash and the investigator finds that you have seen a doctor in the past for back problems, they could use that to lower your settlement.
- Doctors’ notes. You have an expectation of privacy when you discuss your injury with your doctor, but if you release your medical records, even the notes your doctor takes during your examination can be read and used by the opposing party in an injury claim. If, for example, you tell your doctor that a certain treatment has been helping or that you don’t feel as much pain as you did, that will be reflected in his notes and the insurance company could use that to claim that you have recovered and deny or decrease your claim.
- Office visit history. The investigator will be interested in finding out how often you visit your doctor or the emergency room over a given period of time to gather evidence that you are a hypochondriac or suffer from ongoing medical problems not caused by the car accident.
The best course of action to take regarding your medical records is to work with an attorney to provide the specific records that are actually relevant to your claim, rather than authorizing the release of all of your records.
When to Sign a Release of All Claims and Liability
Once you have agreed to a settlement amount, you will be asked to sign a form that prevents you from seeking more money or additional damages, called a release of all claims and liability. The key to this form working in your favor is when you sign it. An insurance agent may ask you to sign it before you have been offered a favorable settlement. Once this form is signed, there is no going back, so do not sign it until you have consulted an attorney and are satisfied with the settlement offer. Each accident claim’s release of claim and liability will be different and will ideally be drafted by your own attorney.
A Property Damage Release Will Close Your Damage Claim
If your vehicle is damaged in the accident, a damage claim will be made. If the insurance company determines that the cost to repair your car exceeds the value of the car, they will “total” your car, or offer you a check for the value of the car rather than repairing it. You may be asked to sign a release indicating that you accept the damage award and that the claim is closed; however, your cashing of the check is also taken as a legal indication that you are accepting the offer and closing the claim. If your vehicle is not totaled, you will likely not be asked to sign a release and the insurance company will pay the repair shop directly to settle your claim. Again, once the payment has been made, you release your right to seek further payment.
Words to Live by: Don’t Sign Anything
While the other guy’s insurance company will do their best to convince you that you don’t need an attorney and that it’s okay to sign a few forms, it is not in your best interest to do so. Call the experienced car accident attorneys at Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys before you make your first move.
Should I remove my child’s winter coat when I buckle him into his car seat?
Winters in Kansas City can be brutal. Snow, frigid winds, and below-zero temperatures are not uncommon in January and February and the last thing a parent wants to do is expose a young child to the bitter cold. Before leaving the house, we layer, bundle, wrap, and zip our kids into coats, snow pants, scarves, mittens, and hats. But how does all of that bulk fit into a car seat? As it turns out, not very well.
How Coats Affect Car Seat Safety
Any compressible material between the car seat straps and the child can increase the amount the child can be dangerously thrust forward with a sudden stop. When a child is wearing thick layers, it becomes impossible to tighten the straps as much as they should be tightened for optimal safety. To test whether your child’s coat is too bulky for his car seat, try the following:
- Put the child’s coat on and place him in the car seat. Tighten the straps until you can’t pinch the webbing of the strap between your thumb and pointer finger.
- Unbuckle the harness without loosening the straps and remove your child from the seat.
- Take the child’s coat off and put him back in the car seat. Buckle the harness and check the tightness of the straps. If you can pinch any of the strap, the harness is too loose, which means the coat is too bulky to be worn in the car seat.
Tips for Coping With the Cold and Keeping Your Child Safe
You obviously don’t want your child to suffer in the cold in order to ensure his safety in the car. Try the following tips for a warm and safe car ride:
- Keep the cold-weather accessories on. Hats, mittens, boots or thick socks, and insulated snow pants can all stay on without hindering the straps.
- Put the coat on backwards. After the child is buckled in, turn his coat around and place his arms through the arms of the coat.
- Use a warm blanket. Keep a heavy fleece blanket in the car to cover your child after he is buckled in.
- Buy an infant seat cover. As an accessory to your infant’s seat, you can buy an insulating cover that zips up over the baby after she is buckled into the seat.
We Are Here to Help
At Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys, we are happy to provide you with useful information to keep you and your family safe. Browse our library for more helpful articles and download our free Kid’s Safety Coloring Book now!
I was injured working in a big box store over the holidays. Can I get workers’ comp?
Many people pick up extra work over the holidays. Stores need temporary workers to meet the demands of shoppers, and qualified workers are happy to pick up extra hours and make a little more cash for their own holiday shopping. Whether you are a student home on break, a part-time worker picking up extra hours, or a stay-at-home parent supplementing the household income, seasonal work can be very helpful at this time of year. However, the work is not always easy and the kinds of jobs offered to temporary workers over the holidays can lead to on-the-job injuries. If this happens, you need to be aware of your right to collect worker’s compensation.
What Is Worker’s Compensation?
Often referred to as workers’ comp, this is an insurance program that most employers in Kansas and Missouri are required by law to provide to their employees. If a worker is injured or disabled while performing his or her job duties, he or she may make a claim and will be paid benefits to cover medical expenses and partial lost wages. In both Missouri and Kansas, all workers, including full-time, part-time, temporary, and seasonal employees, are covered by workers’ comp.
How Seasonal Workers Are Likely to Be Injured
The most common seasonal jobs are in the retail industry. Inexperienced temporary workers are often assigned to restocking tasks and they are rarely trained adequately in the safest procedures to avoid injury. As a result, seasonal retail workers are prone to overexertion injuries caused by lifting, carrying, pulling, pushing, holding, and carrying. Temporary cashiers are exposed to repetitive-use injuries caused by retrieving and scanning items for long stretches of time. Other seasonal work includes assisting with package deliveries, loading large items into cars, working on Christmas tree lots, and doing light assembly—all of which can lead to similar overexertion and repetitive-use injuries. Just because your job ends with the new year doesn’t mean you aren’t entitled to medical care if you are injured on the job.
What to Do If You Are Injured on the Job
In order to be eligible for workers’ comp benefits when you are injured at work, you must follow these steps:
- Get medical attention as soon as possible
- Notify your employer immediately
- Fill out a workers’ compensation claim form
- Make an appointment with a doctor designated by your employer
- Seek legal assistance if your employer does not cooperate at any stage of the claim
At Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys, we understand your rights as a seasonal employee, even if your employer doesn’t. If your claim meets with resistance from your employer, contact one of our Kansas City-area offices. We will make sure your rights are respected.
Who is most likely to drive under the influence of drugs?
When you picture a drunk driver, you probably picture a young guy leaving a bar on a Friday night, and you wouldn’t be wrong. Statistically, that is the typical drunk driver, although there are always exceptions. Profiling a drugged driver, however, is a little trickier.
As recent data has shown, people driving while under the influence of various drugs—both illicit substances and legal medications—is on the rise and the impairments they experience are very similar to those of drunk drivers. But who is most likely to drive while on drugs? You might be surprised to find out.
Who Takes Drugs and Drives?
In general, drugged driving trends are similar to drunk driving trends. More men than women tend to drive under the influence of drugs, and more young drivers, ages 18 to 24, are guilty of the dangerous practice. However, many of the drivers involved in accidents while under the influence of legal medications or prescription drugs, which can impair driving just as much as alcohol or illegal drugs, are over the age of 50. Consider the following facts:
- In 2010, over 25 percent of drugged drivers in fatal accidents were age 50 and older.
- Illicit drug use among people aged 50 to 59 has doubled in recent years.
- 90 percent of people over the age of 65 take one or more prescription drug and nearly 40 percent take five or more.
- Older adults are more likely to make mistakes with prescriptions that could lead to unintentional intoxication.
The most common prescription drugs found in people involved in fatal accidents include Xanax, Vicodin, OxyContin, and Valium. Young people are much more likely to drive under the influence of illegal drugs than prescription drugs, most commonly marijuana. Surveys of younger drivers have found the following startling results:
- In one study, 12.4 percent of high school seniors report that they drove after smoking pot at least once in the two weeks before the survey.
- In a study of college students with cars, 17 percent reported driving under the influence of a drug other than alcohol. Of those, over 30 percent reported doing so over 10 times in the previous year.
Given these statistics, the likelihood that you are sharing the road with a drugged driver is high. If you are in an accident, the responding officer will have no way to test the at-fault driver for drugs other than alcohol, and he may not be held responsible for his actions. If you suspect this has happened, start a live chat with us now to see how we can help.
Who is entitled to file a wrongful death suit in Kansas and Missouri?
Many people can be deeply affected by someone’s untimely death. Of course, immediate family members are usually the people who most feel the loss, but other relatives, close friends, and even co-workers or employees can suffer emotionally and financially because of the death. When the death is caused by the negligent or intentional actions of another person, legal action may be pursued in the form of a wrongful death lawsuit. However, state law is very clear about just who is entitled to file such a claim and who is not.
What Missouri Says About Wrongful Death
The Missouri wrongful death statute outlines a very specific list of people who may file a suit. The statute also makes it clear that only one person may file a suit against one defendant for the death of a person. In the first group of eligible plaintiffs are the following:
- Spouse of the deceased
- Children, natural or adopted, legitimate or illegitimate, of the deceased
- Grandchildren of the deceased, if the children of the deceased are also deceased
- Father or mother of the deceased, natural or adopted
If there is no one in any of these categories to file suit, then the following family members may take action:
- Brother or sister of the deceased
- Descendants of siblings of the deceased
- In both cases, the plaintiffs must prove that they will suffer financial or emotional loss because of the death
Finally, if there is no one in either of these groups to file a wrongful death lawsuit, the court may appoint a plaintiff ad litem chosen from any applicants who feel they have a legitimate claim to proceeds from the suit. It is important to note that stepchildren are not permitted under Missouri law to file a wrongful death lawsuit for the death of a stepparent.
Kansas Statute Is a Little More Restrictive
The Kansas statute governing wrongful death claims is short and sweet: “The action may be commenced by any one of the heirs at law of the deceased who has sustained a loss by a reason of the death.” An heir, according to Kansas law, is one who takes intestate succession, so if the deceased leaves behind a spouse or children, the parents and siblings of the deceased are not eligible to make a claim. Unlike in Missouri, where a biological connection is enough, in Kansas, the plaintiffs must also be financial dependents who will be harmed by the loss.
Don’t Try to Figure it Out on Your Own
If you have lost a loved one at the hands of someone else’s negligent or criminal actions and are not sure if you’re eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit, contact our office to get your questions answered. Click on our live chat link now.
How can hospitals protect workers from back injuries while lifting patients?
If you are a healthcare worker, you know that it’s very difficult to do your job without moving or lifting a patient. Assisting patients to the bathroom, shifting them to change bedding, taking them out of the room for tests, and helping them when they have fallen are all tasks you face every day. It’s no wonder that twice as many healthcare workers are injured on the job than workers in any other industry. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, hospital orderlies suffer more musculoskeletal injuries each year than firefighters and nurses’ assistants are injured on the job more often than police officers and correctional officers.
Safer Patient Handling Would Reduce Injury Rates Significantly
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 34 percent of all reported healthcare worker injuries are a direct result of patient handling. As healthcare workers age and as obesity rates among patients increase, these injuries will just become more frequent. There are things hospitals and nursing homes can do, however, to protect workers. The three most effective interventions include:
- Patient lifts. Special machinery designed to lift patients, lifts may be portable so that they can be wheeled from room to room or they may be permanently affixed to the ceiling above a patient’s bed. Hospitals that use this equipment report a drastic reduction in worker injuries, but not all hospitals have the devices available to workers.
- Lifting sheets. Mobility and transfer sheets are a less costly option for moving patients, but require multiple staff members to use them safely. These bed pads are designed to be slick so that patients can be easily slid from one side of the bed to the other and have handles on the sides so that four or more assistants can lift the patient to transfer him to another bed.
- Lift teams. Many hospitals have had success by implementing lift teams. Lift teams are groups of hospital personnel assigned to do all patient lifting and moving. Specially trained and provided with assistive devices, these teams are called in as needed and have resulted in fewer injuries.
If You Injured Your Back While Doing Your Job, We Can Help
As experienced workers’ compensation attorneys, we are here for you if you are a healthcare worker injured on the job. We know you are devoted to patient care, but you shouldn’t suffer as a result. Call us now to see how we can help.
How can I help my loved one accept his spinal cord injury diagnosis?
You thought the hardest part was hearing the news of the crash that left your loved one seriously injured. Once you learned that he had survived, you believed it could only get better. After a diagnosis of partial paralysis due to a spinal cord injury, however, both of your lives got much harder. After finding out all you can about the injury from his medical team, finding ways to help your loved one come to terms with his injury can make life a little easier for both of you.
Accepting the Diagnosis
As with any loss or traumatic experience, a debilitating injury requires the victim to work through the stages of loss and grief. It is important that you support your loved one as he progresses through the following stages:
- Denial. Victims of paralysis often refuse to believe the doctors when they are first told of their prognosis. This reaction is a very common defense mechanism that is actually serving to protect the victim from the initial shock.
- Anger. Once the victim begins to accept his or her new reality, the next response is often anger. The anger may be directed at the doctor or it may come down on family and caregivers.
- Bargaining. In an effort to regain control, the victim may go through a stage in which he or she attempts to make deals with family members, doctors, or even God to undo the damage that has been done.
- Depression. It is easy for a victim of traumatic injury to get stuck in this stage of grief. Feelings of hopelessness and frustration can be overwhelming. A great deal of support and professional help will be needed to move through this stage.
- Acceptance. Hopefully, the victim is eventually able to accept his or her situation and can begin to move forward in his or her rehabilitation and recovery.
There is no standard timeline for an accident victim to come to terms with his condition, so it is important that you are patient with him and seek outside help whenever you feel that progress is not being made.
Once a spinal cord injury victim has accepted his prognosis, you can offer support in the following ways:
- Empower him and yourself by gathering as much information about your specific injury and prognosis as possible.
- Check out local and national support groups such as the National Spinal Cord Injury Association and the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.
- Avoid random Internet surfing for information. You will come across a lot of misinformation that could be discouraging and delay progress.
Let Us Help With the Rest
You will have enough on your plate helping your loved one accept his injury and make a plan for recovery. Let the attorneys at Kansas City Accident Injury take care of seeking the justice and monetary award he deserves from the negligent driver who caused the crash and his spinal cord injury. Our experienced car crash attorneys are here to help you.