Why you need a car accident lawyer.
If you’ve been involved in a Kansas City auto accident, it can be a very confusing to know what to do next and how to move forward. The reality is that most people are unfamiliar with the court system and have likely never needed to hire a car accident lawyer before. This inexperience can add to the stress of an already stressful situation, requiring you to make decisions about whether to hire a car accident lawyer and, if so, which one, all without sufficient information.
So why do you need a car accident lawyer in the first place? First things first, it’s important to note that you are not required to hire an attorney at all. If you feel comfortable handling your automobile accident case on your own, and all that the process entails, you do not have to hire a car accident lawyer. That being said, hiring an a car accident lawyer to handle your case can be tremendously helpful for many reasons. One is that car accident lawyers have specialized training thanks to years spent in law school. Beyond the books though, an experienced Kansas City car accident lawyers has hundreds and thousands of hours of real life experience to rely on. In many ways, it’s this experience that’s the most valuable. It’s certainly a prerequisite to know the law, but having a firm understanding of how that law applies in the real world to real accident cases is what leads to a winning case.
By hiring a car accident lawyer, you are allowing a trained professional to deal with the legal hassle associated with your case. It’s the car accident lawyer’s job to understand the applicable laws, deadlines, filing requirements, courtroom rules and many other procedural facets of your case. Your attorney does this for a living and has a basis of knowledge and instinct to fall back on that most ordinary people would never have. In the same way that you may be able to perform a tooth extraction on yourself, most people agree it’s better to leave these things to dental professionals.
Hiring a car accident lawyer can also be helpful for things outside of court. Negotiation is far more an art than a science and given the number of auto accident cases that are settled outside of court, it’s important to have someone in charge that knows how to negotiate effectively. Skilled Kansas City, Missouri car accident lawyers know their way around the process of working with insurance companies to reach a settlement that compensates victims for the harm they’ve suffered. Knowing when to push for more and when to ease up are important skills that only someone who has been there and done it before will have.
Finally, hiring a car accident lawyer can be a relief psychologically and emotionally. The stress of an accident, especially a serious one, can be immense. Mounting medical bills and time off work can take a terrible financial and emotional toll. Being able to relinquish the weight and responsibility of handling your case to someone else and knowing that person has the experience and skill to carry the ball to the finish line can be a tremendous relief. In the midst of such a draining and confusion process, knowing that you have a Kansas City, MO car accident lawyer to fight in your corner can be a surprising help to many people.
Which car accident lawyer is right for you?
Once you’ve decided that you want to hire an attorney, how do you know which one to turn to? The first step in choosing a car accident lawyer involves doing a bit of research. Ask around; check with friends or family members or people from work. Who have they used and were they happy with the results? If so, it might make sense to meet with one or two. Look online; reach articles, blogs and check out a car accident lawyer’s website.
Do they seem to understand car accident cases? Do they have sufficient experience handling Kansas City, MO auto accident claims? If so, meet with them. Remember, most car accident lawyers will happily offer an initial meeting to discuss your case for free, giving you a chance to find out if you will get along on a personal level.
Once it’s time to meet in person, it’s time to listen to your intuition. Do you feel at ease with the car accident lawyer? Can you talk to him or her? If not, there should be alarm bells ringing, remember, this a person you will need to work closely with and trust with intimate details of your life. If you can’t even carry a conversation without discomfort, this may not be the attorney for you. Also, pay attention to whether the attorney listens and understands what you say, are you being heard or are you being ignored? The car accident lawyer works for you, not the other way around, and it’s crucial that he or she behave as such. Finally, does the car accident lawyer seem experienced and knowledgeable about your case or other cases that he or she has handled in the past? Having experience handling similar cases is critical to understanding how to handle your case effectively.
What to do after a Kansas City auto accident
Being involved in a Kansas City, Missouri automobile accident can be very disorienting. The shock of the crash and the realization that you need to take action to protect yourself, your property and your ability to bring a future claim for compensation can make it hard to know where to start. For information and what to do after a Kansas City crash, keep reading.
Get medical treatment. We can’t stress this enough. If you’ve been involved in a Kansas City, MO car accident, the first thing you need to do is assess your injuries. If it was a serious accident and you believe you have serious injuries, remain in your vehicle and dial emergency services. If the wreck resulted in injuries but maybe not severe injuries, it might be a good idea to assess whether you can move yourself or your vehicle out of the lane of traffic and thus out of harm’s way. Once you’re safe, you can then contact emergency services or, after police have arrived, take yourself to a doctor for treatment. Even if the accident was minor, it is still possible that you may require medical attention. After all, some serious injuries, such as those involving your neck, back or brain, may not be apparent and can hide, growing worse as time goes on. This is why it is important to receive medical treatment immediately if you think there is even a small chance that you have sustained an injury.
Once you’ve assessed your injuries and gotten out of harm’s way, it’s now time to contact law enforcement authorities. Anyone who has been involved in a car accident that resulted in injuries or serious property damage needs to report this immediately to local authorities. Not only are you legally obligated to report such accidents, you need to do so for the sake of your future accident claim. Reporting the accident to authorities will result in an official accident report, a great source of information and evidence should a claim arise. The report may also assign fault to the other party, another important boost to a potential auto accident claim. Finally, a police report is useful because it contains the names and contact details for the drivers involved.
Now that you’ve taken care of calling the authorities, it’s time to put on your detective’s hat and begin gathering evidence. At this stage, you need to be extra observant, look around at the accident scene, the other driver, the cars, everything. If you’re able, take some notes about what you see and remember. There may be a flood of details, but it is important to get them down early while the accident is still fresh in your mind. Write down what happened, how it happened, what the other driver was doing, what you were doing, where your vehicles were coming and going, outside conditions, speeds or other important factors. Next, be sure and write down names and contact information for those involved in the accident. Get insurance information from the other driver as well as contact details for anyone who may have witnessed the crash.
Finally, given that most of us have smartphones, it is important to take pictures.
It’s really true when people say that a picture is worth 1,000 words. Pictures make it much easier to tell a story to judges, juries or even insurance adjusters about the seriousness of an accident. Once you’ve gathered all this information, you can later present it to your car accident lawyer and pat yourself on the back for putting your case in a good position.
Common auto accident injuries
Car accidents can lead to a wide array of injuries, from the very minor to permanently debilitating. Fender benders may only lead to minor scrapes and bruises, while a high-speed interstate accident could very well result in paralysis or amputation. Some common injuries associated with car accidents include broken bones, cracked ribs, muscle pain, strain, spinal damage, whiplash and brain trauma. It’s important especially in the context of car accident injuries, to understand that some of the worst harm may not be immediately visible. Accidents involving high speeds can cause internal injuries or lead to serious neck, shoulder or back pain. Car crashes can also result in traumatic brain injuries (TBI), something that may not be obvious right away but grow increasingly serious.
Should you see a doctor even if you don’t think your injuries are severe?
The short answer is absolutely yes. Now, there’s an obvious caveat here for those instances where your accident was clearly minor, like being bumped in traffic, and your injuries are nonexistent. In that case, save your time and money. However, even minor accidents can result in whiplash, brain damage or serious neck pain and ought to be treated quickly to avoid making things worse.
Another benefit from seeking medical attention quickly after a Kansas City, Missouri auto accident is that it gets your injuries down on paper, recorded by a doctor for future reference. In some cases, waiting to seek medical treatment can open the door for the other side trying to poke holes in your story. Insurance companies will accuse the plaintiff of either faking his or her injuries, as evidenced by the long delay between the occurrence of the accident and seeking medical help, or of being injured elsewhere and trying to pass those injuries off as being related to the accident. By seeking medical attention right away, you neutralize this possible defense tactic.
How to win an auto accident case:
If you want to be able to win an auto accident claim in court, it’s helpful to understand the burden of proof that a plaintiff must meet in such cases. First, plaintiffs need to show that there was a duty of care on the part of the defendant. In the case of a car accident, it’s clear that the law requires everyone who operates a motor vehicle to exercise reasonable caution while operating that vehicle, that’s your duty of care.
You then need to prove that the defendant breached that duty of care in some way. Again, in the context of a car accident case, a police report indicating the fault of the defendant, evidence of speeding, drunk driving, following too closely or general recklessness would all suffice.
After showing that a duty of care was breached, you will then need to prove causation, meaning that you will need to link the harm you’ve suffered with the defendant’s behavior. To do this, a plaintiff must show that but for the defendant’s behavior, the injury suffered would not have occurred. Sometimes this is obvious, such as it being clear that a plaintiff’s broken arm would not have happened out of the blue were it not for the defendant’s drunk driving-related car crash.
The final element of a successful car accident claim involves proving damage. This is one of the easier components in most car accident cases, and requires demonstrating that you have indeed suffered harm. This can be done through testimony, of yourself or others, through medical records or even through photographs.
Missouri is one of only 13 states that recognize a concept known as pure comparative fault. Pure comparative fault is an interesting negligence standard that is especially favorable to plaintiffs. This is because it allows an injured individual to recover financial damages even if he or she is partially at fault. In some states, if a plaintiff is even 1 percent responsible for the harm, he or she is completely barred from recovering damages. In other states, the plaintiff can only recover if his or her share of responsibility is 50 percent or less. In Missouri, the law says that even a plaintiff who is 99 percent responsible for causing harm can recover damages from the defendant. An important point to make here is that whatever recovery ultimately occurs is reduced by the plaintiff’s degree of fault. This means if a plaintiff who is 99% at fault for an accident receives a $100,000 judgment from a jury, the defendant will only be obligated to pay the plaintiff $1,000.
Does timing matter?
Absolutely. In fact, we can’t stress that enough. It is critical that you move fast after a Kansas City, Missouri auto accident. Though it is a shame that an injured car accident victim needs to worry about a ticking clock, the reality is that the longer you wait the more likely your case could be harmed. Evidence and witnesses have a habit of disappearing and the more time that passes between when an accident occurs and when your car accident lawyer begins gathering proof, the more likely it is that people, records, documentation or even surveillance videos, will evaporate. By taking action early, it gives your case a jump start and lets your car accident lawyer begin assembling the necessary proof while events are still fresh in people’s minds.
Beyond this practical reality, there is a legal time constraint to keep in mind. Missouri law contains what’s known as a statute of limitations, a rule which limits the time a person has to file certain claims. The statute of limitations varies depending on the nature of the case and the state where the claim is filed. Here in Missouri, car accident victims have a five-year statute of limitations in which to bring their claims. The clock begins ticking when the harm occurs, meaning the day of the car accident. So what happens if you wait and bring your claim five years and one day after the car accident? Unfortunately your claim will most likely be tossed out of court, barred due to the statute of limitations.
These rules are fast and hard and apply regardless of how strong your case is or how egregious the defendant’s actions were, yet another reason why you should reach out to an experienced Kansas City, MO car accident lawyer as soon as possible.