After being involved in a car accident, it can be difficult to know what to do next. If you’ve been injured you will have medical bills, lost wages during recovery, car repairs, and other unexpected expenses. The last thing you need is the insurance company giving you the runaround. Our team will ensure you are not taken advantage of by the insurance companies and get the maximum settlement for your injuries as quickly as possible. Troy J. Leavitt has the years of experience in handling car accident cases to make certain that you receive the most possible for your losses.
Speak to a Car Accident Lawyer First
One of the most important things you should remember when you have been involved in a car accident is to speak to an accident lawyer as soon as possible. To protect your rights, you will need legal advice before you speak to the insurance company and provide a statement of the event. Insurance companies have become very aggressive in contacting victims of accidents quickly after the event. It is their belief that quick contact helps them settle cases faster and that this is beneficial to the victim. In reality, they try to push for a quick settlement before the victim even realizes all of the losses they have incurred or the severity of their injury. This is why it is imperative to speak to an accident attorney as soon as possible after the event to protect your rights. If you or someone you know has been involved in a car accident and is uninsured, make sure to learn the legal and financial risks for uninsured drivers.
What Are Causes of Auto Accidents?
While every auto accident is unique in what caused the event, there are several common causes.
- Distracted Driving. Distracted driving is becoming one of the leading causes of auto accidents. In most cases, the driver is distracted by their cell phone. However, distractions can also occur when the driver is using the radio or GPS, is looking for something in the car seat next to them, is avidly talking with passengers, or is looking at something on the side of the road.
- Unsafe Road Conditions. Road conditions can change quickly with the weather and lead to driver error. Also, construction zones and traffic jams can also lead to unsafe road conditions and accidents.
- Driving Under The Influence. Drivers who have been consuming alcohol or other substances can be very dangerous on the road. Decision making and response skills are often slow, and their judgment can be impaired. A lot of accidents occur when one driver is under the influence.
- Reckless Driving. The driver of the other car may have acted recklessly while driving. This could include weaving in and out of traffic, excessive speeds, or even dangerous turns.
- Malfunctioning Equipment. Sometimes an accident occurs due to a manufacturer’s defect in the automobile.
- Regardless of the reason, it’s important to know exactly what to do after an accident.
Of course, there are many other reasons that an accident can occur, and if you were injured in an employer vehicle, you may also be eligible for worker’s compensation..
What to Do if You Are in a Car Accident
It will always be in your best interest to be prepared if a car accident occurs. In Kansas City Metro, the police department only responds to an accident if injuries are reported. Since it is up to the car owner to collect all the information necessary for a non-emergency accident, all drivers in the Kansas City area should have the following items stashed in their glove box:
- Pen and paper
- Your vehicle registration and insurance card
- Emergency contact numbers
- Towing company phone number
- A copy of the Police accident protocol form
When the accident occurs, and no one is injured, you should move the vehicle out of traffic if possible. Before moving the vehicle out of traffic, make sure to use your camera to photograph the entire scene of the accident. Take extra precautions if thereis moving trafficnearby. Once you have moved the vehicles out of the path of traffic, you should begin to exchange information with the other driver. If the cars cannot be moved, the police department should be notified. Police should also be called if you discover that:
- The other driver is intoxicated
- The other driver does not have a driver’s license or cannot produce a registration or insurance card
- The other driver is uncooperative or violent
When you are safely out of harm from traffic, you should exchange the following information:
- Name address and phone number
- Name and contact information of passengers and witnesses
- Driver’s license number
- Insurance company name, contact number, and policy number
- Make, model, and year of the other car
- License plate number of the other car
- VIN number of the car if possible
Once you have obtained all of this information you can leave the scene and return home to fill out a report. You will have to fill out an SR-1 form to submit to your insurance company. Once this form is completed, report the accident to your insurance company.
If You Are Injured In a Car Accident in Kansas City Metro
If you have been injured in a car accident, you do not have to worry about collecting all of this information. If you are injured, you must:
- Call 911 and report the accident and request medical assistance.
- Seek medical attention immediately. Do not delay, even if the injuries seem minor.
- Provide only the necessary information to the police so that they can file their report. Never admit to being at fault, even if it is partial fault. Let the accident recreation experts determine fault.
- Speak to an attorney before you speak to the insurance company to protect your rights.
It is very important that you speak to an accident attorney before you speak to the insurance company about your accident or injuries. It has become common practice for insurance companies to seek closure on a case before the extent of the injuries has even been determined. To protect your rights, speak to an attorney and allow them to represent your interests to the insurance company handling the claim.
Proving Fault After a Car Accident
Missouri is considered an at-fault state when it comes to car accidents. This means that the general rules of negligence apply and the person who should have been more careful to avoid the crash typically bears responsibility for an accident. The at-fault party and their insurance company should pay for any losses and other damages.
When proving fault in a car accident, it’s important to look at the actions of each party to determine if anyone acted negligently. If either party failed to use a reasonable amount of care and caution, and those actions contributed to the crash, they would be considered at-fault for the accident. To prove fault, you must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the other party was not as careful as they should have been and that their negligence caused the accident.
Missouri’s Comparative Negligence Standard
In all Missouri car accidents, when more than one party contributes to a crash, the law allows for apportionment of fault for each party involved. This means that the court compares your negligence to the others involved, and each party is assigned a percentage of responsibility.
The rule is that if you are found to be less than 50 percent responsible for the crash, you can still recover for your damages. If you are found to be 50 percent or more responsible, you are not entitled to recover any of your damages, Missouri’s comparative negligence statute. Your compensation is reduced by the percentage to which you are found to be at-fault for the crash.
Types of Damages You Can Recover After a Car Accident
One of the most common mistakes in a Blue Springs car accident case is not asking for all available, applicable damages. There are several different types of damages available to you after being injured in an accident. The primary classification of damages is economic and non-economic. Economic damages are those which are objectively quantified monetary losses that represent your tangible, out-of-pocket costs including:
Non-economic damages are those which are more subjective, less tangible non-monetary losses including:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Permanent scarring or disfigurement
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of enjoyment of life
To calculate non-economic damages like pain and suffering, you would typically use a multiplier. You apply this multiplier to your economic damages to determine what to ask for non-economic damages. Additionally, Missouri recognizes another type of damages known as punitive damages. These are awarded as punishment and used as a method to deter reckless or intentionally harmful behavior which may be malicious in nature.
Insurance Do’s & Don’ts
- Do take photos and try to gather evidence after the crash: This will help document the scene and serve as evidence for your claim.
- Do be honest with the insurance company: Any misrepresentation of the facts of your claim could result in denial of coverage.
- Do get a copy of the accident report: Review the report for accuracy as this will be a crucial piece of evidence to support your claim.
- Don’t admit fault: Although you may have the instinct to apologize, it’s essential to remember that anything you say after the crash may open you to liability. An apology may indicate fault.
- Don’t wait to correspond with your insurer: A successful claim is dependent on timely claim submission, and diligently following up.
- Don’t give a recorded statement: Many insurers will try to get you to record a statement to prove inefficiencies in your story and pay you less. Consult with an attorney first.
- Don’t accept the first offer: Often, insurers will open with a low-ball offer in the hopes you will accept a settlement for less than your claim may be worth.
- Steps to File an Insurance Claim
- 1. Contact the police after the accident: Your insurer will likely request a copy of the police report which can contain information that’s valuable to your claim.
- 2. Contact your insurer after the accident: You should be prepared to give them some basic facts about the cars and drivers involved, the severity of the damage, time and location of the crash, and a description of the accident. You will also be given a claim number.
- 3. Follow up with the adjuster: You will be assigned an adjuster to work on your claim, and they will likely contact you for a more detailed recollection of the events. Be cooperative, but remember the conversation is likely being recorded so stick to just the facts.
- 4. Vehicle damage inspection: Your adjuster may opt to inspect the vehicle themselves, or ask you to take it to a certified repair shop for an estimate.
- 5. Review: The adjuster will review the facts of the case, your policy details, and damages to determine what kind of offer will be made.
- 6. The initial offer: After a thorough review, the adjuster will likely present you with an initial settlement offer.
- 7. Negotiations: If the initial offer is not satisfactory, you and your attorney may enter into settlement negotiations where you use the available evidence to show the insurer why you deserve more.
- 8. Resolution: During negotiations, you should be able to use the facts of the case to come to a decision that both sides can agree to. Once a resolution is made, you will sign a release, and the adjuster will authorize the final payment.
Questions to Ask a Car Accident Attorney
Do you have experience handling cases like mine?
You will want an attorney with direct experience with cases like yours. You may also want to ask about past results.
What’s your fee structure?
A lawyer should be able to clearly answer any question about fees and expected costs for representation. You may also want to ask about advanced costs and expenses if you lose the case.
How long does it typically take to see a resolution?
While the attorney won’t be able to provide exact estimates until they are familiar with the case, they should be able to provide insight into how long cases like yours generally take.
Who will be handling my case?
It’s common to do an initial consultation with one attorney and then work with someone else later. You will want to know the name of the attorney that will handle your case, and outline methods for direct communication.
What will my role in the case be?
You will want to make sure to clearly outline and understand any expectations of you in the case.
Do I Need an Attorney After a Car Accident
Although some may opt to handle their own car accident claim without the help of an attorney, this is inadvisable. Those who seek the help of qualified representation after their accident average much larger settlements. This is because an attorney has experience negotiating with the insurance company to get you the maximum compensation possible. An experienced attorney is well versed in insurance company tactics to lower the value of a claim. They are also experts on compiling the documentation and evidence necessary for a successful claim.
Those who represent themselves may leave out crucial elements of the claim which results in a lower settlement. Additionally, while some claims are more straightforward, there may be more complicated aspects of your case that make determining liability less clear-cut. In these circumstances, as well as if there are severe, permanent injuries or disfigurement it’s essential to hire a lawyer to ensure you get the compensation you need.
Injured in a Car Accident? Get a Free Consultation
If you have experienced the pain of an unexpected Kansas City Metro auto accident, contact Troy J. Leavitt immediately for a free consultation. You can call us at (816) 228-6000.