Introduction and the basics

"Absolutely Essential Questions To Ask Before You Pick A Lawyer Or Settle Your Case"

You likely are reading this because you and/or a friend or family member has suffered an injury. When this injury is caused by the careless or wrongful act of another person or company, you have a civil claim against that person. There are a wide variety of types of claims – automobile crashes and workers’ compensation cases occur most frequently. But people are also injured because of dangerous products, hospital and doctor errors and mistakes, or unsafe property.

When should you settle your claim directly with the insurance company? What questions do you ask the insurance claims representative? How do you know when to hire a lawyer? Which lawyer should you hire and what do you ask them to decide? This short guide is designed to answer these questions.

Drivers who violate safety rules injure and kill people. We are all trained to follow the Rules of the Road and to operate motor vehicles safely. However, when that does not occur people are easily injured. Typically, the rule violations are excessive speed, failure to keep a careful lookout, failure to yield the right of way and violations of traffic signals. Drivers must use the “highest degree of care” or what “a very careful person” would do under the same circumstances.

People violate the Rules of the Road in many different ways, and all of those violations are dangerous. In 2013, 757 people were killed in Missouri traffic accidents. Despite laws requiring them, only 80% of Missourians wear seatbelts. As a result, 6 out of 10 vehicle occupants killed in Missouri traffic accidents in 2013 were unbuckled. Further, despite impaired driving laws, 30% of Missouri traffic fatalities in 2013 involved a substance-impaired driver. The leading cause of fatal car crashes, other than substance impairment, is speeding and improper lane usage. And – don’t drive inTEXTicated!

In the United States:

  • Over 37,000 people die in road crashes each year
  • An additional 2.35 million are injured or disabled
  • Over 1,600 children under 15 years of age die each year
  • Nearly 8,000 people are killed in crashes involving drivers 16-20
  • Road crashes cost the U.S. $230.6 billion per year, or an average of $820 per person
  • 3 million accident claims per year

When you are in a car accident, you only have a claim for personal injuries if the other driver was negligent, or caused injury to you. If the accident was your fault, no one else should pay you for your injuries, unless you had medical payment benefits or some other benefits through your insurance. If the other driver broke the rules of the road, drove unsafely and carelessly and injured you
or a passenger, you do have a claim. Those claims usually divide into property damage and personal injury claims. Usually, you should handle your property damage claim yourself as you never want a lawyer to take a fee out of the money recovered for your vehicle-- you are already not going to get full value for your vehicle damage. Typically, people have high loans on vehicles and insurance companies pay wholesale or other reduced costs to pay for property damage.

Make sure you get all your medical care quickly and thoroughly after the car crash. You will want to undergo treatment until you are at your maximum medical improvement. For a medical or personal injury claim, hire a lawyer for moderate and severe injuries and consider resolving small claims yourself. The guide below tells you how to differentiate between the size/importance of the claim and how to choose the right lawyer for your case. Be careful in dealing with insurance companies – some are fair but many cannot be trusted. They are incentivized to treat you unfairly – caveat emptor or seller beware – and you are selling your claim.

Workplace injuries are equally scary and debilitating. There are certainly conscientious employers genuinely concerned about workplace safety. But there are also employers who cut corners, rush work, understaff, and do not emphasize safety over profits. We learn of these work injuries and deaths and all too often they are preventable. In 2014 in the United States, there were 3 Million workplace injuries – which is an incidence of 3.2 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers. Unfortunately, this included 4,679 deaths. Twenty percent of deaths are in the construction trades – with the leading cause falls.

Here are the ten most frequently cited standard violations by OSHA:

  1. Fall protection
  2. Hazard Communication
  3. Scaffolding
  4. Respiratory protection
  5. Control of Hazardous Energy (lockout/tag out)
  6. Powered Industrial Trucks
  7. Ladders
  8. Electrical and wiring methods and components
  9. Machinery and Machine Guarding
  10. Electrical Systems Design

When you are injured on the job you have a claim under your states’ Workers Compensation Laws. In Missouri and Illinois, your employer or its insurance company must provide three types of benefits:

  1. LOST WAGES: Injured workers are due two-thirds (⅔) of the value of their wages while they are treated for their injuries. If an employer can provide the employee with labor that can be completed while on restrictions imposed by the treating doctor, then the employee must perform that newly assigned task until the restriction is lifted. Employers sometimes play games with job assignments for their injured workers by reassigning them to tasks that do not comply with the restrictions. Even worse, workers are sometimes fired for exercising their rights under workers’ compensation laws. Both of these behaviors are illegal.
  2. MEDICAL EXPENSES: Missouri law requires that injured workers receive compensation for any medical expenses incurred as a result of workplace injury. Employers generally have the right to choose the doctor that you will go see.
  3. LUMP SUM: The employer is only required to pay you for lost wages and medical expenses until you reach your maximum medical improvement. When the law says you will not get any better, the employer is no longer obligated to pay you any disability payments. At that point, the employer will offer you a settlement that is intended to compensate you for any diminishment in your capacity to work for the remainder of your life as a result of sustaining a workplace injury.

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