A personal injury claim may seem straightforward at first, but the reality is that personal injury lawsuits are often complex and time-consuming legal matters. The Wendt Law Firm in Kansas City, MO, wants residents of the area to know what to expect from personal injury litigation. Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about personal injury law. Review this information and contact the Wendt Law Firm P.C. if you have a case you would like to discuss with an experienced Kansas City injury attorney.
Q: How do I start a personal injury claim?
A: Many possible situations can lead to personal injury claims. Car accidents, defective products, workplace negligence, and interpersonal violence are just a few common causes. Once you experience any kind of personal injury that you believe occurred due to the negligence of another party, you should start considering your options for legal recourse. For example, if you suffered a broken arm and a totaled vehicle after a drunk driver hit your car, you would be able to pursue a personal injury claim against the drunk driver. He or she would likely also face criminal prosecution from the state.
The first step in a personal injury claim is filing a complaint to the defendant, or the party you deem responsible for your damages. An attorney can help you draft this initial complaint and file a copy with the court. The defendant then can respond to your complaint.
Q: How long will my claim take?
A: It’s very difficult to estimate how long a personal injury claim will take to reach a conclusion without reviewing the unique details of the claim. Claims involving extensive damages will be more time-consuming than simpler claims, and fault isn’t always immediately obvious. Some personal injury claims only take a few weeks or months to resolve while more complex cases can last years.
Q: How do I handle insurance claims?
A: A good rule of thumb is to never speak with insurance companies until after you’ve consulted with an accident attorney about your claim. It’s likely that you could miss valuable evidence that supports your claim, or the insurance company may find some reason to delay, deny, or lowball your claim. Your attorney can help you draft an initial demand letter for your claim that clearly outlines your damages and your reasoning for filing the claim. This letter should include clear descriptions of your claimed damages, their values, and the elements of the insurance coverage that you believe apply to your claim.
Q: What is my claim worth?
A: Plaintiffs can receive several types of compensation in a personal injury claim. To estimate your claim’s potential value, the first step is calculating the total of your economic damages. These can include hospital bills, lost wages, and repair bills for your damaged personal property. In most personal injury claims, the defendant must repay economic damages and may be liable for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering as well.
If your accident resulted in permanent disability or extremely painful injuries, then your attorney can help you determine how much you could receive in pain and suffering compensation. The court may award you a certain amount per day you spend in recovery after an injury while others may multiply your claimed medical expenses by a certain amount that reflects the physical pain and mental anguish you experienced from the injury.
Q: How can an attorney help me?
A: You may review your personal injury claim and believe that it is an open-and-shut case, and hiring a lawyer would only be an unnecessary expense that would ultimately diminish your claim’s value. However, this is untrue and hiring an attorney to represent your interests comes with many distinct advantages.
The average person does not have professional legal training or likely much experience dealing with the court system. These individuals risk overlooking valuable avenues of compensation and other elements of their claims. They are also likely to miss filing deadlines with the court. An attorney can help ensure your case stays on track until completion, manage your correspondence with insurers, and help organize your personal affairs for the duration of your case. Some plaintiffs will also be able to claim legal fees as damages in their cases, so hiring a personal injury attorney can lead to more money for such plaintiffs.
Q: How do I prove the defendant is responsible for my damages?
A: Personal injury law hinges on the concept of negligence. This term describes an individual’s failure to exercise reasonable care in a given situation. To succeed with a personal injury claim, a plaintiff must prove that a defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care, failed in that duty in some way, and directly caused the plaintiff’s damages.
The burden of proof rests on the accuser, so the plaintiff must gather enough evidence to prove the defendant in the case is responsible for the claimed damages. This may require eyewitness testimony, physical evidence, camera footage, phone records, or countless other possible types of evidence.
Q: What if my accident was partially my fault?
A: Missouri follows a comparative negligence law. This means that a plaintiff may still recover damages after an accident that he or she partially caused. The plaintiff loses a percentage of the settlement or case award equal to his or her degree of fault for the claimed damages. For example, in a $100,000 case in which the plaintiff is 30% at fault, he or she would lose 30% of the case award for a net total of $70,000 instead.
Q: How long do I have to file a personal injury claim?
A: The statute of limitations or time limit for filing a personal injury claim in Missouri is two years. This time limit begins on the date an injury occurs, but some injuries may not be immediately visible. The discovery rule applies in these situations, and a plaintiff’s statute of limitations begins on the date he or she discovers the harm in question. For claims involving the discovery rule, plaintiffs may have difficulty proving when the statute of limitations begins. The court will generally expect a plaintiff to have used “reasonable diligence” to address any medical issues and will start the statute of limitations on the date the plaintiff should have discovered the harm with reasonable diligence.
For example, a plaintiff files a lawsuit for a respiratory condition he developed due to the defendant’s negligence. The plaintiff experienced negative symptoms for two months before visiting a doctor and receiving an affirmative diagnosis for the claimed condition. In this case, the court may decide that the statute of limitations begins on the date the plaintiff’s symptoms appeared, not the date he visited the doctor.
Q: How is the Wendt Law Firm P.C. different from other personal injury firms?
A: Samuel Wendt has been a Missouri and Kansas super lawyer every year for the past decade, and the Wendt Law Firm P.C. has established a strong reputation as one of the leading law firms of the Kansas City, MO, area. Our personal injury attorneys have the experience to handle the most complex personal injury claims, and we are confident our skills and resources can help you with your personal injury case.
We offer free consultations to potential new clients. If you or a loved one recently suffered an injury in the Kansas City area, and you believe another party is responsible for your damages, contact our office today to schedule a free case evaluation with one of our attorneys.