If you were involved in an auto accident, and even slightly injured in that accident, please seek medical help immediately. If you are not carrying medical insurance, you should still obtain medical treatment, and then contact our office for assistance in establishing a payment schedule or hold on the medical billing. This will allow sufficient time to process your claim with the other driver's insurance company, and/or file a lawsuit. Many medical providers will send you a bill later and/or take a lien on your recovery. The outstanding bills can often be paid from your settlement.
After you are discharged, you should contact an attorney to discuss the accident. You should do this even if your physician scheduled a follow-up, additional surgery, or physical therapy. Equally important, your attorney may be able to negotiate with the medical providers and physicians to reduce your medical bills.
A typical automobile accident contingent fee ranges from 20% to 50%, with 33% being the most common percentage. If the case is extremely complicated, or will require very little work, the we often deviate from the 33% and agree to a different figure. A "contingent fee" means that you will not be required to pay any money to your attorney. However, if you win the case, or obtain a settlement, your attorney will receive as compensation a percentage of the money. Your attorney will also help with costs for things like medical records, police reports, filing fees, and other reports and court costs.
Many personal injury cases settle before filing a suit, and the vast majority settle before trial. It is not always possible to settle out of court. Sometimes a case has already been filed. Sometimes an insurance company is unresponsive or unwilling to pay a fair amount. Also, there are times when a statute of limitations is close to running, and we need to file the suit immediately to preserve your right to recover.
One important consideration in any personal injury case is whether we will be able to collect from the party who caused the injury. Often the negligent driver (the person who caused the accident) will have some type of insurance coverage. Ideally, that person will have more than the Missouri minimum of $25,000 in liability coverage. Your attorney will be able to file paperwork to determine the amount of liability coverage.
If the negligent driver does not carry any insurance, or cannot be found, you may be able to obtain a settlement through your policy's uninsurance (UM) provision. If the negligent driver carries an amount of coverage less than the sum of your damages, you may be able to receive additional money under your policy's underinsurance (UIM) provision. UM coverage also will likely apply in situations where you were involved in a hit-and-run. These considerations can be extremely complicated and are reasons why you should talk with an attorney. Click here for more information about the insurance aspect of a personal injury case.
Most clients want to know what their cases are worth. I.e., they want to know how much money to expect to recover. As your case moves forward, we consult jury verdict reporters to identify cases similar to yours that went to trial. We can also compare your injuries and fact situation to other cases handled by this office. After looking at your medical records and the accident report, we should be able to give you a good ballpark figure.
Comparative Fault and Contributory Negligence
If you are partly at fault, Missouri law still allows you to recover money from another party or other parties. For example, if you were 10% at fault, and your damages equal $100,000, the negligent driver is liable for the remaining $90,000.
Many accident victims have the impression (often from talking with insurance adjusters) that they will not be able to recover money if they were either (a) not wearing a seatbelt, or (b) talking on a cell phone at the time of the accident. This is incorrect. You can still recover the full amount of your damages if you were simultaneously doing both of those things, reading Newsweek, drinking Starbucks coffee, and eating a pastrami sandwich. Insurance adjusters work for the company that will ultimately be required to pay your damages. Consequently, their performance ratings and pay are often tied to their ability to pay out as little money as possible. Before talking with the other driver's insurance company, you should call your own attorney.
Property Damages including Vehicle Repairs and Replacement
If your vehicle was damaged or destroyed in an accident, an insurance company will often pay for a rental car and either pay the cost of your repairs or pay for a new vehicle. Personal injury attorneys will usually not take this property settlement into account when calculating the 33% contingent fee. In other words, your attorney will usually be willing to handle this aspect of your case at no charge.
Most auto accident cases arise when someone engages in negligent behavior. Most insurance policies cover acts of negligence while excluding intentional acts such as intentionally harming someone with a vehicle. In order to establish a claim for negligence, we seek to establish:
(a) a duty on the part of the other driver(s) to act with reasonable care
(b) a breach of that duty
(c) causation between that breach and your injury
Types of damages include past, present and future medical costs, loss of consortium, pain and suffering. Damages may also include the diminution in the value of property, punitive damages, interest and attorney fees.
If you have a question relating to a possible or pending automobile accident case, please send a direct message or call our office at (314) 725-4400. For more information on some of our recent cases, please visit our news page. We also have an FAQ relating to personal injury, class action, and other issues.