May 2012 Archives

Motorcylist Killed, Passenger Critically Injured in Recent Missouri Crash

648267_modern_mechanical_art.jpgOn Wednesday night, a motorcycle accident in Mexico, Missouri left a man dead and a woman in critical condition. According to local police, 48 year-old Michael Woodruff's motorcycle rear-ended a pickup truck that had slowed to make a left turn, and the impact caused the motorcycle to catch fire.

Woodruff was pronounced dead at the scene. His passenger, 41 year-old Kimberly Holmes, was airlifted to University Hospital in Columbia, where she remains in the intensive care unit. The accident remains under investigation: according to KRCG 13, witnesses reported that Woodruff's motorcycle had been traveling at a high rate of speed as it approached Mexico city limits.

Our Popular Bluff motorcycle accident attorneys know that motorcyclists are some of the most vulnerable drivers on our roadways. Many car accidents that involve a motorcycle turn deadly. Because riders are often overlooked on our roadways, passenger vehicle drivers must practice cautious and alert driving to help protect our two-wheeled drivers.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) understands the dangers that these motorists face on our roadways and for that reason has placed motorcyclists on their "most wanted" list. This list is part of a safety campaign that is aims to increase the public's awareness of, and support for, actions that can help prevent accidents and save lives on our roadways.

According to the NTSB, the number of motorcyclist fatalities has doubled from 2,116 in 1997 to 4,462 in 2009. It is estimated that 12 motorcyclists are killed on our roadways every day. Even though these two-wheeled travelers only make up 3 percent of the vehicles on U.S. roads, they account for nearly 15% of all highway fatalities. Nearly 75% of these motorcyclists were killed in broad daylight, between the hours of 4:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.

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Expert Witnesses & Their Role in Missouri Personal Injury Cases

An expert witness is "a person who is a specialist in a subject, often technical, who may present his/her expert opinion without having been a witness to any occurrence relating to the lawsuit or criminal case." As Cape Girardeau personal injury lawyers, we know that it's common to utilize expert witnesses in cases involving car accidents and other kinds of injuries. Indeed, expert witnesses are used more often in tort cases - usually personal injury or medical malpractice - than in any other kind of trial, according to a Federal Judicial Center publication.

Experts use their experience and education to support or disprove evidence, and their testimony can help establish both fault and damages. The best expert witnesses are experienced professionals in their fields, which may range from medical doctors to crash reconstruction specialists to economists to vocational rehabilitation professionals and even life care planners. Below, you'll find a discussion of these different kinds of experts and the relevant testimony they can provide.

Thumbnail image for 1314902_medical_doctor.jpgThe Experts We Commonly Use:

Medical and mental health specialists are the most commonly used category of expert, especially in personal injury cases. For example, a treating physician can testify that a car accident caused your injuries, the extent of your injuries, and your prognosis for the future. An expert medical or mental health specialist can also testify about possible complications and loss of physical capabilities.

Accident reconstruction experts can help establish fault in a car accident case. After careful consideration of the accident scene, evidence, and witness statements, this professional determines what happened, how it happened, and what caused the accident. Skid marks, gravel yaw marks, pictures and relevant mathematical formulas are used to analyze the accident and assess its cause.

Economists are sometimes used to demonstrate the extent of damages you have suffered in a car accident case. They analyze and compile all the relevant data, such as the cost of your life care plan; all related medical care, now and into the future; and lost wages and benefits, past and future.

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Car Accident Injuries & Compensatory Damages: A Basic Overview

Thumbnail image for 865435_money_matters.jpgIf you've been injured in a Missouri car accident, you may be entitled to compensatory damages, which are awarded in civil court "to indemnify a person for the particular loss, detriment, or injury suffered as a result of the unlawful conduct of another." Before agreeing to accept any settlement offer, you'll need to consider the full extent of your compensatory damages.

Your compensatory damages may include the following expenses:

Medical costs. Medical costs include hospital bills, surgeries, doctor's visits, nursing care, medical equipment and prescription drugs.

Rehabilitative costs. Rehabilitation costs include expenses connected to physical therapy, nursing home or rehabilitation hospital care, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and other therapies or treatments required to help you rehabilitate from your injuries.

Out of pocket personal expenses. If you spent any money as a result of your injuries such as for day care, taxis, bus fare, cleaning help, or other expenses that you had to pay because you were injured, these can be compensated.

Lost income. If you had to miss work, reduce the number of hours you work, or stop working altogether, your lost wages can be compensated. In addition, you may be entitled to compensatory damages for lost income if you had to change jobs or careers as a result of your injuries.

Pain and suffering. Pain and suffering is considerably harder to measure than other kinds of damages. However, under certain circumstances, you can be compensated for pain, embarrassment, or physical suffering connected to your injuries, if your daily routine and normal activities have been impacted.

Property damage. Any personal property that was damaged as a result of the traffic accident can also be compensable.

What can limit compensatory damages in a southeast Missouri personal injury case?

Your percentage of fault. Compensation will be reduced if you were partially at fault for the traffic accident. Your damages will decrease based on your percentage of fault: for example, if you were 50% responsible for the crash, your award will be reduced by 50%.

Previous injury or medical conditions. Only injuries sustained during the traffic accident are compensable.

Pain and suffering are subjective and not easy to quantify. Compensation can be reduced if the pain or suffering is not easily identifiable.

Previous law suits or prior claims can reduce the amount of your settlement.

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Are Your Vehicle's Tires Ready for Summertime in Missouri?

562530_wheel.jpgAs the weather warms up and more drivers hit the road to enjoy the summer travel season, poorly maintained tires can pose an increased threat to Missouri motorists. Your vehicle's tires might be increasing your chances of being involved in a car accident in Jackson, Perryville, Kennett or any of the surrounding Missouri areas.

"Tire care, while important throughout the year, is especially critical in warm weather because long trips, heavy loads, high speeds and higher temperatures all put additional stress on your tires," reports The Weather Channel. Indeed, that additional stress can cause a sudden blowout, a "bursting tire accompanied by a rapid loss of air pressure." When blowouts happen - and particularly, when they happen on highways - they can create ideal conditions for a serious or even fatal accident.

Last summer, the U.S. Department of Transportation released a consumer advisory urging all motorists to ensure that their tires are properly inflated and there are no severe signs of tread wear and damage. Given the unseasonably warm temperatures we've already experienced this year, we can expect to see another hot Missouri summer in 2012.

"As the weather warms up, it's especially important for drivers to ensure their tires are properly inflated," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in 2011. "For your safety and the safety of others on the road, inspect your tires regularly and maintain the proper inflation."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that about 3,400 people died in tire-related accidents between 2005 and 2009. An estimated 1,166,000 motorists were injured in these incidents.

"While it's true improperly maintained tires can contribute to a crash at any time of year, it is particularly critical for motorists to check tires during hot weather, when families and luggage often overload vehicles for long vacation trips," NHTSA Administrator David Strickland warned. "Underinflated tires spinning on hot asphalt for extended periods of time can be a recipe for disaster."

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How is the Value of My Missouri Car Crash Case Determined?

754431_in_business.jpgIf you're like many people who have suffered injuries in a Missouri car crash, once you recover from the initial pain and shock, you will have to start worrying about your expenses.

Our Southeast Missouri car accident lawyers are frequently asked how much a case is worth. First and foremost, every case is different, and can be impacted by numerous factors. We understand you might be tempted to accept a quick settlement from an insurance company just to put the entire incident behind you. But before you make a hasty decision to sign, we'd like to offer some information to help you make an informed decision.

Your Personal Injury Compensation Is Based Upon Damages Sustained in Your Car Crash

Your financial award for losses and damages sustained in a Missouri auto wreck is based upon consideration of the following factors:

• Financial damage
• Physical damage
• Mental damage
• Punitive damages (extra financial payment to punish a wrongdoer)
• Lost wages now (both in the present and long-term)

A Look at Compensatory Damages in Missouri Personal Injury Cases

In court, expert witnesses (such as life care specialists and economists) can be used to help determine compensatory damages. Compensatory damages are designed to put you in the same financial position you would have been but for the car crash.

The following can be recoverable as part of a personal injury settlement so long as they are attributable to your car accident:

• Medical Bills: past, present, and future medical expenses
• Lost Income: lost wages and lost earning capacity
• Property Damages: the replacement cost associated with your car, cell phone, clothing, or any other property damaged in during your traffic accident
• Pain and Suffering: serious pain and discomfort in the past, present and/or future
• Emotional Distress: evidenced by fear, anxiety, anger, loss of sleep, and fear of driving
• Loss of Enjoyment: when you can no longer enjoy normal daily activities such as exercising, recreational pursuits and hobbies
• Loss of Consortium: recoverable by the spouse of the injured party if (because of the accident) the injured party can no longer have a fulfilling relationship with the spouse (i.e. loss of companionship and/or sexual relations, etc.)

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