Missouri Passes Law Limiting What Uninsured Drivers Can Recover as Damages
The Missouri General Assembly enacted a law in October of 2013, over the governor’s veto, which will substantially affect the rights of those involved in car accidents in Missouri. House Bill 339 limits the amount of money people injured in car accidents can recover if they themselves do not have auto insurance or if they happen to be driving a car that is not insured. In these cases, the injured person will not be allowed to recover compensation for pain and suffering or other intangible losses, but will be limited to recovering just economic damages such as medical bills and lost income. In order for the law to apply, the defendant must prove (1) that the driver was uninsured, whether they own the car or are using someone else’s, and (2) that the car had been uninsured for at least 6 months.
There are some exceptions to the law. If the at-fault driver was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the law does not apply. Also, if the at-fault driver is convicted of involuntary manslaughter or second degree assault (vehicular assault), the law does not apply. Finally, the law doesn’t apply to passengers in the uninsured car, regardless of whether they knew that the car was not insured.
This is a bad law. A person catastrophically injured due to the negligence of another driver can now be denied recovery for a lifetime of pain and suffering simply because the car he or she was driving was not insured. It will be interesting to see whether the Missouri Supreme Court strikes down this law on constitutional grounds.
Robb King Obtains $177,000 Verdict for Client Wrongfully Terminated by His Employer
In August of 2013, a jury in Johnson County, Kansas found in favor of a man terminated by his employer and awarded him $177,000 in back pay. Robb King, the man’s lawyer, argued that his client had a binding written contract with his former employer, and the employer violated the contract. The employer argued that it orally canceled the written employment contract and then “orally” modified it with a new, lower salary. It also contended that it had grounds to later terminate the man. The jury disagreed. It found that the written contract had never been canceled, and that the employer was obligated to live up to its promise.
Judge Tom Sutherland entered judgment on the jury’s verdict and then added an award of costs, prejudgment interest and post-judgment interest that raised the total award to over $215,000. Mr. King has said that the employer had insufficient grounds to reduce his client’s pay and then fire him, and that he felt strongly that the jurors would see it the same way. Obviously, they did.
What to do if you are in a Car Accident
If you are ever in a car accident, it’s important to make sure that your rights are protected. Please remember to do the following:
1. Get help. Call 911 if anyone is hurt.
2. Notify the police. It is a mistake to simply exchange information and leave the scene. Be sure to get the name of the police officer and write it down.
3. Get contact information from the other driver or driver’s name, address and phone number. Write down a description of the other cars and their license plate numbers. Get the other driver(s) insurance information.
4. Get the names, addresses and phone numbers of any witnesses
5. Do not discuss who was at fault for the accident. However, if the other driver accepts blame, make a mental note of it. When you get home, jot down precisely what you remember the other driver saying. Never admit fault, even if you think you were. Fault should be determined by a jury.
6. Call your insurance agent. Your insurance policy usually requires you to give your company notice of the accident as soon as possible.
7. Take pictures of the scene and the cars involved, if possible. These can prove to be valuable trial exhibits if you are unable to get your case settled. If you can’t take pictures, ask a witness or passenger who can to do so.
8. Protect your rights. To do so, you must act quickly and correctly. Deciding who was at fault can be complicated. Insurance coverage and how you will get your medical bills aid can be very confusing and frustrating. You may have many questions about your rights and obligations. You may wonder whether the insurance companies are treating you fairly. Don’t jeopardize your rights. Call an experienced injury attorney right away.
Liens and how they affect your personal injury case
Frequently, in personal injury cases, there will be “liens” against your recovery. A lien is a financial interest in your lawsuit held by some third party. For instance, in Kansas, your insurance company is obligated to pay your medical bills (up to the policy limit) under the personal injury protection provisions of the insurance policy and state law. In exchange for paying those bills, your insurance company is given a “lien” against any recovery that you might collect from the negligent driver or his insurance company. That means that your insurance company is given the right to be reimbursed from your settlement what it paid toward your medical bills. This is known as a “PIP lien” or personal injury protection lien.
There are many other types of liens. If you are eligible to receive Medicare, and if Medicare pays any of the medical expenses that you have incurred due to your injuries, federal law gives Medicare a lien against your settlement or recovery. The same is true of Medicaid. If Medicaid pays your medical bills, it is entitled to be reimbursed what it paid. Hospitals are entitled to liens in both Missouri and Kansas to the extent their bills have not been paid. In Missouri, just about any medical provider is entitled to a lien to the extent its bills have not been paid. Also, if your bills have been paid by a private health insurance company like Blue Cross/Blue Shield or United Healthcare, and that health insurance is provided through your employer’s health plan, the private health plan might be entitled to be reimbursed its payments toward your medical bills.
Liens can sometimes create problems in getting your personal injury case resolved. Sometimes, the total amount of the liens nearly equals or even exceeds the amount of offered to you by the insurance company. This can obviously make it difficult to settle your case. Your lawyer can help you with the liens, however. Sometimes, the amount of the liens can be negotiated, and they can be reduced to a figure that will allow you to settle your case. Negotiating the amount of the liens requires knowledge regarding (1) who is entitled to a lien, (2) what the person making a lien claim must do procedurally to be entitled to it, and (3) what laws exist, if any, that requires lienholders to reduce their liens. Once these matters are understood, the liens can usually be managed and resolved before they impede your ability to settle your case.