Accidents happen every day in Kansas City, and sometimes the injuries sustained are not immediately apparent. If you’ve been in a car accident or other accident, you may still have options, even if you didn’t go to the hospital immediately after the accident took place.
What to Do After an Accident
Regardless of how minor your injuries might seem, always seek medical treatment. Many injuries, especially soft tissue injuries, might not manifest symptoms immediately. Your medical records from these initial visits serve as a foundation for any potential personal injury claim you might file later.
What If You Wait and Seek Treatment Later?
Personal injury attorneys can tell you that it’s not uncommon for car accident victims to only realize the extent of their injuries days or even weeks after the incident. Unless a person suffers very serious injuries, they may not realize they will need medical treatment and can make an insurance injury claim for that medical treatment.
More “minor” symptoms, like headaches, back pains, or other symptoms might appear later. If this is your situation, it’s paramount to seek medical treatment as soon as you notice these symptoms. Not only for your health, but also for strengthening your personal injury case.
Delayed symptoms can complicate the claims process. Insurance companies often scrutinize claims where medical treatment was sought later, arguing that the injury might not be related to the car accident. Having comprehensive records linking your symptoms to the accident can counter such arguments, and, even if you initially delayed, acting quickly as soon as you realize you’ve been hurt is paramount.
Why Do People Decline Medical Treatment After Accidents?
Some might feel they can’t afford medical bills or hope the pain will fade on its own. Others might be wary of the claims process or believe their injuries are too minor to warrant a doctor’s care.
No matter the reason, declining immediate medical attention can inadvertently weaken your personal injury claim. The longer the gap between the car accident and medical treatment, the more ammunition you give the insurance company to dispute your claim.
Even if your accident was a while ago, get medical treatment as soon as you realize there’s a problem. It will greatly help your injury claim, and your lawyer will be able to use your medical treatment records when they present evidence about your case.
Can You File a Personal Injury Claim Without a Hospital Visit?
In Missouri and Kansas law, there isn’t a strict requirement to seek immediate medical treatment to file a personal injury claim. However, any good personal injury attorney will tell you that it strengthens your claim. Visiting a hospital creates a documented link between the accident and your injuries, making it harder for an insurance company to dispute.
Remember, the primary objective of an insurance company is often to minimize payouts. Without medical records soon after an accident, the insurance company might argue that the injury occurred elsewhere or was pre-existing.
Important Deadlines After a Car Accident in Kansas City
In both Missouri and Kansas (depending on which side of the border you were on at the time of the accident), time limits or a “statute of limitations” are set on how long injured individuals have to file a personal injury lawsuit after an accident.
For car accidents in Missouri, the statute of limitations is five years from the date of the accident. Kansas, on the other hand, allows only two years. Missing these deadlines can bar you from recovering any compensation, no matter how valid your injury claim might be.
Exception: Car Insurance Injury Claims Against the Government
When the responsible party in a car accident is a government entity, different rules apply. Filing a claim against a city, county, or state government in Kansas City requires adhering to specific protocols and shorter time limits. Given the complexity, it’s wise to consult with a personal injury lawyer familiar with such claims to ensure you’re taking the correct steps.
Do the Same Deadlines Apply After Other Accidents?
Yes! If you’ve been injured at work, hurt on someone else’s property, attacked by someone’s animal, or suffered any other personal injury due to the negligence of another, you have five years in Missouri and two years in Kansas to make a claim.
A Personal Injury Lawyer Protects Victims From Insurance Companies
Insurance companies have their own best interests in mind. While they might present early settlement offers, these are frequently lower than what the injured person truly deserves.
A personal injury lawyer acts as a buffer, protecting accident victims from potentially undervalued offers. They bring expertise in evaluating fair settlement amounts based on expenses, lost income, and suffering.
Don’t Accidentally Throw Away Your Ability to Sue
After an accident, you might receive a settlement offer from the insurance company. Along with this, you will typically be asked to sign a release of liability. This document essentially absolves the other party from further responsibility related to the accident.
Before signing any document or accepting any settlement offers, consult with a personal injury attorney. It’s imperative to fully comprehend what you’re agreeing to, especially considering potential future medical costs or lost wages.
You Need Help to Get Fully Compensated for an Injury
Pursuing compensation after an accident in Kansas City involves multiple steps. Firstly, evidence is key. This includes everything from the accident report to medical records, which help establish the other party’s negligence.
Proving negligence is the cornerstone of any personal injury case. You need to demonstrate that the other party failed in their duty of care, and this failure resulted in your injuries. This can be relatively straightforward, like in cases where a driver ran a red light, or more complex, requiring expert testimonies in cases of medical malpractice.
Estimated Damages Properly
While medical expenses like doctor visits, prescription medications, and therapy are easier to quantify, non-economic damages like emotional distress and suffering can be challenging. Yet, they are just as valid in a personal injury claim. An experienced personal injury attorney can help in properly assessing and presenting these damages.
Dealing With Comparative Negligence
The principle of comparative negligence applies in many jurisdictions, including Missouri. This means that if you’re found partially responsible for the accident, your compensation might be reduced accordingly.
Assessing Your Damages After an Accident
It’s tempting to accept the first settlement offer from an insurance company, especially when faced with mounting medical bills. But, an early settlement offer is rarely in line with what you truly deserve.
Often, it’s a tactic by the insurance company, hoping that you’ll accept a quick, lesser payout. Before agreeing to anything, thoroughly assess your damages. Factor in future medical costs, potential lost income, and emotional suffering.
Don’t Forget to Include All Costs
Many accident victims are blindsided by the cascade of costs that follow an incident. Beyond immediate medical bills, there’s the prospect of future medical costs for ongoing treatment, rehabilitation, or surgeries. Lost wages from missed work and potential lost future earnings, especially if the injury affects your ability to perform your job, also contribute.
However, not all costs are tangible. Pain, suffering, emotional distress, and reduced quality of life play significant roles in the aftermath of serious injuries. These non-economic damages, though harder to quantify, deserve compensation. A personal injury lawyer can guide you in accounting for these costs and ensure a comprehensive claim.
Settlement Agreements Are Final and Binding
After reaching a settlement agreement with an insurance company, it’s essential to understand that these agreements are final and there will not normally be another chance to recover compensation.
Once signed, you usually cannot revisit the auto insurance claim, even if you later discover that your injuries are more severe than initially believed or that your medical costs exceed the settled amount.
Thus, before finalizing any settlement agreement after an auto accident, it’s beneficial to have reached maximum medical improvement, and you must run any agreement past a lawyer who is on your side and invested in helping you in recovering compensation.
Victims Can Reject a Settlement Offer and Still Receive Compensation
It’s a common misconception that rejecting an initial settlement offer closes the door to future compensation. This is far from the truth. If an insurance company’s offer doesn’t adequately cover your damages, you have every right to reject it. In doing so, you signal your intention to pursue what you genuinely deserve.
However, the negotiation process can be complex. It’s not merely about presenting your demands, but effectively substantiating them with evidence. This might involve presenting medical records, expert testimonies, and other relevant documentation to make a compelling case.
If negotiations reach a standstill, you have the option of taking your personal injury case to court. A judge or jury will then assess the presented evidence and determine the compensation amount. However, a vast majority of personal injury cases settle out of court. Engaging an experienced personal injury attorney can often lead to more favorable settlement terms without the need for a trial.
Experience Is Key: Consult With a Personal Injury Lawyer
Every personal injury case is unique, as are the details of every car crash, work injury, dog bite, or other accident, as well as the injuries of each accident victim. Each injury claim needs to be carefully made based on the specifics of each unique case. Generic advice or guidelines might not always apply to your situation.
Having an experienced personal injury attorney by your side can make a difference. They can offer guidance tailored to your case, from evaluating the extent of your injuries to ensuring you’re not shortchanged by insurance companies. More than just legal representation, they can be your advocate, ensuring your best interests are at the forefront throughout the process.
How Will the Right Accident Lawyer Help You?
Choosing the right attorney goes beyond their knowledge of the law. A good personal injury attorney will listen to your concerns, thoroughly investigate the accident, collect relevant evidence, and build a compelling case. They’ll keep you informed, advise on the best course of action, and advocate on your behalf, whether it’s during negotiations or in the courtroom.
Moreover, they can assist with understanding the statute of limitations specific to your injury claim type and jurisdiction. Missing these time limits can lead to the dismissal of your injury claim, so ensuring you act within the prescribed timeframe is crucial.
Get Help Fighting the Insurance Company, Whether You Got Medical Care or Not
Accidents can be overwhelming, and the path to compensation is laden with potential pitfalls. However, understanding your rights, being aware of the intricacies of the claims process, and seeking professional guidance can make a significant difference.
If you or a loved one has been injured due to someone else’s negligence, and especially when you’re dealing with an insurance company, you deserve fair compensation for your damages. At Holman Schiavone, LLC, we’re a law firm with extensive experience in the Kansas City area, and we’re here to ensure you’re not left to face the aftermath alone. Reach out to us at 816-320-6108 for a free consultation, and let us champion your personal injury claims.