In St. Louis, spending several hours a day in your car on congested roadways increases the chances that you will be involved in an automobile accident. Many accidents are caused by the negligence of another driver as the result of alcohol or drug use, speeding, recklessness or driver distraction from other sources such as cell phone use.
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in an automobile accident, Joyce Kramer can help you recover for your pain and suffering and the losses you have sustained because of your inability to work, damage to your property and medical expenses you may incur.
Joyce will review your case and guide you through the legal intricacies necessary to obtain a successful conclusion. Joyce is dedicated to investigating, analyzing and settling your case. Remember, there is no fee unless a recovery is obtained for you.
ACCIDENT INFORMATION FORM THAT YOU CAN KEEP IN YOUR CAR IN CASE YOU ARE INVOLVED IN AN ACCIDENT
DO stop your car. You cannot drive away from an accident, even a minor or seemingly trivial one. Stop your car as soon as possible in a safe place that will not further endanger people or oncoming traffic. You must stay until you have given your name, address and insurance information to a police officer and/or the other driver. Failure to stop, even if the accident is not your fault, can result in criminal prosecution for leaving the scene of an accident and the loss of your driver's license.
DO get help for the injured, but do not try to move an injured person except in the most life threatening circumstances.
DO whatever is safely possible to give warning to approaching traffic of any safety hazard caused by the accident. Use emergency lights, safety flares, or a flashlight to warn other cars. It may be possible to get a volunteer to assist in warning oncoming traffic of a potentially dangerous situation.
DO call the police or ask someone to call for you. Police officers are specially trained to handle auto accident situations. Also, in case there are disputes later, a police report helps document the facts (that the accident occurred, where it occurred, who was involved and who was injured). A police report can also help with insurance and witness identification, forgotten facts, and other information that may be critical to help with disputes, settlement negotiations and possible lawsuits.
DO tell the police if you are or believe you might be injured, especially if you lost consciousness or hit your head.
DO give the police officer your name and address and show him/her your driver’s license and insurance card. This is all you are required to do to obey Missouri law. You are not required to tell anyone how you think the accident occurred. However, you may choose to tell the investigating police officer the basic facts of the accident.
DON'T admit to fault or responsibility for the accident and don't sign or initial any statement of alleged facts. These are legal issues that will be determined later, after consulting with your insurance agent and/or lawyer. For example, many people think that any car that hits another car is always the car at fault or that any car that is rear-ended is never at fault. This is often not the case.
DO make sure to take down the officer's name and badge number and ask for the police report number and where and when you can pick up a copy.
DO tell police if you believe that the other driver may have been under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
DON'T leave the scene of the accident without making a police report. If for some reason, the police do not come to the scene or if they decide not to make a report, make a report yourself at the nearest police station or have someone do it for you within 24 hours.
DO get information: make your best effort to get witnesses' names, addresses and phone numbers or ask someone to get the information for you if you are not able. It is often very difficult or impossible to get this information later and the other driver and his/her insurance company don't often care to share this information, unless it is favorable to them. It is also important to take down information about the other cars in the accident (license, make, model, color and year), the people in each vehicle, where they were sitting and if they were seriously injured. You'd be surprised how often another car is determined to be partially or fully at fault for the accident.
DO draw a picture or diagram of the accident scene and, if you or a friend is able, take photographs or videotape the scene (especially of any skid marks), as soon as possible. Also, it can be very important to take your own photographs of damage done to your vehicle, even if someone from any of the insurance companies (including your own) takes pictures.
PRESS HERE FOR A LINK TO AN ACCIDENT INFORMATION FORM THAT YOU CAN KEEP IN YOUR CAR IN CASE YOU ARE INVOLVED IN AN ACCIDENT
DO call your insurance company or agent and report the accident. Under the terms and conditions of your insurance coverage, you must report any accident to your insurance company or agent (usually within 48 hours), even if you are certain that the accident was not your fault. It is also possible to lose coverage for the accident as well as having your insurance coverage canceled, if you do not report the accident right away. Your lawyer can help with the report and any follow-up reports.
Many people who are at fault, are partially at fault and even some who are not at fault at all, don't want to notify their insurance company if the accident was a minor one and no one appears to be injured. They usually feel this way because they're afraid that their insurance premium will be increased or that their coverage will be "dropped".
Others who believe they are not at fault and report the accident to their agent are often not advised of their right to claim the benefits under their own coverage and are often subtly “encouraged” to “get it from the other guy.
Other than complying with the terms of your insurance coverage, here's the most important reason for reporting your accident: several months after this minor accident with no apparent injuries, one of the parties makes an injury claim against you or you have injuries and find out the other driver is uninsured. You could then face the loss of coverage for the accident because you failed to report the accident and the insurance company claims that they were prejudiced by your failure to report it.
DO file a Missouri Motor Vehicle Accident Report with the Missouri Department of Revenue when: (1) there is $500 or more damage to any involved car or anyone was injured; (2) the accident was on a public street or highway; (3) any of the drivers are not insured.
DON'T be upset if the other driver is uninsured. Under Missouri law, even the minimum "liability only" coverage, provides protection for your injuries up to your coverage amount. However, unless you have collision coverage, you will not be covered for damage to your car or other property. And, except for rare and extraordinary circumstances, your insurance company cannot raise your premium for filing a claim when you are not at fault.
While collision coverage can be very expensive, in the state of Missouri, Medical Payment coverage is one of the most underrated, undersold and overlooked true bargains around. Coverage of $1,000.00 - $5,000.00 averages about $30.00 - $100.00 a year and provides coverage, whether or not you are at fault and whether or not you have other health insurance benefits.
Many people who are not at fault feel it's "not right" to file a claim against their own insurance company. They believe that their insurance company shouldn't have to pay anything "if the other guy was at fault".
What they don't realize is that they may be better off if they purchased and use their own collision (even with the deductible), car rental and accident medical coverage. Their insurance company is under contract to provide these coverages, whether or not they are at fault and they may experience longer and more frustrating delays and disputes or have to pay and wait or fight to get reimbursed if they depend on the other driver's insurance company.
And contrary to common knowledge, the other driver does not get away "scot free", because after paying your claim, your insurance company can and usually does go after the other driver (or his/her insurance company if there is insurance), to get reimbursed for the money it paid to you.
Your insurance company paying your claim and seeking reimbursement is actually part of the service you purchased from your insurance company and paid for with your premiums. So, if your insurance company or agent encourages you to do the work to "get it from the other guy", you are doing work you paid your insurance company to do and they are getting away "scot-free".
Finally, in the case of an uninsured other driver, if given the choice between getting their claim settled with their own insurance company or suing the driver and going through the time, costs and delays of a lawsuit and (if they win), trying to collect and possibly getting nothing or as little as $25.00 a month, not one of the thousands of clients I have had has chosen to sue the other guy.
DON'T discuss your case with anyone except the police, your doctors and your immediate family. You should not speak to or permit the tape recording of your voice by the other party in an accident, their insurance company, adjusters or strangers without first consulting your lawyer. The same applies to signing or initialing papers (especially broad releases or authorizations) given to you by the other party. What's your rush??? For the other side, however, the rush is to get information that can be used against you and any claim you may have.
DON'T think you are legally obligated to provide statements to the other driver’s insurance company. They are usually seeking information that can be used against you in liability determinations and in court, not the truth about what happened. Always refer them to your lawyer.
DO get medical care even if you don't have insurance. It is often important to be checked out by a doctor even if your accident was minor. You may not know if you are hurt because you may be upset, in shock or because many symptoms of injuries are not always apparent or take time to occur or be noticed.
A medical exam will also discover and document any hidden injuries that could cause sudden major or minor medical problems in the future. And you can run into surprisingly nasty documentation problems if you delay diagnosing and treating your injuries. Insurance companies will use the delay to decrease your claim or deny the connection between the accident and your injuries.
And always make sure to follow-up with a doctor if you have been advised to do so at the Emergency Room or if you have new symptoms or your symptoms worsen.
DON'T minimize the extent of your injuries. Be aware that headache, dizziness, difficulty with speech or blurred vision may indicate the onset of serious injury. Also, be aware that inflammation is a common symptom of soft tissue injuries.
If the accident was not your fault, the other party's insurance company is responsible for paying or reimbursing you for your medical bills and other accident-related expenses. If you have private or group health insurance and/or medical payment coverage under your auto insurance, under Missouri law, these insurance companies are usually also responsible (in addition to the other party's insurance company) for paying your medical bills. But be aware that there are special considerations if you are covered under Medicare or Medicaid or under an ERISA self-insured policy.
A lawyer on your side can help you discover which of the insurance policies apply to your claim and the best way to handle your medical concerns and claims.
DON'T worry about your medical bills. Your lawyer can help to postpone disputed or unpaid medical bills until your claim is resolved and, if necessary, negotiate a reduction in payment with your health providers and after determining the validity of repayment claims (known as subrogation rights), negotiate a reduction there as well.
DO keep detailed records. Save all medical bills, receipts, canceled checks and any other expenses related to the accident. Also, keep a record of all wages and income loss resulting from the accident. Proper record keeping facilitates a fair recovery and if your claim becomes a lawsuit, you will be required by the lawyer for the other side to give sworn detailed testimony of all your losses and expenses. You might also be asked to describe your treatment, your time off work and your pain and suffering. So, it's a good idea to keep a personal, medical and expenses journal.
DON'T let the insurance company pressure or intimidate you or think it is necessary to hurriedly accept the first offer in settlement of a claim. What's your rush??? The only ones who benefit from closing out your claim are the other driver and his/her insurance company, who will close out your claim forever, the moment you sign their release and cash their settlement check. It is not in their interest and in most cases, not their obligation, to tell you what to look for, what is really a fair and reasonable offer and what may have been hidden or withheld
DON'T make any payments to people involved in the accident or accept payments from other people in the accident or their insurance agents or representatives without first obtaining legal advice or understanding what this may do to your legal position.
DON'T think you can put one over on the insurance company. They know a lot more about fraud and misrepresentation than you do. As a multi-billion dollar industry that spends tons of money figuring out ways to prevent you from getting a fair and reasonable recovery for your injuries or giving you the very least they can, your chances of conning these giant Goliath's are infinitesimally small and can have criminal penalties as well.
DON'T trust the other side to be on your side. No matter what they may say or do, insurance companies are not in business to protect you or your interests. Insurance claims adjusters are trained to settle claims for as little as possible, because insurance companies are driven by profit motives to keep claim costs as low as possible. And as much as insurance companies and their employees want you to believe that they care about you, any insurance company that has to pay you money has to be on the other side.
DON'T have a lawyer yet? If you thought you could work things out with the insurance company, but its starting to get uncomfortable and you're worried that they're taking advantage of you, it's not too late to think about the advantages of having a knowledgeable lawyer on your side.
DO call a lawyer. Whether it is a big or small accident, it is in your best interests to have a lawyer evaluate the facts of your case, before taking actions that could affect your rights, interests and obligations. A lawyer knowledgeable in the accident area knows what you should expect, can advise you of the various options and actions that can be taken and, most importantly, knows the best way to help protect your rights, interests and obligations. That lawyer can empower you by "leveling the playing field". And that lawyer can also make sure all your rights and benefits have been obtained, if and when it is the right time to consider settlement and provide advice to help you decide if a settlement offer is fair and reasonable.
DO call Joyce Kramer -- have a knowledgeable lawyer on your side who has personally helped empower, level the playing field and make it right for over three thousand injury victims. Let her help make it right for you!