Slip and Fall
Life happens. Injuries occur. It’s likely that you will need a personal injury lawyer at some point in your life. You may have gotten hurt on the job. Maybe you were in a car accident, or you could have hurt yourself slipping on a wet floor. Slip and falls are one of the leading causes of injury in the United States, including in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas. These falls can lead to severe injuries and, sometimes, even death.
Slip and fall injuries are oftentimes the result of an unsafe condition on someone else’s property. All property owners have a responsibility, by law, to use reasonable care in maintaining their property. That is especially true for businesses that have invited you onto their property to possibly purchase their products. Business are obligated to inspect their property for possible risk factors that could unreasonably endanger others such as wet floors, defective railing, etc. If they are aware of a potential danger, they also have an obligation to take reasonable steps to correct the danger. While they are working to fix the problem, they have an obligation to make visitors aware of the danger through blocking off the area or placing clearly visible warning signs such as “wet floor” signs.
If you are injured by a dangerous condition on someone else’s property, you may be entitled to compensation.
In many instances, our clients have been injured on someone else’s property and attempted to file an insurance claim on their own. Many clients experienced a lot of push back from these insurance companies who either deny liability altogether or refuse to pay what is fair. These insurance companies know that, as a non-lawyer, your knowledge and ability to pursue your case is limited. That is not the case when an experienced personal injury lawyer becomes involved. While it may be tempting to “do it yourself” in an effort to avoid paying an attorney, in personal injury cases, that is rarely a good idea. Hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer gives you the firepower you need to confront difficult insurance adjusters. It also gives you the peace of mind that your case is being handled properly, and you can go about your life while allowing your attorney to handle the details.
How to Choose A Great Personal Injury Lawyer
You have probably already done a great deal of research into possible personal injury lawyers, but you may have found that task daunting. There seem to be so many attorneys claiming to represent people in “personal injury” cases, and you don’t know who to choose. Like your relationship with your family physician, you need to be comfortable talking with your lawyer. You need to feel confident that your lawyer has your best interests at heart and is working hard to resolve your case, either through settlement or in the courtroom.
Internet research is a great tool for helping you find a competent personal injury lawyer, but like all advertising, lawyers will oftentimes say almost anything to get your case. Although making false or misleading statements to a potential client is unethical under Missouri law, that does not always stop some attorneys from doing so. Websites like AVVO.com can be a powerful tool to assist you in evaluating potential attorneys. AVVO.com, for example, contains candid client reviews and ratings (based upon its own independent assessment) of the quality of lawyers on the site. At our firm, each of our named partners are rated “10.0” on AVVO.com and also hold the distinction of “SUPERLAWYERS-RISING STARS,” a designation provided to only the top 3% of attorneys in the State of Missouri (as assessed by Superlawyers).
Internet research aside, the best tool you have at your disposal to assess a particular lawyer, is meeting with the attorney face-to-face. By meeting with the attorney, you will be able to judge his demeanor, attentiveness, and competency. You will be able to ask questions and get a sense of the lawyer’s knowledge and diligence, along with the quality, demeanor, and attentiveness of the attorney’s staff for which you will have a lot of contact throughout your case.
Our firm takes great pride in the quality of work we provide to our personal injury clients, and we encourage you to research us and our attorneys. We are confident that, after researching our firm, and meeting face-to-face with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys, you will feel confident our attorneys are looking out for your best interests and can correctly handle your case from start to finish. Our firm offers a free consultation to allow you to meet with your prospective attorney.
If you decide that our firm is the right fit for you, our attorneys will walk you through the process, discuss the necessary paperwork and get your case started. Because there are important statutes of limitations on these types of cases, if you were injured, contact our office immediately for a free consultation.
How Am I Going to Pay for Your Firm’s Services?
We’ve all seen the ads on television that say, “We don’t get paid unless you do!” While that phrase may have become cliché and overused due to the large amount of attorney television advertisements, it is true. Our firm operates on a “contingency fee.” That is, we collect a percentage of the amount we recover on your behalf, after expenses have been taken into account. If the firm accepts your case, we only get paid if you do.
As you might imagine, litigating personal injury cases can be expensive. There are costs associated with obtaining medical bills, taking depositions (court reporters charge by the page), obtaining expert witnesses, and paying your treating doctors their fee for attending depositions and trial (i.e. the doctors’ time is not free!). Rest assured, at Hollingshead & Dudley, we front these costs on your behalf. If we lose your case, you don’t pay any attorneys’ fees or costs. The risk of losing is a risk that our firm, alone, bears.
When you contact our office and meet with our experienced personal injury attorneys, they will discuss in much greater detail our fees and expected costs, and they will provide you with time to ask any question you might have about your case, including questions about fees. In order to begin working on your case, please understand that the Missouri bar requires us to have a “contingency fee agreement” with you.
However, at our firm, we believe in the value of good communication and transparency. Although some attorneys may hound you to sign the attorneys’ fee agreement while you are sitting in your first meeting with the attorney, we do not. We encourage you to read the agreement, ask questions and, if you choose to, take the agreement home to discuss it with your family, friends, or attorney friends prior to signing it.
You may be thinking, “I was the one that was hurt! Why should I have to pay your firm some of the money that I’m entitled to?” That truly is an excellent question. The answer is that insurance companies exist for only one purpose: to make money. One of the ways the insurance companies make money is by “low balling,” or as we see it, taking advantage of injured people. Our firm’s objective is to accomplish two things for you in your personal injury case. First, we want to remove the headache of dealing with the insurance company. From the moment you hire our firm, our attorneys will be exclusively dealing with the insurance companies. If, after hiring our firm, any insurance company, attorney, or person contacts you, we will have you instruct the person to contact your attorney. Second, it is our hope in every case to achieve a result that, even after you pay attorneys’ fees, you feel like you came out ahead. That is, you feel like you were able to put more money in your pocket that had you “done it yourself.”
There are a number of ways we attempt to achieve this. First, as stated above, having a qualified personal injury attorney (especially one that tries cases) puts the insurance company on its heels. The insurance company knows they can’t play games with a competent personal injury trial attorney, and they usually don’t. Second, with our experience, we are able to build up your case in a manner that helps you maximize recovery. If you are unable to afford necessary treatment, for example, we have a number of excellent physicians, chiropractors, and specialists that would be willing to consider taking your case “on a lien.” That is, the medical professional would forego payment and billing for the services provided until such time as you receive a favorable recovery in your case. If, for whatever reason, you do not recover, neither does the medical professional.
Third, using our experience in personal injury cases, we turn over every rock in an effort to maximize your recovery. We will examine your insurance policies to determine if any additional coverage is available, we negotiate your medical bills in an attempt to lower any out of pocket costs you may owe, and we negotiate with the insurance companies to obtain the highest possible amount. In the event we try the case, you can rest assured that, while you may have never been at a trial, our attorneys have tried many cases to a jury and know exactly what to do.
Because there are important statutes of limitations on these types of cases, if you were injured, contact our office immediately for a free consultation.
How much money will I get for my case?
Although this is the most frequently asked question by people that contact our office, it is an extremely difficult question to answer. Whether you will recover at all depends, first and foremost, on whether you were at fault in the accident. If the accident was your fault, your recovery will likely be limited to collecting from your insurance company, along with any health insurance you might have. On the other hand, if another person was at fault, you are entitled to full compensation for your injuries from the other person or his/her insurance company. Full compensation includes:
- Medical bills (past, present and future)
- Pain and suffering
- Lost wages
- Vehicle repair costs or the value of the vehicle (if totaled)
- Rental car costs
- Loss of value on your automobile
Until your injuries are entirely known and fully treated, it is not possible for an attorney to determine the value of your case. It is also very important that you seek treatment for your injuries immediately because, if you delay treatment, the insurance company will almost certainly argue that your injuries are not related to your accident. Once you have sought treatment, it is critical that you continue treatment until you are released by your doctor(s).
In your research, you may have heard of stated that allow an injured party to “double dip” in the money they receive on a personal injury case. In simple terms, “double dipping” simply means that your health insurance pays for your medical bills, and you are still allowed to collect from the other party’s insurance company. While the law is somewhat complicated in Missouri, “double dipping” is permitted.
In most cases, Missouri allows you to submit your medical bills to your health insurance company and still collect the reasonable value of medical services resulting from your injury. In essence, this allows you to put extra money in your pocket, as the other insurance company is responsible for paying you the reasonable cost of the medical bills that your health insurance company has already paid. In an effort to limit “double dipping” to some extent, a number of years ago, the Missouri legislature passed a bill that limits “double dipping” to the amount actually paid and/or owed to any medical provider.
While, at first, this may seem a bit confusing, it is actually pretty simple. As you may be aware, health insurance companies have contracts with various health care providers whereby the health insurance company pays a significantly reduce rate for the medical providers’ services. In some instances, health insurance companies pay the medical provider 30-50% of the total medical bill as full payment for the services rendered. Health insurance companies are able to get away with this because, in order to stay in business, most health care providers must accept health insurance. The health insurance industry is extremely powerful and, because of their power, they are able to negotiate significantly reduced rates with medical providers.
This is important in the context of “double dipping” because you would only be entitled to “double dip” the amount your insurance company actually paid the medical providers, as opposed to the amount the medical provider originally charged for his or her services. Regardless, in most cases, you are able to put money in your pocket that is “for medical bills” that have already been paid by your health insurance company.
Not to further complicate things, but like most things in law, there is an exception! Although Missouri law generally prohibits insurance companies demanding an injured party repay them when the injured party receives a settlement or verdict from the liable party (a process known as “subrogation”), there is one exception to this general rule. There is a federal law known as the Employee Retirement Security act (known as “ERISA”). Because ERISA is a federal law, it trumps the law of any particular state, including Missouri. If you have an ERISA based health insurance plan, your health insurance company is entitled to subrogate.
Generally, you can contact your health insurance company to determine if your health insurance plan is an ERISA plan, although in our experience, a small percentage of health insurance plans are governed by ERISA. Regardless, even if you have an ERISA based health insurance plan, our firm will work with your health insurance company to ensure that you pay as little as possible.
How long will it take to resolve my case?
Next to, “how much is my case worth?”, this is the most common question clients ask us. This is also a difficult question to answer, as the length of time is dependent on a multitude of factors including your medical treatment, and the insurance company’s willingness to resolve your case through settlement (as opposed to a lawsuit). In many cases, we are able to resolve the case a few months after medical treatment is completed. However, in complicated cases, the case could take several years. From our perspective, the most important thing to keep in mind is that, regardless of how long the case takes, it has to be handled correctly. This will be your only opportunity to recover money for your injuries. If you are still injured at the time of settlement, for example, it may not be possible to determine the extent of your future injuries and, thus, your medical bills. In that instance, you may receive compensation that is far less than you deserve. It is for this reason that your lawyer will insist on waiting until you have completed treatment before making any attempt to resolve your case.