Personal Injury and Wrongful Death
At Williams and Sechrest, P.C., our attorneys have over 40 years combined legal experience, and along with the entire staff of Williams and Sechrest, P.C., they understand that the injuries and losses suffered as the result of a wrongful accident are not only suffered by the client, but also by his or her family members and other loved ones. If you were injured and were not at fault, it would be our privilege to represent you.
Personal Injury and Wrongful Death claims arise in a variety of ways, including but not limited to, as the result of a traffic accident, slip and fall accident, injury sustained on another person’s property and injury caused by the use of a defective product. The majority of claims for Personal Injury or Wrongful Death in any given year are from the results of traffic accidents. In Missouri, in 2008, there were 845 fatalities, 38,040 personal injuries and 116,964 property damage reports resulting from traffic accidents alone. The following information is generally applicable to both Personal Injury and Wrongful Death claims.
Basis for a Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Claim
Your claim must be based on certain principles in order for you to be successful. The foundation of any claim is that the person who caused your injury was negligent (at fault) and that the actions you took at the time of the accident did no cause, or contribute to, your injuries. Negligence is generally defined as conduct which falls below the standard of care established by law for the protection of persons and property from unreasonable risk of harm or injury. In order to establish negligence, yoou must prove: (1) That the person owed you a duty of care to act in a manner that would have prevented your injury; (2) That the person breached that duty of care by acting in a manner which proximately caused your injury; and (3) That your person or property was damaged as a result of th person’s actions at the time of the accident.
Initial Preparation of Your Claim
Williams and Sechrest, P.C. will povide you with a free initial consultation with one of our attoneys to review the facts which form the basis of your claim. If you decide that we can be of service to you, a contingent fee contract will be entered into by and between you and Williams and Sechrest, P.C. This is required before we are able to represent you. At that time we will implement the following procedures:
1. We will order an accident report, if applicable. This will provide us with valuable information such as: the name and contact information of the person(s) at fault and any witnesses to the accident; the insurance carriers involved; any hospital or treatment facility any of the parties were taken to; the means by which they were transported; whether any traffic citations were issued; and the name and contact information of any towing companies that may have been involved.
2. We will send the party against whom you are making the claim what is called a Notice of Representation Letter advising them that you are making a claim, that we are representing you, and requesting that they forward a copy of the letter to their liability insurance carrier.
3. We will have you sign Medical Authorization and Release Forms which will allow your doctors, hospitals, and other medical providers related to the incident to release copies of your medical records adn patient account records to us.
4. After discussing the matter with you, we will forward a Settlement Proposal to the insurance carrier and enter negotiations with them in an attempt to settle your claim. We will advise you as to whether or not any offer is reasonable. However, you will make the final decision as to whether to accept or reject any final offer of settlement.
5. In the event that it is necessary to file a lawsuit in order to prosecute your claim, we will do so and represent you throughout all stages of the case up to and including the trial of the case.
There are two types of damages to a claimant asserting this type of claim: actual damages and punitive damages. In most cases, only actual damages will be available to you. These most often include a monetary award for: the permanent or partial disability you suffer as a result of your injuries, if any; pain, suffering and in limited instances emotional distress; medical expenses; lost wages; and property damage. Punitive damages, also known as punishment damages, are reserved for those situations where the person-at-fault’s actions are determined to be willful and malicious. Missouri has strict guidelines with regard to an award of punitive damages. First, before the jury gets the case for deliberation, the trial judge must make a determination as to whether it is proper for the jury to consider awarding punitive damages. If the question goes to the jury, then they are instructed that they cannot award an amount which is more than five times their award of actual damages if such an award is less than $500,000.00
Contingent Fee Contract
In these types of cases, with rare exception, you are dealing with the insurance company that covered the person(s) that caused your injuries, and not the person(s) themselves. As a result, prosecuting your claim can be very expensive as these companies have plenty of money to spend on the defense of the case, and they do not hesitate to spend it. Under the Contingent Fee Contract arrangement, we are allowed to pay the expenses of the prosecution of your claim. This is one less burden that you have to deal with. If your claim is successful, we will receive a percentage of the sums awarded as judgment damages for our fees, and reimbursement for the expenses of prosecuting your claim.