Insight into Insurance Bad Faith and Catastrophic Injury

The FAST Act’s Safety Implications

By J.J. Burns

In the past month, two items of legislation have been voted on in the House and Senate, directly impacting users of major roadways. Most recently passed was the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which included several of the recommended safety revisions. Also passed were amendments to a bill regarding safety inspections of double 33-foot tractor-trailers. The decision to amend and pass these bills was a major win for roadway users and the victims of truck crashes. These amendments will no doubt save countless lives, directly and indirectly.

FAST Act receives significant amendments before being passed

On December 1, Senate and House conferees passed the surface transportation reauthorization bill, H.R. 22. The FAST Act was amended before being passed, removing many of the dangerous provisions originally stated in the bill. Several of these policies were aimed at deflecting corporate responsibility in the event of a crash. Thanks to members of congress on the Conference Committee and the citizens who wrote to them, most of these irresponsible provisions were either altered or removed altogether.

One of the original policies placed in the bill, and one of the more troubling, regarded the functional immunization of shippers and brokers in terms of their selection of motor carriers. The conferees came to the conclusion that these provisions benefited private interests only and elected to remove the policy on behalf of public interest.

The severity of several other provisions within the bill was also significantly mitigated. At one point, there were amendments to the bill that would have defunded the FMCSA rulemaking activity concerning the agency’s assessment of the minimum levels of liability insurance required for commercial motor vehicles. Thankfully, the amendments were removed from the bill, and the agency can move forward with the review and evaluation necessary to increase the minimums.

Another amendment that was tied to the bill allowed for 18-year-olds to operate commercial vehicles across state lines. The safety community rallied against such a measure and restricted the teen trucker pilot program to veterans and servicemen over 18.

While there were many wins in the FAST Act’s final form, some concerning measures remained in the bill. For example, several industries received trailer weight exemptions. These not only are incredibly dangerous, but also set a precedent, which may lead to more troubling size and weight increases and exemptions in the future.

Additionally, the public has been denied access to Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) scores. These scores are the report cards of motor carriers, and provide the best information we have regarding the safety of trucking companies’ operations. This information and analysis is paid for by the public and rightly belongs to those whose safety is implicated every day on our nation’s roadways. Hiding this information is not only unethical; it’s also an irresponsible use of the law to hinder accountability.

Amendment leads to boosted safety standards on larger trailers

On November 18, 2015, the “Feinstein-Wicker amendment” was passed by voice vote in the U.S. Senate, requiring that a safety study on double 33-foot tractor-trailers be completed before they are federally permitted. Allowing larger companies to use longer trailers would result in increased roadway damage, as well as the potential danger to truck drivers and other travelers. The safety implications of bigger commercial motor vehicles are obvious – longer passing distances, difficulty merging, incompatible infrastructure and less overall control and maneuverability.

In fact, a recent poll showed 77 percent of Americans are not in favor of larger trailers on the roads. It pleases us to see that the Senate listened to the majority of American citizens and not the lobbyists protecting corporate interests. Thankfully, no provision allowing for the use of double 33-foot trailers was included in the omnibus spending bill that was passed by both the Senate and House.

We are thankful to all those who support legislation that makes our roadways safer and resist those laws that endanger motorists. While we consider the most recent legislative developments an overall win for the victims of truck crashes everywhere and their friends and families, the struggle for increased safety and accountability never ends. Dollar, Burns & Becker encourages everyone to contact their state and federal representatives and senators to voice their concerns about highway safety issues.

Understanding the Affordable Care Act

By Tom Hershewe

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly called the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or “Obamacare,” was signed into law in 2010. This statute continues to have an effect on healthcare coverage in the United States. Some of the more notable provisions in the act include:

• No lifetime or annual limits.

• Extension of dependent coverage to age 26.

• Prohibition on exclusions due to preexisting conditions.

• No excessive waiting periods for eligibility.

These provisions (some more controversial than others, depending on who you ask) have prompted many Americans to take a harder look at their own insurance policies. As a personal injury lawyer, I know all too well the importance of maintaining, and understanding, health insurance policies.

If you choose not to carry health insurance, you’ll pay a fee to the U.S. government. If you’re involved in an injury accident or incident and you don’t have a policy, you may also be subject to court-mandated liens. These liens may mean that you will be held responsible for covering medical costs and damages. Charges can be quite large and could have an enormous effect on the financial futures of those involved.

Enrolling for health insurance, whether through a private company or through the ACA, may save participants from this kind of financial stress. Enrollment for 2016 began Nov. 1, 2015, and goes into effect Jan. 1, 2016. The website healthcare.gov has a wealth of information regarding the different levels and types of plans and networks. This is just one of many considerations when exploring your choices regarding health insurance coverage.

If you or a loved one is involved in a personal injury case, it’s important that you work with a law firm that understands the nuances associated with these ongoing legislative changes. Depend on the attorneys of Dollar, Burns & Becker to do the proper research for the best representation.

When You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse

By Dollar, Burns & Becker

More than 3 million elderly Americans currently reside in nursing homes or utilize nursing home services, and this number is expected to grow as the baby boomer generation ages. As the population shifts and expands, we hope to see more attention paid to an issue that affects millions of people: nursing home abuse and neglect. For many, this has already become a concern. If you suspect your loved one or a resident is being abused or neglected, there are steps you can take to open an investigation and get them the help they deserve.

Signs of Abuse

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging, the most important step you can take to prevent elder abuse is to stay involved in your loved one’s life. This way, you’re able to monitor them for signs of abuse or negative changes. Some signs of abuse or neglect include:

Bruising, cuts or abrasions that are not easily explained.

A noticeable change in personality, such as withdrawing from activities, or unusual depression.

Sudden changes in overall health or well-being. Indicators typically include weight loss or hygiene changes.

A shift in normal relationships. For instance, your loved one refuses to speak to a caregiver or quits communicating with companions.

Reaching Out

If you suspect abuse or neglect, consider changing the routine of your visits. Try showing up at a different time of day and you may witness a very different environment than what you are used to seeing.

It is important to know there are state and local resources and organizations dedicated to preventing and stopping elder abuse.

Kansas Elder Abuse Hotline: 1-800-842-0078 or click here.

Missouri Elder Abuse Hotline: 1-800-392-0210 or click here.

Illinois Elder Abuse Hotline: 1-866-800-1409 or click here.

If you have questions or concerns and need to take the next step in protecting your loved one, don’t hesitate to contact me. Taking legal action is a significant but often necessary step in keeping loved ones safe and preventing abuse.

For more information and to learn more about signs of elder abuse, visit the National Center on Elder Abuse website.

Medicare Changes Raise the Bar for Nursing Home Ratings

By Dollar, Burns & Becker

In February 2015, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) implemented changes to the nursing home rating system. The five star rating system sets the bar for nearly 16,000 nursing homes across the country. Families rely on the system as they choose the best facility for the care of their loved ones. Criteria include the processing and analysis of standards of care regarding performance on quality measures, staffing levels and health inspection results.

Recent reforms to the system were made in light of a growing number of five-star ratings that didn’t match up to patient outcomes. The old ratings were often self-reported by the nursing homes and easily skewed. According to a New York Times article, about “80 percent of the nation’s nursing homes received a four- or five-star rating on their quality measures score (before the changes); afterward, nearly half did.” As a result, staffing scores decreased significantly with the new changes to the system.

Per CMS, a few of the main changes to nursing home star ratings involved:

Improved calculation and verification of staffing levels. We find that staffing is a strong indicator of quality levels in nursing homes and certainly tied to a family’s peace of mind.

Raised standards for achieving higher ratings on the quality measure dimension on the Nursing Home Compare website.

The administration of antipsychotic medications in relation to diagnoses that do not warrant use. Two quality measures regarding antipsychotics for short-stay and long-stay patients will now be configured into the quality measures star rating.

If you, a family member, or a friend is considering a nursing home placement, these changes are good news. But, of course, the rating system is not the only measure that should be taken when selecting a facility. For more on choosing a nursing home, check out one of my previous articles right here.

Putting the health of someone you love into another’s hands is never an easy decision but an easier one to make when you’re informed. If you have questions or concerns about your loved one’s nursing home, please do not hesitate to give us a call.

An Inch and a Mile: Why Bigger Trucks Are Bad for Everyone

By JJ Burns

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the trucking industry is a formidable force in Washington, having spent an estimated $9.85 million lobbying Congress last year. These same lobbyists also contributed $7.96 million to committees and candidates. It’s no wonder that a recently introduced $55.3 billion spending bill is causing concern for highway safety advocates.

One of the most alarming provisions in the bill is one that would lengthen the current 28-foot limit on tandem or twin trailers to 33-feet. While the extra room may not seem excessive, the added dimensions mean even less control for drivers and additional weight on the roads, despite plans to haul lighter objects in the extended trailers.

According to a 2014 study done by the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety:

Longer trucks are inherently more dangerous to passenger cars. The sheer size of these longer trailers – which adds at least 10 feet to the length of current double or tandem rigs – has far-reaching and significant implications for the safe use of highways, bridges and ramps. This change could also open the door to triple-trailer trucks using three 33 foot trailers, which would be well over 115 feet long, compared to the average length of a family car, which is only about 16 feet long.

Supporters of the longer trailers cite fuel savings and lowered carbon emissions, even making false promises about having fewer trucks on the road. The fact of the matter is that by giving the industry a few inches, they’ll end up taking miles and miles. Over time, longer trucks create more damage to our interstate and highway infrastructures. Furthermore, the longer trailers, when combined with the equally pressing matters of driver fatigue and distracted driving, create even more dangerous conditions on the road. The highway system’s merge lanes and on- and off-ramps were not designed to accommodate tractor-trailers that, with the longer trailers, measure 84-feet in length. Tractor-trailers pose the dangers they do primarily because of their size; making them bigger makes the vehicles more hazardous: crashes will be more likely, and the crashes that occur will be more deadly. Finally, it is certain that if extended trailers are approved, bills allowing the longer units to exceed the current national gross vehicle weight limit of 80,000 pounds (so that the extra space can be “efficiently maximized”) will be proposed shortly thereafter. We are doing all that we can to keep bigger and heavier trucks off the road, but it is an uphill battle.

Road safety advocacy is a core tenet of our mission at Dollar, Burns & Becker. More than simply increasing awareness, we do what we can to ensure a truck crash does not happen to another family. For more information about how our firm can help you, call us today.

A Rainy Day: Why You Need an Umbrella Policy Now

By Tom Hershewe

We all hope that we’ll never need to use our insurance. That’s why we see so many people with only minimum coverage. But, life tends to get in the way of these kinds of wishes. Uncontrollable forces and unforeseeable acts such as weather or other people’s negligence mean that insurance is both a necessity and something that we’ll likely depend on for help. Having an additional layer of insurance – known as an umbrella policy – can give you extra protection for these unknowns.

Umbrella insurance is “extra” insurance. Most policies cover costs over and above the limits of your homeowners, auto and special policies (such as boat or RV insurance) but also cover claims of slander, libel or false arrest. Many people look at the big numbers on their individual policies and feel well covered. However, the costs of an accident or injury, including a possible lawsuit, can make those numbers seem small.

For example, if you or a family member is involved in a car accident and liability insurance covers up to $300,000, but the other driver is severely injured and his or her medical costs are closer to $700,000, your umbrella policy would cover the additional $400,000. This extra insurance prevents you from having to sell your house, investments or declaring bankruptcy to cover costs from a single event. Having an umbrella policy also means that if you or a loved one is sued, the costs of the case, including the settlement or verdict, court fees and your attorney fees will be covered.

Injuries, accidents or property damage that occur at home are another good reason to purchase an umbrella policy. The policy protects you in the event you’re sued if your tree falls on a friend’s brand new car, or from covering medical costs if your dog bites a child. Owners of rental or vacation properties should also consider umbrella policies in case a tenant is injured on the property.

Purchasing an umbrella policy is often as simple as calling your agent. The majority of insurers offer these policies. On average, a million dollars’ worth of coverage costs very little per day or annually, making it a valuable investment.

Avoid Issues With Your Insurance Company

By Tom Hershewe

If you’re involved in a car accident, your first thought isn’t about your insurance; it’s about making sure everyone is ok and calling 911. However, the second phone call you should make is to your insurance agent. Making that call can save you a tedious, costly process and could prevent legal action.

On the Scene

If possible, try to assess the accident scene to the best of your ability. While it’s your insurance company’s responsibility to fully investigate the accident, your insight and testimony as to what occurred are invaluable. Keeping the lines of communication open after an auto accident will help you, the other driver (if there is one), and your insurance company when the claim is being processed.

It’s also in your best interest to carefully review, or even have a lawyer examine, any documents given to you by your insurance company or the other driver’s insurer. In some instances, drivers have signed away their rights without realizing it. The consequences can lead to more paperwork, investigation and deliberations.

Be Prepared

Equally important is the knowledge you have before an accident occurs. Being proactive about your policy prevents headaches. Some questions you should know answers to include:

Are you current on your premium payments?

Have you ever missed a payment date?

Have you recently adjusted your policy?

What conditions aren’t covered by your policy?

Is there unreported damage to your vehicle?

Knowing these facts, as well as your rights, is a smart way of avoiding a drawn-out claims process.

For instance, imagine that your car breaks down and cannot be repaired. You quickly purchase a car that day. If you’re involved in a collision after leaving the lot, your insurance company may try to deny this claim because it didn’t know about your new vehicle. However, there are lawful provisions that allow for 30 days to add or substitute vehicles on your policy. In the event that the insurance company refuses to honor that provision, it’s time to seek legal assistance and perhaps file a bad faith case.

At Dollar, Burns & Becker, we understand that a front-to-back knowledge of a car insurance policy isn’t at the forefront of your mind. We also know that communicating with an insurance company after an accident can be daunting. Don’t hesitate to reach out to our attorneys for advice, assistance or legal representation.

A Fair Settlement Often Means More Than Money

By JJ Burns

For most of our clients, reaching a settlement isn’t just about money; our clients aren’t filing lawsuits merely to recoup compensable losses. Instead, they file suit to hold wrongdoers accountable and to prevent others from having to bury their loved ones or wake up every day to a life that is forever changed. We understand that our clients aren’t only seeking reparations – they seek necessary change.

In some cases, our settlements include specific safety requirements for a particular trucking company. For instance, we might require that a company pay to have a comprehensive safety audit performed on its fleet or equipment by an independent party. In the case of Noah Leake, the trucking company involved in the accident agreed to revise its policy requiring biannual checks of its drivers’ motor vehicle records. We have also required trucking companies to create new safety policies, and to utilize crash-prevention technology.

Obviously, settlement is not always the answer; some cases simply have to go to trial, and trials yield their own kind of accountability, as well as pressure for change and improvement. Regardless of the facts of your case, or the manner in which your legal matter may best be resolved, we are committed to ensure that full and fair compensation is paid, accountability is had, change is made, and future wrongdoing is deterred.

It’s important to pay attention to the language of a settlement in these cases. The terminology of settlement agreements can be confusing. Some include confidentiality or indemnification clauses or exclude factoring fees and other expenses. Our experienced team is well versed in these terms and will advocate for you.

Road safety awareness, more effective regulations, regulatory compliance and enforcement, and ensuring full and fair compensation for victims and their families are causes in which we are actively involved, and to which we are fully dedicated. Dollar, Burns & Becker is a law firm where clients can expect more than a fair verdict or settlement; they can expect a team dedicated to helping them make a difference.

Overhead: Preventing Power Line Accidents and Injuries

By Tom Hershewe

As the seasons change and chore lists begin to include tasks such as cleaning gutters, planting or trimming trees and stringing up Christmas lights, it’s important to be mindful of the power lines surrounding your home. It is very easy for a ladder or a gutter to come into contact with a power line. The injuries you can sustain from electrical accidents can be devastating – or even fatal – but they can be avoided.

According to Kansas City Power & Light, “The primary distribution lines that bring power to your neighborhood carry between 7,200 and 7,620 volts of power and drop down to 277 or 120 volts in the power line from the transformer to your house.” Too often, homeowners and even those who work in the construction, electricity or utility business forget that power lines aren’t insulated and can be very dangerous.

Missouri Overhead Power Line Safety Act

For this reason, Missouri’s legislature passed the Missouri Overhead Power Line Safety Act, which makes it illegal for an unauthorized person or entity to work or bring equipment within 10 feet of a high voltage overhead line that has not been covered or de-energized. The act also requires that anyone who performs or contracts to perform work within 10 feet of power lines notify and, if necessary, make arrangements with their electrical utilities company to either turn off the power to the house or take other precautions to guard against someone coming into contact with a live power line.

If you or someone whom you hire needs to work within 10 feet of overhead power lines, call your local utilities company about three to four days before you plan to start the work. More than likely, they’ll send a professional out to assess the situation. Your electric company may suspend power while the work is done or recommend a professional.

Avoid Possible Power Line Accident or Debilitating Injury

Failure to contact your electrical utilities company could result in some stiff fines or worse – debilitating injuries. Or, you could end up in court if you’re found responsible for someone else coming into contact with a live power line on your property.

The easiest way to avoid personal injuries is to take preventive measures. Be patient and let the professionals do their job. In the event that they haven’t, know that Dollar, Burns & Becker can provide you or your loved one with strong legal counsel.

Driver Fatigue is a Real Problem

By J.J. Burns

The June 7, 2014, tractor-trailer crash involving Wal-Mart truck driver Kevin Roper and comedian Tracy Morgan resulted in multiple significant injuries to Morgan, Jeffrey Millea and Ardie Fuqua Jr., as well as the death of comedian James McNair (known as Jimmy Mack). McNair’s family and Morgan allege that the trucker had not slept in more than 24 hours when he got behind the wheel.

The crash was highly publicized when it occurred, and the initial story and follow-up coverage have brought increased attention to the issue of truck driver fatigue. While the publicity of this public safety issue is a positive development, it seems as if most of the news coverage revolves around the story’s “celebrity” angle. The reality is that life-ending crashes caused by tired truckers are occurring with alarming frequency.

According to recent analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), “3,514 people died in large truck crashes in 2012.” The number seriously injured in such crashes is far greater. Thousands of mothers, fathers, children, neighbors and friends are injured or killed in the estimated 500,000 large truck and trailer truck crashes that occur every year, according to the United States Department of Transportation.

Two potential federal trucking regulations moved a step closer to becoming law last month. The first would require the use of speed limiters on particular trucks. The second would increase the minimum liability insurance that trucking companies must carry.

In addition to the death and destruction caused by these crashes, severely injured victims and family members of those killed routinely discover that many truck companies have only the minimum level of insurance required by federal law. This means that, even when a father is paralyzed and requires lifelong medical treatment and care, or when a child sustains a serious and debilitating brain injury, or when an entire family is destroyed, it is very likely that the most they can recover from the truck company is $750,000.

The current minimum amount was established in 1980 and might have covered a typical truck crash victim’s medical costs at that point in time. The amount was supposed to be increased over time but that hasn’t happened. Inflation, and specifically, inflation relating to medical expenses, has increased astronomically. Today, the cost of an extended hospital stay can cost a family millions. Opponents of the increase in liability coverage don’t believe the amount should change, but they aren’t the ones who have to live without their family members or sell their homes to pay medical bills.

Tracy Morgan’s story is important, but we shouldn’t let coverage of the relevant issues fade as his story resolves. The bigger and ongoing story is about three things: the hundreds of thousands who have been seriously injured or killed or lost loved ones in truck crashes; an industry that has a poor track record when it comes to safety; and the people who work to make America’s highways safer.

At Dollar, Burns & Becker, we don’t just work cases; we are advocates for victims, their families, and the motoring public. We support and work to promote laws, regulations, and industry practices that increase safety, lead to fewer accidents, and ensure that those who are injured or killed in a truck crash can demand something more than bare-minimum compensation for their incredible losses. Our assistance doesn’t stop after the case is over.

If you’d like more information about how you can help, or if you want to work with a law firm that demands the most for its clients and advocates for safer highways, give us a call.

Bresette Family Settlement Reached in Birmingham Airport Tragedy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Tim Dollar of Kansas City, Missouri, law firm Dollar, Burns & Becker, announced that a settlement has been reached in the lawsuit that sought to determine the truth and assign responsibility in the tragedy in which Luke Bresette lost his life. The family’s attorney, Tim Dollar says, “The terms of the settlement, by agreement and out of respect for the privacy of the family, are confidential. I can say that the amount of compensation is reasonable and commensurate with the losses suffered by the family.”

The Bresette family was returning from a spring break vacation March 22, 2013, when a flight display unit fell on members of the family at the recently renovated Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. One child, Luke Bresette, was killed and there were serious injuries to the mother, Heather, and other members of the family.

Each defendant has acknowledged that mistakes were made and each has accepted responsibility for their respective roles that contributed to the tragedy. More importantly, each defendant has taken specific steps to analyze the failures that may have occurred and have agreed to make concrete changes to ensure that similar tragedies are avoided in the future.

During a press conference following the settlement hearing, Luke’s father, Ryan Bresette, spoke about how his family’s strong faith has allowed them to survive the aftermath of March 22, 2013. He said, “While our faith teaches us the importance of personal accountability, it also teaches us about the need for forgiveness. Luke also believed in forgiveness – asking for forgiveness and forgiving others. The individuals who make up the companies involved here are good and decent people who never intended this result. Nevertheless, mistakes were made and there has now been accountability and repentance. Our family in return extends forgiveness.”

To honor Luke, the Bresette family has created the “Live Like Luke” Foundation. “Our family intends to move forward now and focus our efforts on promoting the ‘Live Like Luke’ Foundation in order to encourage young people to be the best they can be,” said Ryan Bresette.

Ryan and Heather Bresette and Tim Dollar are available for interviews. These can be arranged by calling Sarah Davis at 816-842-8111.

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The Live Like Luke Foundation is a 501(c)(3) that was established in 2014 to honor Luke Bresette. The foundation’s mission is to help all children and people live life to the fullest like Luke did every day – by putting a smile on your face and enjoying everything and every moment without hesitation. To learn more, visit https://www.facebook.com/livelikeluke/info.

Dollar, Burns & Becker is one of America’s leading law firms for those whose family or friends have suffered catastrophic injuries or death due to gross negligence. For more than 20 years, the firm has successfully prosecuted thousands of these cases all over the country in every area of personal injury: truck and auto crashes, nursing home abuse, daycare abuse, electrocutions, construction and industrial accidents, bad faith and more. The firm prides itself in advocating for safety reforms at the local, state and national levels. The attorneys have helped lead the charge by making significant changes to safety policies and procedures to eliminate dangerous practices to protect others from death and injury. The firm’s principal attorneys are Tim Dollar, Jeff Burns and Tim Becker. Consultations are free and attorneys’ fees are always on contingency. To learn more, visit Dollar-Law.com or on Twitter @dbblaw.

Settlement Reached in KC Wolf Case

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, August 21, 2014

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Tim Dollar of Kansas City, Missouri, law firm Dollar, Burns & Becker, has reached a settlement, for an undisclosed amount, in the case of Dan Meers, better known as the Kansas City Chiefs’ mascot, KC Wolf. Meers suffered serious injuries while rehearsing a zipline routine last season.

Meers has been KC Wolf since the mascot’s inception 24 years ago. He is still recovering from the injuries he sustained on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, prior to the Chiefs vs. Chargers game. Although the injuries were critical and severe, Meers is expected to recover, and is in discussions with the KC Chiefs about a modified role as the mascot going forward.

The Meers family wants to express its sincerest gratitude to the Chiefs organization, the fans and the greater Kansas City community for their continued prayers and well wishes. “The get-well wishes and support have been overwhelming, and have sustained my family and me during this difficult time,” said Meers.

Meers’ attorney, Tim Dollar, explained that, “As part of the agreement, the amount of the settlement and the parties involved in the case are confidential. The matter has been resolved to everyone’s satisfaction and we are delighted Dan can continue recovery without the burden of a trial.”

The agreement was negotiated with attorney John Gates of Baty, Holm, Numrich & Otto, who represented the defendant. He can be reached at 816-531-7200. Also, representing the defendant was Mark Kempton of Kempton & Russell. He is available at 660-827-0314.

Dan Meers and Tim Dollar are available for comment.

To schedule interviews, please call Sarah Davis at 816-842-8111.

Read the story from Fox 4

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Dollar, Burns & Becker is one of America’s leading law firms for those whose family or friends have suffered catastrophic injuries or death due to gross negligence. For more than 20 years, the firm has successfully prosecuted thousands of these cases all over the country in every area of personal injury: truck and auto crashes, nursing home abuse, daycare abuse, electrocutions, construction and industrial accidents, bad faith and more. The firm prides itself in advocating for safety reforms at the local, state and national levels. The attorneys have helped lead the charge by making significant changes to safety policies and procedures to eliminate dangerous practices to protect others from death and injury. The firm’s principal attorneys are Tim Dollar, Jeff Burns and Tim Becker. Consultations are free and attorneys’ fees are always on contingency. To learn more, visit Dollar-Law.com or on Twitter @dbblaw.

Take a Proactive Approach to Personalized and Attentive Nursing Home Care

Even though you’ve gone through the process to find the right nursing home for your friend or family member, there’s more you can do to ensure they have the best care possible. This creative approach was recently shared with me by one of my clients.

Create a one-page introduction for the resident or future resident. Similar to a short biography, these introductions provide a lot of useful information for nursing home caregivers. Even if your loved one is already living in a nursing home, these notes to caregivers are something you can and should do.

They will encourage the staff get to know your loved one beyond the basic information they would normally receive in a medical chart. Mostly, it demonstrates to the nursing home staff that there are people who care about this person’s health and his or her well-being, enough to go above and beyond. The written notes will keep your wishes, and the resident’s wishes, front and center, even when you can’t be there to advocate in person. Finally, by creating this paperwork, you help remove the possibility that a staff member could claim that they “didn’t know” about your friend or family member’s needs or preferences.

These introductions aren’t hard to create. Use the following examples to help create one of your own:

• Include a recent photo of your loved one. Place the image at the top of the page to make it clear whom you’re discussing.

• Write it in first-person tense, as if your loved one had written it him or herself. If possible, engage him or her to either write it or assist you so nothing important is left out.

• Tell a little about the person’s life, such as their family’s names, their former career and hobbies they enjoy.

• Explain what sort of foods they prefer, and what beverages they like to drink, including when and how often. For instance, it might be important to say they love an early breakfast, or a late snack. List allergies and foods they simply don’t like.

• Emphasize that there’s nothing wrong with their mind, if that’s the case, and that they understand everything that’s said to them. If they’re talkative, mention that. The opportunity for their caregivers to know them on a personal level can only improve the care they receive.

• If religion is important, mention it.

• Everyone has favorite television shows, magazines or authors. If the resident is going to be there awhile, it’s important that they aren’t cut off from things they love. Don’t forget to mention if your loved one uses glasses for certain activities.

• Personal preferences for certain types of pillows, or how many blankets to put on the bed, are helpful.

• Even though caregivers know that residents need to be turned or have their positions changed every two hours, it doesn’t hurt to remind the staff.

• List and explain any health issues you can think of, and don’t assume everyone will read the resident’s chart or be familiar with their case.

Lastly, thank the caregiver in advance for the wonderful treatment they provide and how important that is to you and to the resident. With your effort and the understanding of the staff, the time your loved one spends in a nursing home can be peaceful and restorative.

I’m passionate about doing everything I can to ensure our elders have a really good experience moving to a place where they can get the support and care they deserve. Sometimes, elderly people don’t have a voice. We can be their voice. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns you have about your loved one’s nursing home experience.

The Risks of Driving With Too Little Insurance

by Tom Hershewe

Next time you’re at a traffic light, look around at your fellow drivers. Chances are, more than a few of them are driving with no insurance at all. Zero. Even though it’s against the law to do so.

According to a 2009 Insurance Research Council (IRC) study, approximately 1 in 10 drivers in Kansas are uninsured. In Missouri, the number is closer to 1 in 7. Missouri’s rate falls in line with the estimated national rate of 13.8 percent. These studies show that the unemployment rate and uninsured motorist rate track very closely. These numbers have probably increased in the last five years during the economic downturn.

The Missouri Department of Revenue reports that Missourians are involved in more than 6,000 accidents a year with uninsured motorists. In fact, the Missouri State Highway Patrol reported that in 2012 it issued more than 31,000 citations to drivers who could not provide proof of automobile insurance.

If you are unfortunate enough to be involved in a crash with an uninsured driver, you are unlikely to recover any compensation from the uninsured driver. Fortunately, Missouri law requires that your insurance policy provide you with uninsured motorist coverage. When an uninsured motorist hurts you, you can make a claim on your policy to cover your harm and losses (medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering).

Underinsurance is another issue. Missouri law requires that your policy provide you with at least $25,000 in uninsured motorist coverage. The amount that you receive will be determined by your policy’s coverage limits. If you, and the other driver(s), are carrying only the minimum and suffer serious injuries, you could expect a shortfall of hundreds of thousands of dollars. While it’s unfortunate, it’s also something we see far too often.

Although law doesn’t mandate it, you can purchase underinsured motorist coverage. This type of insurance allows you to make a claim against your insurance company when an underinsured motorist injures you. Obviously, it costs less when you carry the minimum amount of insurance. However, a few more dollars a month to increase your coverage can protect you against uninsured OR underinsured drivers.

Call your insurance agent and find out what it would cost to increase your coverage. Trust me, you’ll feel better next time you look at the drivers sharing the road with you. And remember, I’ve had a great deal of experience with personal injury car crashes and I’m here to help if you ever need it.

If the Unthinkable Happens – Time is of the Essence

by J.J. Burns

No one expects you to know the important next steps if you or a loved one is involved in a catastrophic truck or car crash. It’s called the “unthinkable” because none of us thinks this kind of tragedy could happen to us. Nobody is ever prepared for this sort of life-changing event.

That’s why it’s crucial you seek expert legal counsel as soon as possible after a crash. Immediate investigation and making sure critical evidence is neither disturbed nor destroyed are extremely important, because time-sensitive crash scene evidence, electronic information stored in the other vehicle’s “black box,” and various records maintained by the other driver and/or his or her employer are often critical components of your case. An attorney can also ease your burden by working directly with police agencies and insurance companies for you.

It doesn’t matter where you’re from or where the crash happened; we help victims all over the country and can meet with you in person to discuss your situation, and begin assisting you as soon as we are contacted.

Let us be your voice.

The time immediately following a crash can be difficult, confusing and overwhelming. Insurance representatives from both sides, as well as the police, will likely want to question you. Most victims want to tell their story and talk through what happened. But whether it’s you or someone close to you who is seriously injured, you’re likely shaken up, traumatized or even in shock. If you’re a crash victim who’s hospitalized, you could be taking medication that impairs your thinking and ability to communicate. It’s not the best time to answer probing questions.

In a serious truck crash involving a major trucking company, a crash team will be dispatched with the sole intent of reducing the company’s liability. Even if you are represented by counsel, you still may be contacted directly. Any calls of that nature should be directed to your attorneys. When they talk to an attorney experienced in catastrophic crashes, they know right away you won’t accept anything less than fair and just compensation for catastrophic injuries or fatalities, which, in addition to money damages, also often includes requirements for the trucking company to incorporate new safety policies, safety audits of the company, and/or an overhaul of the company’s crash prevention protocols.

I’m worried I can’t afford a strong legal team.

You needn’t worry about expense. Dollar, Burns & Becker works on a contingency basis only, which simply means you are not charged for the hours we spend on your case. Instead, we are paid a percentage of the compensation we secure for you.

Our track record in this very specialized field is well-documented. Make sure the legal team you decide to work with is well-qualified to represent you. For a free initial conversation, just give us a call. Our toll-free number is 877-816-2600.

When it matters most, we’re with you all the way.

The Importance of Nonpartisan Judges

By Tim Dollar

If the people of Jackson County reach the point where they no longer have confidence that our judges are impartial and free of prejudice, our legal system will collapse. We can never allow that to happen.

That’s why the Missouri Nonpartisan Court Plan was created years ago, to ensure the public is served by qualified, impartial and nonpartisan judges. When we allow money to determine who our judges are, or allow it to influence those we have elected to be judges, we are sowing the seeds of injustice. All attorneys should be able to try their cases in front of a judge who is free from obvious political biases.

Under Missouri’s Plan, nonpartisan judicial commissions are created at every level of the legal system to review applications and help seat potential judges. After a rigorous selection process, we narrow the list to those we consider the three best candidates, and forward those names to the governor. Following a careful review, the governor chooses the best candidate in his or her opinion. Periodically, the public decides in general elections whether or not a judge continues.

I was elected by my peers to serve on one of these commissions for six years.

In all of those years, not once did any of the commissioners I served with ask a candidate about his or her political affiliation. We never had any idea whether the candidates who appeared before us were Democrats, Republicans or independents; and that’s how it should be.

It probably won’t surprise you that the Missouri Plan has powerful opponents who want to dismantle it for political reasons. A few people, who would benefit from judges they controlled, are largely behind these efforts. To date, we have been able to defeat these attempts and it’s a good thing for everyone that we have.

I am a strong advocate for the plan. While not perfect, I believe it is the best way to make sure our judges are fair and impartial. Most of the time, we get it right. And when the public feels otherwise, they can vote any judge out of office.