Frequently Asked Questions
**The answers to the questions on this website are for general informational purposes only. They are not intended nor should they be taken as legal advice. The attorney-client relationship does not occur until a contract of employment or an engagement letter have been signed by both the Law Firm and the Client.
A. If you’ve been in an accident and the damages relate largely to property damage to your car or, in the alternative, you have minor or non-permanent medical injuries, then chances are you do not need a lawyer. Many insurance companies will actually handle small claims on a more favorable or fair basis in an effort to prevent you from hiring an attorney who might thereafter try to make a so-called mountain out of a molehill.
However, before you sign any document tendered to you by the insurance company, it always is in your best interest to bring that document to an attorney who has experience in the field, and ask that attorney to review it. A few hundred dollars to have a lawyer look over a document that can cost you thousands of dollars is time and money well spent.
A. Often the other insurance company will be willing to settle your property damage claim separate from you should be your personal injury claim. However, some will try to hold you should be your property damage claim and you need for your car hostage to your personal injury claim. If you do settle your property damage claim you must be absolutely certain you are settling ONLY your damage claim and not all claims. Once again it is an excellent idea to see a lawyer for a consultation to review the documents that the insurance company wants you to sign.
A. It is OK to talk with them generally to confirm the other driver’s insurance, to confirm your insurance, and to find out if they will fix your car, rent you a car, and pay your emergency room visit if that is the extent of your treatment.
A. NEVER let the other insurance company record your statement UNLESS they are willing to give you a copy of their driver’s recorded statement. If you give them your statement then they have both sides of the issue. Shouldn’t you?
A. If you have been seriously injured, then the answer is absolutely NOT. If you have sustained minor injuries, you can give them the name of the emergency treatment or any doctor or health care provider you saw STRICTLY for the accident. Never give them the name of your personal physicians. They will ask for authorization to contact your personal physician to get copies of your records. They want ALL of your records, not just the ones that relate to the accident. They want to use your records that are not relevant against you.
A. Generally NOT. If you have minor injuries and the other insurance company wants to verify the treatment, you can send them copies of your own records. Or, if they insist, give them authorizations that are LIMITED to parts of the body that were injured in the accident and limited to the last 5 years.
A. Absolutely! If the accident is the other person’s fault, it should not be a chargeable occurrence. Also, if the other insurance company will not fix your car, then you should use the insurance you paid for to protect you. Also, if it turns out that the other driver does not have insurance, you may need to make an uninsured motorist claim. They may claim prejudice if you haven’t notified them of the accident.
A. Yes! You must cooperate with your own company or they might deny coverage. HOWEVER, if it is for an UNINSURED OR UNDERINSURED MOTORIST CLAIM, then the answer is “no” and you probably need to consult with an attorney. Missouri law is clear that once your insurance company determines the other driver has no insurance, you are no longer their insured, you are the enemy.
A. Unfortunately, the answer is “no.” Common courtesy would dictate that they should tell you how much insurance they have, but that is not how insurance companies operate. We have actually had to file suit to get that information.
A. This is a very difficult question to answer. Depending upon who pays for the medical insurance and whether or not it is true insurance or an insurance company that handles claims for your employer or union’s trust fund. Generally, if you do not sign the papers, they may refuse to pay your bills. In some circumstances federal law allows the health insurance companies to do this.
A. Hopefully you will have your own insurance or the car you are using has insurance or both. You must immediately notify your insurance carrier and let them know that you believe that the other driver has no insurance. REMEMBER! At this point you may have an UNINSURED MOTORIST CLAIM and your insurance company is no longer “on your side.” You have become the “claimant,” which is insurance speak for the enemy. All the previous answers about the other guy’s insurance do not apply to your own carrier. As stated, you have become the enemy and you are now at war with your own insurance company.
A. In our opinion the answer is “yes.” They should make you whole and that includes needed transportation. However, most insurance companies do not see it that way and you shouldn’t hold your breath! What about my insurance carrier? Please order a free copy of our book on purchasing auto insurance in Missouri for your answers to this question.
A. The general and hard-and-fast answer to this question is “no.” If it is necessary to file suit, the first question the defense lawyer will ask is “How did you get the doctor’s name? Why didn’t you see your own personal doctor?” Jurors may be suspicious and immediately think your claim is a set-up. It can be tough enough to prevail without going to bat with one strike already called.
A. Generally, no, it is not a good idea to go to doctors who the lawyer recommends. A lawyer who does this probably does not intend to actually try your case. See the previous answer.
A. Beware of any attorney who contacts you in writing just after you have had an accident for the sole purpose of soliciting your claim. If you are contacted “cold,” it should be for the sole purpose of providing you with free information you can study in your own home on your own time. If a lawyer contacts you in person or in writing less than 30 days after you or your loved one’s accident, then report that lawyer to the Missouri Bar. That is not only atrocious, it is unethical!
A. Please order our free report on lawyer advertising!
A. I do not know of a single personal injury lawyer who does not offer a “free initial consultation” as part of the process. If everybody is doing something for “free,” how can it possible be a “good deal”?
A. There is no such thing as a standard fee with the exception of workers compensation cases and federal tort claims actions. Most personal injury lawyers charge a contingent fee (“no fee unless we make a recovery for you”) between hird to forty percent of the total recovery. For more information please order our free accident guide, which has a whole section on attorney’s fees.
A. I will give you a perfect lawyer answer. “It depends!” If the case is very complicated, such as a medical malpractice or products liability case in which the lawyer or law firm must spend long hours and invest a great deal of the law firm’s money, then the answer is “yes.” For a standard auto accident or premises liability case, probably not.
Please order my accident guide and refer to the section on legal fees.
A. The answer to this question is a resounding “sometimes”! Each case is different but there are certain types of evidence that can have a large effect on the settlement or jury verdict value of your case.
A. In certain situations, such as small claims court, you may certainly file your own lawsuit. However, with the exception of small claims, if you file your own lawsuit you will be held to the same standard as licensed attorney. You will be at a serious disadvantage.
A. The answer to this question is unfortunately, absolutely not.
A. Please click on my informational video on this website for basic information on workers compensation. However, the short answer is the employer or its workers comp insurance carrier should pay your medical, temporary total disability, permanent partial disability or permanent total disability.
A. You can obtain copies of your medical records or hire an attorney to get your medical records and then ask an attorney and/or a doctor in the same field to review your records and let you know if you may have a case.
A. The most important thing to keep in mind is that a bad result does not mean that the doctor or hospital was negligent. A bad result that arises out of a failure to use the same skill or learning as other doctors would do under the same or similar circumstances is medical negligence. HOWEVER, you need another doctor to testify on your behalf that what happened was “below the standard of care.”
A. No-fault insurance is insurance that pays your medical bills and some of your other out-of-pocket damages, whether you or the other driver were at fault or not. Missouri is a fault state. To collect from the other driver, you must prove the other driver was negligent. There is an exception. Please order our free book on buying car insurance in Missouri for a detailed explanation of this issue.
A. The answer is to be certain that you have UNDERINSURED motorist coverage on your own policy. Please order my free book on buying automobile insurance in Missouri for more detail on this issue.
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Tom has represented me on a couple of matters.. Two worker's compensation cases and the accidents that caused my work injuries. He handled my cases quickly and efficiently and although they were not big cases he handled them like they were important cases. If any of my friends or co-workers get injured, I always give them Tom's name.
I was in an industrial accident, stairway collapse, and Tom handled my case against the owner of the building. When the topic of settlement came up before the start of the trial the defense lawyer mentioned a small amount, Later, Tom and I were in the elevator with the defense lawyer and Tom looked at him and said, you're going down. Watching Tom try my case and object and control the evidence was great. The jury gave Tom every single penny that he asked for. Tom and I stay in touch. I call him Big Tom.
"For nearly two decades, Thomas C. DeVoto has made substantial contributions to the continuing legal education of Missouri’s attorneys by sharing his experience and knowledge at various Missouri Bar CLE programs."