Motor Vehicle Accidents

Serious Accident - Serious Injuries

Serious injuries suffered in car accidents require serious attention and assistance. T-Bone, head-on, multiple car pile-ups, semi truck accidents, and accidents involving pedestrians or bicycles will usually result in serious injuries if not death. The serious injuries not resulting in death will often-times leave the individual permanently disabled and incapable of caring for themselves. Individuals that once had a comfortable life, a good job and steady income, and wonderful family are at risk of seeing their dreams that they have worked so hard to attain unravel before their very eyes. Mounting medical expenses, inability to work and unpaid bills are a distinct reality adding unnecessary stress and turmoil to a situation that is already difficult enough.

Effects on the Family

Assisting the injured individual and changes in the person’s personality and abilities creates stress and considerable challenges to the entire family. Members of the family are required to take on additional jobs and responsibilities just to make ends meet.

Catastrophic Injuries & Effects

Serious injury cases differ significantly from the run of the mill “fender bender” where much of the insurance claim can be handled without the services of an attorney.

Insurance Payments Refused

In situations involving serious or catastrophic injuries such as those involving damage to thebrain or central nervous system, suddenly the insurance company – faced with paying medical expenses ranging from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars – takes a position that is contrary to the best interest of the client. The same insurance company that has eagerly received your premium payments every month and sent out “friendly” reminders when these payments are late, for situations such as these, suddenly refuses to pay or will only pay a small portion of certain costs.

Gourley, Rehkemper & Lindholm Can Help

This is the point in ones life where the services and assistance of a qualified attorney is imperative. Serious accidents and injuries require serious help. Here at Gourley, Rehkemper & Lindholm, we make it a point to help clients or potential clients take care of their own needs in fender-bender type situations so that we have the time and resources to spend on the cases and clients needing and deserving serious attention and assistance.

We also take the time to notify hospitals and medical providers, and provide them with the information necessary to ease their otherwise aggressive collection practices.

Simply put, our job is to make life as bearable as possible for you and your family while you obtain the treatment necessary for recovery, services required to carry on, and ultimately the compensation you deserve. Our job is to provide you with the serious assistance you need and deserve in the most difficult time of your and your family’s lives. Serious injuries requireserious assistance.

Car Accidents

Traffic Accidents

On average, someone dies in a traffic accident every day in Iowa.  That is a truly frightening statistic.  (For up to date statistics on traffic fatalities from the Iowa Dot, click here.) Thousands more are injured every year, many permanently.    Unfortunately, most are due to the negligence of one of the drivers involved. For example from in Iowa from 2008-2012,

  • 192 people were killed in speeding related accidents;
  • 151 people were killed in  in an accident where they were ran off the road;
  • 57 people were killed when a  driver crossed the centerline or median;
  • 97 by a drunk or otherwise impaired driver

For a full break down of fatalities please click here

Tens of thousands of Iowans have been directly affected by a traffic fatality or serious injury to themselves or a family member.  The effects of an accident on an injured person or the surviving family members of an Iowan killed in a wreck is traumatic and severe.  Navigating the complex process of making an insurance claim after such a life-altering event can seem insurmountable.  Amid the grief and loss, many questions arise such as:

  • Who may have a claim in addition to the person injured? Answers
  • What losses are compensable?  In other words, can I be paid for:
    • My car,
    • My medical bills,
    • My lost salary or wages,
    • My grief or mental anguish,
    • My pain,
    • My bodies’ limited or inability to function like it did previously?
    • My future losses
    • The loss or lessening of a relationship with a family member
    • The answers to each of these are in many instances yes
  • How are these losses valued and what are they worth? Answers
    • Are my claims valued differently by an insurance company if I don’t have a lawyer? Answer- yes
    • Are they valued differently because of which lawyer I retain? Answer- yes
    • Are they valued differently if I don’t file a lawsuit? Answer- sometimes
  • Is the insurance adjustor being straightforward with me? The answer is it’s possible, but also certainly possible they are not.
  • Do need an attorney or can I make the claim myself? It depends on whether someone is injured and the severity of those injuries. The more severe the injuries, the more important it is to have an attorney that specialized in traffic acciddents.
  • Does it matter what attorney I retain? Absolutely. Ask an attorney questions such as:
    • Do you specialize in car accident cases?
    • Do you regularly file and litigate traffic accident lawsuits?
    • Do you regularly go to trial on traffic accident lawsuits?
    • Do you practice in both state and federal court?
    • Have you actually tried cases in state and federal court?
    • Have you, not just the firm but the specific attorney obtained any million dollar verdicts?
    • Have you recovered millions of dollars from insurance companies in Iowa for Iowans?

In some circumstances, it is not entirely clear who was at fault.  Also, sometimes law enforcement does an insufficient investigation of the accident. In these situations it is extremely important that a proper investigation is conducted and evidence preserved.  Sometimes experts need to be employed such as an accident reconstructionist, and economist, or many other specialists who need to provide an expert opinion on what happened or why.  In these situation you will need an expert legal team on your side with the financial and expert resources to make sure the situation is investigated thoroughly and properly.

At the end of the day, no monetary value can be placed on the loss of a loved one or the enduring impacts of a traumatic injury.  However, that does not mean that those responsible and their insurance companies should not be held accountable for those losses. In a situation where someone’s mistake causes you or your family harm, you need not just good but Great protection and representation.  GRL Law.  When good people need GReat Lawyers.

Truck and Semi Accidents

Semi, Tractor Trailer & Big-Rig Accidents

Semis and other tractor trailers or big-rigs are far and away the largest and heaviest vehicles on the roadways. Whether it is a fully loaded semi, grain truck or hazardous material hauler, these vehicles cause significantly more damage when involved in an accident, primarily due to their sheer mass. It is an elementary concept of physics that a larger object traveling even at a slightly slower speed will create more force upon impact with a smaller object. A semi truck driven improperly or without the required safety equipment becomes nothing less than a rolling run-away bomb. For this reason, it is a rare occasion that a passenger vehicle collision with a semi truck or other such vehicle will not result in serious injury or death.

As a result of the inherent dangers surrounding the operation of large commercial vehicles on public roadways, strict licensing and driving regulations are mandated by both state and federal laws. Before one can even be licensed to drive such a vehicle, they must undergo rigorous training, proficiency testing and ultimately a closely scrutinized written and driving test. Once licensed, the operators of a motor vehicle are held to a much higher standard and stricter regulation than an ordinary driver. For example, both state and federal laws restrict the amount of time that an operator can be driving the vehicle and each driver must maintain a log book documenting that they have complied with the mandatory resting periods. Load weight restrictions are also in place and are checked on a regular basis at weigh stations.

Equipment checks are probably one of the biggest concerns for over-the-road truckers. Federal law is very specific in stating that a commercial vehicle may not be operated on a public roadway if any of the required equipment is not present or is not in working order. The federal equipment regulations for semi trucks are nothing short of exhausting but it is needed to ensure the safety of the general traveling public. For example: trailer underguards (bumpers to trailers) have very specific height and placement requirements to prevent smaller vehicles from getting pushed or pulled under the trailer; clearance lights and reflective equipment are required an all sides of trailers being pulled by semis to ensure that they can be seen at night by other vehicles; mud-flaps have very specific location and composition requirements to minimize dirt and debris being kicked up into and onto other travelers on the roads.

Unfortunately, not every trucker, semi driver, trucking company or carrier complies with these rules and regulations. While enforcement is ordinarily aggressive, much like ordinary traffic enforcement, it does not result in complete compliance with the law. Failure of trucking companies and drivers to comply with these laws can have unfortunate and tragic consequences. Every day innocent lives are lost and serious injuries are suffered as a result of trucking companies and truck driver’s negligence by failing to comply with the commercial vehicle regulations. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured or killed as a result of a collision with a semi truck or other commercial vehicle, contact the attorneys at Gourley, Rehkemper & Lindholm. We know the restrictions and regulations associated with commercial motor vehicles and can make the law work for you and your family. Sometimes the most effective enforcement of the laws comes at the hands of ordinary citizens fighting back by and through compassionate and zealous lawyers.

Motorcycle Accidents

Motorcycle Accident - Serious Injuries

Motorcycle riders are much more exposed to the dangers of the roads than their counterparts driving in cars. As a result, accidents involving motorcycles often result in catastrophic injuries to the riders. There are also more motorcycles on the road now than at any other time before. Correspondingly, the number of serious injuries and deaths to motorcyclists has been increasing significantly since 1997. In fact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that there are over 100,000 motorcycle accidents in the United States on a yearly basis. In 2007, 5,154 people were killed in motorcycle crashes, which was a 6.6 percent increase over 2006. These figures indicate that a motorcyclist is 35 times more likely to die in an accident than an occupant of a car.

Given the increased likelihood of serious injury or death, Motorcycle accident claims are more likely to justify large recoveries from the insurance companies of those who are at fault. Aside from the larger claims, a claim for injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident is similar to those for a car accident. As is the case in other negligence claims, a driver or other individual has the general responsibility to conduct him or herself in such a reasonable manner so as not to place another at unreasonable risk. If someone fails to conform to that standard and as a result of such negligent action or inaction, a motorcyclist is injured or killed, that person is responsible for the injuries and damaged sustained by the victim motorcyclist and in some instances his or her family or estate.

As discussed, Injuries that befall a motorcyclist are often severe. Because motorcycle riders are more exposed and less protected than drivers of automobiles, they are more susceptible to serious injury and death in accidents. Some of the more frequent that occur as the result of a motorcycle crash accident include:

  • Wrongful death
  • Paralysis
  • Head and brain injuries
  • Spinal cord, neck and back injuries
  • Fractured bones
  • Skin abrasions and cosmetic damage

The severity of injuries to motorcycle riders has given rise to significant debate over mandatory helmet laws. The federal government has at times compelled states to enact laws requiring helmet usage through restrictions on federal highway funding. However, most recently in 1995, Congress reversed its position and in effect left it up to the individual states to determine the requirements for helmets. As of 2007, 20 states had laws that mandated helmet usage. 27 states had partial mandates that required only certain classes of riders, usually minors, to utilize helmets. Three states have none. Iowa happens to be one of those states.

While it is certainly a matter of debate whether or not it should be the governments business to be forcing riders to wear helmets, it generally cannot be argued that helmets can reduce risk and save lives in certain circumstances. Given that Iowa does not mandate helmet usage, the accidents here often result in catastrophic injury. Generally the more serious the injuries, the more complex an injury claim can be. Accordingly, it is very important to speak with an experienced motorcycle accident attorney as soon after an accident as possible. Getting an effective injury attorney involved early will insure that the accident is properly investigated, evidence is preserved and the injuries and damages are fully explored. Also, help with insurance coverage issues and properly submitting a claim is best handled by an experienced professional.

Recreational Vehicles

ATV stands for All Terrain Vehicles while UTV refers to Utility Terrain Vehicles.  Both are off road vehicles used for both work and recreational purposes. ATVs come in both three and four wheel varieties (with a few even having up to 6) with the four wheelers also sometimes referred to as Quads.  Under Iowa law by definition they are vehicles of up to 1000 cc (cubic centimeters of displacement) and no more than 1,200 lbs.  They also by definition under Iowa law have seats designed to be straddled and handlebars for steering control.  On the other end of the spectrum are UTV’s which have between 4-8 wheels or in some instances, even a rubberized track.  They are bigger and more powerful than ATV’s with engines of up to 1,500 cc and a weight of up to 2,000 pounds.  Seats in UTV’s are side by side and not intended to be straddled and the vehicle is controlled by a steering wheel. For a UTV, think of a four-wheeler being crossed with a pick-up truck. Other names sometimes used to refer to off road vehicles include three wheelers, recreational, recreational use and recreational utility vehicles, side by sides, Rhino’s, Rangers, and Gators.

ATV’s UTV’s and off road motorcycles are all governed by the same general law in Iowa with a few minor distinctions.  The applicable law is generally found in Section 321L of the Iowa Code.  Just as with other automobiles, owners of off road vehicles in Iowa are responsible for any injuries and damages they cause.  Additionally and once again just as with cars, owners are also responsible for any injuries or damages caused by someone they allow to operate their ATV or UTV.  What this ultimately generally means then is that the insurance policy that covers the vehicle is typically available to compensate some and their family if they are injured or killed by an off road vehicle, so long as it wasn’t stolen.

Off road vehicle accidents are more similar to motorcycle, bicycle and pedestrian accidents in one important fashion, the severity of the injuries that occur in these accidents.  Given that off road vehicles can be operated at speeds similar to highway vehicles but on uneven and sometimes treacherous terrain, it is probably no surprise that accidents are commonplace.  Additionally, given that off road vehicle don’t have many, or as sometimes any of the safety features that cars do, it also probably comes as no surprise that the injuries sustained can often be severe or fatal.  Traumatic Brain injuries, spinal cord and neck, fractures and dislocations are common injuries seen in off road accidents.  GRL law has litigated and successfully resolved claims for Iowans that have been hurt and killed from an ATV accident.

Boating Accidents

Boating accidents can be, and often times, are as severe as motor vehicle accidents that occur on the highways. The laws pertaining to who is responsible for a boating accident are similar to car accidents, with the primary exception that instead of being governed by the “rules of the road” they are governed by the “rules of the water.”

The operation of a vessel on the waterways of Iowa is governed by specific legal requirements regulating speeding, passing other vessels and other traditional operational requirements similar to automobiles. In addition to the “statutory regulations,” the general requirement that the operator exercise reasonable care to ensure the safety of those within the vessel as well as others out on the waterway, also applies. Just like vehicle accidents, in most cases, the insurance company for the at-fault operator is financially responsible for the injuries suffered by the injury party. However, in some circumstances, if the at-fault boater did not have sufficient insurance, they may be held personally financially responsible.

Boating accidents do however, present some additional challenges that ordinary motor vehicle accidents do not. The primary challenge when a boat collision occurs is the fact that the vessels involved in the accident ordinarily do not leave “trace evidence” like what is often times discoverable in vehicular accidents. Accidents on roadways commonly leave gouge marks, skid marks, and other evidence that is detectable and documentable on the roadway even after the vehicles are moved following the accident. In boating cases, the waterways do not preserve such evidence. In fact, the water often times will destroy or distort whatever evidence is present following the accident.

For this reason swift action is crucial. Witness statements must be obtained as soon as possible and the vessels involved in the collision should be inspected on a dry dock by an expert, trained in marine accidents. Time is not an injured person’s friend in a boating accident case. Swift action is the best way to ensure that an injured person’s right to recovery is adequately protected.

Uninsured and Underinsured Drivers

Traffic accidents occur every day in Iowa.  Iowa law requires that the owner of a vehicle have it insured.  Have you ever been pulled over?  One of the first questions the officer will ask is for proof of insurance.  Fail to have it, get a ticket.  However despite this fact many motorists still drive their vehicles without insurance. Multitudes more have insurance but with limits that are so low they cannot adequately cover significant injuries should they result from a collision. The Insurance Research Council estimates that 11.5 percent of Motorists on the road in Iowa are completely uninsured. That figure does not include the many more that are underinsured.

This is where uninsured and underinsured coverage comes in, to cover you if you get in an accident with a driver who was not covered or adequately covered.  In fact Iowa law not only requires that motorists have insurance coverage for their vehicles, it also mandates uninsured coverage also known as UIM coverage, unless you take steps to exclude this coverage.  Additionally this insurance also covers you and your family whether driving or riding yin your or someone else’s’ car.  Very importantly, in the event of a catastrophic injury or wrongful death, an underinsured coverage, sometimes also referred to as UDM coverage, claim may be needed even if someone has coverage that would otherwise generally be thought of as sufficient.

Uninsured and underinsured coverage claims have unique requirements and pitfalls under the insurance contracts.  For example, the statute of limitations to make a claim on a written contract is generally 10 years in Iowa.  However, the insurance contracts now typically contractually reduce those time periods to 2 years from the date of the accident, whether the driver is aware of that limitation or not.  The contracts also set forth certain prerequisites that may have to me met in order to make UIM or UDM claim.  Accordingly, it is very important to have legal expert who is familiar with UIM claims. If not, it is quite possible that an injured driver could be unable to collect on their own insurance coverage that they have paid for years, simply because of some minor technicality.

Passenger Injuries

Single vehicle accidents occur with much greater frequency than many would probably believe. Often times, these accidents occur on rural gravel roads, late at night or even during severe weather conditions with friends or relatives in the vehicle at the time of the accident. Whatever the reason may be, it often seems that the passengers in these single-vehicle accidents are the ones most commonly and most severely injured.

So what happens when a passenger is injured in a single vehicle accident? Do they have any right to compensations? This rule is pretty straight forward – drivers are legally responsible to injuries to their passengers that result from their negligence.

The law requires all drivers to maintain control of their vehicle under all driving conditions. If a driver of a car fails to maintain control of his vehicle, or fails to obey the traffic laws and an accident results, the driver and his insurance company will be financially responsible for the injuries to the passengers of that vehicle.

When family members are injured due to the negligence of another family member’s operation of a vehicle, the issue becomes a little more complicated. Some insurance policies have something called family exclusions. These policy provisions preclude family members who are injured in a vehicle accident from being compensated by the other family member’s insurance policy. However, these policies often only exclude family members residing in the same household and do not extend to the extended family or family not living in the same household. Also, if the familial exclusion applies, compensation may be available under a separate underinsured or uninsured policy.

Distracted Driving

It goes without saying that Iowan’s are becoming increasingly dependent upon electronic devices whether it be a cell phone, PDA, navigation system, laptop, or any other electronic device.  In light of this boom, electronic usage while driving has become a leading cause of car accidents because of the distraction is causes drivers.  According to the National Safety Council Cell Phone Fact Sheet, texting results in 330,000 distracted driving injuries every year.  Did you know that texting makes driver’s 23 times more likely to crash and each text takes your eyes off the road an average of five seconds at a time which at 55 mph is like driving the length of a football field completely blind? (Virginia Tech Transportation Institute). Texting while driving is comparable to driving after having four beers (Comparison of the Cell Phone Driver and the Drunk Driver).

Iowa Code Section 321.276 makes it a traffic violation for anyone to use their cell phone while driving unless it is for purposes of placing a call, using navigation, or receiving traffic, safety, or weather alerts. Thus, a traffic violation is committed if a person is texting, surfing the internet, or engaged in any other function not described above. Distracted driving is not limited to the use of electronic devices as there may be other things that cause a driver to become distracted including, eating while driving, tending to pets and children, putting on make-up, playing with the radio, entering addresses into a navigation system, and many other things.

If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of a motor vehicle accident and suspect the driver was engaged in a distracted driving activity, it is important to contact the attorney’s at GRL Law immediately so that the process of preserving any distracted driving evidence can be preserved to help ensure the best possible recovery.