Bart Bernard Injury Lawyers Blog

Bart Bernard Injury Lawyers Blog

What Injuries Qualify for Workers’ Compensation in Louisiana?

April 21, 2017 Workers Comp 0 Comments

Leg and yellow helmet of injured lying worker at work.

When you are doing a job to provide for yourself or your family, an injury that disrupts your ability to work can be physically, financially, and emotionally devastating. In Baton Rouge alone, there are more than 52,000 people working in construction, nearly 70,000 people working in trade, transportation, and utilities, and nearly 30,000 working in manufacturing. Luckily for these and other workers across industries and throughout the state, the Louisiana Worker’s Compensation Act provides financial relief for qualifying injuries.

What is workers’ compensation in Louisiana?

Workers’ compensation is an insurance fund used to pay wages and replace benefits for employees who have been injured on the job. The trade off, however, is that in accepting the benefit, the employee waives the right to sue the employer over the injuries.

Workers’ compensation benefits are different from state to state. In Louisiana, they cover both physical and mental injuries caused by accidents or occupational diseases. One caveat is that the mental injuries must be caused by either a physical injury or by a sudden extreme stress brought on by the employment.

Understanding injuries under Louisiana workers’ compensation laws

An “accident”, under the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act, is an actual and identifiable event that is:

  • Unexpected or unforeseen;
  • Occurring suddenly or violently;
  • With or without human fault; and
  • A direct cause of an injury that is more significant than simple age-related degeneration.

An “occupational disease” under the Act is one caused by some condition or feature that is inherent to the sufferer’s particular line of of work or employment which exposes the employee to the disease.

It does not matter whether the employer, employee or someone else was at fault in causing the injury so long as it happened in the course and scope of the employee’s employment. An employee may be ineligible to receive workers’ compensation if the injury was caused by “horseplay”, his own intoxication, his own willful intention to hurt himself or others, or other activities that were taken to help the employer’s work.

Common workplace injuries

The U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks the annual incidence of workplace injuries. According to recent reports, the most commonly reported workplace injuries in 2015 included:

  • Sprains, strains, and tears (making up 37 percent of the reported cases and typically requiring 10 days away from work)
  • Cuts, lacerations, or punctures
  • Fractures
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Amputations

Even when these and other injuries are eligible for worker’s compensation benefits, there may be a dispute as to the amount of disability they cause. These types of mixed legal/medical issues can be complicated but important. Workers’ compensation lawyers take all the factors into account to ensure injured workers present their best case for full compensation.

Ask a work injury lawyer

When you suffer an injury at work, it can lead to a lot of uncertainty. The best way to deal with that uncertainty is to seek out a qualified and experienced Louisiana workers comp lawyer. At the Bart Bernard Injury Lawyers, we understand the workers’ compensation laws and process. We can help you through it while fighting for maximum compensation. Call our offices in Baton Rouge or Lafayette.

Additional Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Resources:

  1. Louisiana Workforce Commission, Rights and Responsibilities for Workers’ Compensation FAQs, http://www.laworks.net/FAQs/FAQ_WorkComp_RightsAndResponsibilities.asp#answer_2
  2. Justia, 2006 Louisiana Laws – Title 23 – Labor and worker’s compensation, http://law.justia.com/codes/louisiana/2006/7/7.html
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Who Can I Sue After a Fall on a Public Sidewalk?

April 20, 2017 Slip And Fall Injuries 0 Comments

caution wet floor sign at a corridorMany Louisiana residents are unaware of their legal rights if they are injured in a situation involving a municipality. An example would be a case against the city of Baton Rouge for an injury caused by a fall on a public sidewalk. Imagine you’re strolling to meet friends for lunch in the downtown area. You are a few minutes late and pressed for time, but are still mindful of your surroundings. Despite being careful, you trip on a deep crack in the sidewalk and the fall takes you down hard. You instinctively put out your arm to cushion your fall, and in the process fracture your wrist and several bones in your hand. You also twist your left ankle badly.

X-rays pinpoint the bone fractures, and thousands of dollars later, you’re still in a cast and saddled with hospital and medical bills. Who is responsible for the defective sidewalk that caused your injuries, and can you sue for monetary compensation? While it’s true that government entities are responsible for the upkeep of hundreds of square feet of public sidewalks, they also create regulations to protect themselves against frivolous lawsuits.

Who is liable in a public sidewalk slip and fall?

If you are harmed because of a trip or fall on a public sidewalk, most states have strict deadlines for pursuing an injury claim against a local municipality. There may also be a limit on your potential recovery, meriting an immediate consultation with a qualified slip and fall attorney.

Slip and fall claims are typically filed under theories of premises liability. Injuries are suffered because of the negligent maintenance or unsafe condition of the property in question – whether it’s a sidewalk, a parking lot, a stairwell or an interior floor. While a sidewalk fall may not appear serious, they can have life-altering consequences, leaving victims with broken bones, spinal cord damage, and permanent hip and knee injuries.

Premises liability claims may be challenging because there are several elements which need to be established. If you are severely hurt due to a defect or poorly maintained public sidewalk – one that your local municipality neglected to fix– you may have a viable claim for damages.

Burden of liability may rest with the municipality

A lot will depend on the circumstances and location of the accident. For instance, if the patrons of a retail establishment are the sole individuals who regularly use a city-maintained sidewalk, the business owner might share some legal responsibility in its maintenance. The courts may favor the plaintiff in claims where obvious hazards, such as uneven segments, holes and other defects, have been observed but not repaired.

With competent legal counsel, victims may be able to argue that the liability resulting from a defect in a public sidewalk lies with the municipality, or a private property owner. Compensation may be awarded if the courts find that the defendant failed to exercise reasonable care in the proper upkeep of the sidewalk, or left the dangerous condition as is, despite an unreasonable risk of harm to pedestrians. In situations where a city has been notified multiple times of dangerous sidewalk defects but neglected to take action, victims may have a much stronger chance of winning money damages.

Protecting your rights after an accident

If you have been hurt on a public sidewalk in Louisiana and need the guidance of an experienced Lafayette slip and fall lawyer, Bart Bernard can help you achieve justice. Do not hesitate to contact our Baton Rouge or Lafayette, Louisiana offices with any questions. For a free case evaluation, call today.

Additional “Public Sidewalk Slip and Fall” Resources:

  1. Case Western Law Review, Liability of a Municipality for Defective Sidewalks http://scholarlycommons.law.case.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3737&context=caselrev
  2. Louisiana State Legislature, RS 13:5109 https://legis.la.gov/Legis/Law.aspx?d=77941
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What to Do Immediately After a Slip and Fall Accident

April 19, 2017 Slip And Fall Injuries 0 Comments

caution wet floor sign at a corridorSlip and fall accidents can lead to serious long-term injuries that can impair your ability to work and maintain your former quality of life. To make sure you have every chance to receive fair and just compensation, it’s important to know what to do in the immediate aftermath of a slip, trip and fall accident.

Liability for a slip and fall

The reason it’s important to know the steps to take immediately after an accident is that, if you are injured and want to bring a suit for damages to obtain redress for your injuries, a court will require evidence of your injury and the conditions surrounding the slip and fall.

Under Louisiana law, another party, whether person or company, may be liable for your injuries. Liable means they are at fault. They must have caused the conditions. Did you slip on a roller skate left carelessly out of the box by a toy store employee? Was spilled milk left for an hour in a grocery store aisle? Then it can be argued that the company caused your slip and fall. They also must have known about the dangerous condition and done nothing to fix it in a reasonable time. Finally, the court will need to know that a reasonable person would have found out about the condition and fixed it.

Checklist for what to do after a slip and fall

What should you do immediately after experiencing a slip, trip or fall injury? Here is a checklist to review after your accident:

Report the accident to management

If you slip and fall in a retail or other store, report the incident to management. There needs to be documentation that an accident happened shortly after it happened, or the court may question why it was not reported.

Get contact information for any witnesses

It’s also highly important to get the names and contact information (phone or e-mail addresses) for any witnesses. If you are with a friend, ask them to do this while you attend to your injuries. Eyewitness testimony can be crucial.

Document your injuries and the scene

If you have a cell phone with a camera, take pictures of your injuries immediately. This is highly important. Cameras are the best form of documentation available. Blood will wash off and bruises fade. You need documentation that gives the full scope of your injuries.

You also need to document what the scene looked like, from several angles. Take pictures of the roller skate or spilled milk from above and sideways on both left and right. Again, the scene will be cleared and cleaned soon. You need evidence of the danger of the situation.

If you do not have a camera when the accident happens, write down all the details about your injuries and the scene as soon as you can. Take pictures of your injuries as soon as you can after the accident.

Seek medical treatment

Go to a doctor if you need treatment. If it’s an emergency, go to the nearest emergency room. Give medical personnel detailed information about your injury and how it happened. Their reports and treatment can be used as evidence.

Complete any accident forms accurately

Some businesses may want you to fill out accident forms. Be sure to do this completely and accurately. Be aware, though, that you are not required by law to do this if you feel uncomfortable.

Consult a slip and fall attorney at no charge

Are you considering contacting a slip and fall lawyer in Lafayette, Louisiana? Bart Bernard is highly experienced in slip, trip and fall cases. If you or a loved one has been injured due to the negligence of another party, we can provide a complimentary consultation to discuss your case. We have convenient offices in both Baton Rouge and Lafayette, Louisiana. Call us today or contact Bart Bernard online.

Additional “slip and fall accident checklist” resources:

  1. Slip and Fall Incident Report, http://www.emcins.com/docs/ofilib/aa050001338_20131011.pdf
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Can I Sue My Employer for a Slip and Fall?

April 13, 2017 Slip And Fall Injuries 0 Comments

caution sign in office slip and fallSlip and falls are one of the most common workplace accidents, accounting for more than 20 percent of all injuries that occur on the job. Injuries sustained in these accidents range from soft tissue sprains, bruises, and cuts, to hard injuries like head trauma, broken bones, spinal cord damage, and severe burns. When injuries are severe, it’s natural to wonder if it’s possible to sue an employer for a slip and fall accident.

How does workers’ compensation work?

Louisiana employers pay workers’ compensation insurance premiums to protect themselves from costly personal injury lawsuits. Under workers’ comp, employees do not need to furnish proof of the employer’s negligence in order to collect; they simply fill out a DWC-1 form at the time of the accident. By law, Louisiana employees have up to 30 days to file a claim.

The employee will have to go to one of the company-approved physicians for treatment. The physician will determine when the patient has reached a level of maximum medical improvement and sign off on a return to work form. In some cases, the doctor may assign temporary partial, permanent partial, or permanent total disability.

Workers’ comp typically covers the cost of medical care, medications, transportation costs, disability-related devices, and other reasonable out-of-pocket expenses. Employees receive about two-thirds of their lost wages back from time taken off work to recuperate. In addition to this coverage, workers may receive an additional payment for one of the following:

  • Disability – a lump sum for injuries that are so severe, the employee cannot return to work in full capacity
  • Supplemental earnings benefits – when employees returning to work cannot earn >90% pre-injury income
  • Catastrophic injury – a one-time payment of $50,000 for the loss of limb or paraplegia
  • Death benefits – surviving family members receive a payment to cover the decedent’s losses

Exceptions to workers’ compensation in Louisiana

There are certain circumstances where an employee may sue an employer for a slip and fall accident:

The employee is not “on the clock.”

Workers’ compensation covers accidents that occur when the employee is “on the clock” working. But what about when the employee is on break or commuting to and from the parking lot? What about work parties and other off-hours activities on the premises? For example, in 2014, food service worker Glenda Collura filed a lawsuit against Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen Inc. when she stopped in after hours to pick up food and slipped on water, dislocating and fracturing her arm.

A third party was to blame for the dangerous conditions.

Sometimes employees have a substantial case against a third party, where there is the possibility of recovering a greater sum than what they could recover under workers’ compensation. After all, workers’ compensation does not pay for pain and suffering, which is how many personal injury lawsuits reach the tens of thousands or even millions of dollars. Injuries that lead to permanent disability may entitle employees to a separate cash settlement award paid by a third party such as private sub-contractors working on-site, faulty equipment manufacturers, delivery companies, clients, or others who contributed to the unsafe conditions that directly caused injury.

The employee is a contractor.

Employees are given workers’ compensation as one of their benefits. Independent contractors do not receive the same perks. The only recourse for these individuals is to file a lawsuit and attempt to establish a strong case for employer negligence.

These are just three of the most common “gray areas” that exist under the scope of Louisiana law. Contacting an experienced slip and fall attorney can answer any questions arising from a particularly unique circumstance.

Do Louisiana workers need a slip and fall attorney?

An attorney may not be necessary for an undisputed, minor soft tissue injury eligible for workers’ comp. However, for more serious injuries, Baton Rouge and Lafayette Slip and Fall Lawyer Bart Bernard has experience going to bat for employees whose slip and fall injuries were more severe than workers’ comp would cover. As an experienced navigator of the legal system, Bart Bernard can take depositions, subpoena records, file lawsuit paperwork, and negotiate a settlement offer. Legal consultations are free, and clients pay nothing unless Bart Bernard takes on the case and wins. Call now for a free case review.

Additional “slip and fall at work” resources:

  1. Louisiana Record, Popeye’s Sued By Employee In Non-Work-Related Slip and Fall, http://louisianarecord.com/stories/510584705-popeyes-sued-by-employee-in-non-work-related-slip-and-fall
  2. Louisiana Workforce Commission, Workers’ Compensation, http://www.laworks.net/downloads/downloads_owc.asp
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What to Do When Loose Cargo or Falling Debris Causes A Truck Accident

April 12, 2017 Truck Accidents 0 Comments

Truck on freeway18-wheelers and commercial rigs haul heavy and sometimes hazardous cargo across Louisiana every day. These big rigs are moving everything from loose gravel and lumber to toxic chemicals. According to the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, failure to adequately secure cargo is one of the most common violations for commercial truckers, who must follow federal guidelines for the loading and securement of all cargo. There are Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations designed to prevent fallen debris accidents, which claim dozens of lives each year.

If you’ve been injured because of fallen debris or loose cargo that fell off a big rig, human error is likely to blame. A properly loaded and secured item doesn’t randomly fall into the highway.  In many cases, a careless driver may have forgotten to double-check tie downs, or make adjustments to ensure the cargo was well-balanced. Other times, they may have used old or damaged bungee cords, chains, winches or other securement devices that were not strong enough for the job at hand.

Louisiana residents need to understand potential dangers of fallen debris caused by unsecured cargo. Considering the hundreds of tractor trailers on our state’s freeways and roads, they are much like ticking time bombs.

What to do after a fallen debris accident

After any type of injury-causing crash involving loose or fallen cargo, it’s critical to speak with an experienced truck accident attorney as soon as a police report is filed and you’ve sought medical attention.  Whether a steal beam rolled off and struck your vehicle, or you were forced to swerve because of gravel that spilled off a big rig, you need to call 911 and report the accident immediately. Since pictures of the fallen debris and crash scene are valuable evidence, taking photos or video with your cell phone is highly recommended. However, do not attempt to move the debris yourself. The sooner you retain legal counsel, the quicker your attorney can begin investigations into which party or parties may be held liable in a court of law. A personal injury claim can seek reparations for medical bills, lost wages, repair costs, out-of- pocket expenses and other monetary damages that were sustained in the accident.

Investigating liable parties

There are strict regulations set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regarding the safe and proper securement of heavy cargo on large trucks. These guidelines are designed to ensure weight loads are balanced, and to keep cargo from shifting while in transit. Within Louisiana, commercial vehicle drivers must obey state laws on load weights determined by the number of axles. If investigations uncover that the tractor trailer did not comply with state or federal safety regulations, a number of parties may be held legally responsible. A competent lawyer will be able to ascribe liability to the negligent parties, which may be the commercial vehicle driver, the company that employs the driver, or even a third-party loading company.

An attorney who is skilled in handling commercial vehicle and trucking accidents will work with accident reconstruction experts to determine if the trucker followed state and federal transportation standards.

Free case review in Louisiana

Lafayette truck accident attorney Bart Bernard is well-versed in trucking industry rules and regulations regarding the securement and transportation of cargo for inter and intra state travel. If you or a loved one was injured in a loose debris or cargo spill accident, please call our Lafayette or Baton Rouge offices for a free consultation.

Additional Loose Cargo Truck Accident Resources:

  1. Truckinginfo.com, Top 5 Cargo Securement Violations http://www.truckinginfo.com/article/story/2012/02/top-5-cargo-securement-violations.aspx
  2. FMCSA, Truck Cargo Securement Rules https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/cargo-securement/cargo-securement-rules
  3. National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, Large Truck Crash Causation Study http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/810646.pdf
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Can a Passenger Sue a Driver After a Car Accident?

April 5, 2017 Auto Accidents 0 Comments

car accident aftermathCan you sue a driver under Louisiana state law if you are a passenger in his or her vehicle and you are injured in a car accident?

The short answer is, yes. Under personal injury law generally, a person can be sued if his or her negligent actions caused the injury of another. In car accidents specifically, however, it is usually the insurance companies who pay damages. The jury determines who is at fault. The at-fault party’s insurance company pays for medical bills, lost wages for work, and so forth.

First, some background on how Louisiana insurance laws will play a part in your decision to sue …

Car insurance laws in Louisiana

Under the laws of our state, vehicle owners are mandated to have liability insurance. The reason? Precisely the need to have some sort of protection against people who might be injured or killed by the vehicle.

The minimum coverage required is $15,000 for the injury of a single person and $30,000 for the injury of several people.

But these amounts, clearly, are not large, especially when even a short stay in the hospital can hit $75,000 and more.

Partly to cover this eventuality, Louisiana mandates that everyone purchasing a car insurance policy include a coverage for uninsured/underinsured motorists (UIM). The only exception is if the person officially, in writing, states that they have declined coverage.

In practice, your own UIM coverage should protect you if you are injured in a car crash and the other party is deemed to be at fault and that other party either has no car insurance or an amount of insurance under the damages caused in the accident.

If you or a loved one has been injured as a passenger where the driver at fault had the minimum $15,000 coverage but your medical bills and lost wages add up to $50,000, your UIM insurance should pay the remainder, $35,000.

If you are a person who has declined UIM, however, you may have no insurance to fall back on.

Passenger injury claims after a car accident

So if your or a loved one’s injuries and lost time from work mount up to dwarf the minimum coverages, can you sue the driver at fault? Well, yes, you could.

There are two issues to think about, though. First, if the driver doesn’t have significant personal assets, such as a large savings or a house, receiving just damages may be very difficult. In a lawsuit, there have to be assets to pay damages. Damages are taken from assets in all personal injury cases.

Second, if you were a passenger, you might have a personal relationship with the driver. He or she might be a spouse, a relative, or a friend. A lawsuit might damage that relationship.

Speak with an auto accident attorney Louisiana trusts

The impact of car accidents can leave those affected devastated both physically and financially. Injuries can be catastrophic, leaving victims unable to walk or move without assistance. Surgery and physical therapy to recover from car crash related injuries can amount to thousands of dollars.

Victims of car accidents are entitled to just compensation. The Bart Bernard Injury Lawyers has offices in both Baton Rouge and Lafayette, Louisiana. We have decades of experience successfully fighting for the rights of clients injured in car crashes.

For a free consultation with a seasoned Louisiana auto accident lawyer, call our Lafayette or Baton Rouge offices, or contact us online today.

Additional “passenger injury claim” resources:

  1. Schneider, Helmut. Louisiana State University, E.J. Ourso College of Business, Highway Safety Research Group: Louisiana Traffic Records Data Report 2015, http://datareports.lsu.edu/Reports/SpecialReports/2015_Data_Report.pdf
  2. State of Louisiana. Louisiana Department of Public Safety, Office of Motor Vehicles. Required Proof of Liability Insurance Prior to Registration of Vehicles, http://www.dps.state.la.us/omv1.nsf/58c968bd569b099986256cdc000806eb/89f0a313d753f522862564cf004a2c5f?OpenDocument.
  3. U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Motor Vehicle Crash Injuries. CDC Vital Signs. October 2014. https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/crash-injuries/index.html
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How To Get Compensation For Your Child’s Car Accident Injuries

April 4, 2017 Auto Accidents 0 Comments

child head injury x rayThe majority of children sustain minor injuries or no injuries at all when involved in car accidents. However, the results can be devastating for families of the 13% of children hurt in serious collisions.

“The injury outcome in children can be worse than similar injuries sustained by adults,” reports the National Highway & Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). “In children, some neurological deficits after head trauma may not manifest for many years,” they add.

If your child has been involved in a Louisiana car accident, it is important to understand who pays and how much they pay. Auto insurance is typically a parent’s first recourse, but a lawsuit is another effective way to cover the cost of rehabilitation.  

Child car accident injuries

According to the NHTSA, the most common injuries among children in car crashes are:

  • Head injuries, such as concussions, contusions, lacerations, and skull fractures
  • Thoracic injuries, such as rib fractures and lung injuries
  • Abdominal injuries, such as upper and lower bowel perforations
  • Upper body fractures of the humerus, radius, and ulna
  • Lower extremity fractures of the pelvis, leg and foot

With head injuries, in particular, it can take years before neurological deficits manifest. Some frontal lobe functions — like higher level reasoning and social/interpersonal skills — do not develop until a child reaches adolescence. Early childhood brain damage may not be apparent until children reach high school. Likewise, brain injuries to the reading and writing centers in a baby or toddler’s brain will not be evident until the child reaches school age.

Every state has what is called a “statute of limitations” for filing personal injury lawsuits. In Louisiana, the deadline is within 1 year of the accident. However, in cases where the injuries were not fully realized until much later, the clock starts ticking when your child receives a diagnosis.

Insurance coverage for child’s car accident

Louisiana is a “fault state,” which means that a police report, camera recording, or eyewitness testimony will be required to establish fault. The driver who is determined to be at fault for the accident will be responsible for paying your child’s medical bills. If you or your child were determined to be partially at fault, the amount you collect will be reduced based on an estimated percentage of your liability.

How much does bodily injury insurance cover in Louisiana?

Louisiana auto insurance minimums are $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident. Insurance can cover hospital, ambulance, and emergency room fees. For some claims, it may also cover follow-up visits and equipment costs (such as crutch or wheelchair use.) Sometimes bodily injury protection contributes toward loss of income, pain and suffering, funeral costs, and legal fees.

What does Med Pay insurance cover?

If you purchased your own Medical Payments auto insurance coverage, you can get an additional $1,000 to cover injuries suffered by you, your child, or another passenger riding in your vehicle.

In 2013, the average auto liability claim for bodily injury was $15,443 – higher than the amount insurance will pay. In many cases, insurance companies balk at paying for injuries. They may try to argue that the amount of care your child received was “excessive,” or that the provider you selected “charged too much.”

It is not uncommon for an insurance adjuster to lowball the cost of child injuries. Working closely with a personal injury attorney can help you protect your child’s legal rights and gain the compensation you need. If you were injured in the accident, you can also sue on your own behalf.

Collecting compensation with a personal injury lawsuit

Most car accident lawsuits result in out-of-court settlement offers. Lawyers can help you assemble the right paperwork, evidence, medical records, and other documentation to prove you have a sufficient claim. It helps to have an experienced negotiator with access to medical experts, doctors, and independent insurance adjusters who can help estimate the lifetime expenses of your child’s injuries. While necessary medical expenses and economic losses (related to time off work for caregiving) may seem straightforward, it can be difficult to tell if you’re being offered a fair settlement for pain and suffering, physical impairment, or disfigurement.

In light of these complexities, most parents seek legal advice throughout the process. Baton Rouge car accident attorney Bart Bernard has more than 20 years of experience in this arena, whether you are going through a settlement with the insurance company or seeking additional compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. Call today for a free, no-obligation legal consultation.

Additional “Child Car Accident Compensation” Resources:

  1. NHTSA – Children Injured in Motor Vehicle Traffic Crashes, https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/811325
  2. Wallet Hub – Bodily Injury Liability, https://wallethub.com/edu/bodily-injury-liability/8607/
  3. Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association – Cost of Auto Crashes & Statistics, http://www.rmiia.org/auto/traffic_safety/Cost_of_crashes.asp
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