Belton personal injury attorneys will find the following document of assistance in preparing lawsuit strategies for Cass County auto accident lawsuits.  Names and identifying information have been changed to protect the identity and privacy of those mentioned.

Belton auto accident analysis by lawyers will benefit from learning the investigation, analysis and strategies employed by insurance companies.

March 2, 2011


Keith E. Lees

Litigation Claim Representative


Harrisonville Personal Lines

P.O. Box 68451

Belton, Missouri 65201

Re:     Case Style:  West, Michelle v. Ratcliffe, Theodora

Circuit Court of Cass County, Missouri at Harrisonville

Case No.:     00-CV-220007,.

Claim No.:   543 AL 54777

Our File:      06235-27526

Dear Mr. Lees:

Our Belton personal injury lawyer had an opportunity to take the deposition of Plaintiff Michelle West in the above-referenced Belton auto accident.  Also, plaintiff’s Lee’s Summit auto accident lawyer has taken the deposition of Defendant Theadora Ratcliffe.  This correspondence sets out a summary and our analysis of their depositions for your review.


Belton Auto Accident Personal Injury Plaintiff

Michelle West is a slightly overweight fifty year old single woman.  She comes across as honest, forthright and generally pleasant.   She will make an average witness before a Cass County Circuit Court jury.

Ms. West lives in Belton, Missouri.  She was a postal employee delivering the mail and a construction worker operating machines outdoors for many years. Presently, she works at Answer, an answering service located in Raymore, Missouri.  Plaintiff has a history of depression but testified that she has not been depressed for approximately one year and has not needed her anti-depressant medication.  She denies ever having back pain or other significant medical problems before the Belton auto accident in this case.

Ms. West claims that on March 18, 2009, she was attending a wake for a friend at Carson Funeral Home in Belton, Missouri.  After the wake, Ms. West was exiting the funeral home with Norma Beck, Lana Pratt, Sandy Leroy and Barbara Crown.  She remembers crossing the parking lot and hearing her friend, Sandy Leroy, screaming “look out.”  When Ms. West looked, she saw Ms. Ratcliffe’s automobile just a few feet from her.  Ms. West tried to avoid the automobile, was unable to do so and was struck by its back passenger side bumper.  She could not estimate the automobile’s speed.  The contact knocked her off the ground and back onto the asphalt parking lot.  At first, Ms. West thought that she had not received personal injury.  However, she quickly discovered that she was unable to get up.  She does not remember experiencing pain at the time.  Ms. West remembers one of her friends holding her head and praying for her until the ambulance arrived.

At Belton Research hospital, Ms. West was treated for a lower back injury, a broken front tooth, a deep 2.5 centimeter cut to her chin and a substantial skin wound to her face.  While at the Belton hospital, the plaintiff remembers experiencing generalized pain in her mouth, face, legs, knees, pelvis, neck, lower back and foot.  Ms. West stated that she had scabbing over a large potion of her face during her stay at the Belton hospital.  She believes that her physicians failed to diagnose her facial tattooing during her hospital stay because of the scabs that covered the tattooed area.  During her stay at Belton hospital, the plaintiff stated she had trouble moving her mouth and jaw to the extent that a dentist had to adjust it.  The dentist also repaired her broken front tooth.  After seven days at the hospital, she was released to go home.

Ms. West walked with the use of a walker for two months after her release from the hospital because of the pain in her knees and lower back.  She had friends come over to help her cook and clean during that time because of her limited ability to move.  Thereafter, the Belton auto accident victim walked with a cane for approximately four months.  When the plaintiff began using a cane to walk, she returned to work.  She switched to the night shift at Answer so that she could take more breaks because of fatigue.  The plaintiff did not experience a change in her rate of pay as a result of this change in working shifts. She claims to have lost nearly eight weeks of work because of personal injury from the Belton auto accident.

Plaintiff claims and appears to have facial tattooing on her left check just above her mouth.  To reduce the tattooing, she has had several hydroquinone treatments to bleach her skin.  She claims her doctors recommend that she undergo laser facial surgery, which will treat her facial tattooing as it stands.

Plaintiff claims that she needs to attend physical therapy every few months to keep her body from experiencing pain in her lower back.  Ms. West testified that she has little or no remaining nerve damage to her face.  She claims that the affected area of her cheek only “feels funny.”


Belton Auto Accident Personal Injury Defendant

Theadora Ratcliffe is a 78 year old woman of average build and appearance.  She comes across as pleasant, honest and forthright.  She can, however, be defensive at times and needs to be reminded to remain calm.  She will make an average witness before a Cass County Circuit Court jury.

Ms. Ratcliffe lives by herself at her home in Belton, Missouri.  She does not know the plaintiff. On March 18, 2009, she attended the wake of her sister-in-law Kathleen Pihr.  Ms. Ratcliffe parallel parked her 1999 Lincoln Continental on the street right next to the entrance to the parking lot of the funeral home.  (Exhibit “1,” attached hereto).  The wake ended at approximately 7:30 p.m.. Ms. Ratcliffe walked to her car alone and waited to give her daughter a ride to Ms. Ratcliffe’s home.

After waiting a short amount of time, Ms. Ratcliffe attempted to back her car into the parking lot to pick up her daughter.  She got in her car, started the engine and looked back to see if anyone was behind her.  Seeing no one, she backed the car into the parking lot to take the car to where her daughter was located.  At this point, Ms. Ratcliffe remembers that the car’s motor started racing and began to move at an even speed backwards.  She estimates the car’s speed at five miles per hour.  She repeatedly tried to apply the brakes; however, the automobile did not stop until it caused the auto accident with the corner wall of Carson Funeral Home.  She did not realize that her automobile had contacted the plaintiff.

Neither Belton Municipal Court nor the Cass County Sheriff’s Department issued Ms. Ratcliffe a traffic ticket for this Belton auto accident, in spite of the personal injury.  Therefore, no Belton criminal defense lawyer was retained.

Ms. Ratcliffe saw the plaintiff lying on the pavement to the side of where her car had passed when she got out of her car.  She stated “I was just beside myself,” meaning that she was shocked and worried, when she saw the plaintiff.  Ms. Ratcliffe stated she began shaking and “couldn’t hardly talk” because she was worrying about the condition of the plaintiff.  Ms. Ratcliffe received a small bump on her head from hitting the steering wheel when her car had its auto accident with the funeral home.  She requested no personal injury or medical treatment.  Ms. Ratcliffe regularly checked on the plaintiff’s condition while the plaintiff was in the hospital.  Upon advice from her family, she never personally contacted the plaintiff.




The plaintiff presently claims past medical expenses of $19,846.98.  The medical expenses arise from her stay at Belton Research Hospital, her physical therapy, cosmetic treatment for her facial tattooing, dental care, ambulance service, repairs to her eyeglasses, and a small amount of pain medication.  She claims $4,025.00 in future medical expenses for cosmetic surgery to treat her claimed facial tattooing.  She claims $2,410.89 for the seven weeks of work she allegedly missed. Her total special damages amount to $26,282.87.  This amount does not include any personal injury damages she may receive for her pain and suffering, future physical therapy, any lingering discoloration to her face or the alleged nerve damage to her left cheek.

Our Lee’s Summit auto accident lawyer took her deposition.  When the plaintiff testified in her deposition, she did not give the impression that she was exaggerating her personal injury medical claims.  The facial tattooing was visible at a distance.  It is also appears that she has nerve damage to the left portion of her face.  Specifically, it appears as though the left corner of her mouth and that area of her cheek hang slightly lower and do not react to her facial movements as the right side of her face does.

The medical review completed for us by Doctor Benson indicates that the auto accident personal injury to her lower back is more of a degenerative long term condition as opposed to a traumatic injury caused only by the car accident in this case.  However, there is no evidence as the present time indicating that Ms. West had trouble with her back before this Belton auto accident.  The condition in her lower back may simply be a long term degenerative condition that showed its symptoms only after the plaintiff was struck by our client.  Overall, the plaintiff will likely make a sympathetic and believable witness to a Cass County Circuit Court jury.  With the special damages she claims, which appear to be for the most part reasonable for the personal injuries, the verdict range could easily be in the $50,000.00 to $75,000.00 range.  While we could attack the claimed need for laser surgery on the basis of the lack of notation of facial tattooing in her medical records while in the hospital, her explanation seems logical.  Regardless, even if you eliminate the future charge for that future procedure, she still has specials of about $22,000.00.  This being a liability case, I suggest we begin negotiations and try to save something off of your limits.

As always, we will continue to keep you advised of significant events as they occur.  If you have any questions or if we can help in any manner, please feel free to contact our offices.

Very truly yours,

Matt Hamilton, Belton personal injury lawyer


MJH/ # 735659