Q. How soon do I need to file a lawsuit?
A. You need to discuss your case with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible following your injury. In most cases, victims of personal injury have a short period of time to file a lawsuit. Failure to file within this time period, referred to as the statute of limitations, can prevent the victim from ever recovering compensation. Each state has its own statute of limitations for personal injury cases.
Q. How long does a personal injury lawsuit usually take?
A. Most personal injury attorney’s cannot tell you with any certainty how long it will take to resolve your personal injury claim. Primarily, that is because each case is unique. So there is no general timetable for resolution. A personal injury lawsuit can settle in a few months or it can take years to litigate.
Q. How much is my case worth?
A. It is even more difficult to predict the value of a personal injury claim, than it is to guess how long it will take to resolve. Determining the worth of your claim depends on so many factors, such as the facts of the case, the severity of your injuries, insurance policy limits and the strength of liability. What your case is worth, or what your “damages” may include is generally based on five factors:
- Past medical bills
- Future medical bills
- Pain and suffering
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
While a conclusive determination of the value of your case cannot be made, most personal injury attorneys can at least estimate the value of your case based on basic information like your medical bills and lost wages.
Q. Can I still recover even if I was partially at fault for my injuries?
A. There is a legal issue known as comparative negligence. Depending on the laws of the state where the accident occurred, you may not be able to recover if you were in some way negligent. The good news is, most states allow victims to still receive some compensation even if they were partially at fault for their injuries. In those cases, the amount of compensation is usually reduced based on the degree of the victim’s negligence.
Q. Is it ever a good choice to sign a release?
A. First, before you decide to sign anything, you should discuss the document with your personal injury lawyer to make sure your rights are protected. The fact is, if you sign a release you run the risk of losing any future damages. It is not uncommon for an insurance company to offer an early settlement. However, that settlement usually does not fully compensate the victim. So, be careful signing any legal documents without proper advice.
Q. What does MMI mean?
A. Once all of your medical treatment has been completed, you should request a final narrative from your doctor regarding your course of treatment. At that time, your doctor will typically state that you have reached MMI, or “maximum medical improvement.” This term refers to the fact that a patient has reached the point where the treatment as done all that it can and the patient is as healthy as he or she can be. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the victim is now in the same condition she was in before the accident. Many doctors will also assign a permanent impairment rating based on the American Medical Association guidelines.
Q. Why would I not receive full compensation if I have insurance coverage?
A. Most people believe they have full coverage, such as auto insurance. However, in many cases there are certain exceptions and limitations that may apply. Another component of auto insurance coverage that is often very important with accidents is underinsured or uninsured coverage, which covers you if you are involved in an accident where the guilty party is unable to pay. If you are involved in any type of accident where insurance coverage is an issue, be sure to discuss your claims with your attorney. Insurance companies usually try to minimize the amount they have to pay on a claim. So there may be disputes regarding whether the claim is covered and, if so, how much. These disputes often result in delays in compensation.
Q. An insurer is asking for my full medical records. Do I have to provide them?
A. In short, no. Insurers may try to collect as much information about an injured individual as they possibly can following an accident in an effort to protect their own interests. These medical records can provide insurance companies with significant evidence before a person even considers legal action. However, the injured individual doesn’t need to provide unlimited access to an insurer, and the person has the legal right to reject requests in most cases.
Q. Are there limits on certain types of compensation in medical malpractice cases?
A. In some states, there are laws that may limit how much compensation a person can win if their medical malpractice claim is successful. In particular, these so-called damage caps are commonly enforced on non-economic damages. Non-economic damages include emotional distress, loss of companionship, and the worsening of a patient’s quality of life after an injury. However, Arkansas has no such limits for claimants pursuing compensation. Whatever compensation amounts are settled upon or are awarded through the courts are not limited.
Q. Can I sue for compensation if I was partially at fault for my injuries?
A. In the state of Arkansas, a person may still sue for compensation if they were, to some degree, at fault for the incident that caused their injuries. As long as the amount of blame a claimant shares doesn’t equal or exceed the defendant, the injured claimant can still file for compensation. However, they will only be allowed to collect compensation equal to the percentage of the accident for which they are not deemed to be responsible.
Q. A loved one was injured, but they are unable to file a claim. Can I sue for them?
A. A person may be able to give their right to pursue legal action after an injury to a family member or spouse. If the injured person is incapacitated or is deemed legally unfit to file a lawsuit on their own, as is the case with minors, they may have their case pursued by a legally-empowered loved one. The rules regarding this transfer of legal rights may change depending on the circumstances of the case, meaning that anyone considering action on another person’s behalf should consider consulting with a legal advisor first.
Q. I’m researching my legal options, but I can’t understand this legal jargon. Can you help?
A. Although it may seem like a small problem at first, anyone looking into their rights and options after an injury may quickly become overwhelmed by the sheer amount and complexity of legal information involved in any given case. To make matters worse, the legal jargon used to explain certain legal concepts can easily frustrate anyone who isn’t professionally acquainted with these terms and phrases and how the law works. Fortunately, an experienced legal advisor can help clear up this confusion and guide a claimant through his or her case.
Q. What is a deposition?
A. Depositions are a standard part of most civil lawsuits in which the claimant and defendant may be questioned by the opposing party. Their statements will be recorded, and the answers they provide may be used as a form of evidence later in the case. Depositions can gather information about the incident that caused the injury, the injury itself, and how healthy the claimant was prior to the incident. It’s important for a claimant to take this process very seriously and prepare for the questions beforehand.
Q. A defective product injured me, but I don’t have proof of negligence. Can I sue?
A. In most situations, yes. Defective product lawsuits are often filed under a legal concept known as strict liability. These lawsuits differ from other injury lawsuits, such as those filed after a car accident, in that the claimant doesn’t need to provide direct evidence of wrongdoing in the same way he or she may be expected to do in a negligence-based claim. Instead, the claimant simply needs to show that the flawed product, produced or designed by the defendant, was inherently dangerous and was responsible for the individual’s injuries.
Q. How much compensation can I expect to win if successful?
A. There are no general guidelines regarding how much compensation a person may expect to win if their claim is successful. Too many factors may drastically change the amount of compensation received. In particular, settling early may reduce compensation. On the other hand, receiving compensation beyond medical bills and lost wages, particularly compensation for non-economic damages such as emotional distress, may significantly increase compensation.
Q. If I was attacked by a wild animal on another person’s property, can I sue?
A. Usually, wild animal attacks aren’t considered the responsibility of the property owner to prevent. However, if it’s clear that the property owner in some way provoked the animal or failed to address a known safety hazard involving a wild animal, then a person may have a case for filing a claim. To know for sure, an injured individual should consider discussing their options with a legal advisor.
Q. I was offered a significant settlement. Should I take it?
A. If a defendant feels that it may be cheaper or easier to simply offer a settlement early in a case than see it through the full legal process, they may offer a substantial amount of money to close the case before it even reaches court. However, these settlements may not always prove sufficient for a claimant’s financial needs after an injury. Before accepting any settlement offer a claimant should consider the settlement closely and should consider speaking with an attorney about their options.
Q. If a government employee harms me, can I sue the government?
A. There are times when a government employee’s negligent actions cause someone to sustain serious injuries. While there are some exceptions to the rule, injured individuals will usually be allowed to sue the government for compensation. However, they may need to go through an extended legal process that includes further review of the incident by a government agency. If no settlement is reached during this review, the case may go before the courts as normal.
Q. Should I record my medical bills or every injury expense?
A. When a person is injured because of another individual’s negligence or recklessness, that person may be entitled to pursue compensation for a wide range of injury-related expenses. It’s important for a person considering legal action to keep any records that indicate money spent specifically because of an injury. Travel costs to and from hospitals, bills from injury-related therapy sessions, and other expenses tied to an injury may potentially be paid for by a successful injury claim.
Q. When can I start considering settlements?
A. There’s no fixed time in which an injured individual can begin accepting offers for settlements from a defendant. In fact, a person may even accept a settlement before filing a lawsuit. However, before agreeing to settle for a certain amount, an injured claimant may want to first discuss whether an early settlement is the best option for them with an experienced legal advisor. Depending on a person’s unique situation, there may be a better time to accept a settlement.
Q. Will the hospital wait to be paid until my case is settled?
A. Depending on how substantial medical bills may be, a person may have virtually no other financial option for paying for care than to promise payment after the completion of a personal injury claim. However, the choice to accept this offer is ultimately left up to the hospital. While many health care providers will allow a patient to complete their legal action before demanding payment, others may not be as lenient. A legal advisor may be able to better explain the legal situation and work to convince a hospital to be more cooperative, however.
Q. What evidence does my case need to be successful?
A. Although there are no guarantees of success when filing a personal injury claim, the right evidence can greatly increase your chance of recovering financial compensation from the party at fault for your accident. A claimant and his or her legal team may need to gather medical records, test and scan results, and testimony from medical experts to illustrate that the person’s injuries were caused by another person’s negligent conduct. In addition, evidence from the scene of the incident, including photographs and video, can sometimes help a claim. Depending on the case, safety experts can also improve a claimant’s case.
Q. My claim was dropped by another attorney. Can you help?
A. Sometimes, a person may turn to a law firm for assistance after an injury, only to have his or her case dropped or not accepted by the law firm. However, the injured individual may still be able to pursue compensation for injury costs with another legal advisor. Even if the case has proceeded to trial, a claimant is free to change his or her legal counsel throughout a claim. It is important to note, though, that once your claim is resolved, you cannot bring the same charges against the same defendant, even if you have a different attorney.
Q. Can I sue if I have a pre-existing injury or condition?
A. In short, yes. Although a person may have a pre-existing injury or condition, this doesn’t exclude them from filing for compensation due to another person’s negligence. If this is the case, they may need to clearly illustrate the differences between their pre-existing health problems and the injuries they sustained during the incident. This is often relatively simple to show by using medical records as evidence and citing the testimony of medical experts.
Q. What are punitive damages?
A. When a person is injured because of someone else’s particularly dangerous or reckless behavior, they may be entitled to pursue compensation for these injuries. If the person acts with the knowledge that their behavior could be harmful, the injured individual may receive additional compensation from the court if their claim is successful. This compensation, used to punish the defendant, is known as punitive damages.
Q. What is negligence?
A. Negligence occurs when a person owes another party a duty of care and protection. This duty can be as simple as one motorist not causing a collision with another. Failing to fulfill this duty can result in placing another person in harm’s way. If this mistake causes an injury, that injured individual may be entitled to pursue compensation for their injuries in a negligence lawsuit.
Q. If my case is successful, how will I be paid?
A. Compensation can be paid in one of two ways. The first and most common is known as a structured settlement. These payments are received over time in regular installments, providing a steady stream of compensation until a defendant pays the full amount of what they owe. The other form of payment is known as a lump sum. This payment is a one-time payment, providing the full compensation sum. Considering that many successful cases can deal with thousands if not millions of dollars, lump sums aren’t particularly common for many personal injury settlements.
Q. Can you guarantee me compensation if I sue?
A. No one can be guaranteed financial compensation when they file a lawsuit. While our attorney fight hard for our clients and have been successful in the past, there’s no absolute guarantee that a lawsuit will be successful. However, through our rigorous case preparation and professional experience, we may be able to drastically strengthen a claim’s chances of winning adequate compensation for the costs associated with an injury.
Q. If I’ve sued once, but wasn’t pleased with the result, can I sue again?
A. If a personal injury case is settled in or out of court or is dismissed, a person cannot pursue a claim for that injury against that defendant again. As a result, an injured person needs to be particularly careful about how they handle their settlement options from the beginning. A legal advisor may be immensely useful when making tough decisions regarding injury compensation.
Q. What is the statute of limitations?
A. After an accident, a personal injury victim has a limited amount of time in which he or she can file a case against the individual or party who caused the incident. In Arkansas, the statute of limitations is 3 years for most personal injury cases, although there are some situations in which the statute of limitations differs. Overall, the best way to ensure that you do not run out of time to file your case is to contact an attorney as soon as possible after your accident.
Q. Can I receive compensation if someone’s dog bit me?
A. In most situations, victims of dog bite accidents are able to file cases against the dog owners that failed to control their pets. These personal injury cases can help you secure the compensation you need for any broken bones, nerve damage, and scarring left by a dog attack. Although a dog bite case can be a challenging legal process, it can be made much easier with the assistance of an experienced legal professional.
Q. How do I prove someone else was at fault for my accident?
A. Under tort law, there are multiple elements that must be established in order to show that someone is at fault for an accident. As such, proving that a negligent person or party caused you to suffer an accident can be complicated, especially without the help of a tenacious attorney and investigative team. However, with the assistance of an experienced personal injury lawyer, you may be able to successfully determine fault and file a case against the negligent individual or group that caused your injuries.
Q. How do I know if I need an attorney?
A. Personal injury victims are legally entitled to file their claims without the help of attorneys. However, utilizing the assistance of a lawyer is highly beneficial due to the extensive experience and knowledge offered by these legal professionals. Taking on the demands of a lawsuit can be challenging, but with a skilled and qualified lawyer helping you through the process, you are more likely to get the financial assistance you need.
If you have questions regarding personal injury or medical malpractice in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a consultation, either online or by calling us as (888) 465-4969.