Auto Accidents

Knowing the Hit and Run Laws in Missouri

There are more serious legal consequences, for the at-fault driver, following a hit and run accident. The term refers to an accident where the guilty driver leaves the sign of the accident, after causing injuries and damage. Not only are their civil consequences, but there are also possible criminal consequences, as a result of fleeing the scene. Knowing the hit and run laws in your state will make it easier to understand how to pursue your claims, if you are a victim, or the consequences you may face, if you are found to be at fault. Our experienced Joplin, MO car accident lawyers explain what you should know. The Basic Duties of an Automobile Driver Not only are there duties for drivers when traveling on the roadway, there are also certain duties when a driver is involved in an automobile accident.  If the accident resulted in an injury, the uninjured driver is normally required to, at the very least, call 911 to report the accident.  It is also necessary for the parties involved in the accident to exchange contact and auto insurance information.  Obviously, in order to fulfill these duties, the drivers involved in the accident must stay at the accident scene. Punitive Damages Following a Hit and Run Accident Unlike many auto accidents, punitive damages are more likely to be awarded in a hit and run accident.  Punitive damages are a type of compensation that is available when the person at fault caused the harm, either intentionally or recklessly, or acted in a particularly egregious way.  The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the guilty party and to deter others from engaging in the same reckless conduct.  The punitive damages award is meant as a warning. Because everyone is deemed legally aware of their responsibilities at the scene of an accident, committing a “hit-and-run” will almost always be considered morally reprehensible and worthy of punitive damages. Even if the accident was unintentional, fleeing the scene was an intentional act potentially justifying punitive damages. Possible Criminal Consequences of a Hit and Run In many states, the person found responsible for a hit and run accident, the person who left the scene after causing injury or damage, may be guilty of a crime as well.  In Missouri, if injuries or death are caused by a hit and run accident, it is considered a Class D felony, punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and/or imprisonment for up to four (4) years. A hit and run accident that causes less than $1,000 in damage to the victim’s vehicle, is a Class A misdemeanor.  If the damage exceeds $1,000, or the defendant has a prior violation, it is a Class D felony. Arkansas has somewhat stiffer penalties.  Injury, death, or property damage, resulting from a hit and run accident is a Class D Felony, punishable by up to 6 years in prison and a possible fine of up to $10,000.  The guilty party’s driver’s license or non-resident operating privilege is also revoked. Injured in a Hit and Run? Contact a Skilled Auto Accident Lawyer If you have questions regarding hit and run accidents, or any other personal injury concerns, call the Cottrell Law Office at (800) 364-8305 or send us an online message.

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Auto Accidents

Pecuniary Losses in an Auto Accident in Rogers, Arkansas

If you have been injured in an auto accident, and you file a personal injury lawsuit in Rogers, Arkansas, you can be awarded damages to compensate you for your losses. What is a Pecuniary Loss? Keeping the legal terms simple, a pecuniary loss is any type of loss that can be measured in financial terms. Additionally, pecuniary losses are easy to measure which makes them the more common type of financial compensation after suffering injuries in an auto accident. Usually, damages are meant to compensate for things such as medical expenses for the treatment of physical injuries. In some cases, compensation may be awarded for pain and suffering.Punitive damages can be available in certain situations, to punish the person who was at fault.  Depending on your situation, you may be entitled to compensation for other pecuniary losses, as well. Other Types of Pecuniary Losses In addition to the typical award for medical expenses, there are other pecuniary losses that may be compensated, after an auto accident.  Pecuniary damages are simply financial losses that can be measured precisely. They are typically out-of-pocket expenses, such as travel expenses to and from medical treatment, the cost of hiring someone to perform certain activities the injured person is temporarily unable to perform (e.g., housekeeping, lawn mowing). Other pecuniary losses can also include past and future economic losses, including future medical expenses and lost wages. In some cases, a future life care planner and/or an accountant may be helpful in evaluating the future damages that may be appropriate. The largest pecuniary loss that most personal injury victims incur is the loss of income. In most cases, compensation will include their loss of income from the date of the accident to the date of settlement or trial. It can also include future loss of income that may be a result of injuries they sustained in the accident. Pecuniary Losses in Wrongful Death Cases Unfortunately, some auto accidents are fatal and lead to wrongful death lawsuits. In those cases, the family members of the deceased person are entitled to recover for pecuniary losses, just as the injured person would have been able to recover, had they not died. Those pecuniary losses could include income that the deceased person would have continued to provide to the family for support.Pecuniary losses, in wrongful death cases, can also include funeral costs. What are Examples of Non-Pecuniary Damages? Not all injuries or losses are monetary. Non-pecuniary losses are those that cannot be precisely measured. One of the most common examples is “pain and suffering.” Other examples include humiliation, emotional distress, and worsening or exacerbation of a previous injury or illness. Are Catastrophic Injuries Different? A catastrophic injury is one that is generally very severe and leads to long-term, if not permanent, disability or disfigurement. Catastrophic injuries typically involve a difficult recovery, multiple surgeries, or possibly a lifetime of medical treatment.Auto accident victims with catastrophic injuries may not be able to return to work. There are various pecuniary damages that can be recovered for catastrophic injuries, including present and future medical expenses, cost of rehabilitation services, current and future lost wages, and permanent disability coverage. Compensation for future treatment for a “residual injury,” should also be considered. Contact an Arkansas and Missouri Personal Injury Lawyer If you have questions regarding automobile accidents or any other personal injury concerns, contact the Cottrell Law Office at (800) 364-8305. We offer free case consultations.

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Auto Accidents

Joplin Auto Accident Attorneys Explain Whiplash Injuries

As any Joplin auto accident attorney knows, whiplash is the most common type of injury sustained in an auto accident. Whiplash is what is known as a soft tissue injury and it occurs nearly every 10 seconds in our country. Our Joplin auto accident attorney can explain what this type of injury is and help you to recover if you sustain this kind of injury following an auto accident. Understanding What is Considered a Soft Tissue Injury A “soft tissue” injury is essentially an injury that affects the supporting parts of the body but not the bones. In other words, soft tissues include tendons, ligaments, joints, and muscles that are often torn or stretched beyond their natural limits. Soft tissue injuries most often cause pain, swelling, bleeding, and loss of function. A Joplin auto accident attorney is experienced with handling these types of claims. Detecting Soft Tissue Injuries can be a Challenge One of the challenges in cases involving soft tissue injuries is that they usually cannot be detected on x-rays. That means many people are not even aware that they have suffered this type of injury until they experience more obvious symptoms. Basically, the typical symptoms of a soft tissue injury can either appear immediately or make take hours or days to become noticeable.  The most common symptoms of a soft tissue injury are pain and inflammation. What is Whiplash Specifically? As we said, one of the most common soft tissue injury following an auto accident is whiplash. The technical name for this injury is Myofascial Pain Syndrome (MPS).  Neck pain from whiplash injuries is the most frequently reported injury. Even a small fender-bender can “whip” the head forward and then back with sufficient force to cause damage to the muscles, tendons or ligaments in the neck.  Most whiplash injuries result from rear-end collisions.  But, there are three personal factors that can contribute to the severity of the injury: gender, height, and seating position. Joplin Auto Accident Attorney Recognize the Common Factors that Contribute to Whiplash Injuries Studies show that women are a little more likely to suffer a neck injury in an auto accident and more likely to develop long term complications from such an injury.  According to experts, the higher risk for women is attributed to the difference in the neck musculature of males and females.  To put it another way, men on average have stronger neck muscles than women. Seating positions also contribute to the risk of suffering a whiplash injury. Drivers are more often at a higher risk for whiplash than passengers because drivers tend to sit forward as opposed to back in their seats because they need to use the steering wheel and watch the road. Also, passengers sitting in the back seat typically have a lower risk for whiplash than everyone else in the vehicle. The Height of the Victim and the Height of the Head Restraints Height is also a factor in the risk of suffering a whiplash injury. The proximity of a person’s head’s to the head restraints in the vehicle make a difference. That means a shorter person will not have to adjust the head restraint to be protected. On the other hand, a taller person’s head may be too high to benefit from an unadjusted restraint, making them more susceptible to whiplash injuries.  New height requirements for front seat head restraints have been imposed by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). Head restraints are not mandated for rear seats. Head Restraint Positioning The best position for head restraints is even with the top of the driver or passenger’s head. However, if the restraint cannot be adjusted to that height, it should be positioned at least 3.5 inches below the top of the head or level with the top of the ears. Also, the horizontal distance between the head and the restraint needs to be less than 4 inches.  If necessary, the distance can be adjusted by changing the reclining angle of the seat. Seek Medical Treatment Immediately Following an Auto Accident Accidents happen, even to the best drivers.  Regardless of how slight your injuries might seem to you, you need to seek medical attention as soon after an auto accident as you possibly can.  Also, be sure to explain to your health care providers that you were involved in an auto accident.  That includes describing exactly what happened and how your injuries were sustained.  Many times, the victims of an auto accident do not experience pain right away, nor do they discover the full extent of their injuries until much later.  Remember to tell your doctor that you were involved in a car accident and describe exactly what happened. Contacting a Joplin auto accident attorney is also a good idea in order to protect your rights as a victim. If you have questions regarding auto accidents or any other personal injury matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (888) 616-6356.

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Auto Accidents

Someone Driving the Wrong Way Caused My Auto Accident

It goes without saying that head-on collisions are very dangers and often result in serious injuries.  As an auto accident lawyer can explain, an accident caused by a wrong-way driver can also result in significant damages.  If you or someone you know has been involved in a head-on collision and need help obtaining the damages to which the victims may be entitled, contact an auto accident lawyer. Arkansas Woman Killed in Head-On Collision with an Ambulance Earlier this year, a Little Rock woman was involved in a fatal head-on collision with an ambulance on Interstate 40 in Pulaski County. The young woman was traveling west in the eastbound lanes of I-40 near mile marker 142 and the Morgan exit when she struck an ambulance traveling east. The Arkansas State Police report states that she was pronounced dead at the scene. Although in that case, the wrong-way driver was the person injured, the accident demonstrates just how dangerous these types of accidents can be. Damages in Auto Accident Cases Regardless of how minor your injuries may seem at first, you should always seek medical attention as soon after a car accident as you can.  Remember to tell your doctor that you were involved in a car accident and describe exactly what happened. It is also very important to speak to an auto accident lawyer as soon as possible in order to preserve your rights. What Types of Damages Can You Potentially Recover? The amount of compensation you may recover after a car accident depends on the type of damages you suffered.  Each claim is different, both factually and with regard to which laws apply to your claim.  The most important element used in determining the value of a car accident claim is the nature and seriousness of your injuries. The purpose of a damages award in a personal injury case is to make the victim “whole.”  This basically means compensating the victim for everything was lost as a result of the accident or injury.  The only way to accomplish that is through a monetary award.  Our an auto accident lawyer can help you to recover the damages to which you are entitled. Compensatory Damages In most car accident cases, the primary component of damages is medical expenses incurred as a result of an accident.  Reimbursement for medical treatment basically includes compensation for treatment already received, as well as the estimated costs of any medical care that may be required in the future.  Additionally, the injuries suffered can have a substantial impact on the victim’s ability to return to work, either temporarily or permanently.  In that case, damages may include future income. Emotional Distress and Pain and Suffering Another important component of damages in nearly every car accident case is compensation for pain and suffering.  If you suffer pain and severe discomfort at the time of the injury, as well as ongoing pain, that is a separate type of damages for which compensation may be available.  Another thing to consider is the effect of more severe injuries, which often lead to emotional distress damages for the psychological impact of the injuries. What Will My Car Insurance Pay? Basically, the purpose of car insurance is to cover you if you become liable for the injuries or damages of someone else, following a car accident.  However, in a hit and run, you don’t know who the responsible party is, much less their automobile insurance information.  In that case, your own insurance will typically be your only source of compensation. Uninsured Motorist Coverage In some states, insurance carriers are required to offer a minimal amount of Uninsured Motorist Coverage to policy owners.  Some states go so far as to required drivers to carry a certain amount of Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UIM).  You have the option of purchasing more than the minimum coverage required.  You also have the option to purchase Underinsured Motorist Coverage, which is similar to UIM coverage, as it provides compensation when the at-fault driver has insurance, but not sufficient coverage in your case. Justifying Uninsured Motorist coverage In a hit and run accident, uninsured motorist coverage would most likely be the primary source of compensation.  Since the other driver cannot be found, it is analogous to the other driver not having insurance.  You need to report the accident to the police and your insurance company, as you would with any other auto accident.  Depending on the law in the state where the accident occurred, you may be required to prove physical contact by another vehicle or, at least, provide an eye-witness other than yourself or your passenger. If you have questions regarding auto accidents or any other personal injury matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (888) 616-6356.

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Auto Accidents

6 Important Facts About Determining Liability in an Auto Accident

For a Joplin auto accident attorney to help you recover for injuries in an auto accident, the first step is to determine who is at fault. Liability must first be established by determining who caused the accident or whose negligence resulted in your injuries. If the auto accident was serious and your injuries were severe, then there may be substantial repair costs and medical expenses. The person or persons determined to be at fault are the ones who will be held responsible for compensating the victim for their damages. Here are six important facts you should know about determining liability in an auto accident. Fact No. 1 – Why Determining Liability is So Crucial The issue of fault is the most important component of a lawsuit. If you cannot determine the appropriate person to sue you will be unable to file a lawsuit. If more than one party is accused of liability, determining who is at fault requires identifying the levels of fault. In other words, each party will only be responsible for the amount of damages that can be attributed to his or her actions. Your Joplin auto accident attorney can review your case and help you determine who the appropriate defendants should be. Fact No. 2 – You Need to Investigate and Gather Evidence to Prove Fault Proving fault in the legal context involves discovering and offering evidence.  The evidence you will typically need to gather in an auto accident will include photos of the accident scene and injuries, eyewitness testimony and police reports. Depending on the applicable legal standard in your state, fault can be established either proven beyond any reasonable doubt or through clear and convincing evidence.  Either way, the standard of proof is relatively low as the allegations of fault do not have to be indisputable. Fact No. 3 –Auto Accidents Other Than Rear-End Accidents Are More Difficult When an auto accident is a rear-end accident, the person at the back end of the accident is typically considered responsible for all resulting collisions in front.  This is usually true in cases where multiple cars are involved.  However, each car involved could be liable to some degree, for example, when someone is trailing too close behind the car in front of them. Auto Accidents that are not rear-end collisions are often more difficult to determine.  In those cases, the laws of the state where the accident occurred should be the starting point for determining liability.  When intersections are involved, the status of the traffic lights at the time is usually key.  Drivers who were found to be speeding at the time of the accident are more likely to be responsible or at least have some liability. Fact No. 4 – Individuals Other than the Driver May Be Liable If you have been injured in an auto accident, determining who is responsible for your injuries can be complicated, but if you start with these common defendants, you are more likely to consider everyone who could possibly be liable: the driver of the car the owner of the car the person or company that leased the car from the owner the manufacturer of the car, tires, or other equipment that may have caused the accident, or made it more severe Consulting with a Joplin auto accident attorney who is experienced in car accident cases is the best decision to make. Fact No. 5 – Family Members May Be Responsible for Your Accident Clients often wonder what to do when a family member may be at fault for an auto accident.  The question is typically whether they can sue a relative.  However, the real question is whether there will be insurance coverage for the claim.  First, there is no rule that you cannot sue a family member for their involvement in a car accident.  Yet, if there is no insurance coverage, the lawsuit will likely not be valuable enough to file.  It is very common for auto insurance policies to include an exclusion for family members or members of the same household.  On the other hand, some state courts find these exclusions invalid. If this situation applies to you, discuss your options with a Joplin auto accident attorney. Fact No. 6 – Handling a Hit and Run Accident Can Be a Challenge Victims of hit and run car accidents can suffer injuries, property damage, or both.  You may be side-swiped on the road and the driver speeds off, or you may find your car in the parking lot with a huge, unexplained dent.  What your car accident lawyer will tell you is, your own insurance coverage will likely have to compensate you for your damages. Basically, the purpose of car insurance is to cover you if you become liable for the injuries or damages of someone else, following an auto accident.  However, in a hit and run, you don’t know who the responsible party is, much less their automobile insurance information.  In that case, your own insurance will typically be your only source of compensation. If you have questions about coverage let our Joplin auto accident attorney help.If you have questions regarding auto accidents or any other personal injury matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (888) 616-6356.

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Auto Accidents

Automobile Accident Lawyer Discusses Back-Up Collisions

According to some reports, backup accidents injure nearly 15,000 people each year and kill more than 200.  This may be the reason most new cars are now equipped with cameras, sensors, and audio warning systems in an effort to make backing up safer and easier.  But the reality is, too many drivers have started relying solely on this new technology and continue to strike people and vehicles behind them.  If you are involved in a back-up or back-over injury, your automobile accident lawyer can help. Who is at the most risk for “back-over” injuries? According to kidsandcars.org at least 50 children are backed over each week by vehicles, typically trucks or SUV’s. The average age of victims is between one and two years old. It is important to remember that young children are impulsive and unpredictable.  Especially in driveways, you should make sure you know where your children are and move them away from your vehicle to somewhere in full view before you move your car.  If another adult is present, ask them to directly supervise any children in the vicinity. Roll down your driver’s side window when backing up so you can hear if someone is warning you to stop. Cameras do not significantly lower the risk of back-over incidents Whether you realize it or not, safety technology has been around for a long time.  First, these safety features made their appearance in luxury vehicles.  Then, as their effectiveness became evident, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began requiring auto manufacturers to include the technology in even the affordable vehicles.  However, analysis of the backup incident data showed that while backup cameras became more prevalent, the number of backup injuries only decreased by about 8 percent. The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, NHTSA, is directing that all passenger vehicles have backup cameras as of this year. The hope is that this requirement will help increase safety, but only as long as drivers are taught to continue using their rearview and side mirrors and to turn their heads to look all around before reversing. How much can your automobile accident lawyer help you recover? The amount of compensation you may recover from a car accident depends on the type of damages you suffered.  Each claim is different, both factually and with regard to which laws apply to your claim.  The most important element used in determining the value of an automobile accident claim is the nature and seriousness of your injuries. What is the real purpose of a damages award? As an automobile accident lawyer will tell you, the purpose of a damages award in a personal injury case is to make the victim “whole.”  This basically means compensating the victim for everything was lost as a result of the accident or injury.  The only way to accomplish that is through a monetary award. Compensatory Damages In most car accident cases, the primary component of damages is medical expenses incurred as a result of the accident. Reimbursement for medical treatment basically includes compensation for treatment already received, as well as the estimated costs of any medical care that may be required in the future.  Additionally, the injuries suffered can have a substantial impact on the victim’s ability to return to work, either temporarily or permanently.  In that case, damages may include future income. Emotional Distress and Pain and Suffering Another important component of damages in nearly every car accident case is compensation for pain and suffering.  If you suffer pain and severe discomfort at the time of the injury, as well as ongoing pain, that is a separate type of damages for which compensation may be available.  Another thing to consider is the effect of more severe injuries, which often lead to emotional distress damages for the psychological impact of the injuries. What will my car insurance pay? Basically, the purpose of car insurance is to cover you if you become liable for the injuries or damages of someone else, following a car accident.  However, in a hit and run, you don’t know who the responsible party is, much less their automobile insurance information.  In that case, your own insurance will typically be your only source of compensation. If you have questions regarding automobile accidents or any other personal injury matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (800) 364-8305.

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Auto Accidents

Ask our Automobile Accident Attorney What to Do After a Car Accident

If you have been involved in a car accident, contacting an automobile accident attorney as soon as possible is important in order to obtain the compensation you deserve.  When the time comes to file your claim, there are several common mistakes that you need to avoid.  The Cottrell Law Office is here to help you avoid those mistakes. Be Careful What You Say at the Accident Scene Whether it’s admitting liability in some way or saying the accident was not your fault, it is always a bad idea to say anything that relates to liability.  The best advice is to say as little as possible until you have spoken to an automobile accident attorney. When you report the accident to your insurance company, which you are required to do within a certain period of time, only give them the facts and nothing more.  Insurance companies are not on your side.  Their job is to try to pay as little as possible on your claim, so don’t stray beyond the basic facts.  Be sure to let them know that you were injured and you intend to seek medical treatment. Beyond that, let an automobile accident attorney do the talking. Consult With an Automobile Accident Attorney Before Settling Another common mistake in car accident cases is settling too soon.  You are not required to accept the first settlement offer an insurance company makes to you.  In fact, it is wise in most cases not to.  If you settle too soon, you run the risk of limiting your recovery because all of your losses may not be known.  Right after the accident, your physical injuries are not always known because it can take days or weeks for pain and injuries to manifest themselves.  An automobile accident attorney knows when to reject a settlement offer and how to negotiate for the compensation you deserve. Don’t Sign a Release Before You Talk to an Automobile Accident Attorney In addition to attempting to limit your settlement amount, car insurance companies often pressure car accident victims into signing a waiver.  The purpose of a waiver is to get you to accept a check while agreeing you won’t file a lawsuit for your claims.  If you sign a waiver or release you are forfeiting your legal right to recover for your injuries. You should not sign a release until you are sure you are satisfied with your settlement, so do not be afraid to speak to an automobile accident attorney first and let them review the waiver or release.  Once you sign, it’s too late. Make Sure the Accident Claim Form is Accurate When the time comes to fill out the insurance claim form, it is important that it is done completely and accurately.  If there are mistakes on the form, it could result in a delay in processing your claim.  It could even result in your claim being denied altogether.  You need to make sure you provide as much detail as you can about the accident.  The information you provide will be compared to the police report as part of investigating your claim.  The best choice is to have an automobile accident attorney help you with your claim. File a Timely Insurance Claim Possibly a mistake worse than providing inaccurate information on your insurance claim form is filing it after the deadline.  Each insurance company has its own deadlines for filing a claim after a covered accident.  If you do not meet that deadline, you might end up forfeiting your rights to certain benefits.  If you are unclear about the time limit after looking at your insurance policy, contact your claims adjuster to clarify the requirements. What Can You Recovery From a Car Accident The purpose of a lawsuit is to be compensated for the injuries you sustain as a result of someone else’s negligence.  The only way you can be compensated is with money.  Another purpose of the lawsuit is to hold the at-fault driver accountable for the injuries and losses you sustain during the accident.  The amount and type of recovery to which you may be entitled depend on many factors.  An automobile accident attorney can help you with these and other issues following a car accident. If you have questions regarding car accidents or any other personal injury matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (888) 433-4861.

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Auto Accidents

What to Do If You Are Offered an Unfair Settlement of Your Accident Claim

If you have been injured in an auto accident and offered a very low settlement amount from the other driver’s insurance company, do not simply reject the offer and give up. Contact a Joplin auto accident attorney first because you may be able to negotiate. The reality is settlement is not a one-step process. In fact, the majority of settlements are the result of back-and-forth negotiations between the parties through their representatives. The important thing to remember is that you are not required to accept the first settlement offer you receive. Instead, discuss your options with a Joplin auto accident attorney to make sure you are being offered the compensation to which you are entitled. How settlement typically works in auto accident cases Settlement in auto accident cases is typically achieved after the victim files a claim with the insurance company that covers the at-fault driver. Those claims are handled by insurance claims adjusters who will review the information regarding the auto accident and then determine an appropriate amount to settle the claim. Sometimes their settlement offers are based on a pre-determined formula established by the insurance company. In most cases, their offers are much lower than they should be, which is understandable from a business perspective. However, it may not be in your best interest to simply accept the first offer an insurance adjuster makes. Let our Joplin auto accident attorney help you determine whether the offer is fair. Assessing the fairness of a settlement offer Before you reject a settlement offer from an insurance adjuster, you should let a Joplin auto accident attorney determine what a fair settlement should be in your case and then compare that to the offer that has been made. Letting a Joplin auto accident attorney help you determine a fair dollar amount for your specific claim will help you to see whether you are being fully compensated for your injuries and damages. It is important to remember that every case is different, so your claim needs to be analyzed by an experienced attorney to determine what is fair and reasonable. Determining the fair dollar amount can be complicated When it comes to liability claims filed against another driver’s insurance policy, potential compensation can be based on medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and property damage. All of these types of damages can be assessed and calculated by a Joplin auto accident attorney and should include past, current, and future expenses. This will be used to determine a “fair” settlement amount. However, making these calculations is not always simple. This is especially true if issues of contributory negligence are involved. In other words, if the insurance company claims that you were partly at fault for the auto accident. Responding to or rejecting an unfair settlement offer If you and your Joplin auto accident attorney determine that the settlement offer you receive from an insurance adjuster is too low, your attorney can reject the offer and negotiate with the insurance adjuster for a more reasonable settlement amount. In doing so, your attorney will explain the facts that warrant a higher settlement amount. Negotiations often continue beyond the initial settlement offer and counteroffer. Typically, an insurance adjuster will make a higher offer as long as the counteroffers are not unreasonable. How settlement negotiations work In most cases, the initial amount that a Joplin auto accident attorney requests for settlement will not be the “bottom line,” that is the lowest amount they are willing to accept in settlement of their client’s claims. The goal of negotiations is to start higher than the bottom line in hopes that the claim can settle for the highest amount possible, within reason. On the other end, the insurance adjuster is interested in trying to reach a settlement that will subject their insurer to the least amount of recovery. It is important for auto accident victims to understand what is considered a “fair” settlement in their case before the process begins. Let your Joplin auto accident attorney help If you believe the settlement offer made to you by an insurance adjuster is unfair, contact your Joplin auto accident attorney to help you determine what course of action to take. It is true that, statistically speaking, insurance adjusters offer lower settlements to victims who are not being represented by attorneys. So, if you have been injured in an accident in Joplin or any other area of Missouri, let our firm help you obtain a fair settlement for your claims. If you have questions regarding auto accidents or any other personal injury matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (888) 433-4861.

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Auto Accidents

Is Small Claims Court Appropriate for Auto Accident Claims?

Most auto accident cases filed by Joplin auto accident attorneys are filed in the district or circuit courts of the state where the accident happened.  Figuring out which court you need to file your claim in is based on the amount of damages you expect to claim.  Bringing an auto accident claim in small claims court is not very common because most accident claims are worth more than $5,000, the limit for filing a case in small claims court. Let our Joplin auto accident attorney explain how small claims court works. Most auto accident cases are not filed in small claims court Auto accident cases typically are not filed in small claims court unless they are very minor.  That means, the property damage is minor and so are the injuries.  In fact, an auto accident case that ends up in small claims court usually doesn’t involve personal injuries at all.  Instead, they are primarily claims for minor property damage. Small Claims Court in Missouri and Arkansas In Missouri, if your legal claim for damages does not exceed $5,000.00, you can bring that claim in small claims court. The limit does not include court costs and interest which the judge might award.  If your claim exceeds $5,000.00 you can still choose to file your suit in small claims court, but in doing so, you relinquish your right to claim any amount that exceeds $5,000.00.  In Arkansas, the district court hears civil personal injury claims, but any claim under $5,000 can be filed in the Small Claims Division. Small Claims matters typically involve contract and personal property claims. Elements of proof required in an auto accident case In order to recover in an auto accident case, whether or not you are in small claims court, you must establish that the other driver was negligent in operating the car and that negligence caused your injuries and property damage.  If it can be proven that the other driver was breaking the law at the time of the accident, then negligence is much easier to establish, and may even be presumed. Who should sue who in small claims court? Auto accident claims should be filed by the person who owns the vehicle, even if that person was not driving the automobile when the accident took place.  The person to be sued should be the negligent driver and most likely the owner of the vehicle if they are not one in the same. The Department of Motor Vehicles in your state can provide the identity of the registered owner of the vehicle. If you have questions about whether small claims is appropriate, speak to our Joplin auto accident attorney. Determining whether there were any witnesses Judges, even in small claims court, need to hear testimony from people with knowledge about the accident.  A good witness can make or break your case.  The best witnesses are impartial, as opposed to friends of family members.  If you are appearing in small claims court and there is a chance that your witness may not voluntarily appear in court, then you can either have the witness subpoenaed or obtain a written sworn statement to present to the judge. The role of police accident reports in small claims Whenever liability for an auto accident is at issue, one of the most important steps is obtaining a police report.  A police report is admissible evidence in small claims court based on the theory that the officer at the scene, who is there to investigate the circumstances of the accident, is in a better position to determine the truth. If the information in the police report supports your claim, then you can submit it to court.  If on the other hand, the police report does not, you can be prepared to refute it. Most commonly, it can be refuted by eyewitness testimony, if it’s available.  In situations where neither the police report nor the eyewitness supports your claim, you may want to reconsider filing the suit. Obtain estimates to support your property damage claim When it comes to recovering for the damage to your vehicle, you need to be able to provide several estimates of the cost of repairs to your vehicle.  Most accident lawyers recommend three estimates.  If the repairs have already been completed, then you need to prove those damages by submitting your canceled check or receipt from the repair shop, along with the estimates.  Your property damage claim can also include the fair market value of any other property in your car that was destroyed.  You may also be able to claim the costs you incurred obtaining alternate transportation while your car was inoperable. If you have questions regarding auto accidents or any other personal injury matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (888) 433-4861.

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Auto Accidents

Not Every Auto Accident is Caused by a Negligent Driver

Aside from the legal issue of damages, there are two very common legal issues that frequently cause delays in litigation of an auto accident case.  Those two issues are liability and causation.  That is, who is responsible for the injuries and did that guilty party’s conduct actually cause your injuries.  These issues can often be complicated and the facts are not always black and white. In fact, some accidents aren’t caused by another driver. If you have questions about your potential claims, ask our Joplin auto accident lawyer. Proving a theory of liability The simple fact that the other person was driving the car that hit yours, doesn’t automatically make that person at-fault for the resulting auto accident.  In some situations, the other driver will try to shift some, if not all, of the blame on you.  For example, there are defenses known as contributory negligence of assumption of risk, which may create a real issue of liability in your case.  If those defenses are raised, the resolution of your case may be further delayed.  It is important to have as much evidence as you can to support your theory of liability, including witness testimony, if possible. Proving causation of injuries You might assume that if your neck and back are hurting immediately after an auto accident, that is evidence enough that your injuries were caused by the other driver.  That is not always the case, however.  If the at-fault driver can establish that any aspect of your injury was pre-existing, then proving your injuries will become very problematic.  Sometimes, there are even questions as to how serious your injuries truly are.  In some auto accident cases, experts are required to prove that a particular accident would actually lead to the type of injuries you claim to have sustained. Accidents can be caused by something other than another driver Despite the fact that most auto accidents are caused by a negligent driver, there are many other causes of accidents that are just as common. Poor road conditions and weather conditions are frequent causes of auto accidents. Examples of dangerous road conditions include potholes, uneven expansion joints, and debris on the roadway.  A deep hole in the middle of a roadway can cause serious auto accidents, especially on interstates. Motorcycles are more likely to lose control from hitting a pothole than a car. Expansion joints usually connect a highway to a bridge. When the two parts are joined it can expose a rough surface and this unevenness can be dangerous.  Much like a pothole. Similarly, when a road has uneven lanes of different heights, it can be dangerous when a vehicle changes lanes. Debris or animals on the roadway Depending on the size of debris that is left on the roadway, it can cause a very dangerous situation for drivers. For instance, the debris left from blown out tires, especially from 18-wheelers, can cause damage to a vehicle or even cause the driver hitting the debris to lose control. The same is true for the debris left from a collision or objects that may fall off of other vehicles, such as trucks carrying items. As our Joplin auto accident lawyer can explain, state and local governments are liable for maintaining roadways that are free from obstacles. If they fail to do so and an accident occurs then the government can be held liable. Possible recovery following a car accident The primary goal of any lawsuit is to be compensated monetarily for the injuries you sustain because of someone else’s actions.  As any car accident attorney will tell you, the purpose of the lawsuit following a car accident is to make the at-fault driver to compensate you for your injuries and losses resulting from the accident.  The amount and type of recovery to which you may be entitled depend on many factors.  In the legal arena, what you may recover is referred to as “damages.” Economic versus non-economic damages Economic damages are the actual financial losses that you suffer as a result of a car accident.  This would include medical expenses for treatment of the injuries you suffered, lost income from missing work while recovering, the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle, and other losses.  This type of damages is the easiest to prove in court because you need only submit documentation to establish these expenses. If you have questions regarding car accidents or any other personal injury matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (888) 433-4861.

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