Car Accidents

Should I Bring my Car Accident Case in Small Claims Court?

The majority of car accident lawsuits are filed in a district or circuit court in the state where the accident happened. However, which court is able to hear your case depends, in part, on the amount of your damages you are claiming to have suffered in your lawsuit. Most clients have heard of small claims court, but that is not where car accident cases are normally filed. When it is time to file your lawsuit, let a Rogers car accident attorney help you determine the proper venue. What Types of Cases can be Filed in Small Claims Court in Arkansas? In Rogers, it is the district court that has the jurisdiction to preside over a civil personal injury claim, but only if the damages being claimed is more than $5,000. Civil cases claiming damages less than that amount must be filed in with the Small Claims Division.  Small Claims matters usually involve personal property and contract claims. Car Accident Cases are Typically not Filed in Small Claims Court Only very minor car accident cases are filed in small claims court. In other words, the physical injuries and property damage being claimed as a result of the car accident must be very minor, totaling no more than $5,000. The majority of the time, a car accident case that is brought in small claims court only involves damage to the vehicle. What is Required to Prove a Car Accident Claim? Regardless of whether you bring your car accident claim in small claims court, there are certain facts that must be proven before you will be entitled to damages. It is necessary to prove that the other driver operated his or her vehicle negligently and that negligence caused your property damage and injuries. Cases where it can be shown that the other driver was violating the law when the accident occurred, then negligence can be simpler to prove. In some cases, violating a law related specifically to operating a vehicle can result in presumed liability. Be Sure to Submit Estimates to Prove Your Property Damage In order to recover for the damages your car sustained in the accident, you must prove the amount of those damages – that is the amount it will take to repair your car. It is best to provide the court with several estimates. A Rogers car accident attorney will likely recommend obtaining at least three. If you have already had your car repaired, then you can provide a copy of your canceled check or a receipt for the payments made to the repair shop, along with the three estimates. There are other elements of proof that can be submitted, so discuss your particular case with a Rogers car accident attorney to be sure you don’t miss anything. Even in Small Claims Court, You Need Witnesses A common misconception is that a small claims court case is not handled the same as any other civil case. Particularly, many people believe they do not have to present witnesses.  That is not always a safe assumption. Even though there is no jury in small claims court, the judge would still prefer to hear testimony from individuals who have personal knowledge regarding the car accident. As in any other case, the right witness can either make or break your case. It is important to remember, though, that your witnesses should be impartial, as opposed to friends or relatives unless they were in the car with you at the time of the accident and have relevant information.  Just like in other cases, if a witness will not agree to appear in court voluntarily to give testimony, a subpoena can be requested and issued by the court to compel the witness to testify, if necessary. Can I Submit an Accident Report From the Police in Small Claims Court? If liability is not obvious in your car accident case, then it is a good idea to get a copy of the police report. An accident report is admissible in small claims court because courts take the position that the officer called to the scene to investigate the circumstances is not only neutral but also in a better position to determine what actually happened. However, remember that the statements in the police report may not necessarily support your case. So, be sure to review it before you submit it to the court. If there are statements in the report that are not favorable to your case, then you can at least be prepared to defend against it. Usually, an eyewitness statement can be used to refute a statement made by the police officer in the accident report, as he or she was not an eyewitness. Contact a Skilled Missouri and Arkansas Auto Accident Lawyer If you have questions regarding car accidents or any other personal injury concerns in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a consultation, either online or by calling us at (800) 364-8305.

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Car Accidents

How are Passenger Claims Different Following a Car Accident?

The most common personal injury claims following a car accident, as any Rogers car accident lawyer knows, are claims brought by a driver involved in the crash. However, it is equally possible for passengers to be injured during a car accident. Some of the legal issues that arise are unique to passengers. Here is what you should know about how passenger claims may be different from claims brought by the driver. A passenger could be injured while in the car with the at-fault driver One of the key elements of any personal injury claim following a car accident is the determination of fault. You can’t bring a legal claim unless you first determine against whom the claim must be brought. A Rogers car accident lawyer will be able to help determine who is at fault for injuries sustained in the car accident.  In nearly every case, the passengers in either car are not the cause of the accident.  For that reason, the issue will be whether the driver of your car or the driver of the other car was actually negligent. Insurance companies compensate passengers for their injuries Regardless of who is determined to be at fault, it will be that person’s auto insurance company that is required to compensate you for your injuries. However, the determination of liability is not always simple or straightforward.  Each accident is different and, proving who is at fault may not always be obvious.  That is where your Rogers car accident lawyer can help you to investigate the accident and determine who should be held liable. How passengers can make a claim following a car accident In order to initiate a legal claim for injuries sustained during a car accident, usually the first step is to make an insurance claim with the carrier for the at-fault driver.  Even if that driver turns out to be a relative or friend, you are required to make an official claim with that person’s insurance company in order to be fully compensated for your injuries. Now, making a claim as a passenger is a little different.  It may be a more of a challenge for a passenger to obtain the information required to properly make a claim.  Although the drivers involved in a car accident will exchange relevant information, as the passenger you may need to obtain a copy of the police report in order to bet the information you need.  In some cases, passengers get caught in the middle of the insurance companies who will both claim their insured was not at fault.  In order to protect your claim, you may need to file a claim with both drivers’ insurance carriers. Who pays for the medical expenses of the passenger? For those who own their own vehicles and have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance coverage, your own insurance will cover your medical expenses under your PIP coverage. In some states, PIP coverage is mandatory, however, it is optional in both Arkansas and Missouri.  Depending on the laws in your state, there may be certain requirements you must meet in order to make a claim under your PIP coverage.  If you don’t have auto insurance, or you don’t have PIP coverage, then the insurance carrier for either the driver of the vehicle you were in, or the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier, will most likely pay the claim. What happens if a passenger is partially at fault for their injuries? Passengers, like drivers, are required to use reasonable care for their own safety. That would include wearing a seat belt.  So, if it is shown that your injuries were more serious because you did not wear your seat belt, then you could be found partially responsible for your injuries.  This is also referred to as comparative negligence, which could limit or even eliminate your damages in a car accident case.  Also, if you knew that your driver was intoxicated at the time of the accident, but you still agreed to be a passenger, you may be found to have assumed the risk of being injured in that situation. It is a good idea for passengers injured in a car accident to get their own lawyer Despite the fact that it may be simpler to let the lawyer that represents the driver of the car you were in represent you as well, that is not always the best thing to do.  If it is determined that the driver of the car you were in was actually at fault for the accident, then you cannot be represented by the same lawyer. Why?  Because that would be considered a conflict of interest. Each car accident case needs to be analyzed based on the specific circumstances of that case. So discuss your facts with a Rogers car accident lawyer. If you have questions regarding car accidents or any other personal injury issues in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation, either online or by calling toll-free at (888) 433-4861.

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Car Accidents

What Happens to Your Claim When the Guilty Driver Dies in the Accident?

Before you can recover for any injuries you sustain during a car accident, your Joplin car accident lawyer must first help you determine who is at fault.  The first step is to figure out whose negligence caused the accident and led to your injuries.  Depending on how serious the car accident was, there could be significant medical expenses and repair costs.  The person who is at fault is the person who should be held responsible for compensating you for your damages.  In some cases, the negligent driver may be killed in the accident.  If that happens, your Joplin car accident lawyer can help you sort through the legal issues. A negligence claim can still be brought to court if the at-fault driver dies Simply because the person who caused the accident dies in the wreck, the injured person is not absolutely barred from bringing a personal injury claim in court. Nevertheless, the claim may be a little more difficult to litigate.  Typically, the claim is presented to the negligent driver’s insurance carrier and the claim is then handled in the same way any other personal injury claim would be handled. In other words, if the insurance carrier does not settle the claim initially, then a lawsuit will be filed to recover for the damages. The question becomes who to sue if the negligent party has died If an administrator has been named to represent the estate of the negligent driver, then that person will take the place of the deceased for purposes of filing the lawsuit. At that point, the litigation can proceed as normal.  As your Joplin car accident lawyer knows, it will likely be much more complicated if no estate has been established, which means there is no one legally in place to represent the deceased defendant.  Under those circumstances, the injured person would have to go through the extra step of having the estate set up and an administrator appointed. Once that has been accomplished, there will be someone upon whom the lawsuit can be served. The purpose of the lawsuit does not change if the defendant is deceased Basically, the purpose of filing the lawsuit is to recover, or be compensated, for the injuries sustained as a result of the actions of another. When you are dealing with a car accident, the purpose of the lawsuit is to make the driver who was at-fault compensate you for all of the injuries and losses that occurred because of the accident. What recovery am I entitled to? What you are entitled to receive, in compensation for your injuries, is referred to as “damages” in the legal field. It is often the case that both economic and non-economic damages are incurred following a car accident. Exactly which type of damages you will be entitled to depends on the facts of your specific case. But there are certain types of damages that are generally involved in auto accident cases and your Joplin car accident lawyer can help you determine what that might be in your case. Economic versus non-economic damages Economic damages are usually the easiest to establish in a negligence case. Economic damages are essentially the financial losses that you suffer as a result of an accident or injury, including your medical expenses, the income you lost from missing time at work, the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle, and many others. As long as the financial loss can be attributed to the accident, you may be able to recover for that loss. Non-economic damages are often more difficult to prove because they are more subjective in nature and more difficult to quantify. For example, pain and suffering, mental distress, and anxiety are some of the most common non-economic damages claimed following a car accident. The best evidence of these types of damages would be documentation from a psychologist or counselor who has diagnosed you with these problems and provided treatment for them, as well.  What can I do to prove my damages? The most important thing you can do is keep records of your damages. Your medical bills can be proven through your medical records and your lost income can be shown with your pay stubs or time records from your employer. The damages to your vehicle should be evaluated by professionals who can provide written repair estimates. As for non-economic damages, in addition to any treatment records you may obtain, it is also very useful to keep a diary of the accident-related problems you may experience on a daily basis. Keep a written record of your physical discomfort and any limitations you may be experiencing. Take note of the mental or emotional impact your injuries, and the accident in general, have had on your daily life. Although it is not ideal, this may be the only records you have of these subjective damages. If you have questions regarding car accidents or any other personal injury concerns in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Joplin accident lawyer at the Cottrell Law Office for a consultation, either online or by calling us as (888) 433-4861.

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Car Accidents

How to Deal with an Ejection Injury Following a Car Accident

Although children may face a higher risk of being ejected from a car during a crash, any passengers that are not wearing seatbelts can be ejected.  For children, it is crucial that they are properly secured in an age-appropriate car seat or booster seat. If these important safety measures are not taken, and you are involved in a car accident, you are at high risk for serious ejection injuries. However, in some cases, faulty safety equipment can be the culprit. If that is the case, consult with a Joplin car accident lawyer for assistance. The principal cause of car accident ejection injuries The cause of most ejection injuries resulting from car accidents is a passenger being unbuckled and thrown from a windshield, window or door during the collision. However, there are many different contributing factors that may play a role. For example, malfunctioning seat belts, broken doors, malfunctioning car or booster seats. Driver errors such as speeding, driving under the influence, and improper car seat installation can also be factors. The risk of ejection can also depend on type of glass installed in the vehicle As a Joplin car accident lawyer can tell you, many people do not realize that the type of glass that is installed in the side windows of your vehicle can increase your ejection risk. Traditional glass has a higher chance of shattering, either partially or completely. However, laminated glass is made to not shatter as easily, which can provide better protection for you and your family. Types of vehicle ejections Not all vehicle ejection injuries are the same. An ejection could be only partial, meaning that a body part crashes through the glass or leaves the vehicle, but the entire body is not thrown out.  Appendages that end up on the outside of the vehicle during a rollover accident are often crushed. A complete or total ejection, of course, means the person is thrown entirely outside of the vehicle. Types of ejection injuries that may be suffered When a high impact collision involving significant momentum occurs, total ejection is most common.  In those cases, the injuries that result are usually quite serious.  These injuries often include broken bones, concussions, traumatic brain injuries, torn ligaments or muscles, loss of limbs, paralysis or death. If you or a loved one has suffered these types of injuries following an ejectment, contact your Joplin car accident lawyer. Ejection injuries especially common in children As compared to adults, children are at a much higher risk of death in serious car accidents, especially when they are ejected. A child less than four years old typically has the highest fatality rate. Most often, children suffer traumatic spinal injuries as a result of the failure to use a car or booster seats or to use them properly. The best advice is to buckle up It may seem obvious but the best way to avoid, or at least significantly reduce, the risk of ejection injuries is to always wear your seat belt and secure children in appropriate car seats. However, it doesn’t end there.  You should also perform a routine assessment of child seat installation to ensure it is properly put in. Also be aware of potential recalls of your particular car seat and pay attention to the seats expiration date. How much can you recover for damages? 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 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. If you have questions regarding car accidents or any other personal injury issues in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation, either online or by calling toll-free at (888) 433-4861.

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Car Accidents

Mistakes to Avoid After Being in an Accident

If you have been involved in a car accident, contacting one of the Rogers accident attorneys 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. Don’t say too much 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 your car 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 acts 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 do 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 your car accident attorney do the talking. Be careful of settling too soon for too little Another common mistake in car accident cases is settling to 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.  Rogers accident attorneys know when to reject a settlement offer and how to negotiate for the compensation you deserve. Don’t sign any waivers before you talk to your Rogers accident attorneys 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 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 you 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 your attorney first and let them review the waiver or release.  Once you sign, it’s too late. Provide accurate information on the accident claim form 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 Rogers accident attorneys help you with your claim. Be sure to file your insurance claim in time Possibly a worse mistake 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 you can expect to 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 monetarily.  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 recover to which you may be entitled depends on many factors.  Rogers accident attorneys can help you with these and other issues following a car accident. If you have questions regarding car accidents, or any other personal injury concerns in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a consultation, either online or by calling us as (888) 433-4861.

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Car Accidents

The Danger of Traumatic Brain Injury Following a Car Accident

The majority of reported traumatic brain injuries are caused by car accidents.  Traumatic brain injuries are the result of some force penetrating or fracturing the skull.  For instance, in a car accident, a brain can be traumatized when an occupant’s head strikes the steering wheel or windshield.  A car accident lawyer is skilled in handling these types of cases, establishing liability and proving medical damages. Not all traumatic brain injuries leave an open wound One thing many people don’t realize is that there may not be an open wound in every traumatic brain injury.  In car accidents, the sheer force of the collision can cause the brain to collide with the internal hard bone of the skull. This happens when a moving head comes to a quick stop, but the brain continues in its movement, striking the interior of the skull. The result is often a contusion (bruising of the brain) and hemorrhage (bleeding of the brain), neither of which may be visible at the time of injury. Brain injuries from blunt trauma Blunt trauma is a more serious type of head injury that typically occurs in a car accident when a moving head strikes a stationary object such as the windshield or where the head is crushed by the roof caving in, for instance, or if the occupant is ejected from the car and strikes an object.  Blunt trauma often results in an open wound.  In blunt force trauma, the impact on the brain is different in that the impact is on the opposite side of the skull from the source of trauma. General classifications of brain injuries Brain injuries are generally classified into one of three categories: mild, moderate, or severe. The victim of a “mild” brain injury, will typically experience loss of consciousness, confusion or disorientation, but it usually lasts 30 minutes or less.  The majority of reported traumatic brain injuries are concussions or other types of mild brain injuries.   Moderate brain injuries are characterized by longer periods of unconsciousness and sometimes memory loss. Severe or catastrophic brain injuries often result in impaired cognitive functions and, possibly, comatose states. You car accident lawyer can tell you if your injury is “catastrophic” Catastrophic injuries are typically characterized by the level of devastation.  These injuries are usually so severe that they require a significant amount of medical treatment.  Often, this includes long-term hospitalization, ongoing rehabilitation, and multiple surgeries, among other things.  Catastrophic injuries frequently result in significant financial consequences, as well. What is “crashworthiness?” Crashworthiness refers to the ability of a structure to protect its occupant during impact. The “crashworthiness” of a vehicle is most commonly discussed when testing and investigating the safety of vehicles.  The criteria used in determining crashworthiness depends on certain factors, including the nature of the impact and the type of motor vehicle involved in the crash.  The legal issues surrounding liability are not really who is at fault in the accident, but whether or not the vehicle protected the occupants the way it was supposed to. Traumatic brain injuries caused by vehicle defects In many car accident cases, traumatic brain injuries are the result of some type of vehicle defect.  One recent example is sudden acceleration, where the vehicle suddenly accelerates on its own due to a manufacturing defect.  In vehicle defect cases there is usually a pre-existing defect in the vehicle which it is believed actually caused the accident to occur.  An automotive defect or defective part can include any of the following: defective seatbelts defective airbags defective seatbelts child seat failures tire failure or defective tires faulty door latches improperly designed roofs vehicle defects which lead to rollovers. It is common for these types of vehicle defects to lead to more severe injuries for the victims. Types of damages available for traumatic brain injuries It is important to contact a car accident lawyer who has the experience you need to obtain the compensation to which you are entitled. They will be better able to assist in determining who is responsible.  This means determining whether the cause of the accident was an at-fault, negligent, reckless or aggressive driver or by defective parts, defective or recalled vehicle, or vehicle design defects.  Potential damages available for traumatic brain injury claims include the cost of medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering. You may also be entitled to punitive damages, which are a special type of damages designed to punish the defendant for their reckless behavior. If you have questions regarding traumatic brain injuries, or any other personal injury concerns in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a consultation, either online or by calling us as (888) 433-4861.

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Car Accidents

Good Samaritans Can Be Liable for Car Accident Injuries

We all know the parable of the Good Samaritan, one who does what he can to help someone in need, even when they have no obligation to do so. In most cases, a Good Samaritan is a welcome sight. However, not every Good Samaritan actually accomplishes the good deeds they intend to perform. That is exactly what happened in an unfortunate turn of events that lead to a horrible car accident. As your car accident attorney can explain, Good Samaritans can also be held liable for injuries in a car accident. The story of Missouri resident Rebecca Forkey Three vehicles were traveling on an interstate in Missouri when the driver of an Acura SUV noticed another driver behaving erratically, swerving across lanes and obviously posing a threat to other motorists on the roadway. The Acura driver called 911 and reported the situation to the emergency dispatcher. The dispatcher instructed the Acura driver not to follow the erratic driver. However, the Acura driver, intending to be a Good Samaritan and protect the other drivers from the one who was apparently impaired, did not heed the dispatcher’s warning. He continued to follow the other driver for at least three minutes. Unexpectedly, the impaired driver veered toward the Acura causing the Good Samaritan to swerve to the right, which forced Rebecca Forkey’s jeep off the road. Her jeep flipped six times, finally landing upside down on the interstate. Forkey suffered catastrophic injuries Forkey suffered a spinal cord injury, fractured vertebra, punctured longs, a broken jaw and a crushed diaphragm, requiring her to be hospitalized for two months. She underwent several brain surgeries in order to relieve the pressure in her skull. Four of her vertebrae had to be fused in her neck. She is now a quadriplegic and confined to a wheelchair. The Good Samaritan’s deeds would not go unpunished The reality is, as any car accident attorney will tell you, Forkey’s injuries could have been avoided if the Acura driver had only followed the emergency dispatcher’s instructions not to pursue the impaired driver. It was determined that the driver was, indeed, under the influence of prescription drugs. The impaired driver was charged and convicted of felony DUI and reckless driving. The Acura driver was not brought up on any criminal charges, but his employer was held liable for his negligence because he was on-the-clock at the time of the accident. Lawsuit settled for $24 million against the Good Samaritan Rebecca Forkey, though a quadriplegic, continues to work hard to regain use of her hands and arms through intensive physical therapy. Nevertheless, she will likely remain permanently disabled for the rest of her life. When she brought the lawsuit in order to recover for catastrophic injuries, the case was somewhat complicated because there were several parties that could be legally responsible. In Forkey’s case, there were actually two different drivers that were negligent in some respect. The Good Samaritan driver was held responsible through his employer, under a theory of vicarious liability against the company. In this case, the lawsuit was ultimately settled for $24 million, with the help of her car accident attorney. Negligence of other drivers results in the majority of car accidents The unfortunate truth is, the largest threat on the roadway is typically other drivers. In fact, the negligence of other drivers accounts for more car accidents and more deaths than any other cause. The trouble is, there are so many different reasons why other drivers are negligent, all of which can be extremely dangerous. Understanding the three legal elements required to prove negligence Each legal claim has specific elements or facts that need to be proven in order to successfully prove negligence.  A negligence claim has three elements that must be proven.  First, you are required to establish there was a certain duty of care that was owed to the individual who was ultimately injured.  Next, you are required to show that there was a breach of that specific duty, which means the obligation was not fulfilled. That breach must have also caused the injuries being claimed in the lawsuit.  The specific injuries that were suffered must also be established with competent evidence, typically with medical records and expert testimony. If you have questions regarding car accidents, or any other personal injury concerns in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a consultation, either online or by calling us as (888) 433-4861.

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Car Accidents

Liability for Texting While Driving

It is all too common to see drivers with cell phones to their ears or looking down into their laps, most likely texting. These distracted drivers are a danger to everyone on the roadways, as well as, pedestrians near the roadways. According to some reports, drivers talking or texting on their phones while driving are involved in at least 10 percent of fatal car accidents. If you or someone you know is injured or killed in a car accident involving a texting driver, you need to speak to a car accident attorney to determine your rights. Why texting and driving is so dangerous According to Distraction.gov, the federal government website dedicated to distracted driving, reports that when a driver is texting, their eyes are off the road for, at a minimum, five seconds. So much can happen in those five seconds and oftentimes does. Consequently, each state has enacted its own laws, either limiting or prohibiting cell phone use while on the road.  An experienced car accident attorney will be familiar with the applicable laws in your case. What is “distracted driving?” The legal definition of “distracted driving” is “[a]ny activity a person engages in that has the potential to distract him or her from the primary task of driving.” There are actually three categories of activities that result in distracted driving: visual, manual and cognitive. Visual distractions occur when you take your eyes off the road, whereas manual distractions result when you take your hands off the wheel. Cognitive distractions are probably the hardest to avoid. As humans, distractions are inevitable and cannot be avoided altogether. But, eating while driving, results in all three categories of distracted driving; visual, manual and cognitive. How big of a problem is distracted driving? According to statistics published by the federal government, 3,154 people were killed, and more than 400,000 injured, in 2013 in car accidents involving distracted drivers. Twenty-year-olds have the largest proportion of drivers who are reportedly distracted, 10% of whom are involved in fatal crashes with a distracted driver. If you have been injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver, you may be able to recover damages for those injuries. If you can prove that the driver was negligent or distracted at the time the accident occurred, you will likely have a good case. If you noticed that the driver was eating or engaging in any other distracted driving behavior, such as texting, talking on the phone, applying makeup, etc., those particular details are extremely important, and should be disclosed to your personal injury attorney. Cell phone laws in Arkansas and Missouri Many state laws regarding cell phone use by drivers are based on the age of the driver. In Arkansas, drivers age 18-20 are prohibited from using a hand-held cell phone while driving. Drivers under age 18 are prohibited from using any type of cell phone while driving, even so-called hands-free. All drivers in Arkansas are banned from texting while driving. Missouri, on the other hand, only bans texting by drivers under the age of 21. Liability issues surrounding texting and driving In every situation, drivers have a legal duty to operate their motor vehicles with care. They are required to pay attention to the road, to traffic, and the presence of pedestrians. They must stay alert to changing factors, such as speed, lane changing, and the sudden moves of other drivers. Texting while driving, as one of the worst forms of distracted driving, prevents even the most competent drivers from being able to fulfill their legal duties on the roadway. When a driver is careless or negligent in texting, or otherwise using your phone while driving, that driver may be liable for damages to the injured person. Potential damages your car accident attorney can help you recover In car accidents involving texting or cell phone use, the negligent driver can be ordered to pay damages to compensate the injured party for their various losses, including the following: Medical expenses, ambulance and medical expenses Mental anguish and pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of consortium Damage to property, vehicle and body repairs, loss of personal property damaged or destroyed in the accident such as a computer, clothing, other items Incidental expenses, such as, crutches, nursing care, rental car fees, over-the-counter medications If you have questions regarding car accidents, or any other personal injury concerns in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a consultation, either online or by calling us as (888) 433-4861.

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Car Accidents

Hit and Run Accidents Explained by a Car Accident Lawyer

If someone is involved in an accident and leaves the scene, it is considered a “hit and run.”  As any car accident lawyer will tell you, hit and run can involve not just drivers and passengers, but also pedestrians and fixed objects, such as other cars.  Most states have hit and run laws that set out the consequences of hit and run accidents, and most do not depend on whether you caused the accident or not. In other words, you must stop even if you were not at fault.  In many states, a hit and run can also occur in locations other than a roadway, such as parking lots.  If you back into an unoccupied vehicle in a parking lot and fail to leave your contact information, you may be guilty of a hit and run, as well. 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. Potential legal consequences of leaving the scene of an accident There can be more serious legal consequences for leaving the scene of an accident, than merely a personal injury lawsuit.  In many states, there are also possible criminal consequences.  Being familiar with the hit and run laws in your state will make it easier to understand how to pursue your claims.  Also, in some states, a hit and run accident is considered morally reprehensible, because of the understanding we should all have of our legal responsibilities at the scene of an accident.  In those cases, punitive damages may also be available for the victim, even if the accident itself was unintentional.  If you find yourself in these situations, contact a car accident lawyer for assistance. Possible criminal consequences of a hit and run In many states, anyone who leaves the scene of an accident after causing injury or damage, may be guilty of a crime.  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 slightly more stringent 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. Phantom vehicle claims In cases, where at-fault drivers leave the scene, a unique situation arises that can affect insurance coverage, as well as the ability to obtain compensation for injuries and property damage.  If the driver leaves the scene, then determining the identity of the driver may be impossible.  If there are no witnesses who can provide information to help law enforcement find the guilty party, then you may be faced with a “phantom vehicle” claim.  Unfortunately, these types of personal injury claims are very difficult to prove. Insurance companies and phantom vehicle claims Theoretically, a hit and run case would be covered by uninsured motorist coverage, since you cannot identify the at-fault driver, so no insurance is available.  Uninsured motorist (UM) typically covers situations where the person at fault, either does not have insurance or does not have sufficient insurance, to fully compensate you for your injuries.  However, in cases of hit and run, many insurance companies will insist that, at the very least, there is some evidence of minimum physical contact with the other vehicle.  In other words, without proof of a collision, a driver could simply lose control of their own vehicle, and then make a claim for uninsured motorist coverage. How to prove a phantom vehicle claim In a phantom vehicle case, identifying witnesses to corroborate your version of the incident is crucial.  If anyone stops to help you after the accident, be sure you obtain that person’s contact information.  You will likely need to get their testimony to prove your claim.  However, when eyewitnesses are not available, you may still be successful if you remain a credible witness and you can obtain favorable testimony from an accident reconstructionist and other types of investigators. If you have questions regarding hit and run accidents, or any other personal injury concerns in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a consultation, either online or by calling us as (888) 433-4861.

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Car Accidents

Damages Following a Wrong Way Driver Car Accident

A recent and tragic car accident in Illinois highlights the dangers of head-on collisions.  As a car accident attorney can explain, an accident caused by a wrong-way driver can result in substantial 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 a car accident attorney. SUV collides with USPS Semi in head-on collision A “wrong-way driver” collision occurred on Route 83 in Illinois on August 3, 2016.   The crash involved a United States Postal Service (USPS) semi tractor-trailer which collided with a SUV that had crossed into the opposing lane of traffic.  Unfortunately, the driver of the SUV needed to be extricated from the vehicle, which took 40 minutes.  The driver was in critical condition and flown to a nearby hospital for treatment.  The driver of the USPS semi was also taken to a hospital for but he was in good condition. Damages in Car 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. How much can you recover for damages? 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 real purpose of a damages award  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 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 car accidents, or any other personal injury concerns in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a consultation, either online or by calling us as (888) 433-4861.

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