Personal Injury

Is Missouri a No-Fault State?

Missouri is not a no-fault state. Under the Missouri car insurance claim laws, injury accident victims can recover compensation from the party who caused their damages. You may successfully recover compensation even if you had partial fault for the collision. Most injury accident victims recover damages through a settlement with the at-fault party’s insurance company. In some cases, however, you may have to file a lawsuit in civil court. Either way, you could recover damages for your lost income, pain and suffering, medical treatment, and other damages. If you sustained injuries in a motor vehicle collision, consider seeking assistance from an experienced lawyer. The Missouri car accident attorneys at the Cottrell Law Office fight to protect your legal rights and get the justice you deserve. Contact us now to explore your options for pursuing legal action. Missouri: No-Fault State or Tort (At-Fault) State? Missouri is not a no-fault state with regard to personal vehicle insurance. Our state is, instead, an at-fault or tort state. Missouri law allows accident victims to file an insurance claim with the other driver’s insurer rather than limiting them to filing a claim with their own insurer—as would be the case in a no-fault state. It is important to be aware of Missouri’s co-called “no pay, no play” law. Under this law, victims cannot recover non-economic damages from the at-fault party (in most cases), unless the victim had valid liability insurance at the time of the accident. The exceptions to this law are as follows: If the at-fault party was driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol; or If the victim’s liability insurer canceled the policy without adequate notice. The best way to determine how Missouri’s no-fault insurance laws affect your potential claim’s value is to speak with an experienced car accident lawyer. What Is Missouri No-Fault Insurance? In Missouri, no-fault insurance is not legally required. No-fault insurance, required only in no-fault states, pays for an accident victim’s medical treatment no matter who caused the collision. In a no-fault state, injury accident victims cannot pursue a claim through another driver’s insurance unless the victim’s damages exceed the coverage limits. At that point, the victim can attempt to pursue a claim through the other driver’s policy but must prove their claim. What If I Also Had Fault for a Missouri Car Accident? The comparative fault aspect of Missouri’s insurance laws allow injury victims to pursue compensation from the other party’s auto insurance even if the victim shared blame for the collision. Even if you had partial fault for a collision, you can pursue damages from the other party in proportion to your degree of responsibility. For example, if you sustained $100,000 in damages but had 25% fault for the accident, your award would be reduced to $75,000. Contact a Missouri Car Accident Attorney Today The personal injury attorneys of the Cottrell Law Office understand the complex Missouri car insurance laws. We offer a free case review and consultation to help you explore your options for pursuing a legal claim. You are not legally required to hire an attorney to handle your case. However, working with our firm can maximize your recovery and help you get the justice you deserve. Call 855-520-8801 or contact us online to speak to one of our experienced attorneys regarding the Missouri car insurance claim laws.

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Personal Injury

Is Arkansas a No-Fault State?

One of the most common questions Arkansas drivers have is whether Arkansas is a no-fault insurance state. The short answer is that Arkansas is not a no-fault state. Arkansas requires insurance companies to offer no-fault insurance as an add-on. But it is not a no-fault state because it does not limit your ability to sue an at-fault driver following an accident. If you’ve suffered an injury in an Arkansas car accident, it’s important to consult with an experienced Arkansas car accident attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can help you understand Arkansas’s auto insurance laws and fight for the compensation you deserve. We’ll take care of everything else. Submit the short form below to schedule a consultation. What’s the Difference Between Fault and No-Fault Insurance? There is no federal car insurance statute. Because of this, each state has its own car insurance laws. Still, many state insurance laws are similar to one another. The main difference between states’ car insurance laws is whether they are ”fault” or “no-fault.” Fault Insurance A majority of states (38 out of 50) are considered fault states. In a fault state, the person who is at fault for an accident is liable for the damages. Fault liability rules are often called traditional tort liability rules: “You break it, you buy it”. For example, if you are stopped at a red light and rear-end someone who is stopped at a red light, you will probably be held responsible for the damages since it was most likely your fault. No-Fault Insurance Unlike fault or tort liability insurance rules, in a no-fault system a driver who suffers damages must file a claim with their own insurance company. It is not relevant who is at fault or acted negligently to cause damages. Further, no-fault rules limit an injured party’s ability to sue for damages. No-fault systems are associated with higher insurance premiums than fault systems. The higher cost of insurance is probably one of the reasons why Arkansas is not a no-fault state. Arkansas Car Insurance Requirements Arkansas requires drivers to have car insurance that meets certain standards. The essential requirement is that a car insurance policy must cover a minimum of $25,000 for personal injury in an accident and an additional $25,000 for property damage. In addition, insurance companies are required to offer personal injury protection (PIP) and uninsured motorist insurance. PIP benefits cover medical costs, lost wages, and death benefits. Uninsured motorist insurance covers you and your passengers if you are hit by someone who does not have the required insurance. While PIP and uninsured motorist insurance are not mandatory add-ons, you must sign a statement rejecting them both. A statement rejecting the add-ons proves that they were offered. What to Do If You Get Hurt in an Accident If you are injured in a car accident in Arkansas and don’t need emergency medical services you should take the following steps. Following these steps will help you maintain compliance with Arkansas car insurance law and get compensation for injuries and any other damages you suffer. Stop If you are injured in a car accident, the first thing you should do is stop. If you can, you should stop your vehicle out of traffic’s way. Next, call 911. You or someone else may need emergency medical care, and an accident report should be filed with the police. If possible, exchange contact, insurance, and vehicle information with the other driver. Get home safely You should next make sure to get home safely. Have your car towed if necessary. If you are faint or dizzy, get a ride home. Once home, seek any and all medical care necessary to recover from injuries you have suffered. A sore neck may not seem like much, but it can lead to serious issues. When seeking medical care, be sure to document everything. Doing so will help the claims process immensely. Choose How to Pursue Compensation Finally, you should decide how you should receive compensation. Depending on the circumstances, you can file a claim with your insurance company; file a claim with the other driver’s, insurance company, or file a civil claim. If you’re unsure which option is best for you, call your insurance agent, they may be able to help you make a decision. Many lawyers also offer free consultations, so it can be a very wise move to contact an Arkansas lawyer right away. A lawyer can also help you determine which option is best for you. If filing a civil claim, you should always hire a lawyer. Contact Us Today If you have been injured in a car accident, it can be a very confusing, difficult time. At the Cottrell Law Office, car accident injuries are one of our primary focus areas, so we have the experience necessary to get you the compensation available under the law. Wes Cottrell can give you the attention and focus you deserve. Read our reviews of stellar service. Then, for a free consultation, contact the Cottrell Law Office today online, or call us at (800) 364-8305.

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Personal Injury

What Is the Arkansas Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims?

After suffering injuries in an accident or at the hands of another, you may be considering filing a lawsuit. Lawsuits are subject to statutes of limitations. If you are contemplating legal action, don’t wait—contact an Arkansas personal injury attorney today. We’ll take care of everything else. Submit the short form below to schedule a consultation. What Is a Statute of Limitations? A statute of limitations is a law that imposes a time restriction on your ability to file your lawsuit. Statutes of limitations apply to every kind of lawsuit. While you may be able to file your lawsuit after this clock has run, it is highly unlikely that you will be permitted to pursue your claim. The opposing party will bring the expiration of the statute of limitations to the court’s attention, and your case will be dismissed. Failing to file your lawsuit within the time allotted will forfeit your right to damages for your losses. Arkansas Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims The general personal injury statute of limitations in Arkansas is three years from the date that the injury occurred. This statute of limitations applies to specific types of personal injury cases, including those based on car or truck accidents. Three-year statutes of limitations also apply to product liability and wrongful death cases. Medical malpractice cases, on the other hand, must be filed within two years of when the injury occurred. If you are unsure about what kind of lawsuit you may have, a qualified Arkansas personal injury attorney can evaluate your case. Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations While most statutes of limitations are two or three years, certain exceptions may qualify a person for an extension to this time constraint. Tolling Certain situations may toll, or pause, the statute of limitations. If a plaintiff is under 18, the statute of limitations will be tolled until their 18th birthday. They will then have three years—until they turn 21—to file their lawsuit. For example, if a plaintiff is 16 when their injury occurred, they will have five years—until their 21st birthday—to file their lawsuit. The Discovery Rule Arkansas follows the discovery rule. The discovery rule states that the statute of limitations will not begin until a plaintiff discovers their injury. Injuries do not always show themselves right after an accident. Some injuries take some time to surface. Once your injuries are evident, the statute of limitations will begin. Hire an Attorney Today The statute of limitations should give you the time you need to file your personal injury lawsuit after suffering your injuries, but you will need to act promptly. The best way to ensure that your lawsuit goes through without issue is consulting a personal injury attorney. The Cottrell Law Office has over three decades of experience helping clients that have suffered injuries. Wesley Cottrell prides himself on offering clients compassion, personal attention, and high-quality legal representation. Put our knowledge, passion, and determination to the test. Call our law office today at (800) 364-8305, or contact us online, and let’s see how we can help you.

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Personal Injury

Is There An Alternative to Trial in Missouri?

Most people assume that having a trial before a jury is the ultimate goal of a lawsuit.  But lawsuits can be resolved in many ways, without ever reaching a jury. In fact, early resolution, through an alternative to trial, may lead to a more successful outcome. There are several different methods of resolving a legal dispute, short of going to trial. These methods are collectively referred to as “alternative dispute resolution.” What Types of Alternative Dispute Resolution Are There? The term “alternative dispute resolution” generally refers to any method of resolving a legal dispute other than through litigation. The three most commonly used methods of alternative dispute resolution are negotiation, mediation and arbitration.  Other examples are neutral evaluation and conciliation. Negotiation Is the Most Commonly Used Alternative To Trial Negotiation allows the parties to get together and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their respective cases in an effort to settle their disputes.One of the primary benefits of private negotiation is that the parties retain the ability to control the entire process and the terms of any possible solution. In civil lawsuits, such as personal injury claims, settlement occurs when the defendant agrees to some or all of the plaintiff’s claims and agrees to pay the plaintiff some type of compensation. The settlement is a popular choice for many reasons, the most common being the opportunity to avoid the high cost of litigation. Trials in Missouri are often very expensive. Mediation As an Alternative to Trial Mediation is also an informal alternative to trial. Mediation is similar to negotiation, in that the goal and possible outcomes are primarily the same. However, with mediation, a neutral party serves as a “mediator” to facilitate the conversations between the parties. Mediators are individuals trained in negotiations, who bring opposing parties together and attempt to work out a settlement or agreement that both parties accept or reject. While most mediation programs are completely voluntary, some courts have begun to make mediation a mandatory part of the litigation process. Arbitration Is an Alternative More Similar to Trial Arbitration is essentially a simplified version of a trial.  The main difference is the absence of a jury of your peers to decide your case. Actually, arbitration is most similar to a bench trial, where a judge decides the merits of the case.  Arbitration allows for only limited discovery and more simplified rules of evidence. An arbitrator serves as the decision-maker on the merits of the dispute.The decision made by the arbitrator is binding. Why Would I consider an Alternative to Trial in Missouri? Although the right to a jury trial is fundamental, there can still be disadvantages to going that route. Again, jury trials can be expensive and very time-consuming. Depending on the court and the nature and complexity of the claims, a jury trial can last days, weeks, or months. One of the biggest concerns that most attorneys have with juries is their unpredictability. Juries are heavily influenced by the personalities of the people who make up each individual jury. There is very little that the parties to a lawsuit can do to guard against the negative influence a particular juror or set of jurors can have on the outcome of the case. All it takes is 1 or 2 strong personalities to shift the verdict. If you have questions regarding automobile accidents or any other Missouri personal injury concerns, please contact the Cottrell Law Office by calling us at (888) 433-4861.

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Personal Injury

What Is the Missouri Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims?

Missouri courts set specific deadlines or statutes of limitations for filing a personal injury claim. You must understand and carefully follow these deadlines so you can file a claim for your injuries. Contact a qualified Missouri personal injury attorney to help you understand the requirements and recover the compensation you deserve.   We’ll take care of everything else. Submit the short form below to schedule a consultation. What is a Statute of Limitations? The statute of limitations is a deadline set by the legislature to file a legal claim.Statutes of limitations differ depending on the nature of the case, and statutes of limitations differ by state.Each state sets specific rules for calculating the statute of limitations, including: When the clock starts ticking, When a court may extend a statute of limitations, and Exceptions to the deadlines. Missouri courts strictly enforce statutes of limitations. If you fail to meet the deadline, you will lose the right to pursue your legal claim. Missouri Personal Injury Statute of Limitations Under Missouri Code section 516.120, a person typically has five years from the date of the incident to file a personal injury claim. This means that you must begin a lawsuit by filing an initial complaint with the relevant court within the five-year limitations period. A personal injury statute of limitations clock begins to run when you discover the injury.Missouri statutes of limitations can be difficult to calculate. For example, a legal concept called tolling allows you to pause the clock and potentially extend the statute of limitations deadline.However, tolling and other exceptions apply only in specific circumstances. A qualified Missouri personal injury lawyer can help you accurately calculate your statute of limitations to ensure you meet the appropriate deadline. What Happens If I Miss the Statute of Limitations Deadline? Missouri courts strictly enforce statutes of limitations.If you fail to initiate your claim within the required time frame, the court may dismiss your claim immediately. Statutes of limitations deadlines are also important during settlement negotiations. If you miss your deadline, the other parties in your case may refuse to negotiate or settle because you no longer have a viable legal claim. Exceptions to the Missouri Personal Injury Statute of Limitations While typically you must file a personal injury claim within five years after discovering an injury, some exceptions apply.Missouri law allows a plaintiff to delay the statute of limitations deadline when: The injured person is less than 21 years old at the time of the injury, or The injured person is mentally incapacitated. Additionally, if the person responsible for your injuries leaves the state after the incident, you may be able to delay the deadline for the length of time the defendant was out of the state.Finally, if a government agency or employee is involved in your claim, you must file your personal injury claim within 90 days of the incident.Failing to understand these exceptions and the other statute of limitations rules can prevent you from receiving compensation for your claim. Contact a Qualified Missouri Personal Injury Attorney Today Properly following statutes of limitations and other court rules will help ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. The experienced attorneys at Cottrell Law Office have extensive experience handling Missouri personal injury claims. Our attorneys have the knowledge and experience to handle personal injury claims successfully. Our dedicated staff will answer all of your questions and help you every step of the way.For a free consultation, call our office at (800) 998-5294 or fill out our online form today.

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Personal Injury

Is My Personal Injury Settlement Taxable?

Anyone who has been injured through someone’s negligence may be entitled to receive compensation, typically in one or two ways. Either you can settle the matter outside of court or you can file a lawsuit and obtain a legal judgment through the court system. Generally speaking, jury awards in civil lawsuits result in more substantial recovery than a settlement. However, a favorable jury verdict is not always guaranteed.For that reason, as a personal injury lawyer in Joplin can attest, the majority of personal injury claims settle before trial. But the question is whether that settlement will be taxable. When Does an Injury Settlement Occur? On the whole, a personal injury settlement will only occur when either the defendant or the defendant’s insurance carrier makes an offer of payment, but only before liability has been established. The offer of settlement can be made before the lawsuit is filed or after the lawsuit has been filed.  A settlement can occur before the court dismisses the case. A case could even be settled right before or during the trial, as long as the jury has not yet returned a verdict. In fact, in some cases, an injury settlement can be reached while the jury is deliberating. What Happens After a Settlement? As any personal injury lawyer in Joplin has experienced, only a small percentage of personal injury cases are tried to a verdict. Once you accept the settlement offer and the defendant has been notified, you just need to wait to receive the settlement proceeds. A common question that many clients ask is whether their settlement award will be subject to personal income taxes. The answer to that question depends on a few factors. Compensation for a Physical Injury is not Taxable Generally speaking, settlement proceeds received from a typical personal injury claim are not subject to either federal or state taxes. That is true regardless of whether you settle the case before or after filing a lawsuit or if you went to trial. Under Federal tax law, damages received as a result of personal physical injury or illness are excluded from the gross income of the taxpayer. Damage Awards Related to Personal Injury are Also Excluded In addition, damages meant to compensate for lost wages, medical bills, emotional distress, pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and attorney fees are also not taxable, but only if they relate to a claim for personal injury or illness. Exceptions to the Rule Even if you suffer a physical injury or illness, you can be taxed on any damages that relate to a breach of contract if it as the breach of contract that is the basis of your lawsuit and caused your injury. Also, punitive damages are always taxable. For that reason, a personal injury lawyer in Joplin will typically ask the court or jury to separate the verdict into compensatory damages and punitive damages. That way, it will be easier to demonstrate to the IRS that portion of the award was untaxable for the compensatory damages. Interest Accrued on a Judgment is Taxable In some cases, you may also be awarded interest on a judgment for the length of time the case has been pending. The interest that is earned on the judgment is taxable. For instance, if your lawsuit was filed on January 1, 2017, you could be awarded interest on the judgment starting from that date and continuing until the judgment is paid. This can be significant if the case is appealed, for example.  All of the tax that accrues is taxable. Claims for Emotional Injury Only are Taxable Considering the rule that a settlement or judgment is only non-taxable if it arises from a physical injury or illness if your claim is only based on emotional distress or employment discrimination for instance, but no actual physical injury, then your settlement or judgment would be taxable. A Personal Injury Lawyer in Joplin, MO Can Help Ensure Your Award is Not Taxed In many personal injury cases, there may be more than one claim against the defendant. That would result in a portion of the award being taxable and the other portion being non-taxable. As a personal injury lawyer in Joplin understands, it is important to explicitly state in the settlement agreement that the awards for the two different types of claims need to be kept separate. Although the IRS may challenge your claim that the settlement or judgment is non-taxable, when you specifically allocating your settlement in this way, you will have the best chance of keeping most of the settlement excluded from taxation. If you have questions regarding taxation of personal injury awards, or any other personal injury issues in Missouri or Arkansas, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation, either online or by calling toll-free at (800) 364-8305.

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Personal Injury

Calculating Future Earnings

In personal injury cases, the purpose of awarding damages is to compensate the victim(s) for any losses that result from the injuries. Losses can come in many different varieties. Expenses that are a direct result of the incident include things like medical bills and lost wages during the time of recovery. These types of damages are easy to calculate because the victims receive bills for medical expenses, and can obtain work attendance records to establish time lost at work. However, there are more indirect damages, as well, that really only occur in the future, such as future earnings lost by the inability to continue working. Calculating future earnings can be a real challenge. What is Future Loss of Earnings? Future loss of earnings simply refers to recovery for the reduction in the plaintiff’s ability to earn money, as a result of his or her injuries.  This type of damage is awarded in cases where the injuries have permanently limited the plaintiff’s ability to earn wages, either partially or completely. Future loss of earnings is also referred to as “loss of future earning capacity” or “impairment of earning power”. Determining Future Earnings Future earnings can include more than just future lost pay checks. They can also include loss of pension and retirement benefits, if applicable in your personal injury case.  Calculating future benefits can be even trickier than simple future wages. Because most victims want to be compensated now, future damages must be first calculated, and then reduced to their “present value.” The important thing to remember is that awards for loss of future earnings are based on the person’s potential to make money, even if they have never actually exercised that potential. What Does Present Value Mean? The value of future damages must be converted into their value based on today’s dollar. What does that mean? Consider that 20 years ago, a dollar could buy much more than it does today. Therefore, 20 years from now, the same dollar will buy a lot less than it does today. Court’s use the “present value” in order to prevent overcompensation. A calculation of present value takes into account interest rates, inflation and other economic indicators. How Is Lost Earning Capacity Calculated After an Accident? It may be surprising, but future loss of earnings is not calculated based on the injured party’s actual earnings, but instead on the person’s ability to earn money. The court estimates the earning capacity before the injury, compares it to the reduced earning capacity that has resulted from the injuries.  The damages award is then issued based on the difference in “potential earning power.” Also, the fact that the plaintiff was not completely disabled due to the injury will not prevent or reduce their claim for future loss of earnings. However, the award may be reduced completely barred if the person had contributed in some way to their own injuries. Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer? If you have incurred an injury that you believe has impaired your ability to earn wages in the future, it is possible for you to recover those future losses. The laws regarding damages for future loss of earnings can vary from one state to the next. For instance, recovery may be limited if the victim contributed in some way to his or her own injury, or there was a pre-existing injury or condition involved.  It would be wise to consult a personal injury attorney to assist you in making sure you receive all of the compensation to which you are entitled. Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney for Help If you have questions regarding future damages, or any other personal injury issues, give our injury lawyers a call at (800) 364-8305 or send an online message.

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Personal Injury

Proving Loss of Income Claims in Rogers, Arkansas

When someone has been injured, as a result of the negligence or recklessness of someone else, there is a potential for recovery of loss of income. Loss of income and loss of earning capacity are both potential elements of damage in a personal injury case. Proving loss of income can sometimes be tricky, and establishing a loss of earning capacity can be even more difficult. However, an experienced Rogers, AR personal injury attorney will have the expertise to find and present the evidence you need to support your claim. Loss of Income vs. Loss of Earning Capacity Loss of income is not the same as loss of earning capacity. Loss of income means exactly that — loss of actual income. Whereas loss of earning capacity refers to the income you could have earned had you not suffered an injury. The distinction may seem subtle, but these are entirely different legal concepts. While you may be able to prove a loss of income, you may not have a claim for lost earning capacity. Regardless, it is wise to claim both so that you don’t unintentionally limit your recovery by claiming the wrong type of damage. How to Prove Loss of Income Loss of income generally covers only “past” losses, up through the date of trial or settlement. Specifically, lost income or lost wages are determined by the amount of money you are paid for the work you do. Proof of this amount can easily be established through your pay stubs or your employer’s payroll records. Along with your payroll records, you would need documentation from your employer regarding the days you were absent as a result of the injuries you suffered. You may also be entitled to recover for lost compensation, which includes the additional financial benefits of your employment. For example, lost compensation can include sick days, vacation days, pay bonuses, and other employment perks. Discuss these other possibilities with your personal injury attorney. How to Prove Loss of Earning Capacity Although the loss of earning capacity claims cover past losses, they also cover future losses. The first element that must be shown is that some aspect of your physical injury affects your earning ability. There are several factors that are considered in establishing a loss of earning capacity, which include the following: Stamina; Weakness and degenerative injury resulting from the injury; Ability to work with pain; and Remaining efficiency. In many cases, actual lost earnings are sufficient proof to establish the amount of future lost earnings. Use of Experts to Determine Future Earning Capacity Proving this element of your damages can be complicated and often requires the coordinated efforts of a medical doctor, a vocational rehabilitation expert, and an economist. The medical doctor is required to describe your medical limitations and how long those limitations are expected to last. The vocational rehabilitation specialist then combines those limitations with the results of your vocation testing and predicts the highest paying job you would be able to hold. The specialist will also estimate your expected pay in that job, had you not been disabled. Finally, the economist reduces these future lost wages to the current fair market value. Ultimately, a prediction can be made, to a reasonable certainty using the best evidence available, as to the monetary value of your future losses. Contact a Missouri and Arkansas Personal Injury Lawyer for Assistance If you have questions regarding personal injury damages, or any other personal injury issues, call the Cottrell Law Office at (800) 364-8305 or submit an online form to schedule a free case consultation.

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Personal Injury

Can a Personal Injury Law Firm Help Me Settle My Claims?

For those who have been injured as a result of a third-party’s negligence, there are two methods for being compensated for your injuries.  You can sue and obtain a judgment from the court or you can settle the case out of court.  Although a jury verdict in a civil lawsuit more often results in a higher damages award, you can never be guaranteed that the jury will find in your favor.  In other words, there is always the possibility that you could lose. That is one reason that most personal injury cases settle before trial.  If you want to explore that option, a personal injury law firm can help. Can I Settle After I File My Lawsuit? It is more common for settlement to occur when either the insurance carrier or the defendant makes an offer of payment before liability has been established.  An offer of settlement can be made before the lawsuit is filed. It can also be made after the lawsuit has been filed, but before the case goes to trial. A settlement can occur virtually at any point before a jury verdict, or before the court enters an order dismissing the case.  In some cases, a settlement can even be reached while the jury is deliberating. Companies Often Want to Keep the Cases Confidential Keeping a case out of the public eye can be especially important for larger companies that have a reputation to protect. For example, if a company has produced a defective product that has only injured a few people, the company will likely opt for a quiet out-of-court settlement.  That way they can avoid the inevitable publicity of a trial. When a settlement agreement is drafted, the company will insist on terms that include a requirement of confidentiality. What Should I Expect Once Settlement is Reached? If you reach a settlement at any point, part of the terms of the settlement will be that you give up your right to pursue all potential claims against that defendant, arising out of the accident or incident. This is accomplished by signing a full release with regard to liability. For example, in an auto accident case, the auto insurance carrier might offer you $20,000 to settle the case. In order to actually receive that $20,000, you must agree to either not sue that defendant for the car accident, or to dismiss any lawsuit that is already pending regarding the car accident. Your personal injury law firm can help you with the details once a settlement has been reached. Settling with the Insurance Company The majority of personal injury cases involve some form of insurance coverage.  In many cases, the insurance company will offer a settlement early on, after the claim has been filed.  The purpose of insurance is to pay out in situations where a legal claim could be made.  Insurance companies have the money to pay out to resolve claims.  In fact, they expect to pay out on many claims.  Settling is often preferred when insurance companies are involved because, by settling, they can control the costs, including legal fees, and they don’t have to deal with a jury. Why Do Most Personal Injury Cases Settle? Settlement provides defendants a way to control the financial risk they face, and to avoid legal costs which can be substantial.  Settlement also allows defendants to keep the legal issues raised in the lawsuit out of the public eye.  For businesses, that can be very important.  Settlement can also be a way to avoid the time involved in a protracted trial. Trials can last for months, if not years; even longer if there is an appeal.  For a plaintiff who has been injured and likely needs income, an early settlement would be very appealing. No matter how good your case may seem, whenever the case is filed in court there is always a chance that you might lose the case and receive no compensation at all. Your personal injury law firm can share with you the strengths and weaknesses of your case and the potential benefits of settling. When Should You Accept a Small Settlement? Of course, the goal of settlement is to negotiate for the best possible amount of compensation.  However, there may be times when it makes more sense to accept a settlement that is much less than a potential recovery in court.  For example, if your chance of proving the elements of your claim in court seems very uncertain, taking a settlement might be the best strategy.  If your injuries or damages are truly insignificant, then a low settlement might actually be appropriate. In some cases, when insurance coverage is involved and the policy limits are low, that may be all that can be recovered.  Settlement for policy limits might be your best or only chance of recovery.  Even if you were able to win a larger verdict in court, you might not be able to collect. If you have questions regarding settlement 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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Personal Injury

What Happens If I Don’t File My Lawsuit in Time?

When clients ask this question, the issue is whether or not the lawsuit was filed within the applicable statute of limitations period. This is a very important concern because failing to file your lawsuit in time can mean that your claims will not only be dismissed, but you will lose your legal rights, as well. Although there are time limits established by law, determining the appropriate time limit is not always black and white. Let our Joplin personal injury attorney explain how this all works. What is the “Statute of Limitations?” There are legally established deadlines for filing nearly every type of civil claim. This time limit is referred to as the “statute of limitations.” The actual statute of limitations period will depend on the type of legal claim you are trying to bring and the state law that applies to your claim. Your Joplin personal injury attorney can help you determine the correct statute of limitations period that applies to your particular civil case, but you must bring the case to them in time. For this reason, do not delay to address your legal claims. Why is There a Statute of Limitations in Legal Cases? The basic purpose of a statute of limitations is practical in that evidence either supporting or disproving your legal claims is more likely to be destroyed over time. The same is true for the memories of relevant witnesses as they become less accurate.  For instance, in car accident cases, the scene cannot be preserved forever.  Another example is the destruction of business records as a normal course of business.  In order to preserve evidence, it is necessary to file your lawsuit as quickly as possible. What Does the “Tolling” of the Statute of Limitations Mean? Many jurisdictions “toll” the limitation period in special situations, which means the period is suspended for a certain period of time or until certain conditions are met.  For example, if the injured party is a minor, the period will be tolled until he or she reaches the age of majority in that state. If bankruptcy proceedings are involved, the time may be tolled until the bankruptcy is closed.  Equitable tolling can be applied for individuals who were intimated into not bringing the claim or who relied upon a promise that the period would be suspended.  In those case, it would be unfair or inequitable not to toll the period. What is the Discovery Rule and How Does it Work? The discovery rule also tolls or suspends the statute of limitations until an injury is or should have been discovered, depending on the situation.  The way the discovery rule works is that it effectively changes when the statute of limitations begins to run.  The discovery rule is most often applied in medical malpractice and wrongful death cases.  In those types of cases, the cause of the injury or death is not always apparent when it first occurs, due to the nature of the injury itself.  So, the statute of limitations period doesn’t start until the injury is discovered or reasonably should have been discovered.  Not every state applies the discovery rule the same way, depending on the injury and other circumstances. Missouri Statute of Limitations for Typical Claims In Missouri, plaintiffs have two years to file a lawsuit for personal injury, defamation, and medical malpractice.  The discovery statute can also apply in Missouri, for a maximum of 10 years from the date of injury.  Claims for injury to property, trespassing, and enforcement of written contracts are subject to a five-year statute of limitation. Claims of fraud, rent collection, debt collection, and judgments are all governed by a 10-year-statute of limitation. Arkansas Statute of Limitations for Typical Claims In Arkansas, most claims must be filed within three years, including personal injury, injury to property, and libel. On the other hand, the statute of limitations for slander is one year. Written contracts have a five-year statute of limitations and there is a 10-year statute of limitations for collecting judgments.  Arkansas recognizes the “discovery” exception for situations where you could not have discovered your injury until some later time. Deadlines for Filing Wrongful Death Claims Like most other legal claims, there is a deadline for filing a wrongful death lawsuit, which differs from state to state.  This deadline or time limit is commonly referred to as the “statute of limitations.” In both Missouri and Arkansas, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death action is three (3) years. Claims Against the Government are Handled Differently Arkansas has different rules when a claim is brought against a government entity.  In those cases, the statute of limitations period is five (5) years.  Likewise, in Missouri, an injury claim against a state entity must be filed with the Office of Administration’s Risk Management Division, within 90 days of the injury.  It is wise to seek the assistance of a Joplin personal injury attorney if you have a claim against a government entity. If you have questions regarding the applicable statute of limitations for your claim 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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