Do I need a lawyer? If you have suffered serious personal injury, property damage, or financial loss resulting from someone else’s negligence or intentional conduct, you need a lawyer. Even if your injuries and losses are minor and you think you may be able to negotiate a satisfactory settlement with the responsible party or their insurance carrier without legal assistance, you should consult a lawyer to help you decide on the best course to follow.
What do I need to do to protect my rights? When a catastrophic injury occurs, the last thing the family and loved ones of the injured person want to think about is a lawsuit. But, if someone else is responsible for your injuries, you must take steps to protect your legal rights to ensure that the responsible party is held accountable.
Here are some tips that we think will help:
- Preserve the Evidence – It is not uncommon for evidence to be lost or destroyed between the time an injury occurs and the time the case is presented to a jury. As soon as practicable, take photographs of the scene of the accident, the injuries, and any equipment that contributed to the accident. It is also a good idea to keep any documents, such as medical records, in a safe place for your attorneys to review and use as evidence in the litigation. Don’t allow your insurance company or the responsible party’s insurance company to dispose of your vehicle (or any other piece of equipment, for that matter) if you feel it is defective or in any way contributed to the accident. Failure to preserve evidence can be detrimental to your claim.
- Don’t Sign Anything! – Frequently, insurance representatives of the responsible party will attempt to settle claims for far less than the amount of damages sustained by the victim and will attempt to have the injured party sign a release of all claims to make the case go away. Unless you are certain that the document does not relieve you of your legal rights, do not sign anything without first having it reviewed by an attorney.
- Act Quickly – All legal claims are governed by a statute of limitations. That means they must be filed in court within a specific period. Most personal injury claims in Arkansas must be filed within 3 years of the date of accident or event that results in injury. Medical malpractice cases, as a general rule, must be filed within 2 years from the date that the wrongful act or omission which caused the injury occurred. Business disputes and breaches of contract fall under 3 or 5 year statutes. THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS TO THESE GENERAL RULES! CONSULT AN ATTORNEY AS SOON AS POSSIBLE TO DETERMINE THE EXACT AMOUNT OF TIME YOU MAY HAVE TO FILE YOUR SUIT. It is also important to act quickly because your attorney will need time to investigate your claim and to determine whether a lawsuit is likely to be successful. CLAIMS NOT FILED WITHIN THE APPLICABLE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS MAY BE FOREVER BARRED.
- Minimize Your Damages – Arkansas law requires that injured people take steps to minimize their losses. This includes, for example, going back to work as soon as you are capable of doing so or following your doctor’s treatment and rehabilitation instructions. The law does not recognize a right of recovery for losses incurred that could have been prevented by the injured person.
How long will my lawsuit take? It is very difficult to predict how long a lawsuit will take. Some cases can be resolved in a matter of months, some take years. The severity of the injuries, the complexity of the legal theories, and the volume of cases being handled by the court in which your case is filed are just some of the factors that determine how long litigation lasts. At a minimum, every client should prepare for the possibility that the case will take several years to complete.
How much is my case worth? No one can tell you exactly what your case is worth. Factors that influence the value of a case include, but are not limited to, the nature and extent of the injuries and whether they are temporary or permanent; the amount of medical expenses incurred as a result of the injury; the amount of income lost as a result of the injury; and property damage and out-of-pocket expenses resulting from the injury. Other, non-economic factors that influence the value of a case include pain and suffering, loss of services, loss of enjoyment of life, scarring and disfigurement, and emotional distress. In rare cases where the responsible party has acted maliciously or recklessly, punitive damages may be recoverable.
What is subrogation? Subrogation is the legal process by which an insurance company, after paying a loss, seeks to recover the amount of the loss from another party who is legally responsible for it. For example, if you are injured in a car wreck and you have health and hospitalization insurance, your insurance company may pay your medical bills. If you pursue a claim against another person who caused your injuries, your own insurance carrier may claim a right of reimbursement or subrogation against any money you collect from your claim against the other person. Medicare and Medicaid also have subrogation rights.
How will my attorneys be paid? We work for most of our clients on a contingency fee basis. This means that we are paid only if we are able to obtain a recovery on their behalf. Our contingency fees are usually taken as a percentage of the entire amount of the recovery. The client is responsible for the costs and expenses of the case. If no recovery is made, the clients owe no attorneys' fees. In some types of cases, we work at an agreed upon hourly rate, and, in some business cases, we work on a blended fee. All fee arrangements are agreed upon before we begin work on a case.