Car accidents can be life-altering events, causing immense physical, emotional, and financial hardships for those involved. In the aftermath of a car crash, understanding your rights and legal options becomes crucial, particularly when seeking compensation for your injuries and losses. In Arkansas, navigating personal injury lawsuits can be challenging without the right knowledge and guidance.
When dealing with the aftermath of a car accident, seeking professional legal representation is often a wise decision. An experienced attorney can deal with insurance companies on your behalf (whether the other driver’s insurer or your own), counter unfair settlement offers, and advocate for your best interests. However, gaining a clear understanding of the claims process can provide you with peace of mind before you even make that call to your insurance agency.
Understanding Car Accident Laws in Arkansas
In Arkansas, specific laws govern the rights and responsibilities of individuals involved in motor vehicle collisions, and understanding these laws is crucial for accident victims seeking maximum compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and other compensatory damages.
Arkansas follows a fault-based system for car accidents, meaning that the party at fault for the accident is responsible for covering the resulting damages. Determining fault requires a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding the accident.
Arkansas law requires all drivers to carry a minimum amount of liability coverage in their insurance policies. These minimum requirements include $25,000 per person for bodily injury, $50,000 per accident for bodily injury, and $25,000 per accident for property damage. Failure to maintain insurance coverage can result in penalties and potential liability in the event of an accident.
State law also mandates that insurance companies must provide uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage unless it is explicitly rejected in writing by the insured. This coverage protects individuals if they are involved in an accident with a driver who is either uninsured or has inadequate insurance coverage.
In an Arkansas car accident claim, you can seek various types of compensatory damages for the losses and injuries you have suffered. The specific damages you may be eligible to seek will depend on the details of your case, but the most common types include:
- Medical Expenses: This includes the costs of medical treatment, hospitalization, surgeries, prescription medications, rehabilitation, therapy, and any other necessary medical services.
- Vehicle Damage: You can seek compensation for the repair or replacement of your damaged vehicle or any other personal property that was damaged in the accident.
- Loss of Income: If severe injuries result in missed work or the inability to perform your job duties, you can seek compensation for the wages you would have earned during that time. This includes both past and future lost wages.
- Pain and Suffering: Non-economic damages, such as physical pain, emotional distress, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life, can be sought to compensate for the intangible hardships and suffering caused by the accident.
- Permanent Disability or Disfigurement: If the accident results in a permanent disability or disfigurement that affects your ability to lead a normal life or impacts your appearance, you may be eligible to seek damages for the long-term consequences of your accident injuries.
- Punitive Damages: If the actions of the at-fault party were particularly reckless or intentional (i.e., DUI, going several miles over the speed limit), punitive damages may be awarded. These damages are meant to punish the responsible party and deter similar behavior in the future.
It’s important to note that the specific damages and their amounts can vary greatly depending on the individual circumstances of each case. Consulting with an experienced car accident attorney will help determine which damages you may be eligible to pursue and ensure that your claim accurately reflects the full extent of your losses.
The Modified Comparative Fault Rule
Arkansas follows a fault-based system when it comes to traffic accidents. This means that the party responsible for causing the accident is typically held liable for the resulting damages. However, Arkansas also applies the comparative fault rule, which determines the degree of fault for each party involved.
Under the modified comparative fault rule, the compensation you receive may be reduced by your share of fault. For example, if you are found to be 20% at fault for the accident, your total insurance settlement or court award would be reduced by 20%. As long as you are less than 50% responsible, compensation can still be recovered. However, if your share of fault is 50% or more, you may be barred from pursuing damages.
This reality is one of the reasons why you should file your accident claim with help from an Arkansas personal injury lawyer. Insurance companies will grasp any opportunity to increase your liability to the point where they are no longer obliged to compensate you, which means that anything you say can be used against you later. An experienced lawyer will deter any effort to deny you the maximum compensation you are rightfully entitled to.
Statute of Limitations for Filing a Car Accident Claim
The statute of limitations for a car accident in Arkansas is three years. This means that when you’ve been in an accident, you have three years from the date of the accident to file your personal injury claim. Once the three years have passed, if you have not filed a claim, you no longer have the option to do so. This is why it is best to begin the process as soon after the accident as possible.
The Legal Process of Car Accident Lawsuits
In Arkansas, car accident lawsuits involve several important steps and considerations, and understanding them is essential for anyone seeking to pursue a legal claim after a collision.
Initial Steps to Take After a Car Accident
The following steps should be taken immediately after a car accident to ensure your safety, address any injuries, and initiate the legal process.
- Ensure Safety and Seek Medical Care: The well-being of everyone involved is the top priority. If it is safe to do so, move your vehicle to the side of the road to prevent further auto accidents or blockages. Check yourself and others for injuries and call emergency services if medical attention is needed. Even if you believe you only sustained minor injuries, seek a medical evaluation, as some accident injuries may not be immediately apparent.
- Report the Accident to Law Enforcement: It is important to report the accident to the appropriate authorities, usually the local police department or the Arkansas State Police, depending on the location and severity of the accident. They will arrive at the scene, document the incident, gather information from all parties involved, and create an official accident report. This report can serve as crucial evidence when filing an insurance claim or pursuing legal action.
- Notify Your Insurer: Contact your insurance company as soon as possible to report the accident. Provide them with accurate and detailed information about the incident. Be prepared to provide the date, time, and location of the accident, as well as the contact information of the other driver(s) involved. It is important to notify your insurance company even if you believe the accident was not your fault.
Filing Insurance Claims for Car Damage
When you call your insurer, you will need to provide the following information:
- Your name as it appears on the policy
- Your policy number
- Your policy’s start and end date
- The location of the accident
- The date and time of the accident
- The names and contact information of all drivers involved as well as their (and your) passengers
- The names and contact information of all witnesses
- Driver’s license and license plate numbers for all at-fault drivers
- Police report number
- If you or anyone else was hurt and if anyone sought medical care
- If there was any property damage
Your insurance company may also request a sworn statement detailing the incident, including factors such as time of day, road conditions, visibility, weather, and other relevant driving conditions.
It is important to neither admit nor deny fault when dealing with insurance adjusters. Fault determination requires professional investigation, and premature admission of fault can harm your chances of receiving fair compensation, while outright denial may hinder the negotiation process. It is prudent to allow the investigative process to unfold and seek advice from legal experts before making any statements regarding fault.
After Your Insurance Claim is Filed
Once the claim is filed, the insurance company will begin its own investigation to determine who was at fault. This means that if another driver was involved in the accident, their insurance company will also be conducting an investigation – even if that driver was deemed to be at fault and ticketed.
If the insurance company finds that the insured contributed to the accident in part, it often presents a settlement offer. Sometimes they will assert that their insured was not at fault and refuse to pay – that’s a great time to get an experienced attorney to take your case. Don’t jump on the first offer. If you are considering an offer, you want to ensure it covers all your expenses. A personal injury attorney can help you distinguish an unfair, lowball settlement offer from a legitimate one.
Most cases settle before they ever reach the trial stage. This means that both parties involved, along with their legal representatives, negotiate and agree upon a resolution that satisfies their respective interests. These accident settlements are reached through discussions, negotiations, and sometimes mediation sessions, allowing the parties to avoid the formalities and uncertainties of a courtroom trial.
Car Accident Insurance Claim Time Frame
Under Arkansas insurance laws, an insurance carrier is required to acknowledge a claim within 15 business days from the date of receipt. They must place a detailed note in the file if the acknowledgment is not in writing.
- Within 20 days of receiving a claim, the insurance carrier must provide the claimant with proof of loss forms and instructions. They must provide any information or requests for information in a timely manner.
- Under state law, they must also acknowledge and respond to any communications that would reasonably require a response. The time frame for that response is within 15 business days of receiving the communication.
- The insurance company must complete its investigation within 45 calendar days of the date the claim was filed. Should they be unable to complete the investigation within the prescribed time, they should inform the claimant before the deadline and provide a reason for needing an extension.
Once the insurance company receives a properly completed proof of loss, they have 15 days to inform the claimant that they accept or deny the claim. After the investigation closes, the carrier must deliver or mail all claims checks within 10 days of that date.
How an Arkansas Car Accident Lawyer Can Help Your Case
Although you are not obligated to do so, hiring an attorney for an Arkansas car accident claim can provide numerous benefits and significantly impact the outcome of your case. Here are some key advantages of seeking legal representation:
- Legal Expertise and Experience: Car accident attorneys specialize in personal injury law and have extensive knowledge and experience handling cases similar to yours. They understand the complexities of Arkansas car accident laws, legal procedures, and insurance practices. This expertise allows them to provide valuable guidance, assess the strength of your case, and develop effective legal strategies tailored to your specific circumstances.
- Maximizing Compensation: An attorney’s primary objective is to protect your interests and maximize your financial compensation. They will meticulously evaluate your damages, including medical bills, hospital bills, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering. By leveraging their negotiation skills, legal expertise, and understanding of insurance tactics, they can advocate for fair and comprehensive compensation on your behalf. They will also ensure that you do not inadvertently settle for less than you deserve.
- Investigation and Gathering Evidence: Car accident attorneys have the resources and professional networks necessary to conduct thorough investigations into your accident. They will gather evidence, including accident reports, witness statements, photographs, medical records, and expert opinions, to build a strong case. This comprehensive evidence collection strengthens your position during negotiations or if your case goes to trial.
- Handling Communication and Legal Procedures: Dealing with insurance companies and their adjusters can be challenging. Attorneys act as your advocate, handling all communication with insurance companies and their representatives. They will protect you from potential missteps or statements that may be used against you. Additionally, they navigate the legal procedures, including filing paperwork, meeting deadlines, and ensuring compliance with court rules, alleviating the burden and complexity of the legal process.
- Trial Representation, if Necessary: While most car accident cases settle out of court, some may require litigation. In such instances, having an attorney by your side provides significant advantages. They will represent you in court, present your case before a judge and jury, cross-examine witnesses, and argue on your behalf. Their courtroom experience and advocacy skills increase your chances of a favorable outcome if your case proceeds to trial.
How Do You Choose the Right Car Accident Lawyer?
Choosing the right auto accident lawyer is a crucial step in ensuring effective representation and a favorable outcome for your case. Here are some factors to consider when interviewing attorneys:
- Experience: Look for a lawyer with specific experience in handling car accident cases. Consider their track record in successfully resolving similar cases and their knowledge of Arkansas car accident laws.
- Reputation and Reviews: Research the lawyer’s (and the law firm’s) reputation and read reviews or testimonials from previous clients. This can give you insights into their professionalism, communication skills, responsiveness, and overall client satisfaction. Trusted recommendations from friends, family, or other legal professionals can also be valuable in assessing an auto accident lawyer’s reputation.
- Resources and Team: Consider the resources available to the lawyer and their firm. A well-established firm with a dedicated team can provide additional support in investigating your case, gathering evidence, and building a strong legal strategy. A lawyer with a robust network of experts, such as accident reconstruction specialists or medical professionals, can also enhance the strength of your case.
- Communication and Personalized Attention: Effective communication is crucial throughout the legal process. Choose a lawyer who is accessible, responsive, and willing to provide updates on your case. They should actively listen to your concerns and answer your questions promptly. Personalized attention ensures that your specific needs and goals are understood and addressed effectively.
- Compatibility and Trust: Trust your instincts and assess whether you feel comfortable working with the lawyer. You will be sharing personal information and relying on their guidance, so it’s essential to establish a good rapport and trust their judgment. A lawyer who genuinely listens, respects your input, and values your concerns can foster a positive attorney-client relationship.
Choosing the right car accident lawyer requires careful consideration of these factors. Take your time to conduct research, compare options, and consult with multiple attorneys before making a final decision. Remember, selecting the right lawyer can greatly impact the outcome of your case and your overall experience throughout the legal process.
Questions? Get a Free Consultation From an Arkansas Car Accident Lawyer
At the Law Offices of Alan LeVar, we are here to provide you with the skilled legal guidance and representation you need. With years of experience in handling car accident cases in Arkansas, we are thoroughly familiar with the laws, court processes, and strategies necessary to secure the compensation you deserve.
If you or your loved one has been injured in a car accident, don’t hesitate to reach out to our law firm for a free consultation. Our legal team is ready to listen to your story, evaluate your case, and provide personalized legal advice. Remember, time is of the essence, so call the Law Offices of Alan LeVar today at (888) 536-6615 to protect your rights and seek the justice you deserve.