An unfortunate reality of the world that we live in is that accidents happen every day, including accidents that can cause serious damage and change people’s lives forever. When you or a loved one has been injured or had property damage caused due to an accident, you may wonder what resources you have to claim reimbursement for your losses and other damages from the individual who caused the accident. There is not always an easy answer to this question, and much will depend on whether the person who caused the accident did something that meets the legal definition of “negligence.”
Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law, is an Arkansas personal injury lawyer with years of experience working with clients who have been the victims of accidents to get them reimbursed and made whole again. He will analyze the specifics of your situation and determine whether he believes a successful case can be made that your injuries were the result of the actions of a negligent party. If so, our firm will help you file a lawsuit against the negligent actor and work to settle the matter in such a way as to get you the maximum possible payout for your time and suffering. Call our office today at (479) 316-0438 for a free consultation.
How Do I File a Lawsuit for Personal Injury in Arkansas?
In order to successfully prove a personal injury lawsuit in the state of Arkansas, you and your lawyer must demonstrate the existence in your matter of the four elements of a negligence case: a duty, a breach of that duty, the breach causing the injury, and resulting damages. A duty occurs when you have a legal obligation, such as an obligation to follow traffic laws when driving. Generally, people in everyday life also have a duty to behave as a reasonable person in their shoes would so as to not cause negligent injury or property damage to others. A breach of a duty is a when you violate your obligation to be reasonable or follow certain laws or regulations, such as if you ignore a red light and speed through an intersection.
Then, you and your lawyer must work to show that the breach of this duty was the cause of the injuries or property damage. This is often the hardest part of the case to prove and requires collecting evidence from the scene, such as a traffic light video camera that clearly shows the other driver speeding through a red light and smashing into you when you had the right of way in the intersection. Finally, if causation can be proven, you must show that tangible damages resulted, such as hospital bills, the cost of physical therapy, or the cost of replacing a totaled vehicle.
An experienced Arkansas personal injury lawyer like Ken Kieklak will work to show the lawyers representing the other party or their insurance company that we will be able to prove our case at trial. If we can do so, they are likely to offer us an amenable settlement agreement to keep the matter from going to a trial where they will spend more money and possibly lose bigger. However, if the offer is not satisfactory, we are always ready and able to fight to prove your case in the courtroom.
Common Types of Personal Injuries You Can Sue for in Arkansas
There are numerous different situations where a person’s negligence can cause injury or damage to someone or something, and, as such, personal injury cases vary greatly in terms of their underlying facts and background. The following are just some of the most common types of situations that lead to successful personal injury lawsuits in Arkansas. The list is by no means exhaustive. Any time you or a loved one are injured or killed or your property is damaged and you believe it was caused by the negligence of a person or entity, like a corporation, you should contact a skilled Arkansas personal injury lawyer like Ken Kieklak right away so we can assess your situation and preserve important evidence for a potential case.
Car accidents often lead to serious damage to one or both of the vehicles, as well as injuries to the passengers. If you were the victim of a car accident in Arkansas where the other party was at fault, such as a situation like the one described above where someone runs a red light and blindsides you, you may have a personal injury case against them where you can be reimbursed for the damages the accident caused you.
A doctor always has a duty of care to their patients, meaning they must behave as a reasonable doctor would be expected to in the same situation. If, for example, a doctor shows up drunk to work and botches your surgery, they are likely in breach of their duty and can be targeted for damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Slip and Fall Accidents
Owners of public places like stores and restaurants have a duty to keep their premises safe for the public. If there is a spill in a store and the owners let it go for hours without cleaning it, and you slip on the spilled juice and break your leg, there will likely be a good case for negligence on the part of the store.
Premises Liabilty Lawsuits
Building owners and managers are responsible for ensuring their properties are safe for their customs and guests. This responsibility extends to homeowners as well. When a property owner is aware of a dangerous condition on their property, they must address the problem or face potential liability for any injures that could occur.
Premises liability lawsuits encompass many different types of claims, including wrongful death actions. While the list of possible dangerous conditions is extensive, some typical hazardous interior and exterior conditions that often result in injuries include wet surfaces, uneven walkways, poor lighting, faulty wiring, or broken steps.
Sometimes, if you buy a product that breaks and causes you an injury, you may be able to sue either the seller or manufacturer in a personal injury case. For example, if a lawnmower blows up the first time you use it due to the fact that the seller did not store it in the proper temperature, you may have a negligence case against the seller.
Not every injury that occurs in Arkansas is the result of an accident or the careless behavior of another person. Unfortunately, there are instances where someone intentionally harms another person. A person who inflicts intentional harm on another is often subject to criminal charges and prosecution. However, that does not mean that the individual is free from civil liability. In many cases, because the burden of proof is substantially lower in a civil court, a person who commits an intentional tort is more likely to be held financially accountable than convicted of a criminal charge.
Proving Negligence in an Arkansas Personal injury Lawsuit
If you are bringing a personal injury lawsuit in Arkansas based on negligence, there are four elements that you must prove to hold the defendant liable for your injury. Without successfully demonstrating each element, your case will not succeed.
Duty of Care
Before a defendant could be held liable for an injury, they must have owed the plaintiff a legal duty of care. This means that the defendant had a responsibility to act in a specific fashion. In most cases, this is illustrated by the concept of what would a reasonable person due under the same circumstances. However, the relationship between the parties and the nature of the accident also plays a role in determining if a duty of care existed.
One of the primary reasons people file personal injury claims in Arkansas is for injuries suffered in a car accident. A motorist owes every other driver and pedestrian a duty to operate their vehicle safely. This means that they must obey traffic regulations, do not drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and refrain from texting while driving. It also requires a driver to ensure their vehicle is properly maintained so it is roadworthy.
Breach of Duty
When a defendant’s conduct deviates from what a reasonable person would do under the same or similar circumstances, it is considered a breach of their duty of care. In many cases, this is one of the more difficult elements for our Arkansas personal injury attorney to prove.
The evidence necessary to prove a breach of duty depends on the facts of your case. For example, if you were involved in a car accident with a drunk driver, a toxicology test could be used to establish the defendant’s condition at the time of the accident. Furthermore, cellphone records are helpful in showing that a defendant was distracted when the crash occurred.
In a medical malpractice case, proving a breach of duty usually requires hiring a medical expert to testify that a doctor or another healthcare professional’s behavior failed to adhere to the acceptable standard of practice.
Unfortunately, proving poor conduct or decisions by the defendant is not enough to win a personal injury lawsuit in Arkansas. The plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s breach of duty caused the injury. In some situations, this is not difficult. However, in most personal injury litigation, a defendant will work hard to show that the injury was caused by something other than their actions – including trying to shift blame to the plaintiff.
To illustrate this issue, imagine a motorcyclist hit by a car that was changing lanes on a highway. Cellphone records indicate that the driver was talking on the phone at the time of the accident. However, the driver alleges that the motorcyclist was lane splitting, or attempting to pass two cars by traveling between them, at the time of the collision. In this case, the driver is acting carelessly but the motorcyclist could have been acting recklessly. Who caused the accident? Under these circumstances, our office would argue that the driver would be significantly more at fault for driving while distracted and failing to ensure the road was clear of traffic before changing lanes. As stated earlier, causation is often the most contested element in a personal injury lawsuit.
Without an injury, a person does not have a basis for a personal injury lawsuit. In legal terms, damages are what someone suffers after an injury. The final element necessary to show in a personal injury lawsuit based on negligence is “actual damages.” The question then is, “what constitutes damages?”
Damages include both financial losses and physical pain and suffering. If you suffered a concussion in a slip and fall accident, then you have probably incurred legal damages.
Your economic damages, or financial losses, would include any medical expenses you had to pay, including co-pays, deductibles, prescription costs, and even parking fees. Additionally, if you require any physical therapy or follow-up treatment, it would also be included under your economic damage. Your financial losses do not end with your out-of-pocket expenses. If you have lost time at work, or will be unable to work for an extended period, you are entitled to be compensated for your lost wages.
Non-economic damages include your physical pain and emotional suffering. As you can imagine, putting a dollar figure on your mental anguish is much more challenging than adding up receipts and bills. Nonetheless, you are entitled to be compensated for your pain and suffering. Non-economic damages include such things as loss of sleep, physical pain, or being compensated because you are unable to run around with your children. Our Arkansas personal injury attorney will work closely with you, your family, and your medical providers to adequately put an amount on your physical and emotional pain.
The Plaintiff’s Conduct and an Arkansas Personal Injury Lawsuit
When you file a personal injury lawsuit in Arkansas, you are alleging that another person or entity caused your injury through their negligence. Some common grounds for a lawsuit include a doctor leaving a sponge in your body after a surgical procedure or a drunk driver rear-ending your car at a red light. However, not every accident or injury is as cut and dry. There are also circumstances when a plaintiff’s conduct contributes to an accident. For example, if someone slips on a spill in a hardware store that was left unattended for an unreasonable amount of time, they could have a claim against the store owner or manager. However, if the person who fell was texting at the time and not paying attention to their surroundings, their behavior could have contributed to the fall.
Arkansas follows a modified comparative negligence rule in personal injury cases. This rule requires a jury or judge to determine the percentage of blame each party shares for an accident. Therefore, using the example above, a jury would look at both the unreasonableness of not cleaning up the spill promptly and the risk of walking while texting. Given the facts of the hypothetical case, the jury could decide that the store owner was 60% at fault while the plaintiff’s conduct contributed 40% of the blame. If the jury awarded the plaintiff $100,000 in damages, it would be reduced to $60,000 due to the plaintiff’s percentage of fault.
In some instances, the percentage of fault could result in a plaintiff being prohibited from recovering any damages. If a plaintiff’s contribution is determined to be more than 50%, then they would not receive any compensation. This could occur in a car accident where both parties were driving negligently. Our experienced Arkansas personal injury lawyer is not only working to prove that another party was at fault, they are also countering any allegations that you played a significant role in an accident.
Working With Insurance Companies After an Injury in Arkansas
As previously discussed, the actions or behaviors of an injured individual could jeopardize their compensation in a personal injury lawsuit. One way a potential plaintiff can hurt their case is when they speak with an insurance adjuster or another authority after an accident. For instance, if you fall and hurt yourself in a hardware store, you should report the incident to the store manager.
It is crucial to document an injury if you want to file a lawsuit or negotiate with an insurance provider. If you are in a car accident, you will have to report it to your insurance company and will likely have to give a statement to the other driver’s insurance provider. You might also have to describe what occurred to any police officers who arrive at the scene. You do not want to give any impression of fault during these conversations. Something as simple as “I didn’t see him” or “I’m feeling fine” might be used to either shift the blame or diminish the severity of your injuries.
Insurance companies are not there to provide you compensation. They have attorneys and adjusters working to minimize the amount of money their company is required to pay. You should speak with our Arkansas personal injury attorney before speaking with an insurance company. You should not accept a settlement without reviewing your case with an experienced lawyer.
Valuing Your Personal Injury Claim in Arkansas
The reason people file personal injury claims or accept settlement offers from insurance companies is to receive monetary compensation because they have been injured. These funds are used for medical expenses, lost wages, and other costs associated with an injury. Knowing when you should consider taking your case to court or accepting an insurance company’s offer requires understanding what your case is worth.
Because of the wide variety of personal injury cases, it is impossible to say what an average settlement should be. However, our knowledgeable Arkansas personal injury lawyer will be able to look at the facts of a particular case to offer an estimate.
If you are seriously injured and are facing mounting medical bills and lost hours at work, you might be tempted to take a quick settlement offer. However, once you do that, you will be prohibited from filing a personal injury claim in the future. This could become an issue if you require more medical treatment than anticipated or are out of work longer than you initially thought. Most insurance settlements also do not include compensation for intangible damages, such as pain and suffering, that are available through a personal injury lawsuit.
Our office will work with your healthcare providers and other experts to determine what your medical costs are and what treatments you will require in the future. In many cases, it could take weeks or months to thoroughly evaluate your medical condition and prognosis. While an insurance check could seem like a windfall, if you are unable to return to work, it probably is insufficient to cover the years or decades of income you are likely to lose. Ken Kieklak will work with financial experts to calculate what you would have earned if you were not hurt.
Part of evaluating your case also includes determining the strength of your legal claim. Our office will also look at the available evidence to figure out the likelihood of success at trial. Because a personal injury case is ultimately in the hands of a jury or judge, we cannot guarantee an outcome. However, we can give our professional and educated prediction. In some situations, taking a settlement offer is the best option. Sometimes, merely filing a lawsuit could result in a better offer from an insurance provider. Finally, there are times when an insurance company refuses to budge and bringing your case to trial might be necessary. In the end, the decision is yours. However, our Arkansas personal injury lawyer will turn to decades of experience to help guide you.
Call Our Skilled Arkansas Personal Injury Lawyers Today for Help
Anytime you are the victim of an accident due to someone else’s actions, there is a chance that you may be able to successfully prove a personal injury case against them. Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law, has the years of experience and institutional knowledge to advise you on the best steps that can be taken after an accident to make you whole again. If we believe filing a personal injury lawsuit is the right move, our Arkansas personal injury attorneys will help you do so and fight for the best possible outcome for you and your future. For a free consultation, call us today at (479) 316-0438.