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Frequently Asked Questions

With so much to deal with in the aftermath of an accident, you probably have a number of pressing questions that you will need to have answered. In an effort to shed some light on the legal process ahead of you, our Fort Smith legal team has collected answers to some of the questions we hear the most. If you would like to speak with one of our attorneys about your accident in greater detail, please call our Fort Smith offices at (479) 783-0036 or take a moment to complete an online contact form.

  1. What is My Case Worth?
  2. How Long Will This Take?
  3. When Should I Call A Lawyer?
  4. The Insurance Company Offered Me a Settlement. Is it a Fair Offer?
  5. Can I afford an attorney?
  6. What will you do for me as an attorney?
  7. What Can I Do to Save My Neck in a Rear End Collision?
  8. Do I Have to Sue?
  9. My Car Shows No Sign of Damage, But I Have Been in Pain Since the Accident. Is it Possible I Was Hurt?
  10. When Do I Need to Get an Attorney Involved?
  11. Will it Take Longer if I Use a Lawyer?
  12. Do I Have to Pay any Expense Up Front for You to Represent Me?
  13. I’ve Taken Care of My Car Like it Was a Child, But the Insurance Company Wants to Pay Me Book Value. Can You Help Me?
  14. How Much is it Going to Cost Me to Hire You?
  15. Why do I need an attorney?
  16. What if I Have Collision Insurance Coverage?
  17. How Do I File a Property Damage Claim?
  18. How do I Determine the Amount of My Property Damage?
  19. How Can I Determine If My Car is a Total Loss?
  20. What If My Car is a Total Loss?
  21. What If the Insurance Company Uses “CCC Information??? to Value My Car?
  22. What About My Other Damages?
  23. What If the At-fault Driver’s Insurance Company Sends Me a Check?
  24. How Do I File a Lawsuit?
  25. How Do I Prove My Damages?

What is My Case Worth?

This is one of the first questions we hear from many accident victims. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most difficult to answer. That’s because when most people ask that question, they are still being treated for injuries related to the accident. So, we do not know how much more medical treatment you will need, what your future medical bills will be, and whether you will have permanent injuries from your accident. We will determine the value of your case, but much of it will depend on the amount and extent of medical treatment that you will need. There is one thing that you can rest assured knowing, the lawyers at McCutchen & Sexton – The Law Firm will fight hard to get you every penny you deserve.

How Long Will This Take?

Most accident victims just want to put this entire nightmare behind them and get their lives back to normal – or at least as normal as it can be. Unfortunately, the exact amount of time it will take to resolve your case depends on a number of factors, including how long it will take you to get well and how much medical treatment you will need. To determine the exact amount of time it will take to complete your claim, call The Law Firm and get a free consultation. Our lawyers will help answer your questions and get a better idea of the complexities of your unique case.

When Should I Call A Lawyer?

Immediately! The sooner you call a lawyer, the better. That’s because the longer you wait, the greater the risk of having precious evidence disappear, eyewitnesses start to forget important details and time-sensitive data could be lost forever. Delaying hiring a lawyer can also adversely affect your ability to get the proper medical treatment. By calling The Law Firm, we spring into action immediately to protect evidence and maximize your case’s value. Our legal team is standing by 24/7 ready to help you and your family.

The Insurance Company Offered Me a Settlement. Is it a Fair Offer?

Beware of low-ball offers from the insurance company. Oftentimes, they will waive a small check in front of you in the hopes that you will take the quick money and not pursue it any further. This is especially dangerous if you received injuries in the accident. Sometimes it can take weeks or months for your doctors to fully understand the extent of your injuries. If you take a fast settlement offer from the insurance company, you won’t be able to go back and seek more money to cover the future medical treatment you need to heal your accident injuries.

Can I afford an attorney?

You most certainly can afford a personal injury attorney. Plaintiff’s attorneys like us work on contingency, which is a fancy way of saying we are paid when your case settles. In other words you don’t have to pay me a dime to take your injury case. we get paid when your case settles at the end.

What will you do for me as an attorney?

As your personal injury attorney we will help you get the medical care that you need. We will also see that you get the diagnostic tests like MRIs to determine if your injury is a permanent one. You can also get medical care even if you don’t have any insurance. I have relationships with the medical community in Fort Smith that allows us to get you the care you need. Finally, you will be protected from the insurance company taking advantage of you in the negotiation process as we are an experienced and skilled negotiator.

What Can I Do to Save My Neck in a Rear End Collision?

Adjust the up or down until the center of the head restraint meets the center of the back of your head. This will keep your head from pivoting over the top of the headrest in the collision. Keep your head near the head restraint while you drive. The center of the back of your head should be no further than four fingers from the headrest. Remember to stay alert when you drive.

Do I Have to Sue?

Yes. There is little, if any, correlation between an injury sustained in an accident and the extent of the property damage. Think about it this way, if your car is impacted in a crash, the car’s body crumples in order to absorb the force. So, if your car is hit and doesn’t show signs of damage, the force was most likely absorbed by you – the occupant of the vehicle! This can lead to serious injuries even if your car doesn’t look like it has been in a wreck.

Studies and testing have shown that injury can be predicted based upon whether the occupant of a vehicle has been subjected to certain risk factors in a collision. Our attorneys are trained in recognizing and evaluating the risk factors involved in low speed collisions that result in little, if any visible property damage.

My Car Shows No Sign of Damage, But I Have Been in Pain Since the Accident. Is it Possible I Was Hurt?

Yes. There is little, if any, correlation between an injury sustained in an accident and the extent of the property damage. Think about it this way, if your car is impacted in a crash, the car’s body crumples in order to absorb the force. So, if your car is hit and doesn’t show signs of damage, the force was most likely absorbed by you – the occupant of the vehicle! This can lead to serious injuries even if your car doesn’t look like it has been in a wreck.

Studies and testing have shown that injury can be predicted based upon whether the occupant of a vehicle has been subjected to certain risk factors in a collision. Our attorneys are trained in recognizing and evaluating the risk factors involved in low speed collisions that result in little, if any visible property damage.

When Do I Need to Get an Attorney Involved?

We recommend contacting us as soon as possible after the accident. Property damage claims are generally settled within the first few weeks after the collision. Hiring us early ensures you get a fair settlement for your property damage claim, we will ensure your storage fees on the damaged vehicle are kept to a minimum. We will work hard to get you the maximum amount of money for your injuries.

Additionally, hiring us early allows us to preserve all evidence that is favorable to you. We are also able to stop the insurance companies from obtaining a statement from you while you are in pain and not thinking clearly due to the stress of the accident and injury. Insurance companies sometimes try to pay less or nothing based on such statements. Early involvement also insures that all documentation necessary to pursue your claim is handled in a timely fashion. When you hire the experienced legal team at McCutchen & Sexton – The Law Firm, we do all of the work, so you can focus on getting better.

Will it Take Longer if I Use a Lawyer?

No, in fact it will probably shorten the amount of time AND you will receive more money in most cases. Hiring us early ensures that we immediately gather and preserve all evidence that works in your favor. We will conduct a thorough investigation and make sure all favorable evidence is secured. We will work closely with your physicians to get the necessary medical documents to pursue your claim and provide these to the insurance company. We can answer your questions to help you get the best possible medical care and to recover from your injuries and get back to work as quickly as possible. By hiring us early, you are less likely to have to file a lawsuit because all of the steps necessary to settle your case will be taken.

Do I Have to Pay any Expense Up Front for You to Represent Me?

No. We invest not only the amount of time needed for handling serious injury cases but also the amount of money needed to properly handle your claim. Unlike many other lawyers, we are not afraid to invest substantial amounts of money to hire the best possible experts that we need to pursue your claim. This may include accident reconstructionists, economic damage experts, medical experts, vocational rehabilitation experts as well as other experts in various sciences. While we recover the cost of expert witnesses when your case is settled or a verdict is obtained, you are not expected to pay any of these expenses, no matter how large, unless and until we make a recovery for you.

I’ve Taken Care of My Car Like it Was a Child, But the Insurance Company Wants to Pay Me Book Value. Can You Help Me?

We understand that book value isn’t enough to compensate for a vehicle that has been declared a total loss in all cases. There are times when your vehicle, which you have treated like a child, is worth more than book value. When there is a gap between what you say your car is worth and what the insurance company says its worth we can help you receive the highest compensation for your vehicle.

How Much is it Going to Cost Me to Hire You?

We charge a contingency fee for bodily injury claims, which means we don’t get paid unless you get paid. When we recover money for you, we get paid a portion of what we are able to recover for you. Our percentage is competitive, but varies with the complexity of your case. In cases involving property damage such as your car and personal injury in an accident, we don’t charge any attorney fees for handling the property damage claim. We don’t believe that it is fair for an attorney to be taking some portion of the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle.

Why do I need an attorney?

You need an attorney because you are hurt, scared, and unsure of what to do. You have never been down this road before and the insurance companies want to take advantage of that fact. We have walked this road many times with folks just like you and have protected our clients and their families. Even if your case is one that we cannot help you with, I will take the time to explain what you need to do in order to handle it yourself. Helping you is an honor and a privilege.

What if I Have Collision Insurance Coverage?

First, we recommend making a claim with your own insurance company. Your insurance company, who wants to save as much money as possible, may assist you in filing the property damage claim with the other driver’s insurance company.

How Do I File a Property Damage Claim?

You need to file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, if one has not been submitted. The name and insurance policy is generally on the accident report. In order to contact that insurance company, you can locate the right number to call in a local phone book or from an Internet search. As a last resort, you can call the Arkansas Insurance Department at 1-800-282-9134 for more information.

How do I Determine the Amount of My Property Damage?

If the vehicle is drivable, take it to a body shop and obtain a written estimate. We recommend having two estimates on any claim.

If the vehicle is not drivable and you have collision coverage, your insurance company will send an adjuster to the vehicle to determine the amount of damage.

If the vehicle is not drivable and you do not have collision coverage, you should attempt to have an auto body shop inspect the vehicle to provide you with an estimate.

How Can I Determine If My Car is a Total Loss?

If the repair costs of your vehicle are 70% more than the value of your vehicle, it is considered a total loss. You can determine the value by visiting http://www.nada.com or http://www.kbb.com.

What If My Car is a Total Loss?

If the vehicle is a total loss, and the insurance company uses someone other than NADA or Kelley Blue book you should ask how it was determined. Some insurance companies will use CCC Information Services to provide the value of your vehicle. Have them put this information in writing and present it to you. Be prepared to challenge the value of the vehicle if another company is used.

The best method is to obtain a written statement from an automobile dealer (preferably the one where you purchased it) stating the value of your vehicle before and after the accident. Have this information in writing and supply it to the insurance company.

What If the Insurance Company Uses “CCC Information??? to Value My Car?

After your vehicle is totaled in an accident, you will have to prove its cash value in order to get reimbursed by the insurance company. CCC Information Services is a company that most insurance companies prefer to use to value your vehicle. They can get you a written copy of the valuation, often called a “CCC Valuescope” report. You should compare that valuation to other services like NADA (http://www.nada.com). That’s because CCC values are often well below NADA valuations. That’s why the insurance companies like them so much – they help save them a lot of money!

CCC provides a valuation based on what it claims are comparable vehicles. These will generally be vehicles of the same type, same year, comparably equipped in the same geographical area. Call the listed telephone numbers on the CCC valuation to see if comparable vehicles are available for purchase. If they are not available at the time, you need to inform the insurance company of this.

If you are told a comparable vehicle is several hundred miles away, you should challenge the vehicle as not being comparable. It would be unfair for you to travel the distance without being compensated both for your time, and your expenses to retrieve the comparable vehicle.

What About My Other Damages?

In addition to the cost of repair, you may be entitled to additional damages.

Sales Tax if Your Vehicle is a Total Loss. If your vehicle is a total loss, you are entitled to the value of sales tax on your vehicle. The easiest way to determine sales tax is to call the Revenue Office, http://www.state.ar.us/dfa/osra/osra_revenue.php. Ask for the amount of sales tax you’d pay if you were purchasing a vehicle equal to the estimated value of the damaged vehicle.

Loss of Use. You are entitled to compensation for the number of days your vehicle cannot be used. If the damage was minor and you can continue using it until repairs are made, then the loss of use will be from the time the car goes in for repair until it is finished. If the vehicle is a total loss, then you are compensated for the value of the vehicle. Most insurance companies will arrange for a rental car at no cost to you, rather than agreeing to pay a value for loss of use.

It can be difficult to determine the value of lost. So, just in case you need to file a lawsuit to obtain rightful compensation, we recommend a keeping a written record of the daily cost of a car rental. We recommend you using Enterprise Rent-A-Car, as it appears to be the most widely used car rental agency for insurance claims in Arkansas.

What If the At-fault Driver’s Insurance Company Sends Me a Check?

We strongly caution DO NOT cash the check until all repairs are complete. Often initial repair estimates are inaccurate because not all damage is visible to the naked eye. ONLY if you have WRITTEN documentation that the insurance company will pay for the “hidden” damages should you consider cashing the check. We recommend however, you wait until all the work is complete.

If you receive adequate compensation and your vehicle is paid for, your claim will then be closed and you will not have to file a lawsuit. However, if you did not receive adequate compensation, you will have to move forward and file a lawsuit.

How Do I File a Lawsuit?

Arkansas law does not permit you to sue the other driver’s insurance company. Instead, if the at-fault driver’s insurance company does not pay for your damages and you desire to pursue a claim, you must file a lawsuit against the negligent driver.

If the amount of damage to your vehicle is $5,000 or less, you can file the suit yourself in the Small Claims Division of the District Court. When filing in the Small Claims Division, once again, it is extremely important to fill the document accurately and file with the Small Claims Division and NOT the Civil Division of District Court.

You can find more information regarding Small Claims Court at:

http://courts.arkansas.gov/documents/small_claims_info.pdf

Arkansas Code Ann. § 16-17-706 states that small claims lawsuits for property damage must be in either the county where the accident occurred or where the other driver lived at the time of filing.

If there is more than one district court in the county, you should contact the district court to determine the geographical jurisdiction (what court covers that area) to make sure you are filing in the correct court.

It is pertinent to note that if you are suing in Sebastian County, the Small Claims Division of the Fort Smith District Court covers Fort Smith only. If your claim arose in Sebastian County anywhere outside Fort Smith, you will file at the Small Claims Division of the Greenwood District Court.

How Do I Prove My Damages?

If you are planning to introduce an estimate or written statement from a car rental agency, it is always best to have the person who prepared the estimate or statement at Court ready to testify and to be cross-examined about the validity of the estimate. If the person cannot appear in Court, you can prepare an Affidavit for the records of the business which prepared the estimate or statement. If the estimate or statement is a business record, Arkansas Code Ann. § 16-46-108 (Small Claims Form), must be prepared and signed under oath in front of a Notary Public. This document must be filed with the Court two weeks before trial. A copy of this document must also be provided to the Defendant.

As the owner of the vehicle, Arkansas law permits you to give your opinion as to the value of the vehicle. The Judge does not have to agree with your opinion, but it is your right to offer it. If the Judge questions you in regards to your statement of the value of the vehicle, you can review the case of Zhan v Sherman, 323 Ark.172,913 S.W.2d 776 (1996).