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1. I was injured in a car accident, what do I do?

A. Get qualified legal help right away, but not first. The first and most important thing to do is getting medical help and follow all medical advice. We cannot heal your body, but we can help your peace of mind. We know that personal injury is very personal. We know that it affects everyone differently because not everyone is living the exact same life and not everyone has the same exact daily physical needs. No matter how your accident has forced unwelcome change into your life, we can offer a roadmap and a reliable plan on how to proceed. Because of our experience and knowledge of the law, we know how to cut through bureaucratic red tape and sort through the aftermath of the collision one step at a time. Our firm includes litigation attorneys who have worked on behalf of large insurance companies and small families. We have experience and know how to evaluate a claim and fight for our clients. If you are wondering what steps to take next, give us a call.

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2. Do I need to report a car accident to my insurance company, even if it wasn’t my fault?

A. Absolutely. Even if an accident was not your fault, your insurance needs to be made aware of the fact that you were involved in an accident. Your own policy may provide for payment of your medical bills, even if you were not at fault, then recover those costs later from the other parties’ insurance. Additionally, you need to report the car accident so your insurance company can hear, directly from you, exactly what happened.

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3. How can I pay my accident bills until my lawsuit is resolved?

A. This complex issue involves details specific to your own health and auto insurance policies. For example, a majority of automobile insurance policies provide Personal Injury Protection (PIP) for medical payment “MedPay” benefits. Most people have this coverage and seek benefit of payments from their own automobile insurance policy to pay healthcare providers in an amount up to $5,000 (the actual amount of coverage may vary). MedPay commonly covers medical expenses for the insured, their passengers, other drivers on the policy, and members of the insured’s household. What many people do not realize is that MedPay insurance coverage provides payments to its own insured(s) even if the other driver is at fault.

Other sources of insurance payments might be available to pay for the medical bills as they accrue to include: Private Health Insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, and supplemental health insurance policies. Unfortunately, many healthcare providers have adopted billing practices making it much harder for accident victims to get their bills paid as they accrue and avoid collection. The results of these practices leave accident victims uncertain they will obtain the benefit of health insurance payments. This takes further discussion to illustrate.

In the past, injured victims could easily submit health insurance claims on his or her health insurance policy as they accrued. Indeed, the medical care provider would do this automatically. This is no longer true as many Arkansas healthcare providers choose to forego submitting accident related insurance claims to known health insurance providers (including Medicare and Medicaid) until they can determine whether they may recover more money from the insurer of the liable third-party who caused the collision. Since this may take up to a year or so to figure out, many innocent accident victims find that even though they have private health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid, the medical bills are not getting paid and in fact turn are often turned over for collection. Yes, even though an accident victim may have health insurance coverage, the health care provider may not seek payment and instead turn over the accident victim to bill collectors. This is because the healthcare provider(s) never turned in the claim for payment from your health insurance at all. Healthcare providers have negotiated contractual obligations to accept lower payments for service charges paid by private health insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid. Therefore, if the healthcare provider quickly submits billing to a private health insurer, Medicare, or Medicaid (which exist solely to provide benefits for their insured after all), then the healthcare provider may lose the chance to get paid more from the insurer of the liable third party. Additionally, in most instances, the right to leverage and seek payment directly from the innocent accident victim grants stronger rights than if the private health insurer, Medicare, or Medicaid sought reimbursement from the liable third party’s insurance company. This leaves many accident victims in the middle and adds to the anxiety and stress caused by the collision because many find that, in addition to being forced out of work and needing to seek medical treatment, the harm is compounded by harassing collection notices, letters, or phone calls and devalued credit scores.

If you have specific questions about your medical bills getting paid give us a call and we can assess your specific situation.

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4. Can I get my car accident bills paid without filing a lawsuit?

A. Yes, it is possible to get payment for some of your damages without filing a lawsuit. In fact, we regularly obtain payment for all of the damages owed to injured accident victims through the efficient use of pre-suit and pretrial efforts to compile and present evidence in support of our law firm’s demand for settlement.

In many cases, unfortunately, the insurance company is less than enthusiastic about fulfilling their obligations to provide complete and timely payment. We have seen instances of insurance companies prolonging payment and extending legal negotiations in the seeming hope that the injured party will eventually grow tired of waiting and settle for a lessor amount than may be awarded in court. Although Arkansas imposes regulations on claims handling practices, insurance companies are for-profit corporations with bottom lines, and they usually conduct themselves in that manner.

The challenge faced by injured accident victims is in getting full and complete payments without the necessity of filing a lawsuit or convening a trial. Even though an innocent accident victim suffered injury and trauma, the insurance company will sometimes deny or attempt to devalue claims to such an extent that trial is the only reasonable alternative. Without a trial, or complete acknowledgement of the claim by the insurance company, innocent accident victims risk being paid less for their claims, sometimes much less, or possibly having entire categories of damages discounted and disregarded.

Consider the following scenario: A person injured in a collision is put in pain and discomfort and can no longer attend to their physical work responsibilities. Although many contend that America is now largely a “service economy”, a good number of people still perform jobs that require agility, balance and lifting ability. When in pain, or trying to get over deep tissue damage and fractures, many people just cannot safely go back to the day-to-day demands of their work even it involves sitting at a desk or computer station. Arkansas law accounts for this and other accident related losses by mandating compliance with the law compelling damage payments as follows:

When you are injured by the negligence of another driver, you immediately have a claim under Arkansas law to be compensated for all of the following damage consequences caused by the accident. Those damages may include:

  • The nature, extent, duration, and permanency of any injury;
  • The reasonable value of any necessary medical care, treatment, and services;
  • Any pain and suffering and mental anguish experienced in the past;
  • Any disfigurement and visible results of the injury;
  • The value of any earning salary and working time lost;
  • The reasonable expense of any necessary help in the home, which has been required as a result of the injury;
  • If loss of consortium, an award of such damages as from the evidence would fairly compensate for the reasonable value of any loss of the services, society, companionship, and marriage relationship of a spouse proximately caused by negligence; and,
  • Wrongful death claims accruing to you and your survivors.

Ordinarily, each of these elements of harms and losses caused by the collision and trauma necessarily create documents confirming the legitimacy of the claim. Unfortunately, there are times the insurance company will not acknowledge that legitimacy and will attempt to create questions in an apparent effort to discount the value of the claim. Much of our work in these cases is rejecting and overcoming those efforts, and we offer our clients a lot of experience in gathering, compiling, and creating a record to support our demands for complete payment, with or without a lawsuit.

If you have been in an accident and feel you are getting short-changed by the responsible party’s insurance company, contact a qualified personal injury attorney today. Here at Collins, Collins & Ray, we are able to answer your accident, injury, and insurance-related questions, and we are pleased to offer free consultations over the phone or in person.

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5. Should I take pictures of my car after the accident?

A. Yes. Any documentation, including photographs, videos, and witness statements or police reports are evidence that can help build your case. These are helpful for your attorney, as well as your insurance company and the opposing party’s insurance company.

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6. What should I write down after a crash?

A. ou should record your recollection of the incident while it is still fresh in your memory. Note the names of anyone else involved in the wreck and any witnesses present. Note the location of the wreck and what you were doing when the collision occurred. If you feel the other driver is at fault, note why you have that impression. While it may seem like these details are common sense, over the period of several weeks or months memories can become cloudy. Having a written record of your immediate observations or impressions after the incident can be extremely beneficial.

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7. Can I only turn over the medical records that I believe are relevant to the car accident?

A. Relevant records will be critical to your claim, however, there are some circumstances that call for additional medical documentation.

For instance, if your neck or back were injured in an automotive accident, you would likely seek treatment after. It is not uncommon for those types of injuries to occur during a car wreck. A routine argument among insurance carriers is that injuries that occurred during the accident are “pre-existing.” Using medical records is one way to discredit this theory. If you’ve seen your family physician three times in the past five years and never complained of any neck or back pain during those visits, it is a good indication that the condition did not exist at that time. Records from those visits therefore may be “relevant” to show that you had not complained of those systems previously, even though the records are from a time prior to your injury.

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8. What if I have been in a car wreck but I have no insurance?

A. Insurance is mandatory under Arkansas law. Sometimes individuals believe they do not have insurance because the vehicle they were driving was uninsured. This is not always true. Some types of insurance follow you regardless of whose car you are driving, even if the titleholder to the vehicle does not have insurance. If you are interested in more information, reach out to us. CCR is here to help.

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9. Will the insurance company provide me a rental car?

A. Probably, but not necessarily. The driver responsible for causing the accident should provide benefit of a rental car for a reasonable time to allow for necessary repair or replacement. The payment should be coordinated through the negligent driver’s insurance company. However, there are many occasions when, for whatever reason, the negligent driver’s insurance is not available. In those instances, the injured victim may be able to obtain rental car coverage from his or her own insurance policy. If this coverage is provided, then the insurer for the accident victim would seek reimbursement from the negligent driver directly, or his or her insurance company, for the payment(s) made to cover the rental car.

What if there is no rental vehicle provided?

A. Accident victims whose vehicle was destroyed or damaged in a collision may be injured so severely that driving any vehicle is out of the question for a long time. Injuries from a violent collision keep many people in the hospital or incapacitated to the point that driving a car is the last of their concerns. Alternatively, the injured victim may have someone drive him or her around for a time; or, perhaps the victim owns another vehicle he or she can use while the damaged vehicle is out of commission. Whatever the accident victim’s situation may be, all too often the insurance company for the negligent driver that caused the collision may not volunteer to pay for the loss of using the vehicle for a reasonable time, or for the fair market value of the destroyed vehicle, however, Arkansas law compels these payments in full.

If you or someone you know needs help getting a rental car paid for after a collision, give us a call. We regularly deal with these issues, and we know how to make insurance companies provide coverage due under Arkansas law.

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10. What must the negligent driver’s insurance company pay for my damaged or destroyed vehicle?

A. The negligent driver’s insurance company has an obligation to pay for all of the property damages accrued under Arkansas law. Ark. Code Ann. § 27-53-401 (“Calculating damages”) provides in relevant part:

“In all cases involving damage to motor vehicles, the measure of damages shall be the difference between the value of the vehicle immediately before the damage occurred and the value after the damage occurred, plus a reasonable amount of damages for loss of use of the vehicle.” Id. (Emphasis added).

In addition to other compensation owed, the Arkansas state sales and use tax rate is 6.5% and this should be paid when the vehicle is deemed a total loss. As for the value of the damaged vehicle, the owner is allowed to testify about the vehicle’s value immediately before and after the accident. Fair market value is deemed to be the amount of money the damaged or destroyed vehicle would bring on the open market in a sale between a willing seller and a willing buyer after a reasonable opportunity for negotiation.

As a matter of course, the insurance company will have an adjuster determine these values and make comparisons with currently marketed vehicles. The adjuster will ordinarily take notice of things that commonly affect the true value of a vehicle, for example: condition, prior damage, mileage, tire life remaining, and general mechanical condition. These are the usual considerations when addressing the condition of any vehicle for sale making them as important in the context of a post-accident forced sale as in any other transaction. As a practical matter the insurance company does not want to negotiate and in most instances presents a “take it or leave it’ price to the accident victim. However, since the owner knows a whole lot more about the actual condition of the vehicle the law does provide the means to challenge the one-sided arbitrary and false value assignments made by the insurance company.

Finally, turning back to the original question, when a person suffers the loss of use of their vehicle due to a collision, it is more than appropriate to seek direct payment for the time no vehicle was available. We have obtained payments for this loss on behalf of our clients by seeking a comparable vehicle’s rental value for a reasonable time after the accident.

Often when people lose the use of their vehicle from a collision, it can feel like you must take the money that is offered even if it is vastly discounted from the true value of the vehicle. It seems to go this way: first, the negligent driver damages or destroys your vehicle; then, his or her insurer seems to force acceptance of a discounted value for property ruined through no fault of your own. Because vehicles depreciate, it becomes very important to make sure and obtain the best price for the forced sale as well as additional payments for sales tax and loss of use of the vehicle (and seek to determine the availability of a rental car).

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11. What is negligent entrustment in a motor vehicle accident?

A. Under Arkansas law when someone who owns a vehicle or has control over it turns it over to a person who is intoxicated, or clearly a danger to themselves or others, the person turning over the vehicle and putting it under the dangerous person’s control may have to answer under the law for negligent entrustment. In this way the law provides accountability for those who put innocently injured drivers in contact with those who are knowingly intoxicated, under aged or incompetent.

This is a complicated issue in the law and one that our attorneys have significant experience in resolving. If you or someone you know has been injured by an intoxicated or drunk driver, or anyone else that seems to have been negligently entrusted with a motor vehicle, then please call us for a free consultation and evaluation of this specific type of complex claim.

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12. The insurance company said they have no responsibility to pay for my medical treatment because the accident was labeled “no fault.” Do I have any legal options?

We have recovered money damages for many of our clients who were the victim of an erroneous or incomplete police report or other improper fault assignments. The officer’s opinion as to who is at fault in the collision is given some weight, but is not binding to anyone involved in the accident. Here in Arkansas we have numerous law enforcement agencies ranging from: Department of Transportation, Arkansas State Police, Municipal or “City” Police, and County Sheriffs and their deputies. The scope of an investigation into an accident can vary considerably among these agencies. We know firsthand that officers usually do their best with the limited time and resources they have to document accidents. Two of our partners are former sworn police officers and investigated accidents daily. We have literally been there. When it comes to litigating these cases on behalf of our clients this experience, along with years of experience as attorneys handling these cases, allows us to scrutinize accident reports for errors and challenge them at every stage of the proceedings. In close cases, we also call on experts in accident reconstruction to provide consultation or testify in our cases. So, if you are an innocent accident victim that is being forced to overcome faulty assessments as to who is actually “at-fault” in the collision, call us, we know how to help.

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13. Is a business responsible for injuries caused by one of its employees in an accident that involves a company car?

A. If an employer provides a vehicle to an employee to conduct its business, then the law provides that the employer must answer for any negligent conduct of the employee while using that vehicle. This means that if you are injured by a negligently driven commercial vehicle, also known as a “company car,” then you may have a claim against the employer in addition to a claim against the negligent driver and any other person causing the accident.

This is typically an important distinction that can have significant effect on the value of your case and the remedies provided under the law. If you have been injured by a commercial vehicle, our attorneys are standing by to answer your questions and evaluate your potential claim, free of charge.

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