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1. How do I choose an attorney for my injury case?

A. We believe hiring an attorney should be an easy and straightforward process. We believe it more than fair to ask potential attorneys several important questions, including whether they have experience with handling your type of injury, medical, or wrongful death claim. Whether the attorney has experience in representing large national insurance companies as well as injured people is something people want to know. It is more than fair to also ask whether the attorney has tried injury cases to a jury throughout the state of Arkansas and beyond. You can hire an attorney with all of these qualifications and more, including prior experience as a sworn police officer charged with investigating accident and death claims from the beginning.

Many people contact Collins, Collins & Ray, P.A. after being first referred to our attorneys by other knowledgeable and well-respected attorneys. Many others find experienced attorneys by seeking prominent listings for legal assistance through “AVVO” (Avvo.com) or Martindale-Hubbell. These groups provide a nationwide database containing attorney evaluations comprised of candid reviews. It is our honor to be among those attorneys positively identified with several competitive categories, including personal injury and medical malpractice.

Many people first find us by looking to Martindale-Hubbell. Brian W. Ray of Collins, Collins & Ray, P.A. has been honored to receive the highest rating, “AV Preeminent,” which is described as follows:

“AV Preeminent®: The highest peer rating standard. This rating signifies that the lawyer’s reviewed peers rank him or her at the highest level of professional excellence for their legal knowledge, communication skills, and ethical standards.”

Fortunately, those seeking legal assistance to handle catastrophic injury or wrongful death cases have many great sources of information at their fingertips. Although any attorney can buy television commercials and other highly visible advertising, third-party attorney rating services can provide a reliable source of information and reviews not created by the attorneys themselves. We believe these public profiles of our firm members are a reflection of the hard work we have been privileged to perform throughout Arkansas and beyond.

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2. I am not a sue-happy person and I like to get along with people. How can I get my bills and damages paid without suing someone?

A. Unfortunately, it may be out of your control, but we know how to help with the process and demand full payment. When injured by the fault of another, the law provides the injured person with legal rights to recover their harms and losses from the at-fault individual. As an individual seeking resolution without the help of an attorney, a potential problem may arise in that you will lose the ability to deal directly with a possibly nice and sometimes apologetic person to resolve the matter; you would be forced to deal with their insurance company. Difficult insurance adjusters, negligent drivers, or others refusing to accept responsibility for causing you harm, can definitely compound the difficulty of getting basic needs met while the claim is pending. To fully understand the aspects of an accident claim, you must realize the wreck not only involves the drivers but also their insurance companies. These for-profit insurance companies make more money when paying less on claims. These for-profit insurance companies may also get their insured drivers sued by not voluntarily paying full amounts due to those injured by legitimate collision damages.

You may not be on an equal playing field. In a catastrophic injury or wrongful death accident claim, the insurance company is ordinarily brought in immediately because of reporting requirements under the insurance policy. You know, like the instructions on your insurance card reading “call this number if you are in an accident.” Although the insurance company for the at-fault driver is bound to pay the resulting medical costs, lost wages, mental anguish, pain and suffering and the like, insurance companies will not usually make any effort to pay until you reach a compromised settlement agreement or obtain a judgment at trial. The great difficulty for those innocently injured and suffering accident victims is that the law will not compel payment as the losses accrue. Because of this, here at Collins, Collins & Ray, P.A. we apply our extensive knowledge and experience in working up and valuing claims to make informed judgments as to the true value of a claim. Armed with this information, we know which cases to advise settlement and which to turn over to an informed jury.

This can get very complicated for the uninitiated. Even a simple accident can be very confusing to those experiencing it for the first time. This may be your first claim yet your claim will never be the first one for an insurance company. The insurance company benefits from confusion and denying full claim payment until a lawsuit is filed and a judgment obtained against the at-fault driver.

Many people seem to think after an accident the insurance company will send a team of nice, friendly, and likable people (with deep honest voices no less) to work hard and restore the incurred losses. The wake-up call usually comes right away. Instead of the friendly television personality or cartoon character, the innocently injured accident victim is forced to deal with a matter-of-fact claims adjuster who has likely handled hundreds, if not thousands, of such claims. Rather than seeking to understand and record the true extent of any actual losses, the seasoned insurance adjuster will likely work hard to use specialized knowledge of the law and common documentary gaps to find ways to completely deny or devalue the claim—even though it is legitimate in every respect. Remember, the insurance company saves money when finding confusion about the extent of injuries and lost wages. Rather than working hard to gather the existing information about your claim, many adjusters will go far beyond their personal knowledge and training to question the necessity of certain medical treatment or challenge the findings of medical tests they are not licensed to administer, order, or interpret. As a practical matter, this means some insurance adjuster sitting in Chicago or some other distant city having no connection to you or the neighbor who hit you, got paid to deny and discount your legitimate injury claim. Trained and experienced insurance adjusters create or find gaps to exploit in an effort to save the insurance company money.

Here in Arkansas, we have seen outrageous conduct by national insurance companies and their non-medically trained adjusters asserting healthcare provider(s) made the wrong diagnoses or ordered care beyond the scope of the required treatment, all the while not bothering to actually try and speak to the medical provider or even research the well-supported medical basis for the claim. In fact, here in Arkansas, one national insurance company decided, on its own, that all care provided by one medical provider was not worthy of any payment. Many accident victims in Arkansas may find themselves in this or a similar situation. You do not have to fight the insurance company by yourself. If you are involved in an accident with a nice person whom you have to sue because their insurance company failed to fully pay the claim, then call us; we know how to help.

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3. What do I have to prove to recover damages from someone who has injured me?

A. In short, you have to prove that: the opposing party had a duty to not injury you, the duty was breached, and the breach caused damages (an injury) to you or your personal property. There are a variety of ways to tackle a personal injury case, let us find the approach that works for you. Call CCR for a free consultation.

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4. Why am I getting all these letters from attorneys?

A. There are usually public records generated about the majority of car and truck accidents. Some attorneys gather this information and use it to solicit clients. In Arkansas, it is permissible for law firms to send out mass communications to the addresses collected from public records. At Collins, Collins & Ray, we prefer to let our clients recover in peace and seek out legal representation when it is the appropriate time for them and their families. We do feel, however, that it is important to keep in mind the fact that insurance adjusters give a limited perspective on accident claims. Clients have reported that adjusters have attempted to minimize either the damage that actually occurred or the legal solutions available. What this means is that earlier we are involved the more likely we can truly affect the outcome of the case.

We find victims injured in vehicle collisions are best served when they act immediately to get legal help. After all, insurance investigators go to work right away and will not likely gather all the information establishing damages and injuries without the assistance of qualified personal injury attorneys getting the information and placing it in their hands quickly. Insurance company investigators, also called “adjusters” may attempt to minimize an injured person’s harms and losses without giving due regard to the law and claims for relief. That is where qualified personal injury attorneys go to work in making sure all elements of the claim are supported and paid as required under the law.

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5. How much does it cost to hire a personal injury attorney?

A. At CCR, we offer free consultations and you will not be charged unless we win your personal injury claim. Upon the successful resolution of your claim, a predetermined percent (agreed on prior to your retention of CCR) will be deducted from your judgment or settlement amount. This percentage covers the cost of litigation and your attorney’s compensation. Because every claim is unique, both in complexity and longevity, the exact percentage charged can vary. Contact us today for a more detailed assessment of your potential claim.

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6. How much should I expect the expenses to be on my Personal Injury case and who pays them?

A. The amount of expenses can vary according to many factors that may be out of our control. However, the customary amounts paid are usually associated with the type of case and the need to garner expert support. In catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases the expenses may total thousands and thousands of dollars, but we are mindful to try and avoid these costs when possible. Each case is different but we tell your clients: “You will not pay any money on your case unless we obtain money on your behalf.” This is one of the benefits of our handling your case on a contingency fee basis. This means that we recover our expenses and attorney fees from the amount of money we obtain through settlement or trial judgment. What this means for you as a client is the law firm you hire will bear all the expenses associated with filing and pursuing a personal injury claim. We provide our clients an accounting showing where those expenses are incurred and are always happy to explain the need for them to prosecute the case.

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7. How long will it take for my injury claim to resolve?

A. We hear this question frequently, as many are understandably anxious to have a timeline to reference. Unfortunately, the answer to that depends solely on the case at hand. Some claims can be resolved in as little as a few months, while other more complex claims can take over a year to resolve. We understand how frustrating this process can be, but what can lead to even more frustration is the lifetime of consequences you’re left to shoulder alone, should you choose not to pursue your claim.

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8. What happens when I hire a Personal Injury attorney?

A. Hiring an attorney means you have a legal advocate who is in your corner, fighting for your legal rights. When you hire an attorney, you are choosing someone to represent your legal interests. Therefore, it is not a decision you should make lightly. Choose a lawyer with whom you can communicate openly and whom you feel understands the details of your claim, as well as the path you feel is right for you and your family. You goal is the best resolution of your claim. Each person’s ideal resolution looks different. Even if your ideal path is to avoid the courtroom with mediations and settlement conferences, an attorney can potentially be of assistance. We often remind our clients and potential clients, if the opposing party is going to be represented by a law firm, shouldn’t you be as well? Take advantage of a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys today.

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9. Do I have to file a lawsuit to get my injury claim paid?

A. 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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10. How do I know if the insurance company is being fair with me?

A. You probably have no way of knowing unless you have prior experience as an insurance adjuster or attorney. Every insurance company hires and pays the salaries of scores of investigators. Those investigators have responsibilities to report to the insurance company first; they answer to the people who pay them first. This may affect your claim in that insurance investigators, also called “adjusters” are trained to gather information in ways allowing them to discount and devalue claims by looking for anything that might prop up an argument challenging fault or proof of damages. Generally, these investigators are very busy and have many claims to handle. It is only natural for them to pay attention to well-documented claims compiled and presented by attorneys who know what they must consider when deciding whether and how much to pay for a particular claim. Your life-altering accident is only “a claim” to the insurance company; one of tens or hundreds of such “claims.” You lost a loved one or the use of your body and the insurance company has a computer and file folders keeping track of your injuries and damages, and they only pay for what gets included in those files. The insurance company has teams of investigators and attorneys to document their file, shouldn’t you? Shouldn’t you have someone who knows how to make sure your life and your claim are being given a fair shot?

To know if you are being made a reasonable offer, it is best to get a second opinion from someone with extensive experience in representing injured people whether the injuries came from: automobile collisions, truck accidents, airplane crashes, or boating incidents. We have an extensive understanding of tactics used by large insurance companies from working for them and against them. When turning our focus and experience to help those wronged by insurance companies, we developed significant experience representing injured accident victims. We don’t take every case, but for clients we choose to represent, we put our experience to work to ensure our clients obtain the level of compensation they are owed and for which they deserve.

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11. The insurance company told me I don’t need an attorney. Should I hire a lawyer?

A. The decision to hire an attorney is a personal one and should be made by you, not your insurance company. Many are relieved to learn that our consultations at CCR are free of charge and our attorneys are happy to discuss not only the facts of your accidents, but the legal remedies available to you as well. For some, the remedy may be filing a lawsuit, but for others it means simply taking the money offered by their insurance agency and signing a release. Whether you should retain an attorney depends heavily on the course of action you wish to take. If you do not know about all the options available, how can you possibly determine which is the best resolution to your situation?

We do not represent every client that attempts to retain us in a personal injury claim. The reasoning behind that practice is simple. We believe the only real victory is a shared victory. In some less serious cases, those not involving severe injury to you or a great deal of damage to your vehicle, filing a lawsuit could do more harm than good. If, in our opinion, the insurance company, in consideration of the damage suffered, has offered you a fair amount, we will openly and honestly communicate that evaluation. As mentioned above, we are not “sue-happy” attorneys. We do not take on clients unless we feel our firm can help in some way. If your potential judgment or settlement would be completely consumed by attorney and expert witness fees, court costs and other litigation expenses, why bother filing suit at all, right? Well, here at CCR, we could not agree more.

The point of filing a lawsuit is to bring some level of improvement to the injured party and their family, not merely to punish the opposing party or compensate your attorney. Once we have had the opportunity to evaluate your claim free of charge, we will communicate with you directly if we do not feel our firm can improve your situation by taking legal action. Unfortunately, not every occurrence of wrongdoing is best remedied by our legal system, but you always have options. Our goal here at CCR is to make you aware of those options and we leave it up to you to determine what is the best fit for you and your family.

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12. Do I need a lawyer for mediation?

A. Our personal injury attorneys are deeply experienced in resolving cases through mediation. It is true that parties may be able to resolve their case at mediation without benefit of legal counsel. However, in every litigated case the insurance companies will be represented by legal counsel. To have a level playing field, it is almost always advisable to be represented by legal counsel.

Additionally, even though the formal rules may not apply as they would in court, injured people often benefit from having an attorney present to effectively challenge assumptions and characterizations of the evidence, while also advising them about the value judgments made by the insurance companies and their paid adjusters and lawyers. Our firm knows that the attorneys and paid adjusters from the insurance company are always seeking ways to devalue and undermine a personal injury case. This is as true within mediation as in every other aspect of a personal injury claim. If you are considering mediating your claim, on your own, give our offices a call and let us tell you about the benefits of mediation with legal counsel by your side.

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13. Should I sign a medical lien?

A. Ordinarily, the answer is no. In most cases those innocently injured due to the negligence of another driver do not benefit from signing a medical lien. A medical lien is a way medical care providers can seek the aid of the law to compel full payment from those treated by medical and health care providers from the accident. While it certainly seems fair that medical care providers be paid for their services, what is often overlooked is that the medical care providers may directly submit billing to your health insurance provider and seek payments under the terms of health insurance contract.

Additionally, with Medicare and Medicaid, the health care provider already has plans in place to provide payment at certain fixed amounts for certain provided services. Many healthcare providers, for various reason, are not satisfied with being held to the terms of these agreements and may seek more compensation from innocently injured drivers. The result is that a medical lien may exist wherein health care providers seek payment from any settlement or money judgment collected in satisfaction of an innocently injured persons claim.

This is a very complex issue and requires efficient handling to successfully determine whether a medical lien is valid, and whether there are any defenses provided under the law. Commonly, if a person signs an agreement to pay a medical lien, courts will likely enforce it. However, if patients forego signing these documents they may be able to work out payment with the medical care providers in a way that allows them to keep more of the settlement or judgment money, money which the injured party was awarded to compensate for their pain and suffering and other losses.

If you have any questions about this topic or any other legal issue surrounding your personal injury claim, give our office a call. Our firm is dedicated to providing our clients with top-notch legal services and representation.

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14. What evidence will be needed to win my lawsuit?

A. To prevail in a lawsuit stemming from a personal injury claim, an injured Arkansan must be able to present evidence establishing fault, proximate causation, damages, wage loss, and sometimes, expert support to demonstrate one or more of these elements.

Fault. Under Arkansas law, a person seeking to recover damage payments from another due to an accident must come present persuasive evidence demonstrating that the other party was negligent in causing the collision and/or wrongful death. The law defines the term “negligence” to mean “fault” but also requires evidence establishing the breach of a legal duty.

Consider the case of a person causing a collision by disregarding a stop sign, running a red light, or following too closely. The evidence that establishes fault may come in the form of reliable witness statements, admission by the at-fault driver, or perhaps a video recording obtained from the security camera at a nearby convenience store. Fault can also be determined by the assistance of a reliable accident reconstruction expert or investigator who visited to the accident scene and collected physical evidence. To a trained investigator, the physical evidence can establish such things as direction of travel, point of impact, and the severity of the impact. Fault in an accident may be established in many ways making a complete inventory of all the evidence establishing fault not likely possible. The injured victim may also have to garner evidence to reject the contention he or she is partially responsible for the collision. If some fault can be assigned to both drivers, proof will have to be addressed as to the percentage of fault properly assigned to each driver.

Proximate causation. These two common words can wreak havoc on cases involving personal injury, wrongful death, or medical negligence. Every person bringing one of these claims must be prepared to demonstrate the most likely cause(s) of the many consequences to the injured person. Some of the problems with establishing proximate causation arise in the context of attempting to demonstrate a particular harm or injury resulted from the event and no other cause. This can be challenging when trying to separate pre-existing conditions or injuries.

Damages. We handle catastrophic accident claims, which always create a lot of evidence as a matter of course. This information is available in the form of photographs, repair estimates, and government created documents such as accident reports. These and other commonly created documentation reflect the extent of property damage usually comprising the evidence presented during trial.

As for “bodily injuries,” these claims are well documented by contemporaneously created emergency ambulance and medical records of treatment for the injuries caused by the collision. Unfortunately, in the saddest case, documentation may come from the coroner or medical examiner. These records will almost always be used as evidence during trial as will the sworn testimony of the medical treatment providers, nurses, doctors, radiologists and the like. Since all of these healthcare providers are busy professionals, it is unusual to take them away from their work responsibilities to come to court. For this reason, we commonly obtain their sworn testimony during deposition with the intention to present it during trial. Alternatively, an uninvolved physician or qualified healthcare provider may serve as an expert witness and testify during trial about reliable expert opinions formed based upon a review of the records, or other information that establishes the scope and extent of the injuries.

Wage and income losses. When a life altering collision takes you out of your everyday routine, it affects every aspect of your life including the ability to earn an income. Frequently, injured victims are forced to recover at home or in a hospital making it difficult or impossible to earn a living. All of the documentation establishing lost wages, loss of business income and the like will be necessary evidence during trial. Because of the severity of those claims, we also regularly rely upon expert testimony presented by an economist to calculate and quantify these losses.

Other noteworthy experts. Even in seemingly clear-cut matters, to the uninitiated there are many issues inviting careful scrutiny and the attention of experts. In addition to evidence obtained from expert investigators, healthcare providers, and economists, some of our clients benefit from the assistance of vocational rehabilitation experts and/or the services of a “life care planner.” These professionals have specialized education, training, and experience to aid in reaching reliable conclusions about the continuing medical and vocational needs of a traumatically injured accident victim. Each of these experts has the ability and capacity to testify during trial and present their opinions about the matters falling into the purview of their respective expertise. Many times these experts can teach the jury members about important aspects of the case that might have gotten confused or overlooked.

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15. How long do I have to file a lawsuit?

A. Personal injury claims must generally be filed within three (3) years from the date of occurrence. This is called a “statute of limitations” and once that three (3) year time period has passed you will be barred from filing suit. Even if there was a clear legal issue and evidence of fault, you will not be allowed to file a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has expired. If you have questions about when your particular statute of limitations will expire, CCR’s experienced attorneys can help.

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16. Where do I have to file a lawsuit?

A. This depends on the type of case. Each type of case has its own factors used to determine venue, meaning the jurisdiction where the case must be filed. If venue is mishandled, it can affect the outcome of the case or whether the case may even proceed at all. Proper venue of a case involving personal injury or wrongful death would mean suit must be filed in the location where the Plaintiff resides or where the accident occurred. For a medical negligence case, suit must be filed where the medical care was provided. However, this does not end the analysis of venue and jurisdiction. The same cases could be filed in Federal Court under certain circumstances and Federal Courts are not as numerous as those available for those filing in state court.

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17. How do I know what parties to name in the lawsuit?

A. You may not. To non-lawyers, this simple question can be deceivingly complicated in surprising and unfamiliar ways. It remains an extremely important issue, though, because if the necessary parties are not correctly named in the lawsuit, the claim may be severely limited, devalued, or possibly voided altogether. Failure to file suit against the correct person or corporation puts any judgment obtained at risk of being uncollectible. There are a few reasons for this; for example, you may obtain a judgment against one not legally bound to pay it. You also risk losing the right to file against the correct person or corporation if you fail to fix the mistake in time and name the proper party within the time allowed within the statute of limitations period.

In Arkansas, a “party” to the lawsuit includes the persons and legal entities identified directly with causing the harm, but responsibility for the harms and losses may extend much further. True parties to the lawsuit may also need to include any persons, corporations, or class of persons and corporations having legal responsibility to answer for the negligence and the damages incurred because of it. Attorneys take measure of many factors when determining the right person or corporation to name in a personal injury, medical negligence, or wrongful death lawsuit (or any suit for that matter). Legal principles such as: respondeat superior, agency, and joint enterprise are just some of the legal liability principles used by attorneys to describe the consequences of one person or corporation’s relationship to another in a way that compels legal accountability. These legal principles likely govern how much insurance money is available to the injured victim(s).

If you or someone you know is about to file a lawsuit and you are unsure of how any of these legal principles might affect the proper party to name in your lawsuit, give us a call. We regularly deal with these issues, and we know how to determine the full extent of legal accountability available to innocent victims of negligence.

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18. How much money will I get in court?

A. The answer to this question varies from case to case. Influencing factors include: Facts of the claim Location of accident Extent of personal injury Damages to property Applicable law With so many variables at play, it is hard to say with certainty a specific dollar amount that could be awarded. Through years of experience, we at CCR have learned how to evaluate the factors of each potential claim. Let us evaluate your claim free of charge.

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19. What is a claim for pain and suffering?

A. This is where a personal injury claim gets very personal. Most people vary in how they experience pain. Some stoic individuals can endure significant suffering. Others have extremely low pain tolerance and require extended periods of recovery and careful management with strong medications, which can be addictive and invite a whole host of other problems that require care and management.

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20. What is a claim for permanent injury?

A. What is a claim for permanent injury and how can I help a jury or insurance company to understand what I have been through because of the accident?

With the loss of a limb, broken bones, serious infection, traumatic brain injuries, and other significant life altering injuries, thoughtful concern is appropriate to fully measure how those injuries are likely to change a person’s life.

Often, it is necessary to obtain the benefit of keenly attentive medical oversight to outline the true extent of the injury, the necessity and frequency of continuous medical care.

This often invites the need for life care planning and vocational rehabilitation to show how an injury changes most every aspect of a person’s life, including their many social, work and family interactions.

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