Estate Planning/Probate | Severe Injury | Wrongful Death | Bankruptcy


What should I do if I am in a car accident?

First, call the police and paramedics if necessary. Next notify your insurance company to report the crash and determine your coverage. You have a duty to cooperate with your insurance company but you do not have a duty and should not cooperate with the insurance companies for any other persons involved in the car accident. Then exchange information with others involved in the crash. Get necessary medical care as soon as possible and call an attorney to determine your legal rights.

What are the different types of insurance coverage in car crashes?

Liability coverage protects you if you are at fault and other people are injured. Liability coverage has limits, usually stated as two amounts such as 15/30. The first number is the maximum amount your insurance company will pay in any one accident for any one person injured. The second number is the maximum your company will pay for all people injured in any one crash. For example, if two people are injured and the liability coverage is 15/30, the insurance company will pay each injured person as much $15,000, depending on the injuries and other factors. If three people are injured, the company may still pay up to $15,000 for any one person injured but can only pay a total of $30,000 for all persons injured. 15/30 is the state minimum and you should always maintain the highest limits you can afford.

Other injury based coverages are uninsured (UM), underinsured (UIM), and med pay. UM coverage protects if an uninsured driver causes a crash and you are injured. UIM provides protection for you in the event the negligent driver’s insurance is inadequate to cover your losses. You should maintain UM and UIM limits equal to your liability limits. Collision and comprehension coverage are also available to cover other property losses.

In Arizona, the minimum state coverage is $15,000 liability coverage and UM and UIM coverage are not required. It is worthwhile to examine your personal coverage to make sure you and your family are protected if ever in an accident.

What if the police officer said I was at fault for the accident?

Police officers are trained to investigate car crashes, determine possible violations of Arizona law and offer their assessment as to the cause(s) of a car accident. Where appropriate, an officer will issue citations for any violations of Arizona law. The officer’s opinion may have little bearing on the ultimate determination of fault in a civil setting. In fact, the opinion may not even be admissible in a lawsuit. As with any crash, if an officer issues you a citation or tells you your driving caused the crash, report that to your insurance company as soon as possible. If you receive a citation and want to challenge it in court, you must make a court appearance on the date and time stated on the ticket. You may also be eligible for a traffic safety course and if you pay the fee and complete the course, your citation may be dismissed.

What if the other driver was intoxicated at the time of the accident?

Intoxication may be an important factor as it may show the other driver was reckless or grossly negligent. Your lawyer will assess the relevance of the adverse driver’s intoxication.

What if the insurance company is offering me less for my car than I still owe the bank?

The insurance company is obligated to pay the reasonable value to replace or repair your car. If your car was repaired, you may also be entitled to the difference between the value of your car after the repair and the value of your car before the crash. You still may end up receiving less than what is owed on your car. If you do not have gap coverage, you may be personally responsible for the difference. As the insurance company will want to pay the lien holder, you should try to reach an agreement with the lien holder, asking it to accept the insurance payoff in complete satisfaction of the lien. Your goal is to limit if not eliminate your responsibility for the excess amount of the lien. Your attorney may be willing to help you with this. Clarke Law Offices is a Phoenix law firm that will help with this.

What if the other driver is trying to make a claim against me?

Make sure you tell your insurance company as soon as a claim is made and provide your company with any documents you receive. If you have retained a lawyer, make sure your lawyer knows about the other party’s claim.

What if I am hurt and the accident was not my fault, but I do not have insurance?

First and foremost is getting the care you need. If do not have access to care, your lawyer should be able to help you get the care you need with qualified providers who will wait until your case is over for payment. Bob Clarke is a Phoenix personal injury lawyer that can help you get the care you need with providers that will wait for payment.

What if I already had a medical condition at the time of my accident?

You are entitled to recover for all your injuries; this includes any worsening of a previous condition. The adverse party is not responsible for the previous condition but is responsible for making it worse. If you were injured in Phoenix, contact a Phoenix personal injury lawyer.

What if there is not enough insurance to pay for my medical expenses, out of pocket expenses, time off work, and injuries?

If the adverse driver doesn’t have enough insurance, you may have underinsured coverage (UIM). You can recover from the UIM carrier the amount not covered by the adverse party’s insurance. If there still isn’t enough to go around, your lawyer should negotiate with your care providers to reduce the bills and provide you compensation. Clarke Law Offices is a Phoenix law firm that will negotiate with your care providers to reduce the bills and provide you compensation.

What if I am a passenger and my driver caused the accident?

If you are injured in a car accident, you are entitled to seek recovery from any person or entity that caused the crash and your injuries; this includes the driver of the car you were in.

How long do I have to make a claim for my child hurt in the accident?

The time to bring any claim your child may have ordinarily begins to run when your child turns 18. The amount of time to actually bring any claim depends on the type of claim and the identity of the adverse party. The total time may be a little as 180 days or as long as 2 years. For other actions, the time limit may be longer or more years.

What if the other car drove off before I could get his/her information?

Give your insurance company any information you have. If your insurance coverage includes uninsured motorist coverage (UM), you may be able to make a claim for UM benefits.

What if I do not have a doctor?

Your lawyer should help you get the care you need. At CLO, we will help you get the care you need.

What if I do not have money for a lawyer?

Most lawyers offer contingency fee agreements where the lawyer advances the costs of your case and charges you a percentage of your recovery for a fee. The lawyer gets paid only if you recover.

What if I was working at the time of my accident?

Notify your employer immediately as you likely will be entitled to worker’s compensation benefits. If your injuries were caused by someone other than your employer or a co-employee, you may still be entitled to make a claim for full recovery from the party that caused you injuries.

What are liens and what happens if I don’t pay them back?

Liens are like debts that are secured by an interest in your recovery. The lien may be non-consensual (like Medicare or AHCCCS) or voluntary, such as an agreement to pay for medical care from the proceeds of your recovery in exchange for a doctor treating you for your injuries without up-front payment. Your lawyer has an ethical duty to pay your liens and will usually try to negotiate reduced liens to increase your recovery. If you settle your case and do not pay your liens, the lien holders can sue you or take other legal action to seek payment.

Why are time limits so important?

Time limits are important to prevent claims from becoming stale. At the same time, your injuries may take time to heal. Your lawyer is the best person to balance the conflict between legally imposed deadlines and your need for treatment.

What are my options if the other driver doesn’t have insurance?

You may have UM coverage, med pay, health insurance or some combination thereof. If you have med pay or health insurance, you will at least be able to get the treatment you need. If you have UM coverage, you may also be able to recover for the suffering, inconvenience and pain associated with the crash.

What if I don’t have health insurance?

Med pay may be available. If you have no way to pay for medical care, your lawyer should be able to arrange for care with a doctor who wait to be paid from your recovery.

Do I have any recourse if I was injured on the job?

Yes, if your injury was caused by your employer or a co-employee or was not anyone’s fault, you will be entitled to worker’s compensation coverage. If someone other than your employer or a co-employee caused you injuries, you can also bring a claim against that person or entity.

What is the difference between the different chapters of bankruptcy?

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is also known as the liquidation chapter for bankruptcy.  Chapter 7 bankruptcy is used by individuals, partnerships and corporations who do not have the ability to restructure or otherwise repair their finances and repay their debts.  In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the debtor’s assets, minus exempt assets, are liquidated under the Bankruptcy Code.  The property is sold for cash by the bankruptcy trustee and the cash is used to pay down creditors.

Chapter 11 bankruptcy is also known as the reorganization chapter.  Chapter 11 bankruptcy allows corporations, partnerships and individuals an opportunity to reorganize their debt without having to liquidate assets.  When filing chapter 11 bankruptcy, the debtor will outline for the reorganization of debt, which will be presented to creditors and the court for approval.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy is for individuals that still have a regular source of income, who are overwhelmed by debts but still have a chance to repay much of their debts within a reasonable period of time.  In filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the debtor will prepare a plan to pay a certain percentage of future income to the Bankruptcy court for the payment of creditors.  This plan will be presented to the court for approval.

What is the function of the bankruptcy trustee?

In bankruptcy, a trustee is appointed to monitor the administration of the bankruptcy itself and to detect bankruptcy fraud.

What is the bankruptcy means test?

The bankruptcy means test is designed to test your eligibility for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and was implemented as part of the changes to the Arizona Bankruptcy Code in 2005.  In order to be eligible to file under Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Arizona, one must qualify his or her monthly household income against the State median household income.  Household expenses are also taken into consideration in determining your eligibility, but if your income to expense ratio is higher than the limit, you may not be able to file bankruptcy under Chapter 7 but will still be eligible to file under Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Are all of my debts dischargeable under Chapter 7 bankruptcy?

No.  Chapter 7 bankruptcy will not allow for the discharge of some debts.  Examples may include spousal and child support obligations, student loans, some tax debts, and secured creditors may retain some rights to seize property.

What is the 341 meeting?

At the bankruptcy 341 meeting, debtors appear in court and testify under oath to answer questions posed by your creditors.  The Trustee in your case will preside over this meeting.  Failure to appear to this meeting may result in a dismissal of your bankruptcy case.

What assets are exempt from liquidation in Chapter 7 bankruptcy?

Under Arizona bankruptcy code, you may keep some of your assets up to a certain value when filing chapter 7 bankruptcy.  Some assets may include: your home, car, furniture, household appliances, and business equipment.

How much will it cost to file bankruptcy?

The answer depends on which chapter bankruptcy you intend to file.  Our fee for Chapter 7 bankruptcy services will vary depending on your situation but Clarke Law Offices makes this assurance: Full Service Chapter 7 bankruptcy services with our firm will never exceed $1,500 plus costs* and in many cases can be much less.

I already know I want to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, do I still need to attend credit counseling?

Yes, although there are exceptions in rare circumstances.  Under the Arizona Bankruptcy Code, debtors are required to take a credit counseling course within 180 days of filing for bankruptcy.  The credit counseling course must be completed with an approved credit counseling agency and can be done on-line or in person.

What if I still owe money on my auto loan; will my vehicle be repossessed if I file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy?

Not necessarily; you can enter into an agreement to continue paying on the discharged debt after the Chapter 7 bankruptcy is complete, in order to keep certain assets such as a vehicle.

What are some of the things I can do to prepare for filing bankruptcy?
  • You may convert non-exempt assets to exempt assets in preparation for filing for bankruptcy. 
  • Avoid purchasing items or taking out cash advances for the 90 days prior to filing for bankruptcy.
  • You may stop paying most unsecured depts. (credit cards, medical bills, etc.)
  • You may stop paying secured debts if you do not want to keep the property.
  • Continue to pay secured debt for property that you want to keep.

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