If you or a loved one has been wounded or killed in a car accident in Colorado, you probably have many concerns regarding your legal options. Car accident victims are typically forced to navigate the complicated and sometimes unjust process of recovering from an insurance company while also suffering from a major injury or even losing a loved one.
This article is designed to address some of the most frequent concerns that Colorado car accident victims have and help you decide if you should engage an attorney to help you seek compensation for your injuries.
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WHAT SHOULD I DO IF THE INSURANCE COMPANY FOR THE OTHER MOTORIST CALLS ME?
An insurance adjuster for the other driver’s insurance company will most likely contact you shortly after an car collision. The insurance adjuster will most likely want you to make a recorded statement and sign a medical records release to enable the insurance company to access your medical records.
Bring all of your previous medical documents and invoices with you. Our office often recommends our customers not to do the following:
Provide a recorded statement to the insurance adjuster as soon as possible after the car accident since the statement might be used against you if you need to file a lawsuit to recover from your injuries.
Furthermore, although the insurance company will ultimately have the right to study your medical records and expenses to assess the worth of your claim, it is generally not in your best interest to provide them with a patient’s release shortly after an accident.
You should be aware that the other driver’s insurance company is unlikely to reimburse your medical costs along the road and will instead issue a single settlement check after your case, which will be a complete and final settlement for your claim.
As a result, if the insurance adjuster informs you that you must sign a medical records waiver for the insurance company to pay your medical expenditures, this is simply not accurate. When our firm represents car accident victims, we get all clients’ medical documents straight from their doctors and evaluate them before submitting them to the insurance company.
This enables the client to know precisely what is in their medical records before handing them over to the defendant and their insurance provider. It also allows us to estimate the worth of our client’s claims more accurately.
You will need to speak with the other driver’s insurance company if you want to settle your injury claim without the help of a lawyer; however, if an attorney represents you, the attorney will deal with the insurance company, and you should not provide them with any information directly.
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR MY MEDICAL EXPENDITURES AS A RESULT OF A CAR ACCIDENT INJURY?
It’s a frequent misconception that the other driver’s motor insurance is obligated to cover your medical expenses as they come in. In reality, the other driver’s motor insurance will most likely make you a single lump-sum payment to resolve your claim, including compensation for your medical expenses.
You must reimburse your medical costs to your health insurance provider or any auto insurance that covered the bills originally. Who should pay your medical costs is mostly determined by your insurance and other financial means.
If you have health insurance, your health insurance company should pay your accident-related medical costs, and you should submit your copays, deductibles, and any medical expenditures not covered by your health insurance company to your car insurer, as explained below.
This is true even if you were not at fault in the car accident and even have additional auto insurance coverage that covers medical expenditures. Most health insurance plans provide that you must repay them if you win compensation from the other driver’s insurer.
Continue to report any medical expenses relating to the car accident to your health insurance carrier since this will certainly save you money in the long run. Some of your medical providers may have contracts with your health insurance company that 2
Allow them to pay a lesser rate for your medical treatment, resulting in a smaller payment to your health insurance company than if you had paid the medical providers directly for the full dollar amount.
If Medicaid or Medicare covers you, they’ll keep paying your medical expenditures until you reach a settlement or get a judgement against the other driver. If and when you get money from the accident, you will be legally obligated to reimburse them out of the settlement profits.
If you have health insurance as well as personal medical expenses coverage, car insurance policy for the car in which you were a passenger or an auto insurance policy for the car in which you were a driver:
We normally advise you to report just your deductibles, co-payments, mileage to and from medical appointments, and any medical expenditures not covered by your health insurance carrier to your car insurer. We normally do this for a variety of reasons.
This is something I would suggest. To begin with, you will be able to have more of your medical expenditures covered by insurance rather than paying them out of cash. Because car medical pay benefits often have modest limitations, sending all of your medical bills to the auto insurer would likely exhaust those limits very quickly, leaving you without insurance to cover charges that your health insurance company will not cover.
Furthermore, suppose you submit all of your medical bills to your auto insurance company directly. In that case, they are more likely to pay the full dollar amount of those bills rather than a reduced amount, as your health insurance company does, and you will end up owing more money when your case is finally resolved.
Medical providers may require that you send their invoices to your car insurance provider; but, if your health insurance covers the services they offer, you should submit those bills to your health insurance provider, not your car insurance provider.
We have spoken with several victims of auto accident injuries who mistakenly believed that the other driver’s auto insurer should or would promptly pay their medical bills and did not turn the bills into their health insurer or auto insurer, resulting in delinquent bills, collection threats, and even lawsuits by medical providers.
It’s critical to realize that the other driver’s insurance company has no duty to pay those expenses, and in fact, has no commitment to you at all about your claim. Their sole responsibility is to defend their insured—the other driver or owner of the other driver’s car—and to pay any judgement obtained against their insured in the event of a lawsuit.
While it is typically in the best interests of the other driver’s insurance carrier to settle your claim quickly to prevent the time and cost of a lawsuit and trial, it is under no duty to do so.
If you don’t have health insurance, you may have part of your medical expenditures covered by your employer.
Medical payments coverage on your car insurance pays for it, but only up to the amount of coverage you have under that policy (usually $5,000). You can potentially qualify for medical assistance via state or federal programmes. IowaCare is a programme that covers certain medical expenses for those who do not qualify for Medicaid. IowaCare requires participants to seek medical treatment from participating providers such as the University of Colorado, Broadlawns Hospital in Des Moines, and Waterloo People’s Community Health Clinic.
A social worker at the hospital where you are being treated may assist you with your application. Uninsured children may be eligible for hawk-i, a programme that offers coverage to children whose families do not qualify for Medicaid but have a low income. www.hawk-i.org has further information on this programme.
If you qualify for Medicaid or Medicare, or if you already do, you should submit any medical costs related to the accident to those programmes. There are complicated regulations, processes, and formulae for reporting any money you obtain for your injury claims to those programmes and returning all or part of the money received by Medicare or Medicaid.
If you obtain emergency treatment from a hospital, the hospital may file a lien to collect its costs from whatever recovery you make under Colorado’s revised hospital lien legislation. Recent revisions to the law have limited the amount a hospital may recover and mandated that it be reduced by the hospital’s part of your legal fees and litigation costs.
Furthermore, some medical providers may wait until your claim is settled before collecting what you owe them if you don’t have insurance. The crucial element is that, as previously said, you must seek appropriate medical treatment for your injury claim to be fairly considered by the other driver’s insurance company.
If you don’t settle your claim, it will be heard by an insurance company and an attorney and then by a jury if you don’t. If you don’t have insurance, a Colorado attorney knowledgeable about these difficulties and resources may help you.
An attorney in Colorado can assist you in determining the best strategy to maximize your medical expenditure recovery and, in many cases, can help you lower the amount you must return to medical providers, insurance companies, and other programmes that originally paid your medical bills.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE ACCIDENT TO ENSURE THAT I AM FAIRLY COMPENSATED FOR MY INJURIES?
The following are the three most crucial factors for every accident victim to consider in ensuring that their claims are appropriately considered:
Completely cooperate with medical therapy. Receive fast, professional, and comprehensive medical treatment for your injuries, fully inform your medical provider about the degree of your injuries and follow up with suggested medical care and treatment regularly.
While many people with severe injuries are transported by ambulance to the hospital and admitted for further treatment, many others get emergency treatment and subsequently fail to obtain essential and recommended follow-up care. Some even go so far as to say
They put off seeking treatment until their symptoms are so severe and incapacitating that they are forced to seek emergency care. There are various reasons why receiving all essential and recommended therapy is crucial to your legal claims.
First and foremost, many severe injuries result in persistent limitations that need urgent medical evaluation and treatment to avoid further injury aggravation.
Second, you have a legal responsibility to “mitigate” your injuries and damages in any injury lawsuit, which means you must take all reasonable efforts to recover from your injuries. If you don’t, the insurance company (and, subsequently, the lawyer hired by the business if you file a lawsuit) will blame you for not taking steps to mitigate your injuries.
Third, unless there is medical documentation confirming your injuries, the other driver’s insurance company—and maybe the jury if you do not settle your claim—will not give your claim the serious attention it deserves.
In almost every personal injury case, the insurance company and defense attorney will point out and argue about every delay and gap in medical treatment that is documented in your medical records, claiming that because you did not follow up with treatment, you were not seriously injured or made little or no effort to recover from your injuries.
People naturally hesitant to seek medical help or who just wish to “tough it out” are inevitably treated unfairly when their claims are resolved. For obvious health reasons and to ensure that you obtain appropriate compensation for your accident, you should have a timely and complete examination of your injuries and continue to follow your medical provider’s instructions for continuing care and treatment.
You should also be aware that your medical records will be critical, often mentioned, and heavily highlighted pieces of evidence in any damage lawsuit. You must tell your medical professionals the truth about all of your injuries and symptoms. What you don’t say and do when seeking medical care for your injuries may — and will — jeopardize your injury claim’s resolution.
LOOK INTO OTHER PAYMENT ALTERNATIVES
While your injury claim is ongoing, learn about all available options to help you pay your medical expenses and replace your lost wages, and then use those resources to the best degree feasible. Medical bills are described in further detail in Section 2 above.
- You should also look into any available resources to replace your lost wages, such as private or employer-provided short and long-term disability benefits, as well as workers’ compensation and Social Security disability benefits, if applicable. An expert Colorado personal injury lawyer can help you understand how these advantages relate to any personal injury claim you may have.
The main issue is that injury cases, particularly severe injury and wrongful death claims, take a long time to resolve and are often settled too early and for too little money because insurance companies understand that victims and their families want money.
Many wounded sufferers have few alternative options, and even those who do have options 5
Because of their urgent need for finances, people who aren’t familiar with them or interested in pursuing them settle their injury claims too fast and for too little.
You should learn about and consider utilizing all means available to you to ensure that your injury claim is properly considered. Because many of these resources may result in liens against or “subrogation” claims against any money you obtain in a personal injury claim, you should carefully explore these problems and, if required, discuss them with an experienced Colorado, personal injury lawyer.
- Seek legal counsel if necessary. Every car accident injury victim’s third most critical question is whether and when to employ an attorney, as well as who to hire. These are critical concerns that are addressed in depth in Sections 7 and 8 below.
WHAT IF THE OTHER MOTORIST ACCUSES ME OF CAUSING THE COLLISION?
It’s crucial to gather as much information as possible about the collision as soon as possible after it occurs so that you can prove that the other motorist was at fault.
This involves obtaining a copy of the accident report and any photographs taken at the site of the accident. Often, witnesses to an accident or what happened shortly after the event are not specified in the accident report and are only found after contacting known witnesses.
If you engage an attorney, the lawyer will get all available records, discover if the other motorist was charged with a traffic infraction, and, if required, talk with the officer investigating the case and any witnesses.
Even if you were partly responsible for the accident, you might collect a portion of your losses in Colorado provided you were not more than 50% at fault. Comparative fault is the term for this.
Suppose you were partially at fault in an car accident. In that case, it might be in your best interests to consult with an attorney, as these cases often involve complicated legal issues, such as determining how the accident occurred, how much in damages you are entitled to recover, and how much you must pay back to your insurance carrier. Section 6 below goes through some of these topics in further depth.
WHAT HAPPENS IF THE OTHER MOTORIST DOESN’T HAVE INSURANCE OR HAS INSUFFICIENT INSURANCE?
Provided the other driver does not have car insurance or has liability limitations that are less than the amount of your claim, you may file a claim with your car insurance if you have Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage.
If you do not have Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage in Colorado, you must surrender your right to receive it in writing. Your car insurance provider is obligated to give you coverage up to the statutory minimum amount, which is $20,000 if you did not sign a formal waiver of your right.
Whether you’re not sure if you have Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage or if you signed in writing, it’s a good idea to engage a Colorado attorney to go through your insurance policy and advise you on what coverage you could have.
In recent rulings from the Colorado Appeals Court, time limitations and other restrictions on pursuing uninsured and underinsured motorist claims incorporated in insurance plans have been enforced.
Before you make any choices about how to settle your claims, you should have a Colorado personal injury attorney analyze your car insurance policies to understand your rights and obligations under the policies involving uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.
Furthermore, if the other driver did not have insurance, the car’s owner, if different from the driver, may be liable for your injury claim if the owner consented to the driver’s use of the car. The car’s owner may have insurance that would cover your claim.
You may also claim against the drinking establishment where the driver got inebriated if a drunk motorist struck you. Even if the other motorist did not have insurance, a competent attorney would explore all potential claims you may have against all possible defendants and calculate the total amount of insurance that may be available to you.
HOW DO I DETERMINE WHEN TO SETTLE MY CLAIM AND HOW MUCH MONEY IS A SUITABLE SETTLEMENT AMOUNT?
One of the most common errors made by car accident victims is settling their claim before they have completely healed from their injuries or have achieved their maximum medical improvement.
When you settle with the other driver’s insurance company, you agree to release the other driver and their insurance company from any claims you may have, including claims for future difficulties resulting from your injuries.
As a result, even if your medical condition worsens in the future, you will not be able to collect extra lost wages or medical expenditures if you have previously paid with the other driver’s insurance company.
It may be in your best interests to wait to settle your claims if you are still getting medical care for your injuries and have not healed or returned to work. Additionally, if the other driver’s insurance company refuses to pay you the entire worth of your losses, it may be in your best interest to launch a lawsuit against them.
Most lawsuits for injuries caused by an car accident in Colorado must be filed within two years of the event. The “statute of limits,” as it is called, is explained in-depth in Section 10 below.
TO UNDERSTAND HOW TO ANALYZE A PERSONAL INJURY CLAIM, YOU MUST FIRST GRASP WHAT “DAMAGES” MAY BE AWARDED.
A “modified comparative fault” legislation exists in Colorado. In a typical two-car car accident lawsuit, the injured party must first show that the other driver was negligent or at-fault—usually by breaking a traffic rule.
If the other driver claims and shows that the injured person was at fault, the injured person may still be entitled to compensation if his or her responsibility is smaller than the other driver’s (less than 50 per cent of the total fault causing the crash.)
Damages are decreased by the injured person’s degree of guilt. For example, if the jury determines that the injured person is 20% at blame, the injured person will be entitled to receive 80% of any money awarded by the verdict.
In a personal injury lawsuit, the jury fills out a form to determine whether or not to award damages and how much the injured person should be compensated for the following losses and expenses:
previous medical expenditures
medical costs that are “reasonably foreseeable” to arise in the future
lost profits in the past
future “earning capability” loss
previous bodily and mental functions that have been lost,
future bodily and mental function loss
previous bodily and mental anguish, as well as a loss of pleasure of life, and
future bodily and mental distress, as well as a reduction in the pleasure of life. While each of these things has more definitions, as you can see, many of them are quite vague and difficult to grasp and apply.
If you employ an attorney, he or she will give you advice on the worth of your case and gather evidence to substantiate each of the categories of damages listed above. No lawyer can predict what a jury will give in your case, but they can do some research and tell you what juries have awarded in comparable situations in the past.
SHOULD I ENGAGE A PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER IN COLORADO TO HANDLE MY CAR ACCIDENT CLAIM?
If your injuries were minor and you have completely healed, you may be better off resolving your claim without the help of an attorney. This is because lawyers often charge a percentage of the recovery—typically one-third of the recovery—along with the costs of initiating a claim, and you may obtain more in the settlement if you do not engage an attorney.
Suppose your injuries were more serious and persisted. In that case, you will need to contact an attorney to determine the extent of your losses and acquire a reasonable claim value so that you may receive adequate compensation for your losses.
We highly advise that you talk with an attorney to evaluate your rights and what is best for you based on your circumstances before deciding whether or not to employ an attorney and before speaking with the other driver’s insurance company.
Most personal injury attorneys, including those at Warrior Car Accident Lawyers, will speak with you without charge to help you determine whether hiring an attorney makes financial sense for you, to provide you with important early advice about your rights and the types of damages you are entitled to recover, and to make useful suggestions about what you should do.
If your claim is worth more than $5,000 in Colorado, you must file in district court rather than small claims court, with more procedural procedures and restrictions. While you are not obliged to hire an attorney to bring a case to the district court, you will almost certainly need one.
WHEN SHOULD I ENGAGE AN ATTORNEY, AND HOW DO I FIND THE CORRECT ONE?
Whether you are certain that you need an attorney or just suspect that you need one, you should contact one as soon as possible following your accident. Many choices, such as whether to call your insurance company, who should pay your bills and so on, must frequently be taken promptly after an incident, as addressed elsewhere in this book.
Furthermore, even if you can make these early judgments on your own, waiting too long to contact an attorney might be fatal to some or all of your claims.
Persons injured by drunk drivers, for example, have failed to call us early enough for us to identify the bar where the individual was drinking and serve a “dram shop” notice on that bar and its insurance within six months of an accident to pursue a claim against the bar.
In other circumstances, accident victims who waited until the statute of limitations was about to expire had trouble locating the correct counsel because the attorney did not have enough time to research the claim. There are several more instances in which delaying legal counsel might jeopardize your claims.
Because most injury lawyers operate on a “contingency fee” basis, and many do not charge for early consultations about your claim, whether or not they ultimately represent you, there is no financial reason to delay contacting an attorney, and many compelling reasons to do so as soon as possible.
The finest attorney for your case should be hired. Choosing an attorney to represent you in a severe personal injury lawsuit is a big choice. However, determining who is most suited to help you is quite challenging.
Unfortunately, since the regulations governing law enable any lawyer to accept personal injury claims, many lawyers with no expertise or competence in defending victims of personal injury and wrongful death do so. You should look for and hire an attorney who specializes in these types of cases.
Because professional norms have historically restricted lawyer advertising, new means have been devised to enable the public to identify attorneys with 9
A track record of expert representation Martindale-Hubbell is a 140-year-old, well-respected service that allows attorneys and judges to assess other lawyers. Lawyers widely use it to recommend people to other lawyers outside of their area of specialization and/or geographic region. Look for an AV-rated legal company and attorney.
This is a rating that only about 9% of lawyers have. Of course, recommendations from a trustworthy family attorney or relative, as well as word of mouth from pleased customers, are typically excellent sources. However, there are other, lesser-known options for finding the perfect counsel.
Organizations that only accept invitations to participate in trials: Trial attorneys—the sort of attorney who handles personal injury cases—are not the only ones who have Martindale Hubbell ratings. Several professional trial attorney associations perform rigorous examinations of lawyers and invite those who fulfil competence in trial abilities to join their organization.
The Colorado Academy of Trial Lawyers has a membership restriction of 3% of all practising lawyers in the state. Each state’s participation in the American College of Trial Lawyers is limited to 1% of practising lawyers.
Both plaintiffs’ lawyers who represent harmed persons and defense attorneys who represent defendants and insurance companies are rated by the services mentioned earlier and organizations.
You should choose a lawyer who specializes in representing plaintiffs. The Colorado Association for Justice (previously the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association) and the American Association for Justice are two organizations that regularly represent plaintiffs in Colorado.
There is no alternative for speaking with an attorney once you have finished your background investigation. Speaking with various lawyers is both acceptable and beneficial.
You are making a choice. All professional personal injury attorneys offer a free consultation. You owe them nothing unless you agree to employ them and they agree to work for you. Colorado, a contingency fee agreement (the most frequent way to hire an attorney in personal injury and wrongful death cases) must be written.
In certain circumstances, the attorney-client relationship is very tight, and you must have complete faith and confidence in your lawyer. Make sure you speak with the attorney first and think about how nicely they and their staff treat you, how clearly and precisely they answer your questions, and how at ease you are with them. There are a lot of attorneys who can handle your case, but there aren’t many who should.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I DON’T HAVE THE FUNDS TO EMPLOY AN ATTORNEY?
Most attorneys who represent personal injury clients, including Brady Preston Gronlund, work on a contingency fee basis. This means that if we successfully recover money on your behalf, we will be paid a percentage of the money—usually one-third, but the percentage may change after the trial or appeal.
The regulations in Colorado regarding lawyer payment for out-of-pocket fees in personal injury and other claims changed a few years ago. Before that, the client—the tenth—
Whether or not the injured person received any money when their claim was finally resolved, the injured person was required to pay all out-of-pocket expenses of the lawsuit.
Many injured people who had valid injury claims were hesitant to pursue them because they did not want or could not afford to lose money if the court or jury denied the claim. This law was changed in 2007 to allow lawyers to advance all lawsuit expenses and hold the lawyer, not the client, responsible for those expenses if the case was lost. We will also advance any out-of-pocket legal fees since the passage of this statute.
Expert witness fees, filing fees, and other costs associated with pursuing your case. While we will collect these costs from any judgement or settlement we get on your behalf, you will not owe us a fee and will not be compelled to pay us for any charges we have advanced.
We represent a lot of folks who can’t afford to hire an attorney on an hourly basis, much alone pay the out-of-pocket costs of filing a case. They are often the ones who are most affected by an injury.
We do not think that anybody who has suffered a significant injury should be forced to go without the help of an experienced personal injury attorney because they cannot afford to pay an hourly fee.
HOW LONG DO YOU HAVE TO FILE A PERSONAL INJURY CLAIM?
A wounded individual, or the family and estate of a dead person, must bring a lawsuit within two years of the date of the injury or death, according to Colorado law. There are a few exceptions to this regulation, the most notable of which is for injuries to minors, which may be filed at any time before they turn eighteen.
However, a parent’s claim for damage to a minor kid, including medical expenditures for the child, has a two-year statute of limitations.
Even though you may have two years to file a lawsuit, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible after an accident for a variety of reasons, including to obtain general advice about your rights and to ensure that, if you do hire an attorney, he or she will have enough time to thoroughly investigate your claims and take all necessary steps to bring a claim.
Please contact an attorney at Warrior Car Accident Lawyers 719-300-1100 if you have any more concerns concerning your rights as a car accident victim.