The Unthinkable Happens: You’re in an Accident
No one ever plans to get into an accident. However, smart drivers know their rights and they know the law. If you were in an accident, would you know enough about Colorado law to stand up for your rights? This chapter will arm you with that information so that, should the unthinkable occur, you are prepared to take action quickly.
This chapter covers:
- Who is responsible for damages?
- Post-accident insurance facts
- Economic vs. noneconomic damages
- Total allowable damages
In Colorado, the at-fault party is responsible for all damages that flow from an accident.
Who is Responsible for Damages?
Colorado law is clear: If you’re in an accident, the person who is responsible for the accident is responsible for all of the victim’s damages. (See a definition of damages later in this chapter.)
Because Colorado switched its laws a few years ago, there is some confusion around this fact. Therefore, it’s worth repeating another way: “In Colorado, the at-fault party is responsible for all damages that flow from an accident.”
Post-Accident Insurance Facts
Because of the confusion around Colorado law, here are some insurance facts regarding accidents:
With the exception of “medical payment coverage” (which I talk about below), if you are the victim in an accident, your auto insurance won’t automatically pay for your damages or medical bills.
The other driver’s auto insurance won’t pay for damages until you are done with treatment. There is no “pay-as-you-go” provision.
If you’re in an accident, use your own health insurance first. (See Chapter 5 for more on this topic.)
If you have purchased “medical payment coverage” with your auto insurance, use that to cover things not normally covered by your health insurance, such as co-pays, out-of-pocket expenses, treatment outside your health insurance network and deductibles.
Economic vs. Noneconomic Damages
There are two ways to define damages as recognized in Colorado courts:
- Economic Damages: These are the hard-cost damages and include lost wages, co-pays for health insurance, prescriptions, medical care and ongoing treatment. Generally speaking, economic damages include the things that people have paid or will have to pay for care and recovery, or money that they have lost as a result of their injuries.
- Noneconomic Damages: These are the damages caused as a result of a victim’s mental pain and suffering. Noneconomic damages cover the emotional component of a claim, including depression, loss of enjoyment of life, inconvenience, lost opportunities and anything flowing emotionally from the case and having to do with recovery and losses.
Total Allowable Damages
In Colorado, there is no cap on economic damages. For example, if you are a neurosurgeon and you get into an accident and can’t make a living, the person who hit you is responsible for your lost income, based on your earning potential. This is true for any profession.
Noneconomic damages are capped in the State of Colorado at $250,000. Even if your case goes to trial and a jury says your pain and suffering are worth millions, in most cases you cannot collect more than $250,000.