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Colorado’s Make Whole Doctrine – Subrogation Claim

April 13, 2017
Colorado insurance companies

make whole doctrine

What is the Colorado Make Whole Doctrine? What is a subrogation claim? Read on to find out.

Thanks to, sometimes, misleading commercials by Denver personal injury attorneys, a lot of people think that, if they get into a car accident or motorcycle accident that wasn’t their fault, they have access to some magical pot of money somewhere that will pay for everything they need, and then some.

But this is not the case.

Absolutely everything in a case relies on how much insurance the other driver has, and how much insurance you have. If your injuries are catastrophic, the other guy only has $25,000 of liability insurance (the Colorado minimum), and you don’t have underinsured motorist coverage (UIM), you may only receive $25,000 from the accident. Unfortunately, in most cases, that won’t even cover your first day in the hospital, let alone your ongoing care.

However, there is a Colorado law that can be helpful to people facing more medical bills than they receive in insurance coverage from an accident and it can be very helpful when accessed properly – it’s called the Colorado Make Whole Doctrine.

What is Colorado’s Make Whole Doctrine?

So, let’s say you were in an accident and your medical bills totaled $250,000. The at-fault driver only has $25,000 and you don’t have UIM.

See below for more about UIM. If this article doesn’t convince you to call your insurance agent today and add UIM to your policy, then nothing will.

You’re facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills, with no way to cover them. Put yourself in this position: you’d have to start thinking about selling assets like your home, your car or your motorcycle, or dipping into savings like your retirement or your kids’ college funds to get the money to pay it off. If you don’t have resources like that, you may be forced to default, your credit score plummets and you face long-term financial ruin.

Yes, this happens to people who were the victims in car and motorcycle accidents!

No pot of money, means you need UIM.

There is one Colorado law that can help called the Colorado Make Whole Doctrine. To be clear, it won’t put more money in your pocket. Basically, under this law, if you can prove that you have received all of the insurance money from the at-fault driver, and from your own insurance coverage, and you still face huge medical bills, the health insurance company can be forced to drop all of its claims against you. Your medical bills go to zero.

You can even access this law if the other driver had more than the minimum auto insurance required in Colorado and if you had UIM. If the insurance available is not enough to cover your bills, then you can access the Make Whole Doctrine Law.

But of course, it’s not easy. You will definitely need an attorney’s help. The only way to take advantage of the Make Whole Doctrine Law is to systematically and chronologically file documentation that proves you used all of the other resources available to you and that you still require care. These are complex legal documents, and one misstep can cost you the coverage.

This is just another reason why you should hire a Colorado personal injury attorney if you’ve been in a car or motorcycle accident. The Colorado Make Whole Doctrine Law is complicated, and you need to be preparing documentation for it from the beginning of your case, in order to access it. Imagine if you try to handle your case on your own and discover six months later that you simply won’t get enough money to cover your bills. You will likely have neglected to manage your care in a way that allows you to access the law.

And here’s another thing that a good personal injury attorney can do: negotiate with hospitals to reduce your medical bills, so that more of the insurance money goes into your pocket for future care.

What is a Subrogation Claim?

I wouldn’t be doing my duty if I didn’t tell you why the Colorado Make Whole Doctrine Law became so important, and if you are a frequent reader of my blogs, you won’t be surprised to find out that it has to do with nasty insurance company practices.

Prior to the Colorado Make Whole Doctrine Law, which took effect in 2010, health insurance companies were able to demand payments (or subrogation) for medical costs from victims before the victims were even getting compensated for their losses by the auto insurance companies. In practice, the victim of an accident could be forced to repay a health insurance company before receiving payment from the at-fault driver or from their own UIM coverage.

Thanks to the Make Whole Doctrine Law, now a victim can file a subrogation claim that helps them get compensated first for all of his or her losses and, if the money is not enough to cover everything, health insurance companies must zero out their claims against the victim. But remember, a subrogation claim is not an easy thing to prove, and you need an attorney’s help from the beginning of your case.

Now, let me return to a chorus that I sing often in my blogs: why you should have UIM coverage.

Why Should I Buy Underinsured Motorist Coverage?

Let’s revisit the example that I started this blog with: you’re the victim in a car or motorcycle accident and the negligent driver only has $25,000 in liability coverage. If you don’t have UIM, you might very likely only receive $25,000. That won’t even replace your car, let alone cover your immediate and long-term medical bills. And what if you can’t work? The picture gets more grim.

But not if you have underinsured motorist coverage.

Underinsured motorist coverage can cover your medical deductibles, past and future lost wages, unpaid medical bills, co-pays, pain and suffering, past and future medical care, permanent impairment and more. At a minimum, you should have $100,000 in UIM but I recommend $250,000 if you can afford it.

If there is any magical pot of money after a car or motorcycle accident (there isn’t, but if there was), your UIM coverage would be it. And if you’re paying attention, you now realize that you have to provide your own magical pot of money by buying UIM. No one else is going to do it for you.

If you have any questions about the Colorado Make Whole Doctrine Law, subrogation claims, or UIM coverage, contact me today.

Spring flowers: “It may be ‘that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,’ but I should be loath to see a rose on a maiden’s breast substituted by a flower, however beautiful and fragrant it might be, that went by the name of skunk lily.”

~Alexander Henry, 1739-1824

2017 Triumph Motorcycle Contest Benefits BikerDown

Scott with the 2017 Triumph grand prize motorcycle.

We have teamed up with Erico Motorsports for another motorcycle contest! This time, we’re giving away a 2017 Triumph Bonneville T120 and we’re throwing in $500 to use for accessories.

Why Sponsor a Motorcycle Contest?

This contest – like the last motorcycle giveaway in 2015 – benefits BikerDown, an amazing organization that provides support for Colorado bikers. The organization receives calls nearly every day from injured riders and loved ones who need assistance in the hospital, as well as with medical equipment and emotional support once they are home.

BikerDown is a nonprofit organization that was founded by bikers for bikers. If you haven’t heard of their mission, visit their website:

They are a tremendous asset to the Colorado motorcycle community and we need everyone to hear about their mission.


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