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What Factors Affect the Outcome in a Personal Injury Case in Colorado?

April 20, 2024
Personal Injury Law

Thanks to ads and billboards touting astronomical numbers, our society has been trained to think that all car crashes mean big bucks for victims. But that is not the case. Yes, depending on several factors, if you are a victim of a car crash in Denver, you may be owed thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars. But in order to determine the worth of your case – and actually receive that full amount – you will likely need a Denver personal injury attorney’s help.

Each car or motorcycle crash involves a unique multitude of factors, each with its own degree of influence on the amount owed to victims. The complexity of these cases arises from the unique circumstances of each incident, the individual characteristics of the injured party, and the legal and insurance frameworks in place. Here are just a few of the factors that may impact the value of your Denver car crash case.

Nature and Extent of Injuries in a Personal Injury Case

Traumatic brain injury from a car crash will change the personal injury outcomes

The severity and permanence of injuries sustained by the victim are among the most significant determinants of a personal injury case’s value. Generally, more severe injuries result in higher compensation due to increased medical expenses, prolonged recovery periods, and greater pain and suffering. Injuries that lead to chronic conditions, permanent disability, or significant disfigurement typically command higher settlements or awards.

However, just because a victim is seriously injured by another driver’s negligence does not guarantee that the victim’s medical bills will be paid. Remember that it all comes down to the amount of insurance available – both from the negligent driver and from the victim’s own policies. I will cover that later in this article.

Medical Treatment and Expenses

The cost of medical care, including past, present, and future treatments, is a primary factor in calculating case value. This encompasses emergency services, hospital stays, surgeries, medications, physical therapy, and any long-term care needs.

I always tell people that they should see a doctor immediately following a car crash. Victims need to prove that they sought treatment following a crash, and they need documentation to prove that their condition improved or worsened. Documentation of these expenses is critical, and the necessity and reasonableness of the treatments are often scrutinized by the opposing party.

What Impact the Injury Has Had on Quality of Life

The effect of the injury on the plaintiff’s daily life and well-being is another crucial component. This includes pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress, and the impact on the plaintiff’s ability to engage in hobbies, social activities, and family life. These non-economic damages are subjective and can vary significantly from case to case.

Quick tip: Stop posting on social media after a car crash. Don’t post anything about the crash itself, your medical journey afterward, and your road to recovery. Insurance companies will absolutely troll your social media accounts looking for proof that your claim is unjustified.

Loss of Earnings and Earning Capacity from an Injury

A personal injury can lead to significant time away from work, resulting in lost wages. Moreover, if the injury affects the plaintiff’s ability to work in the future, the loss of earning capacity becomes a critical factor. This aspect considers the plaintiff’s age, occupation, skills, experience, and the likelihood of promotions and career advancement that have been impacted by the injury.

Additionally, an experienced attorney will be able to calculate the financial impact of a victim’s long-term disability and care needs. If someone else injured you in a car crash, and you can no longer pursue the career you had been pursuing, you need to be compensated for those losses.

Contributory Negligence

In many jurisdictions, the concept of contributory negligence can dramatically affect the value of a personal injury case. For example, if the injured party is found to be partially at fault for the incident that caused their injuries, their compensation can be reduced proportionately. In some places, being found even slightly responsible can negate recovery entirely!

Under Colorado law, a person is considered negligent when they fail to exercise the level of care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise under similar circumstances. In the context of car and motorcycle accidents, this standard involves adhering to traffic laws, being attentive to road conditions and other drivers, and acting responsibly to avoid causing harm to others.

Colorado law states that if a plaintiff’s negligence is found to be a contributing cause of their injury, the plaintiff’s recovery will be reduced by the percentage of their own negligence. Importantly, if the plaintiff’s negligence is determined to be equal to or greater than the combined negligence of all defendants, the plaintiff is barred from recovering any damages.

Insurance Coverage in a Car Crash

In my mind, this is where the rubber hits the road. Because, truthfully, if the negligent driver has little to no insurance coverage, the crash victim may be in dire straights. Maybe… Let me explain.

The availability and limits of insurance coverage play a pivotal role in personal injury cases. Negligent drivers with substantial insurance coverage or significant assets may have more to offer victims of car crashes. Conversely, negligent drivers with limited or no insurance coverage may not be able to provide much to victims, regardless of the severity of the injuries the negligent driver caused.

However, victims of car crashes can also use their own insurance to pay for medical treatment and other losses. Many people forget this because they think, “The other guy should pay!” Yes, in a perfect world, the bad guy pays the good guy for the pain they’ve caused. But this is not a perfect world.

In Colorado, drivers are only required to carry $25,000 of coverage, and I can tell you that many drivers only carry that amount. But $25,000 won’t come close to covering even a single day of hospital treatment after a catastrophic car crash. This is why you need to make sure that your own insurance is enough to help you through an emergency.

You should always (always, always) have Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM) on every car that you own. UIM kicks in when you’re the victim in a car accident and the other driver doesn’t have enough coverage to pay for your bills.

I recommend a minimum of $250,000 of UIM because it covers:

  • Medical deductibles
  • Medical bills
  • Medical co-pays
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost wages and other economic losses

This is typically the “pot” from which those huge settlements that you see on TV come from. If you don’t have UIM, and the other driver only has $25,000, you will only get $25,000, which probably won’t even come close to covering your expenses.

Quality of Evidence and Personal Injury Legal Representation

The strength of the evidence presented, including medical records, eyewitness testimony, and expert opinions, can significantly impact a case’s outcome. Additionally, the expertise and negotiation skills of legal representation can influence the value of a settlement or award. Experienced personal injury attorneys (those with 20+ years of experience in the city or state where your crash occurred) often secure more favorable outcomes for their clients through effective case presentation and negotiation tactics.

Personal Injury Settlement Dynamics

The willingness of parties to settle and the negotiation dynamics also affect case value. Settlements are often reached through a process of negotiation, where both sides assess the strengths and weaknesses of their positions. The timing of a settlement offer, the parties’ risk tolerance, and the desire for a speedy resolution can all influence the final settlement amount.

All too often, I have seen greedy personal injury attorneys push their clients into early, low settlements because fighting on would be too expensive. They would rather pocket the percentage from the lower commission and move on to the other cases on their desk, churning more cases to bring in more low settlements. This is what I call a “personal injury mill.” Their entire business model is structured on bringing in new clients and taking fast settlements. Make sure to look for a small firm that focuses on quality over quantity.

The value of a personal injury case depends on a complex interplay of factors, ranging from the tangible, such as medical expenses and lost wages, to the intangible, like pain and suffering and quality of life. Navigating these multifaceted considerations requires a nuanced understanding of personal injury law and the professional expertise of legal practitioners. Each case’s unique circumstances dictate its value, underscoring the personalized nature of personal injury litigation.

If you have been injured in a car or motorcycle crash, call or text me today for a free consultation. 303-388-5304

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