Colorado’s personal injury laws are very complex, as is auto insurance! We’ve compiled a list of questions that we often receive from people who are trying to buy the right insurance for their needs, and also from people who have been in car or truck accidents. Of course, your accident is unique to you so please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions that aren’t answered below.
If I Have Health Insurance, Do I Need Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist (UIM) Coverage?
Yes. Even if you have excellent health insurance coverage, it is important to have as much Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UIM Coverage) as you can afford. This coverage protects you if the other driver doesn’t have any insurance or not enough to pay for your injuries. One-third of all Colorado drivers don’t have car insurance and most drivers in Colorado only have the state minimum of $25,000.
Also, UIM covers a LOT more than health insurance. It covers…
Past and future medical expenses
Any damage arising from the accident (with the exception of property damage)
All economic and noneconomic loss, which includes pain and suffering
Unfortunately, all too often I meet with clients who were advised by their insurance agent that because they have health insurance they don’t need UIM coverage. Either insurance agents don’t understand what they are selling or they don’t sell it because they can’t make any money from it. Either way it is bad advice.
Should I Talk to the Other Driver’s Insurance Company?
You need to think of the other driver’s insurance company as an adversary. They are looking to protect their interests and, therefore, they will be looking for ways to get out of their responsibility to cover your costs. Don’t give them the opportunity to do this! Keep the following in mind when dealing with the other driver’s insurance company:
Do not ever allow them to take a recorded statement.
By Colorado law, insurance companies are not allowed to use any statement that you make within 15 days of being in care or treatment after an accident. If they try to contact you and take your statement within this time frame, seek an attorney.
What’s The Biggest Mistake Most Accident Victims Make After An Accident?
The number one mistake made by accident victims is that they don’t contact the police. When you have been in an accident, particularly if you have sustained an injury, it is crucially important to call the police. They need to begin the process of establishing fault. With their help, your accident claim will be stronger because it is their job to make sure that the at-fault driver is held responsible and that the entire event is well documented.
The second mistake that victims make is in speaking with the defendant’s insurance company. You have no duty to speak to the at-fault driver’s insurer. And remember: They do not have your best interests at heart. You may call them to collect information about the defendant’s coverage, but under no circumstances should you give a recorded statement. If they call to ask questions about your accident, make sure that the discussion is not being recorded because they can use the call against you later.
A note of caution. Usually, within a couple of days of an accident, the at-fault driver’s insurance company calls the victim and asks about the accident and any injuries. Often, victims do not fully understand the extent of their injuries or, worse, they try to “tough it out” and tell people it’s “not that bad.” For your own protection, make sure that you never provide any recorded statements.
I Can’t Work! Now What?
If you sustained significant injuries in an accident, no one is going to step up and pay your lost wages or health care bills for quite some time. Here are some ways to avoid lost wages for the short term:
You may be able to use your sick leave and vacation time. These are your first line of defense. (You may be reimbursed for the lost value in your settlement.)
If you’re lucky enough to have short-term disability insurance, use it! However, most of those policies wait at least two weeks and sometimes more than a month before they kick in.
Some companies allow coworkers to donate their own sick leave and vacation time to a “bank” of hours that you may use for your recovery. Have a friend check it out on your behalf.
If you require more time to heal, you may be able to protect your job under the Family Medical Leave Act. However, this does not provide a salary; it simply protects your job until you can return. An experienced Denver personal injury attorney can help you decide what’s best for you, given the unique nature of your accident and injuries.
The Hospital Bills Are Pouring In. What Do I Do?
Believe it or not, a good personal injury attorney can help to reduce or even eliminate your medical bills. He or she should work to keep money in your pocket and keep you out of bankruptcy while your accident claim is pending. Then, when your claim is settled, the remaining costs will be covered by your settlement.
What Is The Difference Between Economic Damages And Non-Economic 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.
Noneconomic Damages: These are the damages caused as a result of a victim’s mental pain and suffering.
How Can A Personal Injury Attorney Help Me?
First of all, if you’ve been in an accident with injuries, you have a lot to think about. Not only must you focus on healing, but the medical bills are piling up and, typically, you may be facing the insurance companies’ huge bureaucracies. It’s like David vs. Goliath, only you are arriving at the fight already injured!
Second, you’re not a lawyer and the insurance companies know it. Most people don’t even know their rights after an accident, let alone how to fight for them. Your own insurance company may work with you but they may not always do what’s best for you. The defendant’s insurance company is simply going to make it hard on you and they will do everything they can to limit what they pay you.
Additionally, a personal injury attorney can even help to lower or eliminate the medical bills that you face.
Finally, you have a family and a job and you need to heal for them. Fighting for your rights, and securing them, is a full-time job. Can you heal with that much stress?
Can’t I Just Trust the Insurance Company To Do What They’re Paid To Do?
No. In fact, if you have been in an accident with injuries, you will be dealing with two insurance companies: yours and the defendants. Your insurance company has a duty to treat you reasonably and fairly but that doesn’t mean they always do what is in your best interest, such as paying for all of your medical bills or paying the proper amount to repair or replace your car or motorcycle. This may be true even if you have the appropriate coverage.
As for the defendant’s insurer, they simply do not have your best interests at heart. They want to pay you as little as possible no matter how severe your injuries. They have no contractual duty to you.
What Is A Contingency Fee?
Most lawyers earn an hourly fee so, for obvious reasons, if you’re the victim of a car accident in Denver, you may fret that you will rack up a bill simply by talking with a personal injury attorney. But that is not at all true, or at least it shouldn’t be. Personal injury law is one legal specialty that works on a contingency fee, which is a fancy way of saying, “free until we win.” You should pay nothing to your personal injury attorney until he or she secures a settlement for you from your case. At that point, your attorney will recoup some costs and receive an agreed-upon percentage of your settlement.
Do I Need An Attorney?
If you’ve been in a very minor accident and there’s only property damage – you weren’t injured at all – and if you have the right insurance, you probably don’t need a lawyer. You can probably handle the property damage claim with your insurance company on your own.
If you’re in an accident that involves a higher speed, another driver and physical injury, you probably need an attorney.
If you are looking for an attorney to help you after an accident, you should know that there is a distinct difference between personal injury attorneys and other types of lawyers. Personal injury attorneys don’t charge you a dime for anything until after your case is settled. If you have met an attorney who charges you for a consultation or asks you to pay a “signing fee” to handle your case, run the other way!
Personal injury law is one legal specialty that works on a contingency fee, which is simply a fancy way of saying, “free until we win.” You should pay nothing to your attorney until he or she secures a settlement for you from your case. At that point, your attorney will recoup some costs and receive an agreed-upon percentage of your settlement.
If you are in need of an attorney, contact The O’Sullivan Law Firm today online or call us at (303) 388- 5304 for a free consultation of your case. We have the experience and resources necessary to investigate your case.
Will My Case Go To Trial?
Most personal injury cases do not end up going to trial. As we mentioned, the vast majority of injury claims are resolved through insurance settlements. However, if the insurance carrier denies a claim or refuses to offer a fair settlement amount, it may be necessary to file a personal injury lawsuit. Even after a lawsuit has been filed, this does not mean that you will have to go to trial. The only time a personal injury case goes all the way to trial is if the attorneys for both sides cannot reach a fair settlement agreement during the discovery process or through mediation.
When Are Colleges Responsible For Injuries On Campus?
Injuries that occur on a college campus may very well fall under premises liability laws. Just like any other type of property owner or business, the operators of a college campus have a duty to ensure the safety of any person who has the right to be there, including students, faculty, and authorized visitors. Some of the most common causes of campus injuries include a failure to provide adequate security, inadequate lighting on campus, unsafe buildings, wet floors that cause slip and fall incidents, unsafe roadways, and more.
The O’Sullivan Law Firm Resources
After an accident, you may be confused, frustrated, or scared. Not only are you managing your injuries, doctors, hospital bills, and the emotions that threaten to overwhelm you and your loved ones, but you also have to grapple with insurance companies – both yours and the other drivers.
Additionally, we maintain a robust resources section on this website to help you in all aspects of car, scooter, pedestrian or motorcycle accidents, insurance, safety, advocacy, and more.