Winter in Colorado is famous for many extraordinary things: gorgeous snow storms, world-class skiing, and stunning snow-capped vistas. It’s also notorious for multi-car accidents – including 20 car pile ups – on I-25 and I-70. We see them in the news every winter and some result in tragic outcomes. For the victims and their family members, a car pile up can be very confusing, because there are so many people and insurance companies to deal with, on top of any medical concerns they may have.
Long-story short: if you’re involved in a car pile-up in Colorado, you’re probably going to need a Denver car accident lawyer to help you wade through all of the resulting legal and financial issues that you face. However, here are a few tips to remember if you ever face this difficult situation.
What Should I Do if I’m in a Car Pile Up?
1. Contact Your Insurance Company
The first thing you should do if you’re in a car pile up is to contact your insurance company right away. Why? Because if you have collision insurance, they will begin the process of repairing your car. If you don’t call right away, imagine all the people who will be ahead of you in the process, especially in something as big as a 20 car pile up. In a multi-car accident, there is a very high likelihood that many of the drivers have the same insurance carriers. They also may try to go to the same body shop that you would like to use.
Also, the annoying reality is that your insurance company may delay paying out the benefit from your collision coverage. Your insurance company will want to find out whose fault the accident was and that is very hard and time-consuming after a multi-car pile up. Every single impact between every single set of cars is examined to discern whether each driver acted appropriately in the situation. It doesn’t just come down to what the “first driver” was doing. If there are many people hospitalized, it takes even longer.
So, be the first in line, and call your insurance company pronto.
2. What Should I Do if I Got Hurt in a Car Pile Up?
Next, you need to ask your insurance company if you have medical payment coverage. This coverage is also called “med pay” and usually includes benefits of $5,000 and up. You can use this coverage for things that your healthcare insurance won’t cover, such as co-pays, medical deductibles and more.
For example, if you had to go to the emergency room after the accident, or if you go to the doctor in the days following the accident, you can use your medical payment coverage to help cover the costs that health insurance won’t. Think of chiropractic care and other “alternative” forms of medical treatment that your health insurance may not cover.
Make sure you call your insurance company and ask if you have this coverage. I highly doubt they will call you up and let you know that you have med pay… they will let you leave that money on the table if you don’t know about it and ask about it specifically.
3. Get a Copy of the Police Report from the Accident
The next thing you should do after a multi-car pile up is to get a copy of the police report. You (or a family member or your attorney) should contact the police for this report as soon as possible, because it may indicate that one particular person was at fault, even though the roads may have been icy and in horrible condition.
Now, obviously that person’s insurance policy can’t cover dozens and dozens of different vehicles and each separate impact within the pile up, as well as all of the injuries. No one has that much insurance, but, if the car pile up is one person’s fault, then you may have the opportunity to use your underinsured motorist coverage (if you have it on your policy) for any damages you may have.
Underinsured Motorist Insurance covers:
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
(At a minimum, you should purchase $100,000 of UIM insurance coverage. If you can afford more, you should have it.)
So, if you’re in a car pile up in Colorado, and the police determine that it was someone else’s fault, then you can use your UIM coverage to pay for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
4. Don’t Trust Your Insurance Company
Lastly, a word of caution. As I’ve told so many people over the years, your insurance company is not “on your side” after an accident. They will only (reluctantly) pay you after they have exhausted all of their options to avoid it.
For example, after a multi-car pile up in Colorado, the insurance companies will collaborate and attempt to reduce their risk by disagreeing with the police report, saying that the accident was “unavoidable” due to the poor road conditions. If they are able to convince the police that no one was at fault, they not only limit what they have to pay from their liability policies, but people with UIM may be unable to access their own coverage to pay for their medical bills and lost wages!
And much of this will all happen behind the scenes where you have no control over the outcome… unless you hire an attorney.
If you have any questions or need help dealing with a multi-vehicle collision, please call me at (303) 388-5304.