Your life can change in an instant if you are involved in a car accident. Various Colorado laws will affect how you proceed
with your claim and how to seek recovery for the damages that you sustained. Due to the complex rules
and their interaction with each other, many motorists choose to retain the services of an experienced
auto accident attorney. An experienced attorney can walk you through the following issues related
to Colorado automotive accidents:
Medical Payments (Med Pay)
Med Pay is a type of coverage that pays for emergency medical expenses. Insurance carriers are required to offer Med Pay to all customers. Every customer will automatically have Med Pay coverage of at least $5,000 unless he or she affirmatively rejects the coverage in writing or in the same form that he or she obtained the insurance policy. The Med Pay benefits will typically be paid in the following priority:
- Licensed ambulances or air ambulances that provided trauma care at the scene of the accident
- Trauma physicians that provided emergency care to an injured party
- Trauma centers that provided care to stabilize the injured party
At-Fault vs. No-Fault
Up until 2003, Colorado had a no-fault auto insurance system. This meant that a driver who was in an accident did not have to prove that the other driver caused the accident. Each respective driver’s auto insurance policy would pay for his medical bills, rehabilitation expenses and lost wages in accord with the amount of coverage that the insured had purchased. The purpose of this system was to decrease the cost of insurance and expensive litigation. However, Colorado lawmakers recognized that more claims were filed under the no-fault system and actually caused an increase to the cost of insurance. Colorado then changed to a different system. This system requires insurance companies to pay based on each individual party’s amount of fault. This change has had a dramatic effect on litigation associated with car accidents.
A 23 year-old woman was injured when an 81 year-old pulled out in front of her and caused a collision. The woman required more than 200 medical treatment visits associated with the mild traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder and post-traumatic vision problem. The treatments and lost income resulted in over $150,000 in damages. Under the no-fault policy, this woman would have had to pay for the amount of medical bills that exceeded the amount of her coverage. Because the accident occurred in 2008 after Colorado had already converted to an at-fault system, the woman was able to recover these damages from the negligent driver’s insurance company.Insurance companies sometimes try to refute their insured’s negligence in an action, even if the driver admits the accident was their fault. An auto accident attorney can assist you with a claim if the insurance company is denying fault or its proportionate share of fault.
Colorado courts use a modified comparative fault rule in determining the amount to award to a plaintiff in a car accident case. The plaintiff will demonstrate evidence of the defendant’s negligent actions and the defendant may try to prove that the plaintiff’s negligence also contributed to the accident. A jury will determine the percentage of fault for each party. If the plaintiff is found to be 50% or more at fault for the accident, they will not be able to recover damages. If the plaintiff is less than 50% responsible for the accident, the jury may decrease the amount of the plaintiff’s recovery by their amount of fault.
Colleen McClintic was driving down a highway and slowed her vehicle when bighorn sheep appeared on the roadway. Donald Hesse rear-ended McClintic and later raised the defense of comparative negligence at trial. McClintic’s damages were $170,000. The jury found McClintic to be 30% at fault and Hesse 70% at fault, so McClintic’s judgment equaled $119,000. -Hesse v. McClintic, 176 P.3d 759.Property Damage
Property damage is handled in the same manner as medical expenses under the at-fault insurance system. If a person is 100% responsible for your property damage, they will pay 100% of the expenses related to repairing the vehicle, as well as compensate you for other economic losses, such as lost wages. If you are partially at fault, your award will be reduced by the percentage of your fault in the accident.
According to legislature that was passed in 2008, insurance companies are required to expand on the amount of coverage that they offer for uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. This provides for “extra” insurance coverage for claims in which you are hit by another driver that is underinsured or lacks any insurance coverage. Insurance companies must offer a minimum of $25,000/$50,000 for uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.
Car accident cases often involve complex issues that may require the assistance of expert witnesses and a skilled attorney who can prove that a client is due monetary compensation when another driver acts in a negligent manner. If you have been injured in an automotive accident, The Personal Injury Law Firm of Colorado can assist you with your claim and help you seek the maximum amount recoverable for your claim. Our attorneys offer the knowledge and experience that will help you successfully prove your claim and recover damages.