The majority of personal injury cases that our firm handles involve some sort of vehicle collision. Below you’ll find critical information about what you need to do in the aftermath of an accident, car accident FAQs, and a few real-world examples of how our firm has helped people injured in car accidents in Colorado.
What to Do After Your Auto Accident
The first thing to understand is that your insurance company, and the insurance company of the person responsible for the accident wants to pay you the lowest possible settlement.
One of the ways they do this is by encouraging quick settlements, as quick settlements mean that the full cost of your injuries are not able to be realized.
They will also try to make you make a statement or take actions that will harm your ability to receive a fair settlement. The following steps will help you avoid these tricks and ultimately receive a fair settlement:
- Get any necessary medical attention
This should be a given, but before you do anything else, ensure your safety and the safety of anyone you are with by seeking medical attention for any injuries.
- Report the accident to the police
Typically, the police will come to the scene of the accident, and you will be able to report the accident from your perspective. If for whatever reason you are unable to file a police report at the time of the accident, be sure to contact the police so that your side of the story becomes official.
- Document critical information from the site of the accident
The more information you can document from the site of the accident, the better your attorney will be able to achieve a fair settlement. Always get the insurance information from all of the involved parties, and if you can, it is also beneficial to get photos, as well as the names and contact information of any witnesses.
- Talk to a car accident attorney, not to insurance reps
Remember, it is the job of the insurance reps to try and minimize the amount that they actually pay out. The best way to make sure that you ultimately receive a fair settlement is to talk to an attorney before making any statements to anyone involved with the insurance companies.
- The statute of limitation in Colorado is 3 years
From the time of your accident in Colorado, you will have 3 years to file a lawsuit. It is important that you consult an attorney soon after your accident to ensure that your time to file does not run out, causing you to miss out on a fair settlement.
Auto Accident FAQs
Question: What kind of damages are recoverable in an auto accident claim?
Answer: The legal system in place in Colorado allows auto accident victims to recover financial compensation for a variety of different losses that occur as a result of an auto accident.
A skilled and experienced Colorado auto accident attorney will be able to achieve fair compensation for any of the following losses:
- Loss of wages
- Expenses for assisted living (in the case of serious injuries)
- Cost of medical bills (in-patient and out-patient)
- Pain and suffering resulting from the auto accident
When an auto accident results in a fatality, surviving family members of the victim are able to file wrongful death claims to recover compensation for the monetary losses associated with the wrongful death.
Question: What are punitive damages and when they can be claimed in an auto accident case?
Answer: Colorado statute C.R.S. § 13-21-102, defines punitive damages as follows:
(1) (a) In all civil actions in which damages are assessed by a jury for a wrong done to the person or to personal or real property, and the injury complained of is attended by circumstances of fraud, malice, or willful and wanton conduct, the jury, in addition to the actual damages sustained by such party, may award him reasonable exemplary damages. The amount of such reasonable exemplary damages shall not exceed an amount which is equal to the amount of the actual damages awarded to the injured party.
(b) As used in this section, “willful and wanton conduct” means conduct purposefully committed which the actor must have realized as dangerous, done heedlessly and recklessly, without regard to consequences, or of the rights and safety of others, particularly the plaintiff.
The Colorado Court of Appeals has ruled that malice, as used in this section, may be found by the jury or the court from the reckless and wanton acts of the injuring party, such as discloses an utter disregard of consequences, aside from any intentional malice in its odious or malevolent sense. Cohen v. Fox, 26 Colo. App. 55, 141 P. 504 (1914).
The Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that “Wanton and reckless” disregard as used in this statute means conduct that creates a substantial risk of harm to another and is purposefully performed with an awareness of the risk in disregard of the consequences. Tri-Aspen Construction Co. v. Johnson, 714 P.2d 484 (Colo. 1986); Juarez v. United States, 798 F.2d 1341 (10th Cir. 1986); Miller v. Solaglas California, Inc., 870 P.2d 559 (Colo. App. 1993); Archer v. Farmer Bros. Co., 70 P.3d 495 (Colo. App. 2002).
In a lawsuit in Colorado a trial judge allowed McCormick & Murphy to include a claim for punitive damages where a driver, who was facing a red traffic signal, attempted to make a right turn from the left lane of traffic, driving across three through lanes of traffic and a right turn lane, striking McCormick & Murphy’s client, who was in the process of making a left hand turn.
Question: What is the legal effect of failing to use mandatory seat belts?
Answer: In the context of motor vehicle accidents, Colorado has enacted mandatory seat belt law for the driver and persons in the front seats of a motor vehicle. When a person fails to wear their safety belts and they are involved in a motor vehicle collision, C.R.S. 42-4-237 allows the defendant to introduce evidence of failure to use the safety belt as failure to mitigate damages. The defendant may also ask for a jury instruction that the jury should reduce the award of non-economic damages for pain and suffering that could’ve been prevented had the person been wearing a seat belt.
Question: What if a cell phone was in use?
Answer: It is against the law in Colorado to use a cell phone when driving a motor vehicle. Doing so can subject the driver to fines of $50–$100 dollars. It is also dangerous and can cause serious motor vehicle collisions.
Our Client’s Stories
Kim’s Car Accident Story
Kim, a 23-year-old vibrant young woman of slight build, employed in a local shoe store, was a passenger in a vehicle that was rear-ended in a moderate speed collision.
Initially, the at fault vehicle denied responsibility, claiming there was a phantom vehicle that was responsible for cutting him off and causing the collision. Kim sustained low back and hip pain.
She noticed that her low back would “pop all the time.” Her doctors found that her sacroiliac joints were locking and malfunctioning. Surgery was performed to correct this.
Initial efforts to settle were unsuccessful, with the defendant offering just $10,000, followed by a statutory offer of $75,000.
Two weeks before the 10 day trial, the defendant agreed to pay $325,000 to settle the claims
Mike’s Car Accident Story
Mike an apprentice electrician, was a backseat passenger in a one car collision with a wooden utility pole.
Mike sustained chronic back pain from the collision for which he tried multiple treatments and remedies, without success. He tried to get his claim settled. The insurance company would not offer more than $7,500.
McCormick & Murphy filed a lawsuit on his behalf.
Initially, the defense lawyer apologized that the claim was undervalued and immediately offered double what the claims adjuster had offered. Depositions and discovery continued. It was learned that the driver had only a $50,000 liability insurance policy. Mike offered to settle for the policy limits.
The insurance company continued to dribble money at him starting at $19,000, then $21,000, and $26,000, and eventually $27,500.
The case proceeded to trial and jury verdict was entered in Mike’s favor. With interest, Mike was awarded $97,862.96.