Compensation in Colorado Car Accidents
What Is Fair?
Every dollar short of full and fair compensation is a burden shift away from the wrongdoer and onto the injured.
If you are injured in a car accident that is someone else’s fault, you will not know on day one what full and fair compensation is. Full and fair compensation requires you to know what the full cost of treatment will be, and what the full impact on your life is. The second part is often much more important than the first.
If you were injured in a car accident and find yourself in the early stages of trying to navigate the insurance maze, one of your primary concerns is just wanting to know what is fair, and to protect your rights. Any of my personal injury clients would tell you they aren’t trying to get rich or get a dollar that isn’t rightfully due. The at-fault driver or their insurance may be offering to pay quickly, or to come to some other agreement, to close the case out as cheaply as possible. Those who are responsible for the injuries are unlikely to ask questions about future care or long term costs. After suffering an injury in a collision, you will have to protect your own rights, or call a Colorado personal injury lawyer to handle that for you.
Colorado personal injury lawyers know that compensation in your car accident case is likely based on two major questions: who is liable and what are your losses?
Another way to say the same thing in an even-less-lawyerly way is that you should think about whether another driver is completely at fault for the accident, whether your injuries were caused or made worse by what that other driver did wrong, and how easy or not easy all that will be to show later if you need to.
The second part was about how the other driver’s wrongdoing harmed you. Was your car damaged? Were you injured? How bad was the injury and what is the impact on your life? There are other factors to consider, and it always helps to talk to a Colorado personal injury lawyer about your specific facts. Yes, we do always say that, because it is always true. So take it seriously. That said, here is some information that might help give you an idea of how compensation generally works in Colorado car accident cases.
Who is At Fault?
It may not be as obvious as it seems to you. For a whole blog post on just this subject, click here. But for this post, I will just say that in order to have a good chance of full and fair compensation, another person and not you needs to be at-fault.
This does not mean you have to be perfectly blameless. Making a small mistake doesn’t grant a free pass to someone who made a serious mistake and left you seriously injured. Fault can be assigned in percentages to both the injured person and others, as long as the person who is seeking compensation is not primarily at fault. To see the Colorado standard instruction t juries regarding how that is done, see instruction 9:26 here.
In many car accident injury cases the question of who is at fault is clear and relatively easy to answer. If the other driver was ticketed for violation of a traffic law, that can be a good indication, even if it is not the final and only issue to consider. In Colorado, most rear-end collisions are the fault of the driver who ran into the car ahead, because drivers are required to maintain a safe distance. T-bone crashes and left turn crashes are generally the fault of whoever failed to yield the right of way. Those can also be contested, though, and in those cases witness observations may become much more important.
Colorado personal injury lawyers will always consider who was at fault for an injury when evaluating your ability to recover compensation.
What Are Your Losses?
You have probably seen commercials and billboards for Colorado personal injury lawyers that simply say you should call them if you have been in a car accident. Of course, they mean if you have been injured. There must be losses to seek compensation for. Many Colorado personal injury lawyers do not accept cases that only involve getting a car fixed. Processing a vehicle damage claim is typically very straight-forward, compared to seeking compensation for injuries, which is where having the help of a Colorado personal injury lawyer is very likely to make a significant difference in your outcome.
However, property damage is a necessary component of your total compensation claim. If your car was damaged in a collision and it was the other driver’s fault, you are entitled to full compensation for that, including the loss of value that will likely apply even after your car is repaired. Usually insurance companies have a different adjuster assigned to deal with your vehicle damage, and that portion of compensation will come earlier on so you can get your car back right away.
Losses associated with an injury can certainly be harder to quantify right at the beginning of your case. Even people who are transported directly from the scene of a collision to an emergency room may not know right away what treatment is going to needed in the future and what the total costs will be. Despite Colorado state laws intended to clarify medical billing, the total amount billed by a hospital is still not clearly set out in statements sent to patients. The information that is disclosed to patients typically arrives well after the at fault insurance company has made its first offer to settle.
Car accident victims can suffer ongoing pain and limitations they did not expect, and could not have predicted, on the day of a collision. That remains true for many car accident injuries in the days after a collision. Injuries often develop, and symptoms persist, over time. Many of us are taught as kids to simply walk it off when we are hurt, and that inclination to think the pain will just go away if we wait long enough can be misleading. We all tend to be optimistic and avoid the life disruption that comes with seeking the treatment we really need. People who are injured in car accidents, and then ignore their pain, often end up having to return to medical providers for additional care, and insurance companies are well aware of this. It is in their interests to try to take advantage of our hopes that the pain will simply disappear. When injured people ignore pain. insurance companies take advantage. They push injured people toward a settlement before they can really know the extent of their injuries, how long they will be dealing with those injuries, the treatment that they will need, or the cost of that treatment.
Not understanding the real life impact of an injury is just as important as not knowing what the total medical bills will be. Ideally, in the days after being injured in a car accident, people are taking it easy and allowing their bodies to heal. They may have help from friends and family. Later, the true impact of a new limitation will become more clear. It takes time to gain a full understanding of how a new limitation caused by a car wreck will change how a person does their job, washes their hair, or tends their garden. Taking a settlement without knowing what the life impact of an injury will be amounts to essentially saying “I will take this obligation for you” to the person who caused your injury. Every discount on full and fair compensation shifts the burden of the wrongdoing from the wrongdoer to the person who did nothing wrong.
You Don’t Have to Guess
If you are trying to protect your rights after being injured in a car accident by someone else, you do not have to simply guess at what full and fair compensation means.
As a Colorado personal injury lawyer, your interests are my interests, and I have plenty of experience helping people answer this question. Call or text me at 303-339-8846 to schedule a free consultation. We can talk about how your injury has impacted your life, and together we can pursue full justice. You do not have to do this alone.