Anyone who has ever been in a car accident will certainly testify to the pain, frustration, and inconvenience that can result. The injuries stemming from car crashes can range from the relatively minor to the truly catastrophic, and the recovery processes involved can be lengthy, expensive and altogether disruptive to normal life. While it is true that any accident has the potential to bring all sorts of upheaval to the lives of victims and their families, the situation becomes even more complex when the event in question occurs outside of Colorado. If you have sustained serious harm in a vehicle accident that took place in another state, attorney Jeremy Rosenthal is ready and willing to help guide you through the often complex landscape of state auto insurance law to maximize your chances of receiving the full amount of compensation to which you are rightly entitled.
How Out of State Car Accident Claims are Handled
Broadly speaking auto accident injury claims are handled pursuant to the laws of the state in which the event occurs. Though this may seem an intuitive concept to many, because of the many differences among jurisdictions across the country concerning how auto insurance works, the aftermath of a crash that happens outside of a victim's home state can sometimes prove confusing. Much will be determined by whether the accident site lies within a state featuring a tort-based system of insurance or, in the alternative, a no-fault insurance state. To understand how these classifications can impact an injury claim, it makes sense to gain a fundamental understanding of each one.
Tort-Based Insurance as Compared to No-Fault Systems
Prior to June of 2003, Colorado was a so-called no-fault insurance jurisdiction. This meant that anyone suffering injuries in an auto accident would look to their own insurance policy to receive coverage for medical expenses and other related post-crash benefits. However, when the state shifted to a tort-based system of insurance, the process of obtaining compensation changed dramatically. In a structure of this type, drivers who are injured and deemed not at fault for an auto accident will need to recover compensation from the responsible party's insurance carrier.
Though Colorado did away with its no-fault system well over a decade ago, there remain several states which still operate under such a structure. Therefore, if you are injured in an auto accident occurring in such a jurisdiction the rules of no-fault insurance may swiftly assume real significance to your situation, and under certain circumstances, you may be able to recover no-fault benefits without blame for the collision ever having to be determined.
Comparative Fault and Contributory Negligence in Other States
As stated previously, the law of the state in which a crash occurs will determine how injury victims will need to seek compensation via insurance claims and/or litigation. Even in states operating under a tort-based insurance system similar to Colorado's, there may be key differences in the way fault is apportioned which substantially affect recovery amounts.
In a system of pure comparative fault, drivers who are partially to blame for a given accident will still retain an opportunity to obtain compensation. However, available damage awards will be reduced by the percentage at which that driver was determined to be responsible for the events at issue.
States operating under a modified comparative fault system permit drivers who are partially responsible for a crash to receive compensation, but only if they are less than 50% to blame for what occurred. Fault greater than 50% will bar recovery for such individuals.
In jurisdictions utilizing a contributory negligence standard, drivers who are found to have been responsible in even a minor way for what happened will be completely barred from collecting damages from another driver, even if that other driver bore some degree of fault.
Insurance Claims Processes Following Out of State Accidents
Given the national reach of most major insurance carriers in the United States, policyholders can have a high level of confidence in the ability of adjusters and claims personnel to apply relevant state law to any situation that may arise. If minimum coverage limits in the state of the accident are higher than those that apply in Colorado, an insurer may well have to make up the difference. Ultimately, however, the language of the policy itself will provide important insights into how events of this type will be handled, and an experienced injury attorney can wade through the contract language, get to the heart of the matter and engage in the discussions and negotiations necessary to secure the financial recovery victims and their families need.
What to Do After An Out of State Crash
Involvement in a serious auto accident while away from Colorado is inevitably an unsettling, perhaps even disorienting experience. Suffering injuries and vehicle damage in an unfamiliar locale can bring an added layer of stress that no motorist ever wishes to face. As bewildering and overwhelming as events of this nature can seem at the time, it is important for victims to take the same sorts of steps immediately following a collision as they would if they were a few blocks from home, such as:
- contact local law enforcement
- inspect and, if possible, photograph property damage
- check on the status of all parties involved
- talk to eyewitnesses, if possible
- obtain medical treatment
- contact insurance carrier
- preserve all available physical evidence
- contact an auto accident attorney
Vital Assistance for Injured Colorado Motorists
At the Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal, we know that out of state car accidents bring with them a degree of ambiguity and alarm that can lead injury victims to wonder whether they will ever be able to secure the insurance benefits they need in order to recover. Fortunately, we stand ready with the knowledge and advocacy skills required to interpret applicable law, facilitate your claim and help you obtain the compensation so vital to your family's future. To discuss your case and explore your legal options, contact us at 303.825.2223.