Nothing can truly prepare a person for the aftermath of a serious injury accident. The physical pain, logistical inconvenience and mounting financial costs of events of this nature rapidly take a real toll not just on the victim, but usually their entire family as well. Making matters worse is the fact that most Coloradans have minimal familiarity with how the process of pursuing compensation from a negligent party actually works. Attorney Jeremy Rosenthal understands the numerous questions that inevitably arise following an accidental injury and has endeavored below to provide the answers necessary for injury victims to make informed decisions about their future.
Accidents and Their Immediate Aftermath
Q: What should I do right after an accident occurs?
A: There are several critical steps to take following an accident which can have a substantial impact on your ultimate ability to secure compensation, including:
- calling law enforcement to the scene
- check into the condition of all involved
- if possible, take photographs of the accident scene and resulting damage
- make notes of weather, road and other conditions present at the time of the event
- speak to and record the recollections of available eyewitnesses
- refuse to make verbal admissions of responsibility or guilt
Q: What needs to be done next?
A: It is of utmost importance that you receive any and all necessary medical treatment following your accident event. Do not assume that a seemingly minor injury can be handled without professional care, as some injuries are known for their delayed onset of symptoms. Heed all physician instructions regarding follow-up testing, prescription medications and treatment regimens.
Q: Are there specific types of records I should be collecting?
A: In order to establish a strong claim for compensation, it will be necessary to have access to a wide range of documentation, including medical records, diagnostic reports, hospital bills, wage and hour information and the like.
Pursuing a Claim for Damages in Colorado
Q: Should I hire an attorney, even if I expect to receive an insurance settlement?
A: Generally speaking, most injury claims are settled without the need for a trial. However, that is not to say that the process is always straightforward or easy. When an at-fault party's insurance company makes contact with you, always remember that their job is to do whatever they can to minimize or deny portions of your claim. By enlisting the aid of a seasoned injury lawyer, you stand a much better chance of sidestepping typical traps and preserving your ability to receive fair compensation.
Q: Will I be able to afford an attorney?
A: Accident victims must never allow financial concerns to prevent them from seeking skilled legal representation in their injury claim. The fact is that most personal injury lawyers accept cases on a contingency basis. This simply means that no fees are ever due up front, and payment will only be due in the event that the attorney secures a damage settlement or award on your behalf.
Q: For what types of losses might I receive compensation?
A: When another party's negligence produces injuries and other categories of loss, victims may be entitled to receive substantial compensation which may include monetary payment for:
- past, present and ongoing medical expenses
- vehicle or other property damage
- physical pain and suffering
- emotional stress and strain
- aggravation of existing medical conditions
- lost wages and/or reduction in earning potential
- loss of marital and other relationships
- financial support for surviving dependents in cases of fatality
Q: What if I was partially at fault in the accident event?
A: Colorado's prevailing comparative fault doctrine requires that an assessment be made regarding fault, and when an injury victim is deemed partially responsible, his or her potential recovery will be reduced by that percentage. If the injured person's fault is determined to be more than 50%, no recovery is available.
Colorado Auto Insurance Basics
Q: What are Colorado's minimum auto insurance requirements?
A: All vehicle owners in Colorado are required to purchase auto insurance, and the minimum coverage requirements include bodily insurance of no less than $25,000 per person or $50,000 per accident event and $15,000 per accident for property damage. Carriers must also offer uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, though consumers have the ability to waive this type of coverage in writing.
Q: Is Colorado considered a no-fault state?
A: It is not. In 2003, the state transitioned from a no-fault system to a tort-based system. The result of this shift was that the insurance carrier of an at-fault driver would now bear responsibility for compensating victims for losses sustained. This stands in contrast to no-fault systems in which injury victims look to their own insurance coverage for payment of claims.
Q: What if a sufficient settlement with the insurance company cannot be achieved?
A: Though every effort will be made to reach a full and fair settlement with the at-fault party's insurance company or with the responsible individual his or herself, there are instances in which circumstances make that an impossibility. In such situations, it may be advisable to initiate a lawsuit in order to secure the resources injury victims need to truly recover.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Colorado
Q: How long do I have to file a lawsuit?
A: Broadly speaking, Coloradans injured in vehicle accidents have three years from the date of the accident or discovery of the injury, though minors are provided with an extended period in which to file on their own accord. For other types of personal injuries, the time limit for filing is two years following the event or the discovery of the injury, absent any potentially applicable exception. When consulted with in a timely manner following an injury event, a seasoned personal injury attorney can make certain that all filing deadlines are met and the victim's ability to pursue compensation is maintained.
Q: How can I tell if my case is a strong one?
A: Each and every injury case is unique, with distinctive fact patterns, available evidence and loss valuations. Because the process of assessing the true strength of a negligence claim is extremely complex, the best way to get an accurate picture of the chances of recovery is to consult with a personal injury attorney possessing substantial experience obtaining positive results for clients.
Q: How long will my personal injury lawsuit take?
A: The length of time required for injury litigation to reach its conclusion will depend on numerous factors. In many cases, the discovery or fact-finding stage will yield key information that steers the parties toward compromise and settlement. The presiding judge may encourage participation in mediation or other third-party resolution methods if agreement appears relatively close. However, if both parties hold to their positions and trial is needed, an injury lawsuit may stretch into a period of years before the final outcome is determined.
Q: How will my trial proceed, if one becomes necessary
A: Trials involve a series of stages, and the length of time required will depend on the complexities of the particular case. Generally speaking, the trial process will encompass:
- jury questioning and selection
- opening statements from both sides
- witness testimony and subsequent cross-examination
- presentation of closing statements
- jury instructions
- jury deliberation and announcement of verdict
Q: If I am unsuccessful at trial, am I out of options?
A: Losing parties in civil litigation may be able to file an appeal of their matter if their attorney believes that significant errors in process occurred at the trial level.
Choosing the Right Attorney
Q: What qualities should I seek in a personal injury attorney?
A: First and foremost, it is important to find a lawyer who is committed to protecting the rights of those harmed because of the negligent acts or omissions of others. An advocate who believes that victims deserve aggressive representation and who understands the obstacles that often stand in the way of fair compensation is an injured party's strongest ally.
Q: How will my attorney be compensated at the matter's conclusion?
A: Personal injury attorneys who accept cases on a contingency basis do not receive legal fees at the commencement or at any time during settlement negotiations or litigation. Compensation is only paid if and when financial recovery is obtained on the client's behalf, generally at a percentage agreed upon at the start of representation. Furthermore, most injury lawyers offer no-cost initial consultations in order to review the facts of a prospective client's case and discuss possible strategies.
Colorado Injury Rights Advocate
With more than a decade providing personal injury clients with an unparalleled level of communication, service and results, Jeremy Rosenthal understands the concerns common to those who have been harmed by others' negligence. When questions arise, those he represents can expect a rapid response and the insights needed to make critical choices regarding their case. Never afraid to take a matter all the way through to trial, the Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal pledges to do what is necessary to ensure that every victim has an opportunity to secure justice, accountability and the financial resources so crucial to recovery.
If you or someone you love has been harmed due the negligent actions of someone else, the time to act is now. To schedule a no-cost initial consultation and to learn more about your options following an injury event, contact us at 303.825.2223.