Car accidents are common throughout Colorado, and every day many drivers experience these incidents. Some car accidents are easily resolved with simple insurance claims, while others generate more complex legal disputes. Depending on how your accident occurred, who caused it, and the scope of your damages, you could face a very challenging series of legal proceedings in securing compensation for your losses.
The first steps you take immediately following a car accident in Colorado have a dramatic impact on the legal proceedings that follow and your ability to recover. Therefore, all drivers need to keep a few best practices in mind. To avoid significant penalties, all drivers should also be familiar with the Colorado state laws that come into play after a car accident.
Colorado Car Accident Statutes You Should Know
Colorado state law enforces two legal statutes that pertain to car accidents. The first is the state’s auto insurance mandate. All Colorado drivers must have auto insurance that meets the state’s minimum coverage requirements. A minimum coverage policy in Colorado must provide at least $25,000 in bodily injury liability coverage for one person in an accident the insured driver causes, at least $50,000 in total accident bodily injury liability coverage for a single accident, and at least $15,000 in property damage liability coverage. In addition, while not strictly required, the state strongly recommends that drivers also purchase underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage that would apply when a driver causes an accident but does not have insurance or does not have minimum coverage.
The second rule that all drivers should know concerning car accidents is the requirement to report accidents. If you experience a car accident in Colorado that results in death, bodily injury, or property damage, you must notify the police. Failing to notify the police about your accident in a timely manner can potentially lead to criminal penalties.
Report Your Car Accident
Colorado’s accident reporting rule applies to all accidents. Even if you only experienced a minor collision that caused a small amount of cosmetic damage to your vehicle, it is always best to report car accidents to avoid the penalty for failing to report an accident. If you do not report a car accident as required, you could face a class two misdemeanor traffic offense that carries a penalty of a $300 fine. Failing to report an accident that resulted in an injury is a more severe class one misdemeanor traffic offense. If the victim was seriously injured, the offense might escalate to a class four felony. If someone died in the accident and you did not report it, the offense increases further to a class three felony.
Always err on the side of caution and report a car accident as soon as possible. When the police arrive, they will investigate the scene and take statements from those involved. First responders can transport injured victims to the hospital for the treatment they need. If the police determine that no one was injured and the resulting property damage totals less than $1,000, they may decide not to file a police report for the incident. However, if anyone was injured, they must create a police report. Suppose that for some reason, the police do not respond to your notification of the accident. In that case, you still need to file a report yourself to the Colorado Department of Revenue Division of Motor Vehicles within 60 days of the accident.
Record Important Information
After your accident, while you are waiting for police to arrive, take a moment to gather important information from the crash scene if you can do so safely. If you are injured, it is best to remain where you are until first responders arrive. However, if you believe you are unhurt or only suffered minor injuries, carefully check your passengers for injuries before checking on the occupants of the other vehicle. Use your phone’s camera to take photos of the scene, including your injuries, the damage to your vehicle, the positions of the vehicle in the road, debris near the vehicles, and the surrounding area.
These photos could be essential to a subsequent insurance claim or personal injury claim against the driver who caused the accident. You and the other driver should also exchange insurance information. Colorado enforces a fault rule for auto accidents, meaning the driver who causes an accident is responsible for the other driver’s damages. Once you have as much information as you can reasonably obtain from the accident scene, wait for the police to arrive and conduct their investigation.
Seek Medical Treatment Immediately
It’s vital to see a doctor right away after a car accident. Some accidents cause injuries that are not immediately noticeable. Prompt medical examination can reveal these hidden injuries and prevent them from worsening. Additionally, the record showing you sought immediate care will work in your favor if you need to take further legal action against the at-fault driver beyond an insurance claim. This will help you prove that you were injured and responsibly sought immediate treatment.
Following your accident, the doctor you visit will provide you with a medical report that lists your injuries and their prognosis for anticipated future medical complications that are likely to arise from those injuries. An auto insurance claim could help you secure compensation for your injuries and the damage to your vehicle, but you may need to go beyond auto insurance and file a civil claim against the at-fault driver to maximize your recovery from your accident.
Consult an Attorney
Once you have a copy of the police report from your accident and the medical report from your doctor, the next thing you should do after a car accident in Colorado is speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. It’s essential to consult a lawyer before filing an insurance claim, speaking with any insurance company representatives, or filing a civil action against the at-fault driver.
Your attorney can provide several valuable legal services that make it easier for you to recover your damages and increase the total recovery you obtain. First, an experienced Colorado car accident attorney can help you prove liability for your accident and then help you determine your best available options for legal recourse.
The first step toward recovery after any car accident in Colorado is typically an insurance claim. However, dealing with insurance companies is rarely straightforward. Most insurance companies will do everything they can to minimize their financial liability for claims. Unfortunately, some will engage in unethical bad faith tactics to encourage claimants to accept lowball settlements. The insurance company representatives who engage in these actions rely on the claimant’s lack of awareness of their legal rights to succeed in duping them into accepting less than they deserve.
Your Colorado car accident attorney can help you draft your demand letter to the at-fault driver’s auto insurance carrier. Once the insurance company sees that an attorney has signed your letter and you have legal representation on your side, they will be significantly less inclined to attempt any bad faith dealings. In addition, your attorney can help you maximize your claim payout through insurance. For example, suppose the at-fault driver’s auto insurance policy does not fully cover your losses. In that case, your attorney will help you file a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver to recover your remaining damages.
File Your Personal Injury Claim With Confidence
Having an experienced lawyer assist you with your personal injury claim will make it much easier to handle this challenging process. Your attorney will help you identify the party responsible for your accident and compile your initial complaint. In addition, you can rely on your attorney to help you meet all your procedural requirements with the local court, meeting all filing deadlines, and gathering any documentation you must submit with your claim.
Colorado’s personal injury statutes allow a plaintiff to claim compensation for all damages a defendant caused. For example, your auto insurance claim may help you recover some measure of your medical expenses and the cost of repairing your vehicle, but a severe accident is likely to cause more significant damages that insurance is unlikely to cover. Some of the damages your attorney could help you secure with a personal injury claim include:
- Medical expenses, including any long-term treatment costs you incur for serious injuries. You can claim hospital bills and ambulance fees as well as any costs for ongoing care you require.
- Lost income. Your accident may cause injuries that prevent you from returning to work for an extended time. Your attorney will add your lost wages to your claim to enhance your recovery. Additionally, if you cannot resume working due to a permanent disability, your attorney can help you recover compensation for lost future earning capacity.
- Property damage. The at-fault driver’s auto insurance policy may not fully cover the cost of your vehicle if it was damaged beyond repair in your accident. Your attorney can help you secure compensation for any remaining property damage that insurance does not cover.
- Pain and suffering. Colorado state law allows a personal injury plaintiff to claim monetary compensation for their physical pain and psychological suffering resulting from a defendant’s negligence. While Colorado does enforce some limits on non-economic damages in many civil claims, there is no cap on pain and suffering when the plaintiff suffers permanent harm from a defendant’s actions.
Your recovery could be more expansive than you initially expected when you have the right legal team handling your car accident claim. Therefore, perhaps the most important thing you should do after a car accident is consult a lawyer.
It’s natural for car accident victims to have many questions about what they should do after these incidents. The Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal has helped many clients secure compensation for their car accident damages during the years of our firm’s operation, and the following are some of the most common questions we hear from prospective clients concerning their legal rights after car accidents.
Q: What Should You Do Immediately After a Car Accident?
A: Your health and safety should be your priority after a car accident. Check yourself and your passengers for injuries before checking on the occupants of the other vehicles involved in the accident. Then, call 911 to report the accident and wait for first responders to arrive if you can do so.
Q: What Should I Do After My First Car Accident?
A: Experiencing your first car accident can be an incredibly traumatic experience. Following the aforementioned best practices concerning reporting your accident, recording vital information, seeking medical treatment, and consulting an attorney are the best things anyone can do after any car accident.
Q: What Should You Do After a Minor Car Accident?
A: If another driver bumped your vehicle in a parking lot or you experienced another low-speed collision that does not appear to have caused any significant property damage or injury, it is still best to contact the police to report the accident. The record of your report always works in your favor. However, suppose you assume that you do not need to report an accident and later discover that your damages are more than you initially expected. In that case, your failure to report the accident immediately is likely to work against you.
Q: Should You Always Exchange Insurance Information After an Accident?
A: After you have assessed your medical status and reported your accident to the police, it is essential to exchange insurance details with the other driver. The fault may not be immediately apparent, and you may be unsure how to file your claim, but obtaining this information will be crucial for your recovery. Your car accident attorney can help you determine fault for your accident and guide you through the recovery process, whether that entails an insurance claim, a personal injury claim against the other driver, or both.
Hopefully, these questions and our provided answers help you feel more confident about approaching the recovery process after a car accident in Colorado. Remember these best practices and never underestimate the value of legal counsel after an accident, even a seemingly minor one. The right attorney can help you maximize your recovery to the fullest extent possible under Colorado state law. If you are ready to discuss your legal options with a Colorado car accident lawyer, contact the Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal to learn how our firm can help with your recovery.