Car Accident Attorney: Frequently Asked Questions
What Should I Do Immediately After My Accident?Most importantly, if you believe you need immediate medical attention, request it from any first responders on the scene or call the appropriate emergency number yourself. You can gather information from the police and first responders after the fact if necessary – make sure to take care of your health first and foremost. If you’re up for it, speak with the other driver(s) and take photos of their licenses, any insurance information, and license plates. Make sure to create a file to keep all your accident-related information well-preserved. Take photographs of the damages to the vehicles and any circumstances of the accident that are important, such as skid marks. This evidence can be helpful for experts who may need facts to reconstruct the accident in court. Finally, make sure to identify any third-party witnesses who might have seen your accident and have relevant information.
When Should I Hire an Attorney?Ideally, soon after the accident. A personal injury attorney will help manage your case, gather your evidence, manage your medical records and liens, and handle communications with insurance companies. Hiring a personal injury attorney early in the process can help ensure that you give yourself the best chance to get a favorable settlement or verdict.
What Damages Can I Recover in a Car Accident Case?Generally, damages in a civil case are meant to put the plaintiff in the position he or she would have occupied but for the negligence of the defendant. Should you decide to turn down the insurance company’s offer and proceed to trial, there are several categories of damages to which you may be entitled, with some subcategories as well:
- Economic Damages.Economic damages are verifiable monetary losses. The most common types of economic damages are medical expenses and lost wages. Some sub-categories are:
- Past and future medical expenses, including hospital care, therapy, rehabilitation, surgery, and any other treatment that is reasonably necessary as a result of the accident.
- Past and future lost wages/earnings.
- Essential services such as in-home care.
- Noneconomic Damages. Noneconomic damages are those damages which are intangible and not quantifiable. Some subcategories of noneconomic damages may have caps imposed by state legislation. Be sure to ask your attorney about any damages caps that may apply to your matter. Some subcategories include:
- Physical Impairment. In Colorado, physical impairment damages are categorized separately from other noneconomic damages. These damages include damages stemming from disfigurement and other impairments.
What If The At-Fault Driver Doesn’t Have Insurance?If the at-fault driver lacks auto insurance or, even worse, hits and runs, you still may have a remedy so long as you are insured. Your own auto insurance policy likely includes coverage for accidents caused by underinsured or uninsured drivers (known as UM/UIM coverage). In this circumstance, your insurance company steps into the shoes of the at-fault driver, and settles or defends the claim.
How Is Fault Determined In A Car Accident?The judge or a jury will ultimately determine the proportionate fault of the parties. If either party demands a jury trial, then the jury will decide who is at fault and in what percentage. If neither party demands a jury, then the judge will be the ultimate “fact finder” and determine fault.
What If The Accident Was Partially My Fault?Colorado is what’s known as a “modified comparative negligence” state. When the judge or jury determines that more than one party is at fault for the accident, then a determination will be made as to the proportionate fault of the parties. This is done using a percentage. The amount of your damages will be reduced by the proportion of your fault. However, if the fact finder determines that you are more than 50% at fault, then you will be barred from recovering any damages. For example, if you are injured in an accident and the jury finds that you have $100,000 in damages, the defendant is 75% at fault, and you are 25% at fault, then you will only receive $75,000 of the award. If the jury were to find you 51% at fault, then you would receive no award.
Can I Still Recover Damages If I Wasn’t Wearing a Seatbelt?In Colorado, yes, although Colorado law provides that evidence of failure to wear a seatbelt can be admissible to limit recovery of noneconomic damages. Colorado is, in fact, only one of two states which restricts the admissibility of seat belt evidence in this manner, the other being Ohio.
What If I Was The Passenger?If you were the passenger in a car accident, you may have claims for relief against the driver of the car in which you rode, as well as the drivers of other cars involved in the accident. Especially where insurance coverage is limited, the access to an additional insurance policy to cover your losses can be very important to your case.
What If The Other Driver Was Under The Influence of Alcohol/Drugs, Or Was Texting And Driving?If the other driver gets cited for driving under the influence or distracted driving in your accident, it can be very persuasive evidence in your auto accident case. Furthermore, depending on the circumstances, if the conduct is particularly outrageous (for example, an abnormally high blood alcohol content of the other driver), you might be entitled to punitive damages.
How Can I Get Compensated For Damage To My Vehicle?Losing the use of your vehicle can cause significant inconvenience. You might be faced with additional expense and time in getting to work, child care responsibilities, and all manner of other activities which require transportation. If your vehicle was damaged through the fault of another driver, you can cover the cost through the at-fault driver’s insurance or through your own insurance. If your insurer covers the damage, it may seek reimbursement from the other driver, in which case you will likely be asked to cooperate with that matter. If you have both property damage and bodily injury, you can settle the loss with the applicable insurance company without settling your bodily injury claim. If you are unsatisfied with the insurance company’s offer, then you can hire an attorney to seek adequate compensation.
What Information Do I Need To File A Claim?In order to initiate a claim against an at-fault driver’s insurance company, you need to be prepared to provide certain pieces of information. Some key pieces of evidence include:
- Police report. Your police report is generally available through the web portal of the responding police department. You will have to pay a fee, so keep a record of that transaction.
- Photos. Any relevant photographs from the scene of the accident, including license plates, damage to your car and other vehicles, other drivers’ insurance cards, and any other relevant facts such as establishing the location of the accident or injuries which were immediately apparent after the accident.
How Do I Initiate A Claim Against Another Driver’s Insurance Company?If you know the identity of the driver’s insurance company and have information related to his or her policy and vehicle, you can initiate the claim via telephone or online. The insurer’s web portal should have a claims section for you to navigate. If you find yourself needing assistance, a car accident attorney can help initiate a claim for you.
Should I Release My Medical Records To The Other Driver’s Insurance Company?Medical records should not be subject to any blanket release to another driver’s insurance company. You may be unwittingly disclosing pre-existing medical conditions that the insurance company will use to attempt to diminish the amount of your recovery or, in some cases, attempt to avoid paying anything at all. If you are asked to release medical records, it is best to seek advice from an auto accident lawyer.
Will I Have To Go To Court If I File a Personal Injury Claim?That question is entirely up to you. If you are unhappy with the insurance company’s offer, you can file a lawsuit. Once your lawsuit is filed, however, the case can be settled before and even during trial if the parties wish to do so. Every case is different, and different insurance carriers may handle claims differently. If you have concerns about when and how the case will resolve, these are a great thing to raise with your auto accident attorney, who will discuss with you what makes the most sense in the context of your individual case.
Who Pays My Medical Expenses While My Case Is Pending?Depending on the severity of your injuries and the need for treatment, your medical expenses can add up rapidly. This can be stressful, especially if your health coverage is limited or if you are without any healthcare coverage at all. The general rule is that you are responsible for paying your own medical bills while the claim remains pending. Different kinds of coverage may be used to pay for your treatment (private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.), so it is important to understand the interplay of those coverages. If you do not have any coverage, you might consider contacting a medical lien company. These companies provide you with money to cover your medical expenses. In exchange, they will take the covered amounts plus a fee out of your ultimate settlement.
What Is Vicarious Liability And Why Is It Important?Generally, the principle of vicarious liability provides that one can be held responsible for the acts of their agent in certain circumstances. This arises frequently in personal injury auto accident cases. For example, if you’re injured in an auto accident caused by a truck driver, and that truck driver is acting in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident, this could mean you have a cause of action against both the driver and the trucking company for whom he works. This can be crucial in terms of securing adequate insurance coverage to cover your damages from multiple policies.
Do I Need A Car Accident Attorney?This is, of course, a choice only you can make. However, research has shown that those who hire attorneys as opposed to going it alone are more likely to receive payment, and receive a higher average payment. The same data shows that this increased recovery is often more than sufficient to offset attorneys’ fees. Furthermore, if your case does go to court, the court will hold self-represented parties to the same standards as attorneys. If you’re up against a trained lawyer, this could significantly diminish your chances of recovery and the risk which the insurance company assigns to your matter. DISCLAIMER: This is for general informational purposes only and not furnished for purposes of offering legal advice. The best source of information for your specific matter is consulting an attorney.
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