What to Do after an Auto Accident
Colorado Springs Car Accident Injury Attorneys
If you’re involved in an auto accident, you may be confused about the next step. For most accidents, here are some basic recommendations for your plan of action, provided by the experienced personal injury and auto accident attorneys at Sears & Associates, P.C. in Colorado Springs, CO.
- Getting your car fixed if you had auto insurance. Notify your insurance company as soon as possible after the accident. If your car insurance includes collision coverage, your insurance company will tell you how to get the claim going so you can get your car fixed. If you had rental car benefits, your insurance company will tell you how much they will pay per day for a rental car, and for how long, until your car is fixed. Your car is “totaled” if it costs more to fix it than its “fair market value.” Insurance companies rarely use the “Blue Book” anymore; they look at classified ads in newspapers to determine what the “market value” of your car is where you live. Even if you owe more money on the car than the “fair market value”, they will only pay the “fair market value for the car”. If the accident wasn’t your fault, the other driver’s insurance company may want to settle your property claim directly. If your own insurance company pays your property damage claim, it may try to collect your deductible from the negligent driver or his/her insurance company.
- Getting your car fixed if you didn’t have insurance. If the accident was your fault, you will have to pay for your own car repairs. If the accident wasn’t your fault, contact the insurance company of the negligent driver as soon as possible and make a claim for property damage with them. Since you are not their insured, and since they look at how much you and the other driver were at fault, this process may take awhile and you may not like their settlement offer on your property damage claim.
- Getting your medical bills paid. Since August of 2003, Colorado is no longer a “no fault” state. This means that you are responsible for paying your own medical bills from a car accident. You can pay for your medical bills in several ways: Medical Payments Coverage (“Med Pay”). You (or the owner of the car you were in) may have purchased a few thousand dollars of medical payments coverage with your auto insurance. Notify this insurance company immediately and find out how much med pay coverage is available to you. Your medical providers can bill that insurance company directly until the coverage is used up.
- Health Insurance, including Tri-Care, Medicare and Medicaid. Once your med pay coverage is used up (if you had it) you must then submit all your medical bills to your health insurance company just as you would any other medical care. You will be responsible to pay for your deductible and co-pay amounts. You will have to find doctors to treat you that are in your plan’s network. Not all medical care is covered under health insurance policies (chiropractors and massage therapists and physical therapists are either excluded or severely limited in coverage), so you need to confer with your plan before embarking on a treatment program.
- Self Pay. If neither med pay nor health insurance is available to pay for your medical care, then you will be obligated to pay for the medical care yourself while your claim is pending with the other driver’s insurance company. Sometimes medical providers, especially chiropractors and physical therapists, will agree to treat you on a “lien.” This means that they will treat you as you need it and then notify the other driver’s insurance company that they must be paid from any settlement you reach with them.
- Suing the driver at fault. If the other driver was at fault for the accident, you may make a claim against him through his insurance company for your injuries. Remember that the other driver’s insurance company will not pay for your medical bills as you are treated. The claim against the other driver is for one lump sum payment, from which you will need to repay your medical payments coverage, your health insurance (including government benefits) and any doctors who treated you on a lien. You can claim for both “economic” losses (loss of income, medical bills, etc.) and “non-economic” losses (pain, mental stress, etc.) Since you only get one lump sum, it is wise to not settle too soon after the accident until you know how your injuries are going to resolve. You will usually need to see an auto accident attorney in Colorado Springs for assistance in making this kind of claim. These claims must be filed as a lawsuit, or settled, within three years of the date of the auto accident in Colorado or they will be forever barred.