Frequently Asked Questions about Car Crashes in Colorado Springs
If you were involved in a car crash in Colorado Springs, you may be feeling overwhelmed. That is why the car accident attorneys at Sears & Associates P.C. have put together this list of some of the most frequently asked questions to help you navigate your legal options after an accident.
- How do I protect my rights after a car accident?
- Should I call the police after a car accident?
- Should I admit fault for a car accident?
- How long do I have after a car accident to decide whether to file a claim?
- What types of evidence should I collect after a car crash?
- What compensation can I get after filing a claim for my car accident?
- What factors influence the value of my claim after a car accident?
- How do they determine the value of my car after an accident?
- What if the “at-fault” driver doesn’t have enough insurance?
- Should I continue driving my car after a car accident?
- If I can’t drive my car after an accident, who will pay for the rental car?
- How do I legally prove the other driver was at fault so that he or she has to pay for the accident?
- My injuries from the crash are minor. Can I skip visiting a doctor?
- If I was partially to blame for the accident, can I still get compensation?
- What if a defective car part caused the accident?
- I do not want to go to court. Is it not easier to just file a claim with the insurance company?
- What kinds of records should I keep for my claim after a car accident?
- How do I know if I have a personal injury case?
- Why (and how) should I choose a car accident attorney?
How do I protect my rights after a car accident?
It is highly unlikely that your first thoughts after a car accident are focused on how to preserve your rights; yet, later on you may realize that the outcome of your accident could have completely changed if you would have taken a few certain steps. A car accident can leave you emotionally shaken and physically injured, so to protect your rights and your future, it is important that you remember the following information:
- Take a moment following your car accident to stop and breathe, giving yourself time to think clearly.
- If there are any injuries as a result of the car accident, seek medical attention immediately. Call 911 and ask for an ambulance to come to the scene of the accident. Even if you believe you are “fine” after your accident, remember that the rush of adrenaline caused by the accident can mask injuries for days or even weeks.
- Never, ever discuss fault following the accident. Even if it is your instinct to say “I’m sorry” to the other driver (simply as a way of saying you are sorry the accident happened), curb those impulses. While you are simply trying to be kind, saying “I’m sorry” could be taken as an admission of fault. The same goes when you talk to your insurance company or the insurance company of the other driver. Relate the basic facts of the accident, then stop talking. Remember that insurance companies can use any evidence as a basis for negotiation. This means that if you apologize to the other driver or offer to pay for the damages, you could find yourself in no position later on to negotiate for your own injuries, even if the other driver was at fault.
- Keep careful track of everything related to your medical treatments and expenses related to the auto accident. This includes ER expenses, doctor’s bills, prescription costs and rehabilitation costs. If you must travel to see your doctor, you may also be eligible for reimbursement for the expenses related to your gas, motel and meals. Remember—if the damages are not clear, you may not be awarded full recovery.
- When possible, document the scene of the accident as quickly as you can. While your first priority should always be immediate medical attention, if you are physically able, use your phone camera to document the damage to the vehicles, the weather and traffic conditions, and anything else that could be relevant.
- Talk to witnesses and get their contact information if they are willing to provide a statement regarding the car accident.
- Call the police. This step adds another layer of documentation to your claim as a police report carries a significant amount of weight with insurance adjusters and claims attorneys. Often the driver responsible for the crash will attempt to convince you to skip calling the police. This is always a bad idea.
- Once you have contacted an experienced Colorado Springs car accident attorney, it is time to tend to your health, and to be patient, professional and persistent, even though we know how difficult this can be when you’re injured and facing financial uncertainty.
Should I call the police after a car accident?
Following a car accident, it is not uncommon for the at-fault driver to attempt to convince the other driver to skip calling the police. The driver may tell you that there are no serious injuries and that the damage to the vehicles is relatively minor. He or she may tell you all your damages will be covered, and there is simply no reason to involve the police. Beware the driver who tells you not to call the police, as this is one of the most important steps you can take following a car accident.
After you have tended to the health of all those involved in the accident, then a call to the police is the next step. The police will assess the accident and prepare a police report in connection with the collision. You will need to get the name and badge number of the officer and the police agency represented so you can obtain a copy of the accident report once it is complete. Insurance companies rely heavily on police reports when determining fault, and the report will also be important to your car accident attorney. Even if your accident was fairly minor, and it appears there are no injuries, you should still call the police and obtain a police report.
In large metropolitan areas, the police could tell you—in the event of a minor fender bender—to simply exchange information with one another. If this is the case, make sure you obtain the name, address, telephone number, insurance company, policy number and license plate number from the other driver, and whenever possible ask to see documents such as the driver’s license and an insurance verification card. If a police officer does come, speak only to him or her about the specifics of your accident. Provide the information requested by the officer, but be careful what you say, even to the police, because any statement you make could end up in the police report.
Should I admit fault for a car accident?
It is virtually never a good idea to admit fault for a car accident. This is true even if you are fairly certain you bear at least some of the fault for the collision. In fact, there are only three things you should say at the scene of an accident:
“Are you injured”
“Would you like me to call the police?” and
“Can I please get your contact and insurance information?”
While this sounds a bit cold and uncaring, in order to protect your rights and your future, it is extremely important that you remember this information. Perhaps you failed to check your blind spot and now you are feeling guilty for the accident. Even so, you may not have all the facts regarding the accident, and there could be additional facts related to the accident you are unaware of.
Perhaps both you and the other driver merged simultaneously, therefore you are each partially responsible. Even something as simple—and kind—as saying “I’m sorry” to the other driver following the accident could be misconstrued. You might simply be expressing the fact that you are sorry the accident occurred at all, however it could be taken quite differently. It is the job of the police to establish fault for the accident, so you should avoid admitting fault at any level—which will also make it much easier for your attorney to help you.
There is another issue that sometimes arises—the other driver may attempt to bully you into accepting liability at the scene of the accident. Remember—just because that person feels they have the moral or legal high ground does not necessarily mean it’s true, no matter how aggressively they present it. So, provide assistance at the scene and provide information to the third party to make the process easier, but never admit fault.
How long do I have after a car accident to decide whether to file a claim?
Statutes of limitations are state laws which set a time limit on the right of a plaintiff to file a claim following a car accident. Keep in mind that a car insurance claim—which should be filed in a timely manner—is not the same as a car accident lawsuit. A car accident lawsuit applies in cases where one driver’s negligence caused the accident and the resulting injuries to the other driver and passengers. Colorado Revised Statutes, section 13-80-101, states that all tort actions for bodily injury or property damage arising from the use of a motor vehicle must occur within three years of the date of the accident.
If a person dies as the result of the car collision, and the family wants to file a wrongful death claim, the statute of limitations deadline is two years, beginning on the date of the person’s death (which could, conceivably be different from the date of the accident). If the statutes of limitations have passed, the Colorado courts are almost certain to grant a dismissal from the defendant—barring any rare exception. From a strategic standpoint, it is always better to speak to a Colorado Springs car accident attorney as quickly as possible after your accident, and have your claim filed sooner, rather than later.
What types of evidence should I collect after a car crash?
If you were injured, the most important piece of evidence to collect after a car crash is a medical assessment of your injuries. Without paperwork from a doctor, you will be unable to recover anything for your injuries. Without an injury, you cannot recover compensation.
You should also collect the following pieces of evidence after a car accident:
- Insurance and vehicle registration information from the other driver
- Eyewitness testimony and contact information of those eyewitnesses
- A copy of the police report
- Photographs of damage to the vehicles, skid marks on the road, or any other relevant items.
What compensation can I get after filing a claim for my car accident?
Compensation or damages in a car accident claim are generally divided into four categories, although these categories can overlap in some cases. The types of compensation include: economic, or actual damages, non-economic damages, punitive damages and compensatory damages. To further elaborate:
- Economic damages compensate you for monetary losses, including medical expenses, lost wages, vehicle repairs and costs associated with a funeral if a wrongful death occurred. Depending on the level of your injuries, you could potentially collect lost wages from the time you became unable to work. You could additionally collect on any lost future wages you may have if you will be unable to work for a significant time.
- Non-economic damages are meant to compensate the injured person for any losses that caused a negative impact. Non-economic damages—unlike economic damages—can be difficult to place an exact dollar figure on. The most common types of non-economic damages include emotional distress, loss of companionship, loss of a marital relationship and pain and suffering. Suppose your car accident left you with noticeable scars on your face, as well as a fear of ever getting into a vehicle again. Non-economic damages could be warranted to cover the severe changes your life has undergone as a direct result of the car accident. Insurance companies are sometimes more likely to settle cases where pain and suffering is claimed. Most insurance companies have a certain formula known as a pain multiplier, which calculates a specific financial number for pain and suffering.
- Compensatory damages are meant to compensate the victim of a car accident—essentially making the victim “whole” again—and can include both economic and non-economic damages.
- Punitive damages can be awarded when the actions of the other driver (which directly caused the accident) were extremely reckless or malicious.
What factors influence the value of my claim after a car accident?
Following a car accident, there are a number of factors that can significantly impact the potential compensation for your injuries and other losses related to the claim. The first of these factors is the severity of your injury. Not only will the severity of your injuries have an impact on your car accident claim, but the level of suffering you have endured because of the injuries will also factor in. If your injuries are permanent, rather than temporary, your claim will have a higher value.
Some of the car accident injuries that can cause lifelong pain and suffering include brain injury, amputation of limbs, serious burn injuries, spinal cord injuries and head and neck injuries. Since a permanent injury will require more medical care and is more likely to result in long-term pain and suffering, victims of permanent injuries are likely to receive a higher level of compensation.
The strength of your medical records is another factor in the level of compensation you can expect to receive. This is yet another reason to seek medical treatment immediately after a car collision, even if you believe you were not seriously injured. Allowing a medical professional to diagnose your injuries, then link those injuries to the accident is crucial. Those who do not have strong medical evidence could face an uphill battle when trying to receive compensation for their injuries.
Evidence of fault on the part of the other driver. It is always important to identify the driver at fault for the car collision. This evidence can come in the form of a police report, a surveillance video which captured the accident, any eyewitness accounts of the accident and photos of the scene of the accident. Your own level of fault could also play a part in your final settlement amount since in Colorado contributory negligence on the part of the claimant diminishes the amount of damages which can be collected. As an example, if you were exceeding the speed limit when an impaired driver hit you, your damages might be proportionately reduced according to your “share” of fault.
Your actions immediately following the car collision can have an effect on the value of your claim, sometimes in a very adverse manner. Suppose you are struck by a negligent driver, and you are claiming that the injuries you sustained have precluded your returning to work, and changing virtually every part of your life. If you then post photos on social media that show you at a party with friends, riding a horse, or playing with your children, it is highly likely the value of your claim could be significantly reduced—or denied altogether. See your doctor immediately after the collision, carefully follow the prescribed treatment plan, and refrain from talking about the accident—or posting about it—if you want to receive a good settlement offer.
Your version of the car collision details can be much more important than you might imagine. The statement you provide to insurers who are reviewing your claim must match the statements you provided to EMTs at the scene, the responding police officer and your health care provider. To ensure your statements are consistent, always state the facts as you know them, with no deviation.
How do they determine the value of my car after an accident?
Following your car accident, you will want to ensure you are adequately paid for the repairs or the value of your totaled car. You will first want to know what your car is worth. This can be determined through Kelley Blue Book or a NADA Guide. If the cost of the repairs are more than the value of your car, the insurer will decide whether to repair the car or declare it a total loss and pay you book value for the car. In most cases, insurers will not pay for repairs if those repairs will cost more than the value of the car. Depending on the make and model of your car, you could potentially make a case that the pieces of the car are worth more than the book value, thereby increasing your settlement. There are a few things to remember when working on getting your car repaired, including:
- You are not required to accept the adjuster’s estimate until you have established to your own satisfaction that the repair costs will be covered. In other words, the adjuster’s estimate is a benchmark, not a claim payment amount.
- You will need to get at least one estimate, and preferably two or three, to compare to the adjuster’s estimate.
- The insurance company may choose to take the lowest bid, so you may want to only submit one quote to the insurance company out of the quotes you receive.
- If the insurance company feels that quote is too high, however, they can potentially require you to get additional estimates.
- Negotiation is always allowed—and even encouraged—when you are trying to get your car back to the level it was at prior to the accident.
What if the “at-fault” driver doesn’t have enough insurance?
Since the state of Colorado ranks number ninth among the top ten states with the highest rates of uninsured and underinsured drivers, if you are involved in a car accident, it is very possible the driver who hit you may not have sufficient insurance. Since the state of Colorado does not require drivers to carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, you could find yourself with even more problems if the driver who hit you has insufficient insurance. In most cases, uninsured motorist coverage may not exceed the amount of your standard liability coverage. This means that if you have $75,000 in total liability coverage per accident, you will not be allowed to purchase more than $75,000 in uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
Uninsured/Underinsured motorist coverage pays for damages sustained in an accident with a driver who either has no insurance or does not have enough insurance to fully pay for your injuries, vehicle damage and other losses which result from the accident. It is important to know that many insurance companies limit the amount of time a policyholder has to make an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim—in some cases as little as 30 days. Because of this, it is crucial that you have your Colorado Springs car accident attorney on board soon after the accident, allowing them time to determine whether the at-fault driver’s insurance will cover your injuries and damages.
Should I continue driving my car after a car accident?
Suppose your car is dented, but otherwise seems drivable following your car accident; should you drive it until you can get estimates for the repairs then get it in to the body shop? This can be a difficult call. If you do not have rental car insurance, then not having a vehicle could significantly limit your life as far as getting to work, school, or running necessary errands. On the other hand, if you are driving your vehicle until it is repaired, the insurance company may feel less inclined to fully cover the repairs.
Legally speaking, if the headlights, turn signals and brake lights are working, there are no fluids leaking from the car, and you have full control of the steering, then you should be okay to drive the car until repairs can be made. That being said, you could inadvertently make the damage to your vehicle worse by driving it. If there is any way possible to avoid driving the car—do so. Have the car towed, particularly if you are uncertain about the extent of the mechanical damages. If you have the vehicle towed to the body shop you are likely to use, then they will have the car on site to assess and give you an estimate for the damages.
If I can’t drive my car after an accident, who will pay for the rental car?
The answer to this question will depend on what level of insurance you—and the negligent party—have. If neither of you carry rental car insurance, then you may be forced to pay for the rental car out of your own pocket, then ask for reimbursement for those costs when you file your car accident claim. In some cases, if your car was totaled in the accident the insurance company may pay for your rental as a courtesy, but they are not required to do so. Even if the at-fault party or you (if you are filing under your own insurance) include a rental car, most policies limit the dollar amount for rental payments so be sure your rental expenses do not exceed this amount.
How do I legally prove the other driver was at fault so that he or she has to pay for the accident?
In some cases, such as when a driver runs a red light and hits a car with the right-of-way, it is easier to determine who was at fault in an accident.
Other times, it is not so cut and dried. To prove that the other driver was at fault and to recover compensation, you must prove that he or she was negligent. To prove negligence, you must establish these four points:
1.The driver owed you a duty: This is the easiest point to establish as all drivers owe other drivers the duty of following traffic rules and regulations such as speed limits and yielding right-of-way when required.
2.The driver breached that duty: You must prove that the other driver failed in his or her duty. This could mean, for example, that he or she changed lanes on the highway without using a signal or checking all blind spots.
3.This breach caused the collision: Under Colorado negligence law, you must also establish that the breach caused the collision rather than for some other reason.
4.You suffered real damages: It is not enough to say you were hurt. You need proof of your injury and other losses such as lost wages.
My injuries from the crash are minor. Can I skip visiting a doctor?
No. Even if you feel fine, you should still visit a doctor after a serious car accident.
Although you may not have physical limitations, you could still be injured. Symptoms for certain injuries are delayed. It is better to be safe where your health is concerned and complete a check-up with your family doctor, just in case.
If you discover that you were injured later, it could be too late to make the driver at fault pay for your medical expenses.
If I was partially to blame for the accident, can I still get compensation?
Yes. Colorado uses a “modified comparative negligence” rule. This means that you can recover compensation from the other driver even if you were partially to blame. For example, if you were 10 percent responsible for an accident and the other driver was 90 percent responsible, the other driver will only have to pay for 90 percent of your damages.
However, Colorado law places a limit on this rule. If you were 50 percent or more responsible for the accident, then you cannot recover anything from the other driver. In other words, the other driver only pays you if you were less than 50 percent responsible for the accident.
What if a defective car part caused the accident?
If a defective car part caused your accident, you might be able to recover compensation from the car or parts manufacturer. Examples of defective car parts could include an accelerator that sticks in the on position, brakes that fail without warning, or a steering wheel that locks while the vehicle is in motion. This is known as a products liability case and modified comparative negligence (see above) does not apply in this type of case.
I do not want to go to court. Is it not easier to just file a claim with the insurance company?
No one really wants to go to court. But you deserve fair compensation for your accident if another person was at fault. Insurance companies are notorious for offering victims low settlement amounts or denying claims unfairly. Without the representation of an accident attorney like the ones at Sears & Associates, P.C., how will you know whether the settlement amount is fair?
The attorneys will know if the settlement the insurance company offers is lower than what is reasonable and can negotiate on your behalf for a higher amount. Only after these negotiations fail will an attorney recommend taking your claim to court.
Feel free to check out our blog for more information on what you need to know if you are in an accident.
What kinds of records should I keep for my claim after a car accident?
Following your Colorado Springs car accident, the success of your claim hinges heavily on who was at fault for the accident and the nature and extent of your injuries. The best way to strengthen your position when filing a car accident claim is to have thorough documentation that supports your claim. In other words, it is not sufficient to make a claim regarding your injuries—you must have medical records and bills to back up those claims. The following records are essential to the success of your car accident claim:
- A police report—The police report you receive following your accident can include crucial information like whether any traffic laws were violated, statements from drivers, passengers and witnesses, and observations made by the officer regarding who was at fault for the accident. The police report will also have the date and location of the accident, the names and contact information of the drivers involved and the name and badge number of the officer who prepared the report.
- Medical records—a comprehensive file with all your medical records is essential to the strength of your case. Make sure you have records of all treatments you receive related to your car accident injuries from each and every provider you see, covering each phase of your health care. These records should include every diagnosis you have received, each treatment prescribed or recommended, prescription medications and any other conclusions from a health care provider. Depending on the severity of your injuries, you may have emergency room records, hospital admissions records, primary care doctor’s treatments, pharmacy prescriptions, physical therapy and chiropractor care.
- Proof of income records. If you have missed any work following your accident, you may be able to receive compensation for lost wages, but you will need to show detailed records regarding your regular monthly compensation. These records can be in the form of paycheck stubs, direct deposit records, tip records and other financial documents that show the amount of income you haven’t earned as a result of the accident.
- Proof of the value of your vehicle and estimates of the vehicle damage. If your vehicle was damaged during the collision, you will need proof of the value of your vehicle, as well as one or more estimates for the repair of your vehicle.
- A car accident “diary.” This may sound somewhat silly, or you may feel there is really no point to keeping a detailed record of your car accident, but this journal could truly mean the difference between a so-so settlement and a really good settlement. Write down every shred of information relevant to your accident, including how your injuries impact your day-to-day life. This type of chronological record ensures no details are forgotten or missed, and gives your Colorado Springs car accident lawyer a definite advantage when negotiating a settlement.
How do I know if I have a personal injury case?
If you are uncertain as to whether you have a valid car accident claim, it can be extremely helpful to speak to an experienced Colorado Springs car crash attorney from Sears & Associates, P.C. Your attorney will discuss the specific facts of your case, most specifically your level of injury. While your specific circumstances will make the final determination, there are generally three basic requirements for a car accident claim, including:
- There must have been negligence on the part of the other driver. This means the driver must have acted in a careless or negligent manner, such as exceeding the speed limit, tail-gating, running a stop sign or stop light, driving while distracted or driving while impaired.
- The negligence of the other driver must have directly caused your injuries.
- Your injuries must have resulted in harm—i.e., your injuries resulted in medical bills, lost wages and/or pain and suffering, altering your life and perhaps even your future.
Why (and how) should I choose a car accident attorney?
Each and every year scores of people are involved in car accidents. Most people are woefully unfamiliar with the legal system and totally unprepared for the level of paperwork required when a car accident claim is filed. There are statutes of limitations to be aware of, as well as determining who is at fault for the accident and resulting injuries. To avoid feeling vulnerable, frustrated and anxious following an accident with injury, speak to a Colorado Springs car accident attorney from Sears & Associates, P.C. as soon as possible, keeping the following in mind:
Our Car Accident Attorneys Make it a Priority to Protect Your Rights
You may suddenly be unable to work due to your injuries and could be feeling frustrated and angry as you see your family suffering from the aftermath of your accident. We want to take that burden off your shoulders. Consulting a trusted, experienced Colorado Springs car accident attorney who is consistently in your corner, fighting tirelessly for your rights and your future will give you the peace of mind you’ve been searching for.
Person vs. Property—Your Car Accident Attorney Can Help You Make Sense of the Difference
Any type of injury to your body is considered personal injury, while damage to your property can occur alone or with a personal injury. If you are injured in an automobile accident, then you will have both personal injury and property damage to your vehicle. Typically, personal injury cases are much more complex, however both types will generally benefit from the services of a Sears & Associates, P.C. personal injury attorney.
An Equitable Settlement is Much More Likely with a Colorado Springs Car Accident Attorney
Plaintiffs who hire a personal injury attorney are likely to get a larger settlement than those who attempt to represent themselves. In fact, the mere act of retaining a personal injury attorney significantly increases the likelihood of an equitable settlement. Even after your legal fees have been deducted from the settlement, you are likely to receive considerably more than the insurance company originally offered you.
Dealing with Insurance Companies Can Be Frustrating
Television commercials which advertise auto insurance give us the idea that in the event of an accident, the insurance company will be right there to look out for our best interests. Unfortunately, this is seldom true. Insurance companies have one goal in mind: their financial bottom line. Because of this, every person who attempts to obtain a settlement without benefit of a personal injury attorney gives the company greater year-end profits. Having an experienced Colorado Springs car accident attorney from Sears & Associates, P.C. by your side can translate into a more equitable settlement for you and your family.
Our Attorneys Really Do Fight Injustice
When your life has suddenly been turned upside down due to the negligence of another, you are struggling to provide for your family, you attempt to pay your medical expenses, and you may realize how vulnerable you really are. The knowledgeable Colorado Springs car accident attorneys at Sears & Associates, P.C. always fight hard for our client’s rights and futures. Contact Sears & Associates, P.C. today to discuss the unique details of your case, and how we may be able to help.