What You Should Know If You’re in an Accident
1. You do not have a legal obligation to give a statement to the at-fault party’s insurance company.
You do have an obligation to give a statement to your own insurance company if they ask for one. You do not have to give a statement to the at-fault party’s insurance company. In fact, by giving a statement to the at-fault insurer, you may actually hurt your claim.
2. You do not have a legal obligation to sign waivers or authorizations for the at-fault insurance company to access medical or financial records. The law protects your confidentiality in your medical or financial information. By giving waivers or authorizations to the at-fault insurance company, you will give that company unlimited access to all your medical or financial information–even information that has absolutely no relationship to your injury claim–which may provide access to information that may actually hurt your claim. You can instead provide to the at-fault insurance company copies of your medical records and bills for which you are claiming compensation in the injury claim.
3. Take pictures of your car and you. Injury cases (including auto injury cases) sometimes take years to resolve. If the car you were in was “totaled,” often no insurance pictures of the vehicle will be taken and then there will be no documentation of the severity of the crash when you go to make your claim. If your injury resulted in cuts, bruising, scarring or being in a cast or brace, photos of those injuries as they are healing help tell the story of how your injury affected you and your life during your recovery.
4. The at-fault insurance company will not pay your medical bills as they are incurred. The at-fault insurance company will only pay once for the claim for your injury. The at-fault insurance company will not act as medical or health insurance for the medical care and treatment you need because of the injury. When they tell you “we will take care of all your medical expenses,” what they mean is that, when you have completed all your medical care and treatment (maybe a year or more after the injury), the insurance company will look at your medical records and bills and decide how much of that they think was necessary treatment and how much of your medical expenses they think are “reasonable” in amount charged and then offer you that amount in one lump sum. Until that happens, you (or your health insurer) are responsible to pay for the medical expenses as they are incurred.
5. You may have purchased medical payments benefits with your auto policy that will pay for medical bills as they are incurred. Be sure to report an auto injury to your own insurance company and ask for all the benefits that you have purchased. You likely have purchased “medical payments coverage” (med pay), which will pay for your medical bills as they are incurred–or be used to pay for co-pays or deductibles in coordination with your health insurance.
6. You are entitled to recover money for both economic and non-economic damages. Your injury claim is composed of reimbursement for medical bills, mileage to travel to medical treatment, and lost time from work, as well as for pain, mental stress caused by the injury, and any physical impairment or loss of earning capacity.
7. If medical insurance (or Medicare or Medicaid) paid for your medical bills, they will be entitled to be paid back from your settlement. Health insurance contracts (including auto med pay) usually require you to pay them back for the medical benefits they paid out of your settlement (since you are claiming to be reimbursed for those medical expenses in your claim). Depending on the type and kind of health insurance involved, our attorneys can usually negotiate the amount to be paid back out of any settlement. Medicare or Medicaid have special rights to be reimbursed from your settlement, but our attorneys also work with those agencies to minimize the amount of your settlement you have to pay to them.
8. Negotiating with an insurance company does not lengthen the time you have to settle your case or to file suit.The law puts a time limit on resolving your injury claim. If a general injury claim is not settled, or a lawsuit filed, within 2 years of the date of the injury, then the claim will be forever barred after that. An auto injury claim has 3 years. Waiting very long before contacting an attorney may be a mistake.
9. Even if the negligent striking driver has insurance, you may have a claim for under-insured motorist benefits. You probably bought uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage (UM/UIM) when you bought your auto insurance and didn’t even know it. If your auto injury occurred after January 1, 2008, you may “stack” your UM/UIM benefits on top of whatever insurance the striking driver had to obtain full compensation for your injuries. Even if your injury occurred before then, you may still have additional insurance benefits available to you for your injury on top of the insurance carried by the striking driver.
10. You may be covered for additional insurance under the auto insurance policy of someone living in your household or even the owner of the car you were in. You may be insured for UM/UIM benefits even under the auto policy bought by someone in your household or through the insurance carried by the owner of the car you were in.
11. The striking driver may also be covered for insurance under other auto policies. Finding all applicable insurance is a challenge. We work to uncover all possible insurance coverage for any injury case.
12. Hiring a Colorado Springs accident attorney doesn’t guarantee that your case will be settled. We work hard to prepare your case for a settlement, but if the insurance company won’t fairly compensate you for your injuries, we will file suit on your behalf. Even after a lawsuit is filed, a settlement may be reached. But if your case can’t be settled, we will have prepared your case for a trial and will be ready to take your case to trial.