Car Accidents

Involved in a Car Accident?

SHAFNER INJURY LAW IS HERE FOR YOU

Even a mild car accident can mean months of pain and inconvenience.  A moderate or major accident can be life-altering.  If you have been in an accident, you may be feeling overwhelmed, confused, or stunned.  You should know that help is available, and you are not alone.

How Much is My Car Crash Worth in Denver?

While many accident victims understandably want to know how much their case is worth upfront, an experienced car accident lawyer will not be able to provide a concrete figure, at least not right away. That is because there are no identical accidents, victims, or settlements. Many factors influence the size of a settlement, and they do not always reveal themselves right away. Some of the elements that come into play are:

LIABILITY

Colorado is an at-fault state, which means that the person (or more realistically, the insurer of the person) who caused the accident pays for the damages. Colorado accident reports always list an “at fault” driver for the purpose of establishing fault and payment. The at-fault driver is the driver who most likely caused the accident through negligence. Negligence is most simply defined as the failure to take reasonable care.

Ideally, liability will be clear and one party will pay for all of the damages caused by the crash. However, sometimes both drivers bear a degree of fault. In those kinds of accidents, comparative negligence can come into play. In Colorado, as long as a party is found to be less than 50% responsible for a crash, some recovery can be made.

Denver Car Accident Lawyer

ECONOMIC LOSSES

Car accident victims can recover money that was lost due to an accident. These losses commonly take the form of medical bills.

Even if you are not sure you were hurt, it is important to seek medical care soon after a crash. Going to a doctor ensures that your injuries are discovered and treated in a timely and effective manner. It also ensures that your injuries are documented as being accident-related, so that you can be reimbursed. Insurers will pounce on any reason they can find to pay you less. When there is a delay in treatment or a gap in treatment, insurers will often argue that the injuries are not serious or were caused by some intervening event.

Lost wages are also recoverable economic damages. Pay stubs, tax returns, or a letter from an employer can provide the documentation necessary to demonstrate and recover compensation for lost wages.

NON-ECONOMIC LOSSES

Accident victims can also be compensated for pain and suffering, disfigurement, physical impairment, and a loss of ability to enjoy life. These damages can be significant, but difficult to quantify. Some elements that go into determining the value of non-economic damages are the age of the victim at the time of the accident and the severity of the injuries.

POLICY LIMITS

In Colorado, all drivers are legally required to carry insurance with bodily injury limits of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. Unfortunately, this coverage is often not enough to cover an injured person’s medical bills. Worse, although it is illegal to drive without insurance, about 13% of Colorado drivers do not carry any insurance coverage at all. These drivers are also unlikely to have any assets with which to compensate anyone they may hurt. People who are injured by uninsured and underinsured drivers can simply be out of luck.

That is why it is very important to purchase Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) Coverage. Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage is the only coverage you can buy to protect yourself if you are injured, not someone else. If you are not sure you carry this coverage, check your policy. If you don’t, we highly recommend that you call your insurer and add it.

THE SEVERITY OF THE LOSSES

It is important to realize that being in a car accident is not the equivalent of winning the lottery. The goal of settlement it to provide fair and adequate compensation that is proportionate to the injuries and losses sustained. When you hear about large settlements, realize that those settlements very likely correspond to devastating losses.

It is a lawyer’s job to evaluate all the factors of your claim and negotiate the highest possible settlement on your behalf. Doing so requires legal knowledge, expertise, and tenacity. If you have been injured in a car accident, we would be honored to fight for you.

Are Car Wrecks an Upward Trend in Colorado?

According to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) there were 112,186 car crashes in Colorado in 2018. This figure is slightly down from the previous year, but it still part of an upward trend. It is not yet known how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect crash statistics, but there is anecdotal evidence that while overall traffic may be down, speeding and reckless driving are way up. A higher rate of speed equals more force behind crashes, which causes injuries to be more severe. Even an unexpected bump or jolt can cause a concussion and serious neck pain.

Colorado’s 2018 crashes produced 632 fatalities, 3112 serious (permanent, life-altering) injuries, and 11,656 general injuries.

TYPICAL INJURIES INCLUDE:

  • Neck and Shoulder Injuries
  • Concussion and Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Broken Bones
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Herniated Discs
  • Knee Injuries (from hitting the dashboard)
  • Internal Injuries

Just one of these injuries can cause months or years of pain, and victims often suffer more than one injury. If you have been involved in a car crash, it is very important to pursue the care you need to restore your health. Even with health insurance, this care can be expensive. A lawyer can be essential in helping victims recover money for health care, compensation for lost time at work, and compensation for other injuries such as loss of quality of life.

What Should You Do After a Car Accident?

1) MAKE SURE EVERYONE IS SAFE.

If both cars can be safely driven and there are no injuries, the vehicles should be moved to the side of the road. However, Colorado law does not require you to move your vehicle if you or anyone else is injured, or if it is unsafe to do so. Colorado law requires you to stay at the accident scene and offer “reasonable assistance.” More on that in a moment.

2) CALL 911.

Even if the accident seems mild, let the police decide whether or not to visit the scene.  Calling the police not only protects your physical safety, but it protects you legally as well.  Colorado is an at-fault state, which means the party who caused the accident pays for the damages.  A police investigation and report can be essential in determining fault.  Calling the police is also a way of providing the “reasonable assistance” just mentioned, and insures that medical personnel will be called if needed.  If no police arrive, Colorado law requires an uninjured party to transport an injured party to a medical center if necessary.  If no police arrive, drivers are also legally obligated to fill out an accident report themselves.

3) EXCHANGE INFORMATION WITH THE OTHER DRIVER.

Take photos of the damage and do not argue or apologize. If the other driver appears hostile and you do not feel safe, stay in your car.

4) SEE A DOCTOR.

Be sure to see a doctor, even if you think you are probably OK.  Many a stoic Westerner has decided to “tough it out,” only to have their injuries become more serious, expensive, and difficult to defend later in court.  Do not minimize your symptoms.  Tell the doctor what hurts.  For example, if you have serious pain in your head and neck, with an annoying ache in your wrist, you should still mention the pain in your wrist.  Your injuries need to be documented.  Insurance adjusters are going to go through your medical records and try to find ways to reduce what they pay you.  If you wait 3 months to seek treatment for your aching wrist, insurers may argue that your wrist injury is unrelated to the crash.  You should also attend all recommended medical and physical therapy appointments.  If you do not, insurers may argue that you must not be really hurt after all.

What About Insurance Companies?

Remember that insurance companies, even your own, are not on your side. They are on their own side. The less they have to pay you, the better their balance sheet.

IF INJURED, CALL A PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER

If you have injuries that require medical treatment, you should call a Denver personal injury lawyer.  Insurance companies know that accidents are stressful.  Post-accident, you may sleep-deprived or taking pain medication that clouds your judgment.  That is exactly why insurance companies will call you quickly, requesting you to give a recorded statement and sign releases that are sometimes so broad that they allow insurers to request all of your medical records since birth.  Insurers do this because they are looking for “evidence” they can use to pay you less.

Do not give them this material.  Tell them to call your lawyer instead.  Insurance companies have no obligation to help you receive fair compensation for your injuries.  Nor must they tell you that compensatory injuries include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, a loss of ability to enjoy life, and compensation for scarring and disfigurement.  They may even tell you that hiring a lawyer will equal less money in your pocket, which is false.  Recent studies, sponsored by insurers, have shown that the presence of a lawyer routinely doubles the value of a case, or more.

LEVERAGE IN YOUR FAVOR

A skilled car accident attorney is motivated and able to recover maximum compensation for you.  The presence of a lawyer implies the threat of a trial, which is something insurance companies prefer to avoid.  Your case will most likely not go to trial, but if you have a lawyer, it could.  This is leverage in your favor.  An insurance company does not want to defend a low offer to a jury of your peers.  Therefore, they are more likely to make a reasonable offer for your claim.

Who Pays My Bills After a Car Accident in Colorado?

THE GOOD NEWS

When you are injured in an automobile accident that is not your fault, you may wonder who is responsible for your medical bills. If the accident took place in Colorado, which is an “at-fault” state, the at-fault driver and their insurance company are responsible for your accident-related damages. That’s the good news.

THE BAD NEWS

The bad news is that it can take months or years for monetary compensation to actually arrive. Your attorney cannot settle your case until the extent of your damages is known, which usually means that your case cannot be settled until your treatment is complete. Your medical providers will want to be paid before the settlement is reached, and the responsibility for those bills will land on you. There is also a risk that the driver who had hit you had no insurance or inadequate coverage. The risk of being hit by an uninsured driver is very real in at-fault Colorado, which is why we recommend that everyone have uninsured motorist coverage on their auto policy.

WHILE YOU WAIT FOR SETTLEMENT, HOW DO YOU PAY THE BILLS?

There are several options, including:

  • Med Pay: Many auto policies include $5000 in medical payment coverage. This money is intended to compensate you quickly for medical care.  Unlike health insurance, med pay funds are not subject to deductibles or coinsurance, and they do not have to be reimbursed from your settlement.  If you have $5000 med pay on your auto insurance policy, you can submit medical bills up to $5000 to your auto insurance for payment.
  • Health Insurance: If you have health insurance or participate in an HMO like Kaiser, you can visit your usual providers.  Depending on the terms of your policy, your health insurer may seek full or partial recovery of their payments from your settlement (a process known as subrogation).  A lawyer’s assistance is essential to understanding the fine print of these policies and ensuring you don’t pay more than necessary.
  • Cash: If your costs are manageable, you can pay cash. Many providers offer a discount to cash-only patients.  Keep track of every payment you make, including mileage to and from appointments and receipts for cash payments for medicine or medical supplies.  These numbers will be important in calculating your damages.
  • Medical Lien: When med pay, health insurance, and cash are not an option, a medical lien can be a good choice. Medical lien companies finance your care up front, then get reimbursed from your settlement.  Medical lien companies work with attorneys.  Tell your lawyer if a medical lien sounds like a good option for you.

NEGOTIATING REDUCTIONS

If all else fails and your bills end up in collections, your attorney can attempt to negotiate reductions on your behalf.  If you receive a letter from a collection agency or a lienholder, it is important to let your attorney know right away.

At-fault rules assume everyone has adequate insurance and resources to handle a months or years-long wait for compensation, and that the opposing insurance company will make a fair offer.  Unfortunately, these assumptions are not always true.

GET MORE THAN COMPENSATION

If you have been injured in an accident that was not your fault, you still have to pay your medical bills either through insurance or some other means while you wait for your case to settle.  An experienced personal injury attorney’s services are essential in helping you deal with accident-related medical expenses.  At Shafner Law, we don’t just work hard to get you the highest compensation possible.  We negotiate the medical billing and subrogation landscape on your behalf, too.

How an Experienced Car Accident Attorney Can Help You

If you have sustained injuries in a car accident, an experienced attorney will help you by:

  • Communicating with insurance companies on your behalf
  • Collecting evidence to support your case
  • Negotiating the highest possible settlement
  • Making sure your bills and liens get paid and reduced when possible
  • Representing you in court if necessary

When you are injured, you need to focus on healing.  Don’t try to fight a giant corporation by yourself.  Even if you are not sure you want to hire a lawyer, it can be beneficial to talk to one.  At Shafner Law, we have decades of experience recovering compensation for car accident victims.  We will provide a fair and honest evaluation of your case and help you decide what course of action is best for you.

For a free consultation, call Shafner Law at (303) 796-0555 or fill out the Case Form below.

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AUTO ACCIDENTS

 

“Alan has handled auto accident injury cases for me on two occasions. In both cases he has been communicative, detail oriented and relentless when it comes to negotiating with the insurance companies on my behalf. I highly recommend Alan over those big firms that advertise on TV. He is personally involved during every step of the process, and I know that he will provide the same excellent service for you that he has for me.”

-Jane B.

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