Frequently Asked Questions About Auto Accidents
Traffic accidents can leave you with not only extensive injuries, but also countless questions about the legal (and practical) considerations. At in the Denver area, we can help you navigate these issues, applying decades of personal injury experience to fight for you.
Read about some common questions we hear:
- Is it worth it to hire an attorney?
- What does it cost to hire a lawyer?
- How do I file an insurance claim?
- How can I protect my rights when dealing with the insurance company?
- What should (and shouldn’t) I say to the insurance company?
- What should I do if the insurance company offers me a settlement?
- What if the insurance company wants me to make a recorded statement?
- What if I was partially at fault for the accident?
- What if I was a passenger in an accident caused by my driver?
- Do I need to pursue a personal injury claim too?
- What are the time limits for bringing a lawsuit?
- How much is my claim worth?
- How do I get coverage for my medical bills?
- How do I get medical coverage if I don’t have health insurance?
- What if my medical bills exceed the at-fault party’s insurance limits?
- What kinds of damages can I get?
- How long will it take to get compensation?
How do I file an insurance claim?
After an accident, you should notify your insurance company as soon as possible. They will initiate their own investigation to determine what happened and who was at fault. They may ask for evidence, documents and paperwork. They may also try to pressure you into making a formal statement. DON’T give a statement before speaking with an attorney about your situation. Likewise, DON’T accept a settlement offer unless you’ve first talked with a lawyer about it.
Read more about what to do after an accident and insurance pitfalls to watch out for.
How can I protect my rights when dealing with the insurance company?
It’s important to understand that insurance companies – even your own – aren’t on your side. Ultimately, their foremost interest is their own bottom line, not yours.
You can protect your rights (and avoid leaving money on the table) by following these do’s and don’ts:
- DO hire your own lawyer as soon as possible. The first thing you should always do after a serious accident – other than seeking medical attention, of course – is to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. Unlike your insurance company, your lawyer is committed to your interests alone.
- DON’T provide an official statement to the insurance company unless you’ve spoken with a lawyer.
- DON’T by tempted by the first low-ball settlement the insurance company offers. Wait until you have an attorney who can advise you whether you’re leaving money on the table.
- DON’T post anything about the accident on social media, as that could later be used against you.
Insurance issues are complicated. By hiring at the outset, you can avoid having to deal with these confusing issues – and have confidence that your rights are in good hands.
What should I say to the insurance company after an accident?
It’s important to use caution when speaking with insurance agents. You should know that every insurance company (even your own) is looking to minimize your compensation. They are looking to protect their profits and balance that top priority with paying you just enough to satisfy you. However, if they think they can, they will work aggressively to either minimize your claim value to the furthest extent possible or outright deny your claim.
If you don’t understand what they are trying to do – assigning fault for the injury to you – you may inadvertently sabotage your ability to fully recover the compensation you need to pay for your medical bills and other damages.
Here are some dos and don’ts to remember:
- Do make an injury claim as soon as possible.
- Do tell them about the medical treatment you have received, your diagnosis and your prognosis.
- Don’t make a recorded statement before talking to a lawyer.
- Don’t admit any sort of fault – apologizing or saying “sorry” may be taken as an admission of fault, so avoid apologizing for anything.
- Don’t make anything up.
- Don’t assume things, such as the intentions of the insurance representative or other factors about the accident. Only talk about the facts.
- Don’t get in a situation where statements aren’t consistent and therefore not credible.
- Don’t make a statement if you are impaired at the time. You have the right to refuse to make a statement.
- Don’t be in a hurry to resolve your case. Any case of value takes time to resolve due to the technical and sensitive nature of many of the issues involved.
Should I accept the insurance settlement?
If you ever suffer a severe injury in a car crash or any other type of serious accident, it is likely that your insurance company or the insurance company of the at-fault party will try to settle your case as quickly as possible – with some offers being made within just a few days of the accident. While you may be tempted to take the offer, especially if your medical bills are piling up, you need to know that accepting an insurance company’s first settlement offer can be a costly mistake.
No matter how friendly or nice the insurance agent or adjuster may sound, you must remember that insurance companies are in the business of making money – and they don’t make money by paying out large settlements. In fact, in many cases, insurance companies will offer victims lowball settlements in hopes that they can resolve a claim on the cheap. Even if the offer seems like a lot of money now, you need to consider whether it will cover all of your damages and future medical expenses. Often, it won’t.
Also, if you accept a settlement offer, the insurance company will typically ask you to sign a release that protects the insurance company from any future claims involving your injuries. Signing this release means your case is over; you cannot go back and file another claim if your injuries turn out to be more severe than you originally thought.
Should I give a recorded statement to the insurance company without a lawyer?
No, the recorded statement is a voluntary statement that could be used against you later. You will want counsel to be with you if you give any sort of statement to the insurance company. Many times, the statement is requested while you are actively being treated medically, and you are not prepared to give a statement that is the most accurate about your accident and injuries.
Can I file a lawsuit if I was partly at fault for an accident?
Probably, yes. As long as your actions are not primarily to blame for the accident, you may still be entitled to damages under Colorado law. The court may reduce the amount of compensation you receive based on your level of fault, but at least you won’t be out of luck.
Colorado’s modified comparative negligence law essentially works like this: If there is evidence that your negligent actions are partially responsible for your accident, the judge (or the jurors in the case of a jury trial) will have to determine two things:
- The level of negligence (listed as a percentage) of each party involved, including both you and the person you are suing
- The amount of compensation you would be entitled to if there had been no negligence on your part
If your negligent actions are less than 50% to blame for the accident, the court will simply reduce your verdict in proportion to your level of negligence. For instance, if you are 30% at fault for the accident – and the other driver is 70% at fault – the court will reduce your final recovery by 30%. Alternatively, if your level of negligence is 50% or more, you will not be able to recover anything.
However, it is important to remember that while Colorado’s modified comparative negligence statute applies to most personal injury claims based on negligence (including most car accident claims), different rules and laws may come into play depending on your situation. For example, if a defective auto part contributed to the accident, a different statute may apply. Our lawyers can advise you on the law as it applies to your unique situation.
What if I was a passenger in an accident caused by my driver?
It is important to remember that passengers injured in car accidents are nearly always eligible to seek compensation from the negligent driver. Even if your own driver is 100 percent at fault for the accident, you can file a claim for financial damages.
Do I need to pursue a personal injury claim too?
It depends. If the accident was minor and you’re able to get adequate coverage through insurance (your own or the other driver’s), you may not need to pursue additional compensation. However, in more serious accidents, the medical bills alone can readily exceed policy limits. You may need to file a personal injury claim to recover the rest. Likewise, in complex accident cases – those involving commercial drivers or defective auto parts, for example – you may have claims against other parties that require filing a lawsuit.
Before pursuing a lawsuit, it’s important to know not only whether your case has a strong chance of success, but also whether you’d be able to actually collect on the judgment in your favor. Suing someone who has no personal assets or net worth, for example, may not be worth the time and expense.
Because these decisions are so case-specific, it’s important to discuss your situation with a lawyer who understands Colorado injury law. Our team can help you pursue the right strategy.
How long do I have to sue after an accident?
After a motor vehicle accident in Colorado, you typically have three years to file a personal injury lawsuit. While that may seem like a long time, it takes a good deal of time to conduct an investigation and gather the evidence needed to prepare a strong case. The longer you wait, the more difficult that becomes. So, it’s important to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. In fact, if you delay too long and fail to bring your personal injury claim within this time limit – otherwise known as the statute of limitations – the court may throw out your case and you will lose any chance of obtaining the compensation you deserve.
How much is my claim worth?
Many factors influence how much a claim might be worth, including:
- The extent of your injuries
- Long-term needs such as rehabilitation, in-home care assistance, home modifications and the like
- The amount of accident-related expenses you’ve incurred for medical care (including transportation to and from medical appointments), property damage and the like
- Whether you’ve been unable to work because of the accident
- Whether you’ll be able to work in the future
- The pain and suffering involved
- The egregiousness of the defendant’s reckless conduct
It takes experience to know what a claim is worth – and to support that claim with the right documentation. At , by handling hundreds of cases and obtaining millions of dollars on behalf of injury victims, we have developed the insight necessary to value cases.
Who pays for my medical bills after an accident?
The exact answer will depend on the specifics of your situation, but most situations are covered by one or a few of the options below:
- The person who caused your injury: In many situations, you will be able to recover your medical costs (and compensation for other damages) from the person who caused you harm through reckless actions, failure to act as they should have, or negligent behavior. Although you may have to pursue a personal injury lawsuit to get all of the financial compensation you are entitled to, that merely changes the timeline for a recovery, not the reckless person’s responsibility to pay your medical bills.
- Your employer or the employer of the person who caused your injury: If you were hurt at work, it is possible that your employer may pay for your medical bills. If you were injured by someone who was working at the time they caused your injuries, you may be able to recover compensation from that person’s employer. [Please note that, while we DO handle workplace injury cases, we do NOT handle workers’ compensation claims.]
- Insurance companies: In some situations, the person whose actions caused your injuries will be able to have their insurance company cover your bills. In other situations, such as when the person who hurt you fled the scene, you may need to recover compensation directly from your own insurance company (if your policy provides for that type of recovery, such as a clause that covers uninsured motorists).
How do I get medical coverage if I don’t have health insurance?
Hopefully, you have Med-Pay coverage relating to your car insurance. If not, we can help find a doctor who will treat you on a lien. You need to call the lawyers at to discuss your options and how to get treatment sooner than later. The longer you delay getting treatment, the easier you make it for the insurance company to deny liability suggesting you were not hurt in the accident.
What if my medical bills exceed the at-fault party’s insurance limits?
First, you will need to find out whether or not the driver of the vehicle is the owner of the vehicle that caused you injuries. If the driver and owner are different, there may be additional insurance coverage.
Next, you will also need to do an asset search relating to either the driver or the owner of the vehicle involved.
Finally, you will need to make a claim against your UM/UIM carrier. We can help you through all of the steps necessary to secure a viable underinsured/uninsured motorist claim.
What kinds of damages can I get?
Generally, in car accident cases, you can pursue compensation for:
- Economic damages: This category includes out-of-pocket expenses related to the accident such as medical bills (past and future), car repairs, lost paychecks due to time off work, medical equipment and rehabilitation. Detailed documentation is essential for proving these damages.
- Noneconomic damages: This category covers nonquantifiable harm such as pain and suffering. In fatal accidents, surviving family members may also be able to recover damages for loss of companionship, loss of financial support and the like.
In cases involving egregious misconduct – such as intoxicated driving – punitive damages may also be available. These damages are significant amounts intended to punish the wrongdoer and deter others.
How long will it take to get compensation?
The insurance process takes time, as do injury lawsuits. Case-specific factors – such as the severity of your injury, the complexity of the case and the opposing party’s willingness to reach a fair settlement – can also impact the timeline. It might take anywhere from a few months to several years.
At , we understand that time is money. No amount of compensation will do you any good if it never reaches your hands. Drawing on decades of experience, we’ll work hard to avoid delays and expedite the process to the fullest extent possible – without jeopardizing your rights.