Understanding Auto Insurance (And How It Affects Your Accident Claim)
After paying auto insurance premiums for years, you may find yourself suddenly needing to file an accident claim. Yet dealing with insurance companies can be intimidating. The policy language is dense with legalese. The claims process is confusing and frustrating. Perhaps you aren’t even sure where to begin.
At Flesch & Beck Law, we handle car insurance claims every day. Here is how the basic claims process works. Of course, every case is different, so we invite you to reach out to us for guidance on your specific situation. Our lawyers would be happy to discuss your case during a free consultation.
What The Numbers Mean
First, it is important to understand what the numbers mean on your insurance policy. By law, registered vehicles in Colorado are required to carry a minimum amount of insurance in case of an accident. Currently, there are three minimum requirements:
- $25,000 bodily injury per person injured in an accident
- $50,000 bodily injury per accident resulting in multiple injuries
- $15,000 property damage to the other vehicle.
You will typically see these numbers listed on your insurance policy as 25/50/15.
If you get hurt in an accident with an uninsured driver, your insurance company will likely tell you the only option available to you is your uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage. However, you’ve probably discovered that your UM/UIM coverage is minimal. Most drivers carry the minimal coverage in Colorado, which is 15/25/50:
- $15,000 in property damage per accident
- $25,000 per person for injuries per accident
- $50,000 coverage limit per accident
If your damages exceed $50,000, you’re left with the remaining balance of medical costs, property damages and lost wages. Vehicle damages and a short hospital stay or surgery alone can eat up $50,000 quickly. Long-term costs, additional surgeries, lost earning potential and pain and suffering won’t even enter the equation if you rely only on your auto insurance UM/UIM coverage.
When The Numbers Come Into Effect
Unlike many states, Colorado is NOT a no-fault state. If you are involved in a car accident in our state, you have the option of filing a claim for damages against your own insurance policy, filing a claim against the insurance company covering the driver found to be at fault for the accident or suing the at-fault driver for damages over and above the insurance coverage.
- If you are at fault for the accident and file a claim against your own policy coverage, you can expect your insurer to offer less than what the claim is really worth. Just because you have been a faithful customer for years does not mean the company will be any more willing to pay full and fair damages on the claim. Having experienced legal counsel to fight on your behalf is your best option for recovering the full and fair damages you need.
- If you are not at fault for the accident, you can expect the at-fault driver’s insurance company to offer a quick lowball settlement that is likely below the full value of the claim. An experienced personal injury lawyer will know the best options for negotiating a full and fair settlement that covers your damages.
- If your damages are over the amount of insurance coverage, you have the right to sue the at-fault driver’s insurance provider or personal estate for additional money. These cases will be filed as lawsuits through the court system. The first issue to be decided will be whether you do, indeed, have a legal claim against the defendant. If the court rules that you do, the case will proceed to a jury trial to determine the full extent of financial damages to be awarded. While the lawsuit is moving forward, the courts expect parties to work toward a negotiated settlement. Most lawsuits settle out of court before proceeding to a jury decision.
- If the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance, or if you were the victim of a hit-and-run, you may have to turn to your own policy for coverage under the uninsured motorist provision. Likewise, if the other driver’s policy limits aren’t enough to cover your expenses, you will have to examine other options for getting the compensation you deserve.
It’s easy to make costly mistakes when dealing with insurance companies. With our attorneys on your side, you can avoid pitfalls that would otherwise leave money on the table.
Scenarios That Can Trigger A UM/UIM Claim
Our experienced attorneys know how to leverage all sources of insurance – the other driver’s policy, your own auto or homeowners policy, maybe third-party coverage – to piece together compensation. UM/UIM can be invoked in these scenarios:
- Uninsured driver – If the at-fault person has no insurance, your losses are covered up to the limits of your UM/UIM coverage.
- Hit-and-run – The other driver may have been drunk or panicked or just cold-hearted. A driver who flees the scene is treated as an uninsured motorist, so again your insurance kicks in.
- Underinsured driver – In Colorado, the minimum liability policy is 15/25/50: $15,000 in property damage and $25,000 per person for injuries, up to a limit of $50,000 per accident. Many drivers carry only this minimal coverage, which is quickly exceeded in cases of severe injuries or multiple victims. Your UM/UIM compensates for the difference if your policy limits go that high.
Common Insurance Mistakes That You Should Avoid
- Giving the insurance company a recorded statement before consulting with an attorney: Insurance companies are known for pressuring people to give a recorded statement as soon as possible. However, it’s easy to say the wrong thing during these statements – and even seemingly harmless missteps can jeopardize the amount of compensation that you need.
- Taking the first settlement that is offered to you: Instead, hire an attorney who will aggressively negotiate until you get the compensation package you deserve.
- Signing waivers without talking it over with your attorney: It’s important that you fully understand the implication of signing any and all waivers and documents that are associated with your settlement. Your attorney will be able to explain the waivers and tell you what you should or should not sign.
- Missing deadlines for vital paperwork: Insurance claims and personal injury cases involve many important deadlines. When you hire our firm, we will make sure that all paperwork is submitted in a timely manner so as not to compromise the value of your settlement package.
- Allowing the insurance company to get away with giving you less than what is owed to you: Dealing with insurance providers can be frustrating and overwhelming, so it’s easy to give up and let them get away with it. Instead of getting in over your head, work with a personal injury attorney at our firm who will advocate for you every step of the way.
What If You Bear Some Of The Fault?
Car accidents aren’t always so cut-and-dried regarding which driver is at fault. In many cases, both drivers share some percentage of liability. Colorado uses a formula referred to as proportional comparative fault, set at 50%. The insurance adjusters determine the percentage of fault to be assigned to each driver. Only the driver who is found to be less than 50% at fault for causing the accident may file a claim against the other driver’s insurance or file a lawsuit.
Call To Learn More – Free Consultation And No Fees Unless You Win
If you were injured in a car accident in Colorado, hire a lawyer with experience handling car insurance claims every day. Call Flesch & Beck Law at 720-689-0322 or contact the firm by email to arrange a free consultation to discuss your case with a lawyer right away. We have offices in Denver and Englewood.