Regrettably, thousands of car accidents occur in the United States every day, with a considerable proportion leading to property damage, injuries, and even death. In fact, road traffic crashes, which occur in various ways and for all kinds of reasons (careless driving, speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and so on), are one of the leading causes of accidental deaths, injuries, and property damage in the United States .
The rights and obligations of parties involved in car accidents are governed by an elaborate system of car accident rules, laws, and insurance procedures in Colorado. Therefore, you must understand the applicable legal framework and the rights you may have if you were involved in a car accident that led to damage to your car or injury so you have all the necessary support and guidance in exercising them.
The Fundamentals Concerning Car Accident Rules in Colorado
Two very important things you need to bear in mind when it comes to the applicable legal framework concerning car accidents in our state are the following:
Firstly, Colorado is commonly referred to as an “at-fault” state. If you have suffered injuries due to a car accident, you may be entitled to receive compensation from those responsible for your damages. This is in contrast to no-fault states where, as an accident victim, you would most likely be required to file a claim through your own insurance company.
Secondly, our state uses a tort-based car insurance law to set car insurance requirements for all vehicle operators. Tort law deals with civil suits and seeks to remedy losses or injuries through monetary compensation. Drivers must purchase adequate liability insurance to legally operate a vehicle in Colorado. This insurance covers bodily injury to another person or property damage.
Because of the above, any car accident damages are due to be covered by the at-fault driver’s car insurance company, up to the driver’s liability coverage limits. The big question, then, is what happens if the amount you should be receiving is in excess of their coverage?
Things can get complicated if the person who hit your car has low policy limits. This doesn’t mean that you don’t have any options or that you should settle for whichever payment the at-fault party’s insurance company offers you. You need to find out what your rights and legal options are—and the best way to do this is by seeking accurate, professional advice from an attorney who is experienced and knowledgeable in this field.
Ross Ziev is a premier car crash attorney. Along with his team at Legal Help in Colorado, he has both the expertise and the right kind of attitude to support you each step of the way and secure the best deal for you.
Insurance Policy Requirements in Colorado
Colorado law stipulates that each licensed motorist must have minimal auto insurance coverage. It also sets out the relevant amounts they should purchase.
At the moment, the minimum coverage everyone needs to have in place comes to:
- $25,000 for bodily injury or death to any one person in an accident
- $50,000 for bodily injury or death to all persons in any one accident
- $15,000 for property damage in any one accident .
Of course, you can always buy extra coverage when you purchase your insurance policy. In hindsight, this is a very good idea.
As car accidents may lead to extensive property damage, severe injuries, and even death, it is not easy to predict the extent of such an accident. At the same time, as many drivers only purchase the minimum insurance coverage required by law, they have relatively low policy limits.
This is why car accident victims who suffer more serious bodily injuries or property damage due to a car crash often find that the at-fault party’s insurance policy is insufficient to cover the compensation they require. In some cases, you might even discover that the person who hit your car is uninsured, which makes the situation even more problematic.
How to Address an At-Fault Party’s Low Policy Limits
One thing you may seriously consider is buying extra insurance. Car accidents can have unpredictable consequences, both in terms of potential injuries and their effect on your everyday life, as well as the extent of property damage they can cause to your vehicle.
Even though you are only legally required to have the minimum insurance coverage mentioned above, purchasing additional insurance can be invaluable in situations where the person who hit your car has low policy limits that prove insufficient to cover the damage you suffered.
Uninsured (UM)/Underinsured (UIM) Motorist Coverage
This type of insurance, called uninsured (UM)/underinsured (UIM) motorist coverage, is optional in Colorado but it can end up paying for the bodily injury losses caused by a hit‑and‑run driver, a driver with no automobile insurance, or a driver of an underinsured vehicle. Hence, it is one thing you can do preemptively to address such situations.
In general, the very reason for purchasing UM and UIM insurance is to cover medical fees and other damages if you are hit by someone who either does not have enough insurance to pay for your injuries or any insurance. It is also a way to protect yourself in case you are the victim of a hit-and-run accident, which is unfortunately not so uncommon nowadays.
In fact, under current law, all insurers in the state of Colorado must provide UM/UIM coverage equal to the policyholder’s current level of liability coverage for bodily injury, unless the policyholder in writing waives this coverage. A policyholder making such a rejection may opt to carry a lower level of coverage or reject coverage completely . Thus, even though purchasing UM and/or UIM insurance is entirely optional, this is something that drivers need to carefully think about and opt out of—which really comes to show its importance in terms of safeguarding you receive the compensation you require.
What Does a UM/UIM Policy Cover?
UM/UIM insurance only covers the policyholder, any other drivers included in said policy, and—in some cases—the passengers will be covered if the at-fault party’s insurance policy limits are too low to cover the ensuing injury. It will not, however, cover the damage that the at-fault vehicle may cause to your car or property.
To effectively address the issue of low policy limits on the part of the at-fault party, coupled with extensive bodily and property damage, you may also consider purchasing comprehensive insurance. This type of coverage can protect you against other damage to your vehicle, such as falling objects, fire, natural disaster, theft, or vandalism.
Deciding to purchase additional UM/UIM, and possibly even comprehensive insurance, may turn out to be a valuable investment should you ever find yourself in a car accident and the other driver only holds minimum insurance.
The Judicial Route
The usual way to proceed when you are the victim of a car accident in Colorado is to file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, expecting that they should pay for your damages. These may range from medical expenses, past and future lost wages, property damages, vehicle repairs to compensation for non-economic damages such as chronic pain, emotional distress, and the long-term impact of your injuries.
In reality, however, insurance companies are first and foremost businesses. As such, they are generally not inclined to pay out claims—especially expensive ones—and you may find that the insurance adjuster handling your claim is employing various tactics to devalue or even deny your claim. One of these tactics is to give you the impression that the applicable coverage is much lower than what it is in reality. Likewise, you may be led to believe that you are not entitled to seek certain types of damages, such as for pain and suffering, lost wages, and so on.
Sadly, this is something seasoned car accident lawyers come across in their daily practice. The best piece of advice in such cases is to make sure that you have a solid and accurate knowledge of what the at-fault party’s insurance policy truly covers. A highly effective way of doing this is by letting an attorney take over communication with insurance companies on your behalf, rather than try to negotiate a deal on your own.
If the payment you end up being offered following the filing of your claim is deemed too low, you may choose to file a personal injury lawsuit. In this way, you may be able to collect the amount you deserve directly from the party responsible for your accident.
Sometimes, especially if your lawyer has been able to build a strong case, insurance companies facing a lawsuit may be more willing to settle outside of court, i.e. before the case goes to trial.
Deciding to proceed with the judicial route makes isound professional advice concerning the process even more critical. An experienced personal injury lawyer will know the formalities that must be met, the evidence that you must submit, the time limits that you must observe, and more.
In addition to the above, your lawyer should also be able to assess whether bringing a lawsuit against the at-fault party has a genuinely better chance of securing the compensation you deserve in the event they do not have enough insurance to pay you fully.
Even though the majority of personal injury claims are settled without going to trial, there are various factors that will determine how each of them should be resolved.
Contact Legal Help in Colorado
Ross Ziev and his team at Legal Help in Colorado have a proven track record of handling such cases. Experienced car accident and personal injury attorneys such as our team are committed to fighting for what you are rightly owed and know how to do so effectively. We are well placed to deal with insurance companies, are aware of the tactics they follow, and are not in the least intimidated by them.
Navigating the insurance process is a difficult task even under ordinary circumstances—let alone when faced with an underinsured (or uninsured) at-fault driver.
If you or a loved one was involved in a car accident and it seems like the person responsible does not have sufficient insurance coverage to compensate you for your loss, reach out to us today to find out how we can help you.
Initial consultations are free and you won’t have to pay us any fees until you receive your payment. Call us at (303) 351-2567, or visit our offices at 6795 E. Tennessee Ave. #210, Denver, CO, 80224 to discuss your case in complete confidence.