Navigating Colorado Car Crash Injury Cases: A Comprehensive Guide to Finding the Right Attorney

Jon Topolewski
By: Jon Topolewski
PublishedJun 8, 2023
16 minute read

Car crashes are traumatic and all too common, often leading to significant injuries. In the aftermath of a crash, confusion and stress can leave you unsure of what to do. Will insurance companies treat you fairly? Do you need a lawyer? Will you be compensated enough to fully recover? Look no further. Here’s your comprehensive guide to finding the right attorney for your Colorado car crash injury case.

Bottom Line

An injury attorney can help you get compensation by proving the extent of your injuries and that the other driver was liable for the crash.

In This Guide:

Understanding Colorado’s Auto Insurance Laws

Colorado mandates that all drivers carry car insurance and keep proof of coverage with them while driving. Failure to carry insurance can result in severe penalties.

Liability Insurance

Liability coverage is the bare minimum that every Colorado motorist must carry. It provides basic coverage for the other driver when the insured driver causes a crash. In Colorado, the mandatory liability minimums are:

  • $25,000 per person for bodily injury or death,
  • $50,000 in total for bodily injury or death, and
  • $15,000 for property damage per accident.

This basic coverage helps the other driver pay for medical bills and property damage incurred from the crash. However, liability insurance only goes as far as your policy’s coverage limits. You should have additional coverage for crashes resulting in significant injuries or vehicle damage.

Liability insurance also covers:

  • family members driving your vehicle,
  • people given permission to use it, and
  • wrecks with rental cars.

Remember: Liability insurance does not cover your injuries or vehicle damage. For this, you need additional insurance, such as collision coverage, which is optional in Colorado.

Liability Coverage Doesn’t Go Very Far 

Insurance will not pay out more than the amount limited by a driver’s policy. This means minimum insurance requirements may not offer sufficient coverage. Emergency care expenses can quickly drain liability limits, particularly if multiple individuals are injured.

You will notice that the $15,000 property damage limit is considerably lower than the cost of a new vehicle. If you’re the plaintiff driver, you might not receive sufficient compensation to cover your expenses. This can leave an at-fault driver on the hook for damages exceeding the insurance limit.

The only way to ensure full protection is to add additional coverage and increase your liability limits.

Uninsured Driver Penalties 

Colorado has strict consequences for uninsured driving. If you’re caught driving without proof of coverage, expect these penalties:

  • Four points added to your license
  • First offense: Minimum $500 fine and suspension of your license until proof of insurance is provided
  • Second offense: Minimum $1,000 fine and a four-month license suspension
  • Third and subsequent offenses: Minimum $1,000 fine and an eight-month license suspension
  • Up to 40 hours of community service

Supplemental Coverage

Colorado’s car insurance laws hardly guarantee you sufficient compensation after a wreck. For this reason, it’s highly recommended that you add supplemental coverages to your policy, such as:

Medical Payments Coverage

More commonly known as “Med Pay,” this extra policy covers reasonable medical expenses for injuries sustained in a car accident, regardless of fault.

Med Pay covers expenses for:

  • you,
  • any passengers in your car, and
  • anyone in a car that is not yours.

Unlike health insurance, Med Pay doesn’t have deductibles or co-pays. All Colorado insurance companies must offer drivers the Med Pay option.

Med Pay has several tiers of coverage, starting at $5,000. For a higher premium, drivers can opt for $10,000, $25,000, or $100,000 in Med Pay coverage.

More Benefits of Med Pay 

If you’re not at fault, your Med Pay premium won’t increase if you use it. Also, you don’t have to reimburse your insurance company if you get a settlement later.

Med Pay also covers you if you’re injured:

  • while riding with someone else
  • as a passenger on a bus struck by a car
  • while riding your bike
  • as a pedestrian
Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage

This insurance covers medical expenses and damages when the insured driver is hit by someone with insufficient or no insurance.

All Colorado insurance providers must offer this option to motorists and motorcyclists. Drivers can reject it, but they must do so in writing. UM/UIM insurance covers:

  • the policyholder
  • other drivers in the policy
  • passengers
How UM/UIM Works

This coverage operates like the at-fault driver’s insurance. It pays victims for damages as if the liable driver was actually insured.

UM/UIM also covers pedestrians and is available regardless of the car the victim was in during the crash. Coverage offered is equal to the bodily injury liability coverage of an insured motorist, as required by the state.

Determining Liability in Colorado Car Crashes

The key to getting compensation for your injuries is to establish the other driver’s liability, whether that’s through negligence or recklessness.

It is rare after an accident that one driver will be found 100 percent at fault. Therefore, whoever is considered most responsible for the crash becomes the one who is liable.

Finding Fault

Colorado is an at-fault state. This means the person who likely caused the accident, and their insurance provider, must compensate the injured party or parties.

A person is usually at fault due to:

Criminal Defense for Auto-Injury Charges: If you’re charged with careless driving (Hyperlink A) or reckless driving, (Hyperlink B) you still have rights. We strongly recommend talking with a criminal defense attorney about your legal rights and obligations. 

Comparative Fault in Auto Crashes

In Colorado, the at-fault driver and their insurance provider must compensate the injured party or parties due to negligence or recklessness. However, if both drivers share equal blame in the accident, neither driver is eligible for damages. This is called comparative negligence.

If one driver is more than 50 percent at fault, they can’t receive damages. A driver who is less than 50 percent at fault will have their compensation reduced by their percentage of fault. — Col. Rev. Stats 13-21-111.

Let’s look at how comparative fault works in car crashes.

Two Examples of Comparative Fault in Crashes
  • Example One: You’re accelerating through an intersection when a driver ignores the red light and crosses your path. This causes a collision, and you suffer $35,000 in damages as a result. However, you were speeding and determined to be 30 percent responsible for the crash. Therefore, you can only recover $24,500. That’s $35,000 reduced by 30 percent.
  • Example Two: You change lanes without signaling and collide with a speeding vehicle. The other driver is ruled to be 60 percent responsible for the accident. Your total compensation would have been $68,000 had the other driver been fully at fault. Since you were found to be 40 percent at fault, your compensation will be reduced to $40,800 due to comparative negligence. Again, that’s $68,000 reduced by 40 percent.

If both drivers receive a citation, determining liability and damages becomes even more complex. This is why it’s crucial to retain legal counsel immediately.

Proving Fault after an Auto Crash

Determining liability after a crash can be difficult, and you can’t solely rely on police reports. It is crucial to gather additional evidence to build a convincing case.

Your personal injury attorney will look to various kinds of evidence to demonstrate the other driver’s liability, including:

  • photos and video of the scene
  • eyewitness statements
  • citations
  • skid marks analysis
  • property damage
  • crash scene recreations

Steps to Take After a Colorado Car Crash

The actions you take after an accident can make or break your ability to seek legal action later.

First, if you are seriously hurt, seek prompt medical care.

If you and any passengers are relatively unharmed, begin taking inventory of exactly what happened. The following steps will help you protect your rights by preserving evidence at the scene of the crash.

Document the Crash Scene
  • Take pictures of the vehicles and license plates (or lack thereof) and debris at the scene.
  • Never admit fault. Even if you suspect you might have caused the crash, do not admit fault. That is not for you or the other driver to establish yet. Admitting you were wrong can hurt your chances of a fair settlement or trial court award – and it could affect a criminal case if charges are later filed.
  • Exchange information. Get phone numbers and insurance information of any other drivers and witnesses at the scene. This will be important later if or when there are any claims relating to the crash. Be sure to get the following information from all drivers involved in the crash:
    • name, address, and phone number
    • insurance information, including their policy number
    • drivers’ license number
    • year, make, model, and license plate numbers
    • crash photos, including damage to all vehicles and surrounding property
    • crash report number — you can get this from police officers on the scene
    • names and badge numbers of all police officers on the scene
What to Do if You’re Hit by Someone With No License, Plates, and/or Insurance

If you’re on a public road, the police will handle this situation. Depending on the circumstances, officers may have the other driver’s vehicle towed.

If you are on private property, say in the parking lot of a shopping center, you can call police to assist you in obtaining an accident report from someone who doesn’t have the documents they need to be out on the road. Doing this will reduce complications when you file a claim with your own insurance company.

Seek Medical Attention

To protect your health and compensation claim, seek prompt medical attention after an accident, even if you feel fine. Adrenaline can mask pain, and untreated injuries can worsen. Doctors can identify injuries you may not be aware of.

Any gaps in treatment may raise suspicion, so visit a doctor within two days of the crash. You can see a family doctor, emergency room physician, or walk-in clinic.

If you are diagnosed with an accident-related injury, go to all your follow-up appointments.

Report the Crash to Authorities

If you’re in a serious accident on a busy road, you won’t have to go to the authorities. They’ll hurry to the scene. However, many car crashes are quite minor, with no discernible injuries to drivers or passengers. Must you report those?

Yes. All motorists are required by C.R.S. 42-4-1609 to report wrecks that result in property damage or injury. Failure to promptly report a crash is a class 2 misdemeanor carrying at least a $300 fine and up to 90 days in jail. Report your accident to the nearest police agency.

Extreme Weather Crashes

In severe weather, like snowstorms or flash flooding, police may not be available to attend minor incidents. Instead, you may be directed to submit your crash details at a local station later.

Document Your Injuries and Losses

After a serious accident, it’s crucial to document all aspects of your injury to increase your chances of compensation. Insurers often require evidence of the extent of your injuries to justify damages claimed. Insufficient proof can hurt the outcome of your claim.

Therefore, document all costs you’ve incurred from the accident, such as:

  • Initial medical and treatment report(s)
  • Medical bills and test results
  • Insurance benefit letters
  • Ambulance bill(s)
  • Copies of medical imaging (X-ray) results
  • Total estimated damage to your auto vehicle
  • Bills for rental car(s)
  • Cost of a tow truck
  • The cost or value of other items damaged in the crash
  • Lost wages from missing work

Tip: Keep as much of this information as possible in one place, such as a binder, folder, or briefcase. This way, you’ll always know where to put new bills and receipts, or where to track them down.

Keep an Injury Journal 

To document your injuries, keep a journal of your thoughts and impressions during treatment and recovery. This journal can provide detailed information for doctors while recording changes in your condition. Additionally, it can document any cognitive and/or mental health issues you may be experiencing, such as:

  • anxiety and stress
  • sleepless nights
  • depression
  • recurring physical pain
  • confusion, and/or
  • difficulty recalling the crash

This step might seem tedious. However, documenting your thoughts and feelings could help you recover additional damages, such as pain and suffering or mental distress.

Starting Your Colorado Car Crash Claim

You’ve been injured in an automobile accident that wasn’t your fault. With these facts established, you are ready to file a claim for compensation.

If your own insurance included Med Pay, then some of your initial medical costs will have already been covered. However, if your injuries are serious and could cause you to miss work, you will need additional compensation. Of course, you also have the right to hold the at-fault driver and their insurance company liable.

Filing Your Claim with Insurance Companies

Filing a Claim with Your Own Insurer 

Contact your insurance company as soon as you return home from the crash. If you’re seriously injured, seek medical attention first; but don’t put off talking to your insurer.

Most policies require signed proof of loss within a certain time limit. Proof of loss is a legal document that explains what’s been damaged and how much money you’re claiming. Your insurer may have you fill one out depending on the loss.

Review Your Policy 

Before calling your agent, review your insurance agreement. Pay special attention to the “Coverage” and “Exclusion” sections.

Do not give an official statement until you understand your coverage. Remember, you do not have to allow the insurance company to record your conversation.

Be Honest and Thorough 

Make sure your statement to your insurer is truthful and comprehensive to avoid issues with your coverage.

Take detailed notes during your call, including the phone number, name and position of the person you spoke with, their supervisor’s name, and the accident details provided.

Be Wary of Insurance Companies Acting in Bad Faith 

Colorado insurance companies have a responsibility to handle claims in a timely, honest manner. Failure to do so could open them to damages in a civil lawsuit. — C.R.S. 10-3-1115

Some examples of bad faith include:

  • delaying investigating a claim
  • unreasonably delaying payment of a claim
  • demanding unnecessarily, burdensome paperwork from you
  • raising premiums when the crash wasn’t the insured’s fault
  • denying payment on a valid claim

If you suspect your own car insurance company is acting in bad faith, contact a Colorado personal injury attorney. By law, you could recover twice the amount of your original compensation, plus attorney fees, with a successful lawsuit. — C.R.S 10-3-1116 

Filing a Claim with the Other Driver’s Insurer

Gather essential information about the crash before you contact the other driver’s insurance carrier. You will want to have the facts at your fingertips, especially those establishing your damages and the other driver’s liability.

You will most likely end up speaking with one of the insurance company’s claims adjusters. Be polite, but direct. Answer the adjuster’s questions to the best of your ability without revealing too much information. In other words, don’t ramble. Stick to the facts.

Follow the adjuster’s instructions for filing a claim, but do not provide a recorded statement. You are not required to provide a recorded statement to file your claim. Also, do not discuss your injuries until you’ve seen a doctor.

Uncooperative Adjusters

If you encounter difficulties such as:

  • allegations of fault,
  • a denied claim, or
  • a low settlement offer,

… contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can assist you through the claims process.

Protect Your Medical Records
When an accident results in significant injuries, the at-fault driver’s insurance company will ask you to sign a “medical release” form. Do not sign it.

Signing such a form can only hurt your case. The insurance investigators will raid your files, comb through your social media accounts, even call up your friends and family, looking for pre-existing conditions and anything else that could weaken your claim.

Never give the other side more information than necessary.

Your Attorney is Your Shield

Create a barrier between yourself and representatives of the at-fault party. Your attorney will handle all communication from them and their insurance. This way, you can focus on recovery and avoid interference with your claim.

How Long Do I Have to File a Personal Injury Claim? 

In Colorado, personal injury lawsuits must be filed within three years from the date of the auto crash.

Lawsuits for property damage only must be filed within two years.

The statute of limitations only applies to lawsuits and not insurance claims, but it is advisable to file an auto insurance claim soon after the accident.

Note About Government Employees: In Colorado, if a government employee/entity caused the wreck, you only have six months to file something called a “Notice of Claim” with the appropriate legal entity (CRS § 24-10-109) .

Preserve Your Right to File a Lawsuit

Keeping time limits in mind protects your legal rights. It allows you and your personal injury attorney time to investigate and negotiate a fair settlement — or file a lawsuit.

Calculating Damages After a Car Crash

You’re the victim of someone else’s negligence or recklessness on the road. Now you face mounting healthcare costs, lost wages, and significant recovery time. You need fair compensation for your injuries, and your attorney must address every aspect of your life affected by the crash.

In Colorado, you can be compensated for both specific economic losses and needs, as well as general non-economic damages.

Economic Compensation

Economic damages are all the personal injury losses that can be added up to hard numbers. These include:

  • current and future medical bills,
  • property damage,
  • rental car(s),
  • lost income
  • current and future accessibility needs, and
  • any other out-of-pocket expenses incurred from the accident or event.

A complete and accurate assessment of the full economic impact of your injury will be important. Collecting receipts and adding up all up these amounts can be daunting. Fortunately, your attorney can help with this.

Medical Expenses

Auto crashes can result in injuries ranging from minor to catastrophic. Even seemingly minor wrecks can cause serious injuries. That’s why seeking a medical evaluation after a crash is crucial, even if you feel relatively fine.

In Colorado, injured parties can claim the full amounts charged by healthcare providers, without subtracting the amount already paid by the victim’s insurer, MedPay, Medicare, or Medicaid.

Due to “subrogation” rights, or reimbursement requirements contained within health insurance policies and under state and federal regulations, you may be required to reimburse your health insurance provider if you obtain recovery for these expenses.  An attorney can help you assess what, if any, amounts you may owe.

Future Care 

When wrecks result in serious injury, you have to consider long-term future treatment and care, including:

  • surgeries and/or injections
  • physical and mental therapy
  • in-home care
  • home modifications (e.g. wheelchair ramps, other accessibility improvements)
  • medical equipment
Lost Income

Lost income is all the earnings a person has lost, and will lose, due to their injuries. If you are able to work again after a few months, you can be compensated your full monthly salary for each month missed.

Property Damage 

If your car was damaged or rendered undrivable, your automobile insurer will help you determine the amount of money you’ll need to repair or replace your car. You can then add that amount to the total economic damages.

Non-Economic Compensation

Non-economic compensation is an essential part of recovery. A serious injury does not only cause financial problems for the victim. It often leads to short- and long-term “pain and suffering” that often requires treatment.

It’s pretty easy to total up how much income you lost and the cost of your medical care. However, it’s harder to measure the toll a sudden crash can have on a person’s mental and emotional health.

Non-economic damages compensate the victim for any or all of the following:

  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Short- or long-term disability, and inconvenience
  • Scarring or disfigurement
  • Humiliation
  • Emotional distress
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Lost quality of life
  • Psychological trauma or anguish

Calculating Non-Economic Compensation 

Most car crash injury cases settle out of court. However, when such a case goes to trial, then a jury determines the amount of compensation.

In cases involving serious, permanent injury, there is no specific direction provided to a jury to assess the amount owed for non-economic damages.  Your attorney and the attorney for the at-fault party may suggest to the jury different ways to calculate those damages.  Two methods often employed are the following:

The Multiplier Method 

Juries use a multiplier of one to five to calculate compensation for non-economic damages, depending on the severity of the injury. This method is employed for long-term or permanent injuries.

For example, if economic damages are $160,000 and a multiplier of two is chosen, the total compensation would be $320,000.

The Per-Diem Method

The jury multiplies a number — usually the plaintiff’s daily wage — by the number of days they could experience pain and suffering. This is added to the economic damages.

For example, with $160,000 in economic damages, a $260 daily wage, and 1,095 days of pain-and-suffering, the compensation totals $444,700.

Caps on Non-Economic Compensation 

Colorado still limits the amount of non-economic damages compensation an injured plaintiff may receive in most cases. However, most regular car accident injury cases will not reach the cap.

Currently, a claimant cannot receive more than $642,180 in non-economic damages alone. However, that cap can be exceeded when there is clear and convincing evidence to show an increase is justified.  — Colo. Rev. Stat. 13-21-102.5

The cap is adjusted for inflation every few years. It was last adjusted on January 1, 2022.

Note: The non-economic damages award caps are not disclosed to the jury. Rather, the caps are imposed by the court after the jury renders a verdict. — CRS § 13-21-102.5(4).

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages differ from compensatory damages in both amount and purpose. Their purpose is to punish the at-fault driver and to send a message to society.

Punitive damages are only available if the at-fault driver acted in a willful and wanton manner, such as drunk driving.

Colorado caps the total value of punitive damages at the total amount in actual damages awarded.

For example: Let’s say you receive $167,000 in economic damages plus another $83,500 in non-economic damages. That totals out to $250,500. Your punitive damages could be any amount up to, but not exceeding, $250,500.

Choosing the Right Legal Representation

If you’ve been injured in a car accident, it’s important to hire an attorney who has experience with personal injury cases. More specifically, you’ll want a lawyer who works on automobile crash claims, sues for damages, and knows how to access recovery payments.

Qualities That Make an Effective Car Crash Attorney 
  • A Record of Solid Settlements: Choose a lawyer with a successful track record and happy client testimonials. You want an attorney who will listen to your concerns and negotiate assertively to get you a fair settlement.
  • Proficiency in Car Crash Cases: You wouldn’t hire your family doctor to perform a quadruple bypass on your heart – even though both individuals hold an M.D. Well, the same goes for lawyers. When you’re hurt in a crash, you need a personal injury attorney who has handled car crash cases.  Not only will you know you are getting competent representation, but so will the insurance companies.
  • They Actually Care: You need an attorney who can empathize with your situation. Otherwise, how can he or she articulate your pain and suffering to insurance adjusters, opposing attorneys, judges, and jurors? Trust your instincts: If your attorney seems cold, distant, or distracted, consider hiring someone more personable.
  • They Ease Your Mind: Your lawyer should handle representatives of the at-fault driver while you focus on recovery. Look for an attorney from a firm with sufficient staff to handle all the paperwork and issues from the opposing side. A good lawyer will allow you to prioritize your health while they work towards a positive outcome.
  • A Foundation of Trust: Trust is crucial when selecting a personal injury law firm. It’s not just about having a law degree; the attorney must have the required expertise, time, and dedication to handle your case. Always be wary of attorneys who make unrealistic claims or promises.
Questions to Ask During Your Consultation 

Most attorneys offer some sort of consultation for potential clients. You should think of the consultation as a job interview. And you’re the one doing the hiring.

Some people come in with a long list of questions to ask, while others have no idea where to begin. I recommend you at least as the following questions:

  • What experience do you have handling cases like mine?
  • What kind of results have you gotten for clients like me?
  • What is your success rate at trial?
  • What are your fees?
  • Do I owe any money upfront?
  • What other case-related costs might I expect to have to pay?
  • How available will you be for me throughout my case?
  • How long do cases like mine generally take to resolve?

Note: Be wary of lawyers who appear to take on too many cases at once. Also, be skeptical about an attorney who automatically expects your case to settle. You never know when you’ll need a fighter.

Evaluate the Attorney’s Track Record 

While asking questions during the consultation is helpful, it’s not always enough. When you can, research the attorney’s track record.

How to Check a Lawyer’s Reputation 
  • Google the lawyer’s name to find relevant information and reviews.
  • Check the lawyer’s state bar profile (Hyperlink 7) to confirm their license and find any disciplinary actions.
  • Do an Attorney Search and Discipline History (Hyperlink 8) to see if the lawyer has ever been disciplined or censured.
  • Check out Super Lawyers to see if the attorney has been selected for any awards. (Hyperlink 9)
  • Lastly, check the lawyer’s specialization to ensure they have targeted expertise in your legal issue.

Working with Your Attorney

While I perform the heavy legal lifting for my client’s, I always emphasize how important their role is to their case’s outcome. In some ways, a client’s participation is more important than their attorney’s. With that in mind, here are some ways you can make sure your case is set up for the best possible outcome:   

  • Be Responsive: In personal injury law, quick responses are crucial. Adjusters may give “blowup offers” or “for this day only” offers, particularly on settlement or conference days. Promptly responding to your lawyer’s calls and signing papers can help you take advantage of these offers and avoid delays in your case.
  • Take Advice: Your lawyer aims to maximize your recovery, so follow their advice. Don’t go against their recommendations.
  • Keep Your Attorney Up-to-Date: Communicate with your lawyer and paralegal regularly. Share any new evidence, documentation, diagnoses, or updates on your medical appointments as soon as possible.
  • Be Honest With Your Attorney: Tell your personal injury lawyer everything about your case and your injuries, including:
    • what happened,
    • who may have caused the wreck,
    • where you were treated for injuries,
    • if you have pre-existing injuries,
    • past criminal convictions,
    • relationships with doctors,
    • an honest assessments of your pain levels,
    • your employment status, and
    • any other relevant information.

Not disclosing all these details could harm your case. For example, an insurance adjuster will look for any pre-existing injuries you may have had to explain away the injuries you sustained in the crash.

Being open with your lawyer allows him or her to build a plan to mitigate or nullify these types of tactics often deployed by insurance adjusters.

Understanding Your Attorney’s Fees and Expenses 

Attorney’s fees are the charges for your lawyer’s services. Personal injury attorneys usually base their fees on a contingency model. That means your attorney receives a percentage of your settlement or judgment. Typically, contingency fees are between 33.33 and 40 percent depending on whether your case settles or goes to trial. If there is no recovery, there is no fee.

Costs are the expenses necessary to pursue your personal injury case. These can be anything from court filing fees and investigation costs to paying for expert opinions and mediator rates. Attorneys typically cover these costs in personal injury cases.

Contact a Colorado Car Crash Attorney

A sudden automobile wreck causing injuries can be a stressful and challenging setback. At Robinson & Henry, we understand this. Our experienced personal injury attorneys work tirelessly to ensure that clients get the compensation they deserve. Whether you’re recovering from moderate or serious injuries, we can help put your life back on track. If you’re stressed, confused, and hurting, we are here. Call 303-688-0944 for your case assessment.

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