What Should I Know if I’m Involved in a Car Crash?

Jon Topolewski
By: Jon Topolewski
PublishedOct 3, 2022
1 minute read

Automobile accidents are scary. Even surviving a crash with minor or insignificant injuries can leave a person trembling and in shock. It can be difficult to think clearly in this state.

However, from a legal standpoint, the immediate aftermath of a motor vehicle accident is no time to lose your head. So, if you’ve recently been involved in an accident, or you’re looking for good advice just in case, here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about car accidents.

Obviously, if you are seriously injured, the first step is to seek medical care. However, if you and any passengers are OK, then you’ll want to take an inventory of exactly what happened to make sure you protect your rights.

Take pictures of the vehicles and the debris at the scene.

Do not admit fault. Even if you suspect you might have caused the crash, and even if you feel like it’s impolite, do not admit fault. That is not for you or the other driver to establish yet, and admitting you were wrong can seriously hurt your chances if you end up in court.

Exchange information. Get the phone numbers and insurance information of any other drivers at the scene because this will be important later if or when there are any claims relating to the accident.

Be sure to get the following information from all drivers involved in the accident:

  • name, address, and phone number
  • insurance information, including their policy number
  • drivers’ license number
  • year, make, model, and license plate numbers
  • accident photos, including damage to all vehicles and surrounding property
  • accident report number — you can get this from police officers on the scene
  • names and badge numbers of all police officers on the scene

These first steps immediately after a motor vehicle accident will set you up for a successful case if you need to pursue legal action at some point.

Technically, there is no cap on the amount of financial damages you can seek after a particularly serious accident if the other driver was clearly at fault and your injuries are permanent. How much you actually get awarded, however, will depend on the circumstances of your specific case and the skill and tenacity of your attorney.

Now, realistically? A car accident involving serious, but non-permanent injury, entitles the injured plaintiff to both economic damages and non-economic damages.

Economic damages include:
  • Medical and hospital costs: The at-fault driver (or their insurance company) will be responsible for not only your immediate medical costs like hospital bills and ambulance fees but also the cost of any long-term treatment. If the other driver’s auto insurance cannot cover it all, your attorney can calculate the difference and add it to a civil claim against the driver.
  • Lost income: Since you probably will not be able to work while recovering from your accident, the at-fault driver can be on the hook for the income you lose during that time. Furthermore, you can hold the other driver liable for long-term lost income if your injuries turn out to be permanent and keep you from ever returning to your job.
  • Property damage: Colorado law requires every driver’s auto insurance policy to cover at least $15,000 in property damage liability. If the value of your vehicle exceeds their liability coverage, you can still hold the at-fault driver accountable for any damage amount beyond what their auto insurance will cover.
Non-economic damages can include:
  • Pain and suffering: A car accident, especially when it involves serious injury, can be extremely traumatic while causing painful physical and psychological distress. In most cases, pain and suffering damages are calculated by taking the total cost of immediate and long-term medical care and multiplying it by two, three, four, or five times.For example, if you required $20,000 of medical care as a result of the accident, you could receive anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000 for pain and suffering.

Colorado law typically limits pain and suffering damage awards to $613,760 in normal accident cases and to $1,227,520 when there is clear and compelling evidence of the other driver’s fault.

Again, however, if you sustained permanent injuries, there may be no cap on the amount of pain and suffering compensation in their claim.

Settlements can take time. However, if you’ve been in limbo for too long, the first thing to do is get in touch with your attorney and ask why you haven’t heard back about your case. If you don’t have a personal injury attorney, this might be a good time to talk to one.

Insurance companies are notorious for dragging out the settlement process, in hopes the claimant will give up or accept their low-ball offer. The best remedy is to hire a competent, no-nonsense attorney. Since insurance companies can be held liable for bad faith, including needless delays on a claim, they become more responsive once you have an attorney in your corner.

Otherwise, unfortunately, there is no easy answer to why a car accident settlement takes longer than you want. Every case is unique, and the time it takes to resolve your claim depends on the facts and circumstances of your case.

A settlement can come quickly if the accident was minor with no injuries. Other cases can take several months or even years depending on what’s complicating the negotiations. It’s important to have an attorney not just to advocate for your interests, but to keep you up to date on how your case is progressing, or why it’s not.

Yes, it’s frustrating. However, getting maximum compensation for injuries or damage can require tenacious, steadfast negotiations between your attorney, the insurance companies involved, and the other driver’s attorneys.

There are two ways. Below is the easier method.

The simplest way to get a police report after a car accident is to file a request for the report with the Colorado Department of Revenue. Simply go to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website and complete form DR2489, which is officially called a Requestor Release and Affidavit for Intended Use.

You will need the following information to complete the form:

  • name of the driver
  • date of the crash
  • case report number
  • location of the accident

Once the pdf form is downloaded and filled out, print it out and mail it to:

The Colorado Department of Revenue
Division of Motor Vehicles
Driver Control, Room 164
P.O. Box 173345
Denver, Colorado  80217-45

Remember to include your return mailing address!

You will need to send a $9.00 processing fee and an extra $1.00 if you would like the file to be a certified record. It can take up to 90 days to receive the accident report.

Generally, the at-fault driver, or their insurance provider, pays for the ambulance in addition to any other short- and long-term medical and hospital costs after a car accident resulting in serious injury.

If you are the at-fault driver, then your car insurance provider will pay for the ambulance service any injured persons might need as a result of the crash. If you were injured and needed ambulance service, then your health insurance provider may foot the bill.

It can be.

There are a range of factors that get considered once you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident that caused another person to lose their life.

For example, if it is determined that the accident occurred due to conditions and factors beyond your control, you will not be charged with vehicular manslaughter.

On the other hand, you could be charged with vehicular manslaughter if a police investigation determines that you were driving recklessly or being negligent when you caused the fatal accident.

If it turns out that you intended to harm a driver or passenger in some way when you caused the fatal accident, the criminal charge could rise to vehicular homicide.

In any case, if you have been in any kind of automobile accident that resulted in a fatality, you should contact a criminal
defense attorney immediately.

It is not illegal to move your car out of the way of oncoming traffic after a car accident. However, it is illegal to drive away when you’ve been involved in a car accident.

While it’s not illegal to move your car, it’s not a good idea to try to move a wrecked car if the possibility exists of causing further injury or another accident.

In any case, do not move your vehicle after a traffic accident until you have taken enough photos to document the full accident scene.

It certainly is not abnormal. Losing control of one’s bladder or bowels can be a reaction to extreme fear or trauma, which can be present during any car accident — even minor ones.

Loss of bladder or bowel control during a car accident can also be the result of a seatbelt suddenly squeezing a driver’s or passenger’s stomach at the moment of impact.

Long-term incontinence, however, can be the result of lasting nerve damage after a car crash. Typically, these damaged nerves are located in the spinal column, which can get misaligned even in relatively minor accidents. Since the bladder is protected by the pelvic bones — among the largest and sturdiest bones in the human body — it is hard to damage in a survivable automobile crash.

A driver or passenger who is not at fault for an accident could receive generous compensation if long-term incontinence results from crash injuries. However, if the only true injury you suffered during an accident was making a mess in your pants, you are not likely to be awarded any damages for it.

Yes, it’s embarrassing, but embarrassment is not a physical injury.

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