Statistically, most people will be in several car accidents throughout the course of their lifetime. Car crashes are disorienting, scary, and can leave people with many questions about what to do next. The first steps you take following a car crash can impact future claims you may wish to file in response to the accident, the damages, and any injuries that you sustained.
Knowing the right steps to take will help you to get through the process and recover the compensation that you need. Medical bills, damage to vehicles, and lost wages resulting from injuries can place a massive financial burden on a car accident victim and his or her family. The law offers remedies for people who have sustained losses due to another person’s negligent actions. If you were injured as a result of another’s negligence, you may have the right to be compensated.
How our Experienced Denver Personal Injury & Accident Attorney Can Help You
After a car accident, insurance companies and attorneys become involved in trying to determine who was at fault and how much the victim’s claim might be worth. If you were injured, and the other driver is at fault, you might find yourself being offered a settlement from the other driver’s insurance company. In many cases, an insurer who realizes that their insured driver was at fault will try to quickly and cheaply resolve the claim. This means that the insurance company might make a low-ball offer to an injured person. For the person who was injured, the medical bills may be piling up, he or she may have missed time at work, and the financial strain of the accident might make the offer of a quick settlement appealing. However, treatment for injuries can take many months or more, and people who settle too quickly may be left with a settlement that fails to cover even a fraction of their injury-related costs.
It is critical that you hire an attorney who can help level the playing field and vigorously represent your legal rights and interests. A Colorado personal injury attorney will be able to assess your case and determine what the likely value of that claim is based on the potential liability of the other party as well as the extent of your injuries. Armed with this information, your attorney will be in a much better position to negotiate a settlement that is fair and reflects the harm that was done to you in the accident.
After a car crash, you need time to heal and focus on your health and your family. Your attorney can handle the stressful process of dealing with insurance companies and opposing attorneys while you focus on recovering.
Compensation for Personal Injuries
When a person is injured in a car accident that was caused by another driver’s negligent or reckless actions, then the injured person may seek compensation for his or her injuries. There are different categories of compensation which a person may collect from the negligent party or the negligent party’s insurance company. These are as follows:
Medical Care – Car accidents are one of the most common causes of accidental injuries. These injuries can range from minor to life-altering and devastating. Anyone who has been to an emergency room knows that medical bills start to add up extremely fast.
Following a car accident, many people require diagnostic tests like x-rays, potentially surgery, or physical therapy. The costs associated with medical care can be recovered in a lawsuit against the negligent driver.
Lost Wages – Many people miss work as a result of the injuries they sustained in a car accident. The time taken away while being treated, plus time for recovery, means that a person can experience significant financial hardships because of the loss of earnings that they had counted on to survive. These damages can be recovered in a personal injury lawsuit.
Property Damage – Following a crash, the damage to one’s vehicle and the need for repairs and replacement can be costly. The loss caused by these repairs can be recovered in a successful claim.
Pain and Suffering – In addition to the above categories, which constitute “economic damages,” injured persons are also able to collect non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering. The law recognizes the fact that a car accident can cause much more than financial difficulties for a victim. Even an injury that a person recovers from can nonetheless cause immense pain and discomfort.
It is important to understand what damages you can collect in a personal injury lawsuit and the value of your claim. If you are partially responsible for the accident, this can also impact your ability to be fully compensated for your damages. In Colorado, as long as you are less than 50 percent liable, you can recover for your injuries, however, your compensation will be reduced by your percentage of the liability. For instance, if you are found 20 percent liable, you will be limited to 80 percent of the total damages you would have otherwise been eligible to collect. If you are 50 percent liable or more, you will not be able to collect damages from the other driver.
Your Colorado personal injury attorney can explain what you are likely to recover in your individual case.
Statute of Limitations in Colorado
Following a car accident, there is a set amount of time in which you may file a claim to recover damages for your injuries. In most cases, you will be limited to three years following the time of the accident. If you fail to file a lawsuit within that window of time, then you will no longer have the right to be compensated. While three years might seem like a long time, remember that when you are busy and dealing with injuries and recovery, the time can go by rather quickly.
There are some cases where the amount of time allotted varies from the 3 years. If a government entity is being sued, there are shorter and strict time limitations that must be followed or your claim will be barred. If you were injured by a government entity or employee contact a Colorado personal injury attorney as soon as possible after the accident to make sure your rights are protected.
The amount of time might be greater in some instances, as well. For instance, if you were under 18 at the time of the accident, then you will have three years, starting at your 18thbirthday to file your claim. Additional time may be allowed as well for an injury that is not immediately apparent. Sometimes, injuries from accidents do not manifest right away. In these cases, you might be granted additional time to file a lawsuit against the responsible party or entity.
Regardless of how long you think you might have in your case, it is critical that you speak to an attorney sooner rather than later. Even before your claim is filed, your attorney can advise you of steps you should to take to improve your chances of obtaining a full recovery.
Steps After a Car Crash
It is not uncommon for people to feel paralyzed and confused and disoriented following an accident. However, by taking the right steps, you can help to protect yourself and your future claim. These steps are as follows:
Seek Medical Attention – It should likely go without saying that after a car accident, you should check to see if you or anyone else involved is seriously injured. In the case of severe injuries, the top priority should be to seek help immediately. Call 911, and make sure everyone is receiving the medical care they need.
In some instances, it might not immediately be obvious whether you were injured. Adrenaline will kick in, and you may not realize that you have sustained injuries. This might seem like a relief, and you may think that you walked out of the accident miraculously unscathed. Unfortunately, when the shock wears off, perhaps within the hours following the accident, you may find that you were injured.
If there is any doubt at all about whether you are injured, you should be evaluated by a medical practitioner. Sometimes even minor fractures and internal injuries, or concussions, may not be obvious at first. It is important for your own safety and wellbeing to make sure you are evaluated by a medical professional.
In addition to your health, failing to seek immediate or prompt medical attention might be used against you when you file your claim for injuries. Insurance companies may use your delayed treatment to argue that you must not have sustained the injuries that you are claiming. The medical record will be important to support your injury claim.
Call the Police – Following a car crash, it is important to call the police and make sure that a report is filed. The police report might offer some opinion on liability, and the officers will be witnesses at the scene of the accident. Failing to call the police might damage your claim because the opposing party may argue that the accident is not as serious as you claim or that you were at fault. In this view, you should obtain a copy of the police report for your records to help support your personal injury case.
Gather Information – Sometimes there are witnesses at the scene of an accident. Once those people leave, you may never be able to determine who they were once you leave the accident scene. Their statements may be important in supporting your claim for liability. If someone witnessed the accident, obtain the name and contact information from each individual who witnessed your crash.
Of course, you should also obtain the name and contact information from any other driver involved in the accident, including their insurance information. Trying to piece everything together at a later time will be far more difficult than obtaining the information promptly at the scene.
Take photographs – If possible, and if it is safe to do so, take a photograph of the vehicles, the location, traffic control devices, and anything else that might be relevant to your case. Moreover, take photographs your injuries should they be visible.
If you left the scene in an ambulance and you were unable to take photographs, you can ask the police if they took any at the scene. You can also take, or have a friend or relative take, photos of the vehicles at the location to which they were towed. Be sure to obtain this evidence prior to when you have your vehicle repaired following the accident. Photographs of damage to automobiles can be powerful evidence of the severity of the impact in a collision.
Use Caution when Speaking to Insurance Companies – Your insurance company and the other driver or drivers’ insurance companies may wish to speak with you and quite possibly to record your statements after a car accident. Be extremely careful in these communications. Car insurance companies are trying to find the least expensive way to resolve a claim. This will apply to your own insurance company as well. If possible, direct them to speak to your attorney. Always avoid making statements such as “I’m fine,” or “it wasn’t that bad.” After an accident, many people are inclined to tell others and themselves that they are okay. Unfortunately, this simple human tendency could be used to devalue your claim.
Speak with an Attorney – Reach out to an attorney and have your claim evaluated. Your attorney can help you understand the process and protect your legal rights and interests.
Common Causes of Car Accidents in Colorado
Almost every car accident that happens is the result of human error. Here are some of the common behaviors that lead to car crashes:
Speeding – Speeding is a common traffic law violation. Most of us are guilty of driving over the speed limit at one time or another. Unfortunately, the faster your vehicle is traveling, the less time you will have to react in the event of an emergency, and the more severe a collision will be if it does occur.
Traffic Violations – Many crashes are caused by people who violate traffic laws. Disregarding a traffic signal or stop sign, passing in a no-passing zone, or otherwise violating traffic laws can result in serious and sometimes fatal accidents.
Drunk Driving or Otherwise Impaired Driving – While drunk driving rates have declined over the years, drivers who are under the influence still cause a significant amount of serious car accidents each year in the United States. Drunk drivers are more likely to commit extreme traffic offenses such as wrong-way driving on a busy roadway, which often lead to fatal head-on collisions.
Drugged driving is also becoming a significant problem in the United States. Marijuana and opioids are commonly used drugs and can impair a person’s ability to drive.
Distracted Driving – In recent years, distracted driving has come to be synonymous with using a phone while behind the wheel. Smartphones are in just about every vehicle on the road, and the temptation to text or talk on a cellphone without using a heads-free device can be overwhelming for some drivers. A driver who is texting can be just as dangerous as a driver who is drunk.
It is also important to remember that there are other types of distracted driving as well, including something as simple as changing the station on the car radio, or eating while driving.
Fatigued Driving – People who are overtired cause tens of thousands of car crashes every year, and possibly more. A person who had gotten less than 7 hours of sleep may not be able stay alert when behind the wheel. Each day, several people are on the road when they are likely too fatigued to be paying close attention to the important task at hand.
Bad Weather – We all know that driving on snow or ice can be dangerous and frightening. Inclement weather can cause slick road conditions and low visibility. Even in cases where the weather is a contributing factor in a car accident, there is almost always a human error element as well.
Driving too fast for road conditions can mean driving at or even below the speed limit in some instances. Of course, the best approach, if possible, is to stay off the roads entirely if the weather makes driving conditions too hazardous.
Defective Vehicles – Although it is uncommon, vehicle defects, such as faulty brakes, can lead to serious car accidents. Sometimes this will lead to a product liability claim against the vehicle manufacturer.
Types of Auto Crashes in Colorado
There are certain things that go wrong on the road and cause many automobile accidents. These include:
Head-on collisions – Head-on collisions are devastating because of the magnitude of the forces involved. It is shockingly easy for cars to drift across a center line on an undivided roadway and enter oncoming traffic. All it takes is just one split second distraction for a serious accident to occur.
Rollover – Rollover crashes are more common in SUVs and other vehicles that are top-heavy. These crashes can lead to terrible injuries and fatalities.
Side-Impact – Side impact, or T-bone accidents, often occur at intersections and are often caused by a driver’s failure to obey a traffic signal or sign.
Rear-end – Rear-end accidents might be the most common type of collision. They often involve a driver who is traveling too fast when behind another driver. They can also occur when a driver is not paying attention to the road as a light changes or traffic slows down.
Left Hand Turn – Left turns are dangerous because the driver making the left has to look for a space where traffic clears and gauge the speed of oncoming vehicles.
Common Car Accident Injuries
Injuries caused by car accidents vary in type and severity, but some types of injuries are common. These injuries are as follows:
Concussion and TBI – Head injuries can occur, even in situations where the victim does not come in contact with a hard surface. Of course, if a person hits the steering wheel, dashboard, or even an airbag, more serious brain injuries can result.
Bone Fractures – Broken bones often occur in car accidents. Fractured facial bones, leg bones, or broken ribs are all common. Even the pressure from the seatbelt can cause bone fractures in high impact crashes.
Herniated Discs and Vertebral Fractures – The human spine is complicated and extremely delicate. Injuries to the spine occur frequently and range from minor strains and sprains to fractures and spinal cord damage that can lead to partial or complete paralysis.
Amputation of Limbs – Sometimes a person will lose a limb in a car accident. Or, a crushing injury might so severely damage a limb that it will have to be amputated. These serious injuries are life-changing and devastating, both physically and emotionally.
Burns – Even an airbag can cause burns, whether from friction or chemicals that are used to rapidly inflate these devices. In the most serious cases, a vehicle may catch fire in an accident, leading to the potential for vehicle occupants to become trapped.
Dangerous Roadways and Intersections
There are certain places where drivers must exercise extreme caution due to poorly designed intersections or roadways. While many cities and states are trying to eliminate the most dangerous places, data often indicates that there are places where accidents are more likely to occur.
Why You Need a Lawyer
After a car crash, you should speak to a seasoned personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Your actions immediately after the crash will impact your claim as well as your ability to recover the compensation you deserve. An attorney will be able to negotiate and, if necessary, litigate your claim. He or she will be able to walk you through the process and develop a strategy for pursuing compensation on your behalf.
What Does an Attorney Cost?
Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency basis. This means that your attorney will only receive a certain percentage of your monetary damages if your claim is successful.
How do I Know if I Have a Case?
Understanding whether you have a claim often requires speaking to an attorney who understands the issues, including liability and damages. Your attorney can assess who is responsible for the accident, and the severity of the injuries that you sustained.
Every car accident has unique factors at play. An experienced Colorado personal injury attorney can help you through every step of the process and ensure that you are treated fairly by the insurance companies.
Alhasoon, Glidden & Glidden
5600 S. Quebec Street, Suite C210
Greenwood Village, CO 80111
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