Denver Auto Accident Lawyer
A major emphasis in the practice at Franklin D. Azar & Associates is the representation of individuals injured as a result of car accidents and are in need of a Denver based Auto Accident Lawyer.
Unfortunately, driving or riding in a car can have dangerous results. According to statistics kept by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, there are currently almost 6 million auto accidents in the United States reported to the police each year, and nearly one-third of them resulted in injuries that were reported at the scene. The Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles reported that in 2004 there were nearly 250,000 motor vehicle accidents in Colorado with one-fourth of them resulting in fatalities or injuries reported at the scene. Many times, people are injured in auto accidents but do not develop symptoms immediately afterward or seek medical attention at the scene, so the actual injury rate is higher than these statistics reflect. If you are in a auto accident, don’t hesitate to call a Denver auto accident lawyer today.
Who Is At Fault?
In most cases, a law enforcement officer will be dispatched to the scene of an accident to investigate and attempt to determine the person at fault. In many cases, the officer’s opinion of who was at fault will be accepted by the parties and the insurance companies. In many other cases however, the investigating police officer will be unable to reach a decision on fault or the officer’s decision will be questioned or even disregarded by one or more of the parties or insurance companies. In this type of situation you could benefit from a Denver based auto accident lawyer.
In Colorado, evidence of the particular traffic citation that anyone received in an auto accident is not admissible evidence at trial on the civil claim, although the investigating officer may still be allowed to express an opinion on who caused the accident.
The on-site investigation performed by the police officer, sheriff’s deputy or state trooper is not always exhaustive. It must be kept in mind that they have varying degrees of training and experience and their main job is to attempt to secure a criminal conviction of the person who they believe is primarily at fault. The more serious auto accidents receive more attention from law enforcement, but even in those cases there may be evidence that is not obtained or considered. If warranted, an outside accident reconstruction expert may be retained to provide a more thorough analysis and report.
Colorado has a comparative negligence law, which means that in a civil case a jury may be asked to consider whether more than one person was at fault for the accident. The injured person is not allowed to recover to the extent of their own fault or negligence. For example, if the injured person is found to be 10% at fault, then he or she will not recover 10% of his or her damages or losses. If the injured person is found 50% or more at fault, he or she recovers nothing. Insurance companies often assert that the injured person does bear some of the fault for an auto accident and so refuse to pay the victim to that extent. A Denver auto accident lawyer often can develop evidence and argue effectively on your behalf should comparative negligence be asserted as a defense against you.
How Do I Get Medical Treatment?
Other than going or being transported to an emergency room, many people may not know where to turn next for medical treatment after an accident. Colorado law requires that automobile insurance companies offer their policyholders medical-payments coverage that will pay up to at least $5,000 in medical bills even if another person caused the accident, but that coverage may be quickly exhausted in the first few weeks after an accident. If you have private health insurance or Medicare or Medicaid coverage, that will typically pay for medical treatment after an accident although most health insurers and Medicare and Medicaid have the right to be reimbursed the medical bills that they pay due to an accident out of any recovery the injured party receives.
Many people, including some health care providers, believe that the insurance company for the driver who caused an automobile accident will pay the medical bills as they are incurred by anyone else injured in the accident. That ordinarily is not the case. The at-fault driver’s insurance company has no obligation to do so unless there is medical-payments coverage on the vehicle that driver was operating in the accident, and that coverage applies only to passengers in that vehicle. Otherwise, the insurance company for the at fault driver will typically not want to pay anything towards the medical bills or the other losses suffered by the victims unless there is a final settlement under which those damages are paid in exchange for a release of any further claims.
Without health insurance or sufficient medical payments coverage, the only option for most auto accident victims is to obtain medical treatment on liens, meaning that the victims sign agreements to pay the medical bills from the potential recovery by settlement or verdict on the case. Not all doctors and other healthcare providers will see patients on this basis. We are able to arrange medical treatment on liens for most of our clients when there is no insurance coverage available to pay the bills as they are incurred. Contact us today to speak with a Denver auto accident lawyer to find out if we can help you obtain medical treatment on liens.
What If I Did Not Wear a Seat Belt?
Colorado law has two basic requirements as to seat belts. Front seat passengers must wear their seat belts. Back seat passengers are not required to wear seat belts, but the driver is responsible to have any children in the front or back of the car restrained by a seat belt and to use a car seat or booster seat for them as appropriate.
Failure to wear seat belts when required is not considered negligence in Colorado, but it is a defense to claims for non-economic damages, which includes compensation for things like pain, suffering, anguish, inconvenience, and loss of enjoyment of life. Therefore, a jury may consider whether it believes that the injuries and so the non-economic consequences could have been reduced or avoided had the victim worn a seat belt if they were required to do so. Economic damages, which include past and future medical bills and past and future loss of earnings, are not reduced in Colorado due to any failure to wear a seat belt.
Colorado law does not require that the party asserting a seat belt defense prove that the seat belt probably would have made a difference. If you did wear a seat belt at the time of your auto accident, we may be able to establish through expert testimony or otherwise that wearing a seat belt would have made little or no difference. The primary function of a seat belt is to keep the passengers inside the car in the event of an accident, and many people suffer injuries even when they wear seat belts in accidents. In fact, seat belts may serve to cause or worsen certain types of injuries.
Can I Make Claims under My Own Auto Insurance Policy?
The initial reaction a lot of people have after an accident is that the at-fault driver and his or her insurance company should pay for all the damages and losses due to the accident. However, there are several instances when we recommend that our clients use their own auto insurance coverage.
Colorado law requires that insurance companies offer medical payments coverage of at least $5,000 to everyone taking out an automobile insurance policy in this State, although such coverage can be rejected. This coverage, also known as “med pay,” pays medical bills incurred by anyone in the insured motor vehicle at the time of an accident. Priority is given under Colorado law to the bills incurred to ambulances and the initial trauma care providers. Unlike with payments made health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid, the injured person does not have to pay back the payments made under med pay.
Colorado law also requires that insurance companies offer uninsured motorist (“UM”) coverage of at least $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident to everyone taking out an automobile insurance policy in this State, although such coverage also can be rejected. This coverage provides compensation in the event the person or persons at fault in an accident are not insured. UM coverage must also act as under-insured motorist coverage to provide additional compensation when the at-fault person or persons are insured but the amount of the liability insurance is not sufficient to compensate the injured person in full.
Victims of automobile accidents should not hesitate to take advantage of either med pay or UM coverage if available to them, as they or whoever took out the insurance policy has paid a premium for the coverage in the event of an accident. We can assist with obtaining these coverage’s, especially where the issues become complex, including when an at-fault party is considered uninsured or under-insured, or whether multiple insurance policies may apply to provide med pay or UM benefits.
If the injured person and the insurance company cannot agree on what compensation is owed to the injured person in UM benefits, we can determine whether the insurance policy allows for arbitration or requires litigation to resolve the dispute and whether the uninsured party or parties must be included in the lawsuit. If the insurance company unreasonably denies or delays the payment of UM benefits, we may be able to hold it liable for damages beyond just the benefits it should have paid when the claim was first presented.
If you feel you have been disregarded by an insurance company after injuries from an auto accident, contact Franklin D. Azar & Associates today to speak directly with a Denver auto accident lawyer.