Need to file a personal injury claim? A Denver personal injury attorney walks you through the process.
Car accidents remain the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. Only people who have lived through a car crash—and experienced personal injury attorneys—can fully appreciate the complexity of filing an injury lawsuit. In this blog, the Denver personal injury lawyers at Fuller Law take you through the process of filing a personal injury lawsuit, from accident reporting to case resolution.
After years of practicing personal injury law, I’ve seen just about every type of personal injury case. I’ve come to recognize the most common blind spots people have when recovering from an accident, finding legal representation, and filing a personal injury claim. I wrote this blog to help people through the steps at every stage of the process.
If you have been injured and need to file a personal injury claim, the most important step is to contact an experienced personal injury attorney to evaluate your claim.
Call me today for a free, confidential consultation
At the scene of the accident
Car crashes happen in an instant: one moment you’re driving down the road, and the next moment you’re sitting in your car in a daze after being struck by another vehicle. It is not uncommon to feel shock and disorientation in the moments after impact.
What happens in the minutes, hours, days and weeks that follow can determine not just how quickly your claim settles (and for how much), but also how quickly you recover.
In the moments after the crash follow these steps:
- Do your best to collect all the information you can. Record information about time of day, weather, and road conditions. Document injuries and property damage through photos and video.
- Collect the names and contact details of any witnesses. Your attorney and insurance company may want to follow up with them to corroborate your story.
- Call 911 and file a police report. Give a complete account of the event as you remember it, and always tell the truth.
- NEVER admit liability. Even if liability seems obvious, or you and the other driver agree who is responsible, never discuss your insurance policy with the other driver. The crash may be due to someone else’s negligence, even if you do not yet know it.
- See a doctor to evaluate your immediate medical needs. Establishing a medical baseline after the crash is critical to getting compensated for your injuries.
IMPORTANT: seek medical attention immediately if you are experiencing even minor medical symptoms after the crash. A prompt examination after injury will prevent your insurance company from claiming that your symptoms were not caused by the crash.
What if the crash occurred out of state?
If you have been involved in an out-of-state accident, you will follow the laws of the state where the accident occurred. For example: if you live and work in Denver, Colorado—which operates under a modified comparative fault system—but you get into a wreck in Spokane, Washington, your claim will be processed under Washington state jurisdiction. Your case will be subject to the statute of limitations set by the state where the accident occurred, which may be less than your own state’s deadline.
However, you can file a lawsuit in the state where the defendant resides or where the car accident occurred. State laws will dictate where it is more advantageous to file a suit, so always consult with a personal injury lawyer to make sure you’re making the right decision.
If you are from Colorado and have questions about out-of-state accidents, call my team today to evaluate your accident case: (720)-770-3832.
In the days after your accident
While no two accidents are exactly the same, there are standard protocols that everyone should follow. You have a responsibility to take care of your mental and physical health so that your conditions do not worsen. It is also imperative that you seek medical treatment and evaluations promptly. Delaying medical care—or ignoring your treating doctors’ medical advice—will compromise the value of your claim.
Here are some pieces of advice to consider in the days following your accident:
- Rest as much as you can.
- Document any changes you notice in your body, including bruising and abrasions, brain fog, lethargy, headaches or edema (swelling).
- Contact your insurance company and file a claim. Be sure to have all the collected information prepared.
- DO NOT give a recorded statement to a third party insurance company. You may be required to give a recorded statement for your own insurance company; if so, we recommend you contact an attorney whose practice areas include personal injury law.
- Call the team at Fuller Law for a free claim consultation: (720)-770-3832. Even if you choose not to retain a lawyer, speaking to an experienced personal injury attorney may help you understand what to expect when filing your claim.
Why do I need a personal injury lawyer?
It’s not uncommon to think that lawyers are overpaid and unnecessary. However, a recent survey found more than 90% of claimants who had legal representation received a settlement or award, compared to only about 50% of those who proceeded without an attorney.
Moreover, legal representation also increases the size of personal injury awards. According to a survey by Nolo.com, claimants with attorneys received an average of $77,600 in compensation, whereas unrepresented claimants received just $17,600. Even after deducting the lawyers’ fees, represented claimants had net payouts that were nearly 3.5 times higher than those of unrepresented claimants.
(Image Source: https://www.nolo.com/)
How long do I have to file my Colorado car accident claim?
For car accident lawsuits in Colorado, the statute of limitations is three (3) years. For other types of personal injury cases, the time limit could be as short as two (2) years—and for claims involving a government agency, the time frame is sometimes even shorter. If your car accident was the result of another driver’s negligence, you need to be aware of the statute of limitations for these types of cases.
These differences matter, particularly in cases that involve “third party” insurance, multiple defendants and/or issues involving liability. For most personal injury claims, it is advisable to retain a qualified Colorado car accident lawyer.
Common Exceptions to Colorado Statute of Limitations
While the statute of limitations is usually firm, the state does make occasional exceptions for claims brought beyond the three-year threshold. These include:
The “discovery rule”. In some cases, it would not be reasonable—or perhaps even possible—for anyone to know the cause or extent of an injury. There are certain specific medical data that can corroborate claims involving this exception, and they require an established medical professional acknowledging a causal link between injury and accident. Talk to an attorney if you believe the discovery rule applies to your case.
“Tolling”. Tolling describes instances where a plaintiff is unable to bring a suit due to circumstances beyond their control. This includes mental incompetence, bankruptcy, unresolved medical issues (e.g., a medical device left within a person’s body during surgery). Tolling a case may also occur if the plaintiff was underage at the time of the accident. Colorado law states that the statute of limitations begins running on the victim’s 18th birthday.
“Cause of action” exceptions. These are legally complicated cases where your claim falls under two legal areas, or “causes of action”. For example: if you were hurt by a defective seatbelt in a crash where you bore no liability, you could have grounds for both a defective product as well as a liability lawsuit against the other driver.
In the weeks or months following your accident
You have submitted your insurance claim, you’ve set up your car to be repaired or replaced, and you are following all medical protocols, including regular check-ins with your healthcare provider. What happens next?
In the weeks or months following your accident, pay close attention to your insurance company.
- Are they quick to return your emails or calls?
- Are they performing a case review and keeping you informed?
- Have they made a settlement offer to cover some part of your medical bills?
As your claims process evolves, be on the lookout for what might be bad faith efforts to delay, deny, or underpay your claim. If you suspect that your insurance company is operating in bad faith, always talk to an attorney.
The experienced Colorado car accident lawyers at Fuller Law understand that settling your claim is a waiting game for many insurance companies. If they can delay payment long enough that you get desperate, you will probably settle for less than your claim is worth.
On the other hand: if your insurance company offers a “lowball” settlement before your medical condition has stabilized, they may not have to pay damages on injuries that present after your settlement. A fast settlement may seem like the way to go, but it will limit your ability to file a claim for permanent impairment, medical malpractice, or wrongful death.
Have you been injured? Call the Colorado personal injury attorneys at Fuller Law Firm. We offer free, comprehensive claim consultations, as well as detailed instructions for how to best manage your case.