It is especially important to act quickly and wisely immediately after a traffic accident — the first step is to contact our car accident lawyer in Westminster as soon as possible. Fuller Law helps accident victims focus on their health and recovery. We do this by taking over the complicated legal process, giving accident victims a fair chance at receiving the compensation they need to restore their lives to normalcy.
How Do I Prepare for an Accident?
Start by being prepared for the possibility that you will be in an accident. First, even if you own your car free and clear, know that carrying only liability insurance may be a mistake. One of the most important types of coverage is Medical Payments Coverage, or Medpay for short. In 2009, the State of Colorado made Medpay a mandatory coverage — but it also left open the possibility that a party could waive this coverage. DO NOT EVER WAIVE MEDPAY, which covers each person in your car regardless of who is at fault for an accident. Even if you have great health insurance coverage, Medpay insurance coverage can be used for co-pays and deductibles. And consider this: Even if you have that great coverage, one of your passengers may not. If your insurance agent recommends that you waive Medpay, get a new agent.
Second, we recommend purchasing coverage for uninsured and underinsured drivers. (UM and UIM Coverage) This is the single most important factor that will help you address what could be an outright tragedy if you are hit by a driver with little or no insurance. As many as 1 in 3 Colorado drivers are uninsured. Think about that. If you are stopped at a traffic light and know you have insurance, the chances are that the drivers to your left or right do not. We at Fuller Law also frequently find that even drivers who present a valid insurance card at the scene of an accident actually do not have valid insurance policies. As an acclaimed auto accident attorney, John Fuller encourages you to please protect you and your family by purchasing adequate insurance.
I Just Had an Accident. What Do I Do Now?
We know it is easier said than done, but in the event of an accident, try to assess your situation calmly. If injuries require emergency attention, those obviously need to be your priority. However, if you are able, there are some steps you could take to help you avoid problems that frequently come up later for people making legal claims. Here are some suggestions from a car accident lawyer in Westminster:
- Take a picture of the scene of the accident. Capture images of all vehicles involved and the other driver(s) and any tire marks on the road. After the vehicles are moved, the only source of information will be the police report. Our firm has seen many mistakes made by officers who tried to recreate an accident based on the statements of drivers and witnesses. Do not assume police officers will get all the facts or describe the accident accurately. Sometimes, even the identity of a driver becomes an issue later. With a photo from the scene of an accident, important questions are more likely to be answered, and discrepancies in accident reports are more likely to be avoided.
- If there are witnesses, take their phone number. Our clients often mention an accident witness who stopped to help. However, we also commonly find that even if that witness talked to a police officer, there is no record of the person's identity.
- Get medical attention. Victims of vehicle accidents frequently do not realize the full extent of their injuries for many hours, if not days. While there may be no reason for an accident victim to go to a hospital emergency room, most people would benefit from a checkup by their primary care physician or at an urgent-care facility.
What Do I Need to Know About Damages?
Colorado is a "fault state." This means the driver at-fault in the accident is responsible for all the damages caused by their negligence. There are various types of damages falling into three main categories:
- Property Damage: Property damage refers to the damage done to your vehicle and any personal property contained within it. Typically, property damage will get resolved well before any claims for injury are settled.
- Economic Damages: These are damages resulting from personal injuries. Economic damages include items that can be quantified in dollars. Examples include medical expenses, wage losses, and anything else that can be easily reduced to a dollar figure.
- Noneconomic Damages: These are damages also resulting from personal injuries. Noneconomic damages are the intangible losses, often representing the greatest losses a client will suffer. This is the classic "pain and suffering" you typically hear about. Quantifying noneconomic damages is difficult but important. Our motor vehicle lawyer in Westminster focuses on learning about all the impacts suffered by our clients and translating those impacts into monetary damages.
What Should I Do About My Damaged Car?
If you still can drive your car, obtain an estimate of the damages from a repair facility of your choice. Many times, an insurance company will try to "recommend" a body shop. You have no obligation to use a shop suggested by the insurance company.
If your car cannot be driven, you need to act quickly. Contact the "at-fault driver's" insurance company about how to move your vehicle as soon as possible. Know that companies make a lot of money by storing vehicles, and you could be responsible for their charges.
Do I Have to Give a Recorded Statement to Another Driver's Insurance Company?
No. You do not ever have to consent to a recorded statement by the other insurance company. In many cases, and particularly in cases of clear liability, there is no need to give a statement. Insurance companies try to use recorded statements to trick people into accepting a small portion of liability for causing the accident and to minimize client damages. If there is a legitimate dispute about liability, you should be extremely careful or consult with a qualified Westminster auto accident lawyer before consenting to give such a statement.
What Do I Need to Know About Rental Vehicles?
If your car cannot be driven or must be in the repair shop for several days, the at-fault driver's insurance company is responsible for paying for your rental. You also may have purchased this coverage on your own insurance policy. However, you first should use the at-fault driver's insurance company to secure a rental. In some cases, you may have to initiate the car rental and transfer the payment obligation to the at-fault driver's insurance company after they accept liability for the accident. Discuss with your insurance company about whether additional coverage is needed for the rental. Additional coverage purchased at the Rental Company is not often reimbursed.
My Insurance Company or Theirs?
At the end of the day, the liable party's insurance company will pay for your property damage. However, that does not mean you must go through that company. Drivers with full coverage are free to use their own insurance either to pay for repair or to replace a totaled vehicle. If you use your own insurance, you likely will be charged a deductible that is refunded by the other driver's insurance company.
Will My Insurance Rates Go up If I Choose to Use My Insurance to Repair My Vehicle?
If you are not at fault for the accident, your insurance company has no basis to raise your rates. If you use your insurance to pay for your property damage, the other driver's insurance company will reimburse your insurance company.
What If the Other Driver Doesn't Have Insurance?
It is an unfortunate reality that there are many uninsured drivers on our roads. You need to protect yourself by having uninsured and/or underinsured coverage, also known as UM/UIM. This coverage kicks in to provide coverage for injuries caused by another driver's negligence. If the other driver is covered, but not by enough insurance, this coverage "stacks" on top of their coverage. UM coverage applies to injuries, medical expenses, wage losses, and pain and suffering, but not to the damage to your vehicle. Some insurance companies offer UM for property damage, but this should be considered only if you do not already have comprehensive and collision coverage.
Willy My Rates Go up If I Use My UM/UIM Coverage?
No. The only time you can use your UM/UIM coverage is when the other driver is at fault. Your insurance company cannot penalize you for using the coverage you bought.
If the Other Driver Is at Fault, Will Their Insurance Pay for My Medical Care?
Typically, no — at least, not upfront. This is a common misperception important to clarify because we have seen our own clients turned over to collections agencies for nonpayment of their medical bills. The at-fault driver's insurance company has only one duty, and that is to protect their insured client. That insurance company will not pay your bills as those bills are incurred. Even if you gave a hospital or doctor information about the other driver's insurance, you eventually would receive a bill because that insurance company did not pay. In Colorado, we commonly see clients who use their own medical payments coverage and their own health insurance to pay for accident-related care. At the end of their case, their carriers will sometimes be repaid. A car accident lawyer in Westminster can help you get the compensation you are entitled to. Clients who do not have health insurance either must self-pay for their medical care or sometimes may qualify to use medical care finance companies that will pay for treatment and wait until the end of the case to be repaid. As a Westminster attorney for auto accidents, we will do everything we can to get you the money you are owed for your injuries.
What Do I Do in the Case of a Hit and Run in Westminster and I Don't Have a Lawyer?
Did you know leaving the scene of an accident in Colorado comes with a mandatory revocation of your driver's license? If you are involved in a hit and run, you will want an experienced hit and run attorney in Westminster, such as Fuller Law, to help put your life together again. Often, perpetrators of hit and run accidents are uninsured, underinsured, or are habitual traffic offenders. No one should have to deal with these complicated and stressful situations on their own. If you are injured in an accident in Westminster, be sure a firm such as Fuller Law is on your side! Call us to get started on your road to recovery from a hit and run as soon as you can.
Ask Us to Help You Be More Informed
Not knowing the answers to these important questions can be intimidating. In this adversarial environment, the person with the least information loses. Don’t be that person. Place your trust in your expert Westminster motor vehicle accident attorney today. Contact Fuller Law to get fully informed about your case. Fuller Law offers completely free consultations where you will be informed about the claims process, possible problems with your case, an evaluation of available insurance policies, and a preliminary claim strategy. With this information, you can make a fully informed decision about your case.