What to Do After an Accident
The potential success of your claim or lawsuit will depend to a large degree on what you do immediately after the accident. Concrete steps that you can take include the following:
- Call the Police: The police will obtain vital information such as the name and contact information of the other party, as well as insurance company information.
- Collect Evidence: Take photos with your cell photo from every angle possible, including road signs. Talk to anyone who witnessed the accident and get their statement and contact information.
- Seek Medical Help: Even if your injuries don’t seem significant at the time of the accident, seek an immediate medical evaluation. Sometimes you don’t feel the full impact of your injuries until much later. It's also important to prevent your physical condition from deteriorating. Delaying medical evaluation could also harm your claim.
- Retain All Documentation: If you can get a report from the police, keep it for your claim and/or lawsuit. This also goes for all medical documentation, including bills.
- Contact a Personal Injury Attorney: You don’t want to go it alone against an insurance company and its adjusters. They will try to lowball you or pin the blame on you so they don’t have to pay a penny. Rely on an experienced personal injury attorney to do the negotiating.
Colorado Laws Regarding Bicycle Accidents
Until 2003, Colorado was a “no-fault” state, meaning no matter who was responsible for the accident, the insurance company was obliged to pay. Not so anymore. Colorado is now an “at-fault” state, which can have major consequences for your claim because Colorado is also a modified comparative fault state.
Modified comparative fault means that the fault of both parties in an accident will be weighed and a percentage assigned, either by the insurance adjusters or by the court if the matter goes to trial.
Say you’re struck by a car and suffer $10,000 in medical expenses and lost income, but you’re judged to be 20% at fault for the accident yourself. The other party will then be liable only for $8,000 ($10,000 minus 20%). Also, if you’re judged to be 50% or more at fault, the other party is no longer liable.
You can recover damages, as noted, for medical expenses and lost wages at full value, but compensation for pain and suffering is capped at $250,000, with the possibility of the cap rising to $500,000 if there is clear and convincing evidence that the larger amount is justified. As you can imagine, this level of damages will be hotly contested by insurance adjusters as well as in the courtroom.
The Benefits of Working with an Attorney
Dealing with insurance adjusters is not something you should undertake on your own. They represent the parent company and will do everything in their power to lower or eliminate the parent’s liability. They’ll employ terminology and tactics designed to confuse you and get you to agree to a low-ball settlement, or if they can get their way, with nothing at all. Your best ally in obtaining the compensation you deserve is by consulting with an experienced and knowledgeable personal injury/bicycle accident attorney.