The immediate aftermath of a Colorado car accident can be a confusing and emotionally trying period. You are likely to be dealing with the dawning reality that you have suffered serious injury or are looking at very costly repairs to your vehicle.
Don’t panic though. Depending on what you do in this period, you can either set a solid foundation for a claim to recover compensation or do severe harm to your chances of being compensated.
Since you will not have the benefit of timely advice from a qualified Colorado car accident lawyer while at the scene, this article explains what you need to do right after the accident.
Follow these tips and you can look towards recovering compensation regardless of whether you were partially at fault or not.
#1: Remain at the scene and check for injuries
Colorado has a fair amount of accidents. Each year, more than 160,000 people are injured or killed in Colorado car accidents. If you have been involved in a car accident that caused property damage, serious injury or death, you must remain at the scene and immediately call emergency services.
Colorado law requires you to stop and help any person that is injured regardless of whether you were at fault or not. If you are injured yourself, the law requires other drivers or individuals involved in the accident to help you.
Failing to provide this help will amount to a criminal offence, and serious punishment will follow. You do not have to worry that you may do something wrong while trying to help. Colorado’s “Good Samaritan” law, protects you from any liability from good faith attempts to help.
When emergency services arrive, immediately submit yourself for a check-up. Do this even if you do not feel injured. Due to the adrenaline rush of the accident, you may not feel that you are injured. If you discover these injuries later, it will be more difficult to tie them to the accident. So, you should not reject medical attention.
#2: Call the police
After receiving medical attention, you need to report the accident to law enforcement authorities. The law requires you to notify local police or Colorado Highway Patrol within 24 hours of any accident involving injuries.
If the accident results in injuries, death or property damage of $1,000 or more, you must report the accident to the Colorado Department of Transportation. At the scene of the accident, you can file the report using the Colorado Traffic Crash Report Form DR 3447.
If you are too hurt to call the police, request a passenger in your car or a bystander to help you report the accident. Understand that when the police arrive, they have a specific role that may not involve listening to the entire story from beginning to end.
In some busy jurisdictions, officers will not be dispatched to the scene unless there is injury or traffic is blocked. When the officer arrives, cooperate with them and let them do their work. If you are issued a traffic citation because the officer decides you violated the traffic code, do not argue. Your Colorado car accident lawyer will help you handle the citation in Traffic Court.
#3: Start to gather evidence
If you are up to it, the immediate aftermath of the accident is the best time to start building your claim. You will have a window of opportunity before emergency services and the police arrive to tow vehicles away and secure the scene. Use this window to take pictures or record a video of the scene from several angles.
You will need to obtain the names and addresses of other drivers involved in the accident. Also obtain their vehicle information including the color, make and registration number of their vehicles.
Also document your own injuries and ask someone to take a picture of them, if possible. This will help you lay a foundation for the claim for compensation that you will be filing the following days. Also start keeping track of your losses from this point. Remember to make copies of your medical and therapy bills as well as any bills for out of pocket expenses. Write down everything you can remember about the accident while it is still fresh in your memory.
It is also important to see if there were any bystanders that witnessed the accident. If they are willing, collect their own contact details as well so you can contact them to back your story up if necessary. If the witness agrees to make a written statement, have them sign and date the statement.
#4: Notify your insurance company
You have a legal agreement with your insurance company. Under the agreement, you have an obligation to inform the insurer whenever you are in an accident. This obligation is usually contained within an Occurrence and Cooperation clause inserted in the policy.
If you fail to immediately report the accident to your insurer, you will be in breach of your agreement. This may lead to the insurer refusing to renew your policy, raising your premium or in extreme cases, even canceling your policy.
Your duty to inform your insurer does not depend on whether you were at fault or not. Even if the accident involved only a minor scrape on your vehicle with no one injured, you should still notify them.
Besides, it is commonplace for individuals involved in an accident to fabricate injury claims after the accident. Even if they do not fabricate these claims, you may suffer injuries that you were not aware of. Failing to inform your insurer early enough may lead them to question whether you are entitled to claim on the injury.
#5: Watch what you say
It is absolutely wrong for you to admit liability or fault for the accident. Do not do this on any account, not even to your own insurance company. When you talk to the police at the scene of the crime, allow them carry out their own investigation.
The rationale behind keeping your mouth shut is things may not always be what they seem. You may feel you cut in too close after overtaking when in actual fact, it was the other driver that increased their speed as you prepared to re-enter the lane.
Facts like this will only become apparent after investigation has been carried out by the police and your insurers. This is why they carry out investigations in the first place. The only effect your admission of guilt will have is to make them approach the investigation thinking you were at fault. This will severely hamper your case.
The best thing you can do is to consult with your Colorado car accident attorney. You should do this before you speak to the other party’s insurer as well. Their only goal will be to see that your claim is either extinguished or settled for as little as possible. Protect your claim by consulting with a qualified lawyer first.
#6: Mind the Statute of Limitations
Under Colorado law, litigation is not expected to go on forever. This means that you do not have forever to decide whether you want to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party or their insurer.
Under the Colorado Statute of Limitations, you only have 3 years to institute your action claiming damages. And this period begins to run from the date of the car accident.
If you fail to file your lawsuit before the expiry of 3 years from your accident date, you may be barred from filing the suit.
If you believe that your insurer or the at-fault party’s insurer is stalling, you should seek the advice of your lawyer. In certain cases, their actions may amount to bad faith and expose them to a bad faith lawsuit. You can also report them to the Colorado Division of Insurance.
#7: Contact a qualified Colorado car accident attorney
Colorado car accident compensation claims are long and tricky. After collecting all the evidence, you now have to settle to the actual task of putting your claim together and negotiating with the insurance company.
This negotiation will often involve a lot of hedging and bluffing. If you do not have experience settling car accident claims, there is an excellent chance that you will settle for far less than your case deserves. And that is even a best case scenario. In worse situations, you may not get a penny.
A qualified car accident attorney will help you set your claim up in the best way to secure maximum compensation. Even better, you will not have to worry about paying them or handling the costs of making your claim.
At Malman Law Firm, we work on a contingency fee basis. This means that we will not collect a dime from you until you win. And we take care of your property damage up to a limit, as a courtesy to you.
All you have to do to set the ball rolling is contact us today at (303) 733-7900 or click here to book a free, no-obligation consultation.