Car accidents are quite expensive and Colorado auto accidents are no different. According to data from the Association for Safe International Road Travel, car accidents cost the US $230.6 billion per year.
While these figures may seem impersonal right now, they only really hit home when you hear the screech of tires and feel the impact on your vehicle. Make no mistake, car accidents are expensive affairs and the financial wrangling that often follows is not for the faint-hearted.
Although you may be entitled to claim compensation after being involved in a car accident, it can often be confusing determining who pays for the damage. Would you be able to look to your insurer or does your remedy lie exclusively against the at-fault party and their insurer?
At Malman Law Firm, we have over 40 years’ experience advising car owners who were involved in Colorado auto accidents. This experience has helped us distinguish ourselves as the foremost auto accident law firm in the state.
Drawing on our experience, we have created this article to help you understand your options after a Colorado auto accident. Who pays for your car damage? Your own insurer or the at-fault party’s?
Proving Negligence (fault)
Under the Colorado comparative negligence law, if you were partially at fault for the accident, you may still be able to recover compensation. This depends on your level of fault. For example, if you were only 20% at fault, you can still recover 80% of whatever amount is awarded as compensation.
If you were up to 50% at fault though, you will lose the right to any compensation. So for instance, if you were 51% at fault, you will not be entitled to any portion of whatever sum is awarded.
Claiming against the at-fault party’s insurer
Generally, your primary recourse for compensation lies with the at-fault party’s insurer. They will be responsible for any expenses you have incurred in relation to your damaged vehicle. This could include the cost of repairing or replacing the vehicle.
Normal items that you can recover compensation for include the following:
- Cost of repairs
- Cost of replacement if the vehicle is declared a total loss
- Towing expenses
- Downtime expenses, including the cost of securing a rental car for the period
- The cost of replacing any valuables that were in the car and damaged from the accident
Claiming against your own insurer
You can claim against your own insurer if you have collision coverage. This will come in handy if the at-fault driver’s insurance company refuses your claim. Your insurer will in turn claim reimbursement from the at-fault party’s insurer.
You can also claim from your insurer if you were solely at fault for the accident. The downside to this though is that you will have to pay the deductible on the policy.
Of course, your insurer can recover this deductible on your behalf from the at-fault party’s insurer, when making their own claim for reimbursement. This would not apply to accidents that were solely your fault though.
The items of compensation you can recover from your insurer will depend on what kind of coverage you have. So, towing expenses, downtime and the cost of rentals may not be recoverable from your own insurer.
The process of obtaining compensation
Once you determine who you want to file a compensation claim with, the first thing you need to do is file a claim. You can usually do this by reporting the accident to your insurer. In other situations, the insurance loss adjuster will get in touch with you.
It is important to support your claim with all necessary documentation including pictures, videos and any witness statements you have. Your best bet to getting this right will be to work with a qualified Colorado auto accident attorney. They can help you organize your claim to give you the best chance of securing the compensation you want.
After filing your claim, the insurance company will require you to drive your vehicle down through their inspection station if it is operable. If not, they will send one of their inspectors out to wherever the vehicle is.
After inspecting the vehicle and investigating the claim, the insurer will come up with an estimate of what they are willing to pay. If they are not willing to pay on your claim, they will also inform you at this point.
The estimate they give you may be enough to take care of the damage. Then again, it may not. You can take the vehicle to a repairer of your choice and ask what they will be willing to repair the vehicle for. If this is favorable, you can accept the insurer’s offer and pocket the difference.
If the settlement offer is not favorable, you can inform the insurer and a negotiation process will begin. If you are unable to come to an agreement you may have to file an action in court.
What if repair costs exceed the value of your car?
If the cost of repairing your vehicle exceeds 80% of its value, typically the insurer will declare your car a total loss. In this situation, they would rather pay you the actual car value (ACV) than spend money on repairing the vehicle.
Of course, you can contest this decision. If you take the vehicle to another repairer who agrees to repair it for less, you can inform the insurer. Be careful with this though as you have to sign a release after the vehicle is repaired.
This means that if problems are discovered with the repair later on, you cannot hold the insurer responsible.
Let us help you prepare a winning claim
Our lawyers at Malman Law Firm possess the skills and deep knowledge to help you prepare a winning claim. Contact us today for representation that puts you ahead. Call us on (303) 733-7900 or click here to book a free consultation today.