What to Do After a Car Crash?

Medical Care:  If you’ve been hurt, GO TO THE DOCTOR AND FOLLOW YOUR DOCTOR’S ADVICE.  Many people don’t want to go to the doctor or ride in the ambulance.  Many people think they’ll just get better.  If you think you’ve been hurt, GO TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM, GO TO THE HOSPITAL, OR GO SEE YOUR DOCTOR.  Follow your doctor’s advice, and get the medical treatment you need. 

At the Doctor’s Office:  Hospital or medical staff may ask you for information about your health insurance, your auto insurance, or another driver’s auto insurance.  Tell the staff about your health insurance and your automobile insurance.  Ask the staff to bill your health insurance first.  If you don’t know what automobile insurance you have, or if you don’t know the specifics of what kinds of auto insurance you have – tell them you’re not sure about what auto insurance you have, and ask them to bill your health insurance company. 

Talking with Insurance Companies:  You are obligated to cooperate with your insurance company, but you don’t have to talk to other insurance companies.  In general – if it’s your car insurance company, you probably are obligated cooperate with its investigation, provide information, and communicate.  If it’s someone else’s insurance company, you might not need to talk to them at all.  No matter what insurance company you’re dealing with, you have rights.  Don’t talk; don’t sign.  Tell the insurance companies you’re in the process of retaining an attorney and ask to call them back.  Take down their contact information and talk to an attorney first.   

The Next Weeks and Months

Medical Care:  If you think you should keep seeing a doctor, keep seeing your doctor.  Follow your doctor’s advice, and get the medical treatment you need. 

Talking With Insurance Companies:  If you haven’t already talked with a lawyer, you should strongly consider doing so.  The at-fault driver’s insurance company probably is trying to contact you.  It’s common for the at-fault driver’s insurance company to ask for a recorded telephone statement or for you to sign medical authorizations.  Don’t talk.  Don’t sign.  Your insurance company is probably trying to talk with you as well.  If your insurance company is asking you to do things, you might be required to cooperate.  Contact an attorney and get good legal advice about what to do. 

If they Offer to Settle

There are important legal consequences when you sign documents or checks from insurance companies.  If you have been seriously injured and you have questions about your rights and responsibilities, don’t talk, don’t sign.  Contact an attorney for legal advice as soon as possible. 

What Am I Entitled To? 

If you have been injured, you need to prove liability, causation, and damages.

To prove liability, you need to show that the at-fault person didn't do something he or she was supposed to do. For example, a driver might be liable if he rear-ended your car because he failed to slow for traffic. Or a driver might be liable if she failed to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk while the “walk” signal was on.

Causation is the relationship between an action (or inaction) and the injury that followed. In other words, an injured person needs to prove that the other party's liability caused his or her damages. For example, if you were rear-ended by a driver who failed to slow for traffic, you need to prove that the driver's conduct caused you to incur damages.

Damages are the monetary relief an injured person is entitled to seek. Damages can include past and future medical bills, past and future lost wages, pain, suffering, disfigurement or scarring, and the loss of quality of life.  The law recognizes three major categories of damages in injury cases: economic, non-economic and physical impairment and disfigurement.

Economic damages include past and future lost wages, impaired earning capacity, medical and rehabilitation and life care costs (in automobile cases only to the extent that they are not available as no-fault benefits), lost past and future home services, and certain past and future out-of-pocket expenses.

Non-economic damages are losses of a human nature and, although often difficult to quantify, should be considered at least as valuable as economic loss. The law recognizes injuries such as pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life as monetarily compensable.

Physical impairment and disfigurement damages are much like non-economic damages. But because the limitation on monetary recovery for other non-economic damages does not apply to physical impairment and disfigurement damages, they are calculated separately.

The Colorado Legislature has passed laws which limit the amount of compensation available for wrongful injury and loss. These laws are referred to as damages caps.

Generally, non-economic damages may not exceed $468,010 for injuries occurring after January 1, 1998. A court may allow an award in excess of this amount under certain circumstances.

For medical malpractice against a hospital or physician, damages may not exceed $1,000,000 per patient with not more than $250,000 attributed to non-economic loss or injury. The court may allow an award in excess of this amount under certain circumstances.

Non-economic damages in wrongful death cases in Colorado are capped at $468,010 for deaths occurring after January 1, 1998.