Working with Insurance Companies after an auto accident: Yours (UM/UIM) and Theirs (BI)

UM/UIM stands for Under/Uninsured Motorist; BI stands for Bodily Injury, you elect UIM coverage through your own insurance; the other parties’ insurance is BI, coverage available for bodily injury to you caused by another driver.

After a motor vehicle accident people are deeply shocked, often times injured, and quite unsure what to do next.

After the shock wears off and your initial injuries have been addressed, you may be thinking about your auto insurance and why you have that UM/UIM policy that the law requires you to have. This is typically called “25/50” because this is the minimum our state of Colorado requires you to have on your car. The $25,000 covers injuries that you cause to another person. The $50,000 covers injuries that you caused in an accident where more than one person is injured.

Conversely, when your injuries are caused by another person, and they are cited and held accountable for the accident, their insurance (BI or Bodily Injury) may only have the minimum of $25,000 to compensate you, or they may not have any insurance at all.

Optional insurance coverages you can choose for yourself are UIM (Under/Uninsured Motorist) and Med Pay (Medical Payments). This insurance is very important and covers you if the other side is either uninsured or under insured. Insurance companies are happy to oblige you if you say you don’t want these extra coverages (they may even suggest you don’t need these additional coverages), due to the additional cost added to your premium, and the cost to them when you make a claim.

Most people are unprepared for the high cost of an Emergency Department visit after a motor vehicle accident. Additionally, the average person is also emotionally and financially unprepared for the cost and time needed for ongoing treatment for their injuries.

So, in a situation where another person has caused an accident where you are injured, you will need to be prepared to seek treatment and pay for that treatment, preferably through your health insurance. When you settle your injury claim after you have reached MMI (Maximum Medical Improvement), as determined by your doctor, your attorney will seek the most compensation available to you. That compensation comes from the Bodily Injury insurance coverage from the person who caused the accident.

If you have chosen to elect Med Pay on your own insurance, you have at least $5,000 to cover the initial medical treatment for your injuries. This med pay coverage is optional, but is important to have to work in conjunction with your health insurance coverage.

Should your treatment exceed $25,000 or whatever coverage that the person who injured you has; and you’ve chosen to elect UIM coverage, then your own UIM coverage may kick in to account for the underinsurance held by the tort feasor, or the person who was at fault for your injuries.

You can’t determine who runs into you, but you can protect yourself with UM/UIM, in case the other side is underinsured or uninsured.

Please think twice (or more) when choosing your insurance coverage. It may not cost very much to elect more coverage than the minimum the state requires. You may also benefit greatly by having Med Pay and Under/Uninsured Motorist coverage. Your insurance carrier may tell you that it is unlikely you will need Med Pay and UIM, therefore saving you money! In the case of even a minor accident caused by another, your choosing to have Med Pay and UIM may be the difference between a financial catastrophe and a comfortable recovery.

If you have suffered injuries as the result of an accident, through no fault of your own, please call Harding & Associates to get a better picture of your rights. We can be reached at 800-878-7888 or 303-762-9500. There is never a charge for an initial consultation with a skilled, experienced personal injury attorney who can evaluate your case and assist in developing a strategy to fight to obtain the compensation to which you are entitled.

Insurance Companies and Their Process of Adjustment, or, Can a Robot Settle Your Personal Injury Claim?

You went out shopping today. You looked at spring flowers and looked forward to the new garden you’re about to put in. You have so many ideas!

You’re on your way home feeling pretty good. Then WHAM. You get hit from behind by a distracted driver.

After the shock of a motor vehicle accident and the damage to your car, you then have to consider that you’ve been injured and may well be injured for months, or years.

After you’ve reached MMI (Maximum Medical Improvement), as determined by your doctor, it is time to settle your claim (but remember, no matter how long your treatment you need to settle before the statute of limitations). You have already discussed this accident and the impact it has had on your life. The impact was nearly catastrophic! Your injuries impacted your home life, your professional life, and your social life. It may have affected your emotional well-being.

You’ve even calculated that your compensation should be – this much, and you expect that others will certainly agree. That is until you start dealing with the insurance adjustor. How can the insurance company possibly imagine that you will agree that the paltry sum they are offering can compensate you? This is impossible you think, aren’t insurance adjusters human, after all?

Well, not exactly. While the adjustors are human, adjustors use software to determine what your injuries and inconvenience are worth. No robot can imagine your not being able to pick up your youngest child for six months, or the fractured relationships you now have at your work place because of your time away for appointments, or the added responsibilities your husband took on while you were recovering, and the strain on your marriage.

There are several software products that insurance companies use. While they are not exactly the same, they serve the same purpose. That is to reduce your pain and suffering to a numeric score. This score is equated with a dollar amount. These software packages have been programmed to evaluate claims in a way for the insurance company to justify paying the absolute least amount possible. The robot doesn’t take into account your inconvenience, loss of enjoyment of life, stress, loss of consortium, and pain and suffering.

Your attorney is able to negotiate why your injuries are worth more than an adjuster’s first, second or third offer. You may even wind up in trial where a jury can understand those human emotions that a robot cannot. These software programs even know who your attorney is, and his or her willingness to go to trial. They also know if you don’t have an attorney at all.

If you have suffered injuries as the result of an accident, through no fault of your own, please call Harding & Associates to get a better picture of your rights. We can be reached at 800-878-7888 or 303-762-9500. There is never a charge for an initial consultation with a skilled, experienced personal injury attorney who can evaluate your case and assist in developing a strategy to fight to obtain the compensation to which you are entitled.

What Does It Mean When a Jury is Advised that a Defendant Accepts Liability?

Despite the frequency with which jury trials are portrayed on television and in movies, when a person ends up called to serve on a jury, that individual is likely to encounter a number of seemingly foreign concepts. For example, in some situations a judge may advise a jury at the start of a personal injury trial that the defendant in the case “has accepted liability.”

When a jury is told that a defendant in a personal injury case accepts liability, which means that the jurors no longer need to determine whether or not the defendant in the case is at fault for causing the accident. Rather, the jury is left with the task of determining the extent of damages or injuries the plaintiff sustained as the result of that defendant’s admitted negligence.

A juror may ponder why a defendant in a personal injury lawsuit is willing to concede that he or she was at fault in a particular situation. In most cases, it is because the defendant’s attorney does not want the jury to hear about the specific circumstances surrounding the accident. When a defendant accepts fault in a personal injury case, the facts and circumstances surrounding the accident in question generally are no longer relevant. A judge will not permit the presentation to the jury of evidence relating to the circumstances of the accident itself.

Examples of cases in which a defendant takes this position include situations in which the defendant was intoxicated at the time that he or she caused a car accident, which resulted in another person sustaining injuries. A defendant may use this tactic if he or she was involved in the commission of a crime at the time of the accident (for example, eluding police in an automobile).

If you have suffered injuries as the result of an accident, through no fault of your own, please call Harding & Associates to get a better picture of your rights. We can be reached at 800-878-7888 or 303-762-9500. There is never a charge for an initial consultation with a skilled, experienced personal injury attorney who can evaluate your case and assist in developing a strategy to fight to obtain the compensation to which you are entitled.

What are punitive damages?

When someone is hurt in an accident, the non-negligent party is likely owed compensation from the intentionally harmful or negligent party. In the State of Colorado, if the negligent party acted with malicious intent or was unreasonably reckless in their conduct that caused the injury, the plaintiff may be owed Exemplary Damages. Often times, these types of damages are referred to as punitive, but under Colorado Revised Statute 13-21-102, the name of the statute is titled: Exemplary Damages. Punitive damages are meant to punish the negligent party because they either caused the injury intentionally or acted with an excessive degree of recklessness.

Exemplary, or punitive damages, are capped, which means plaintiffs will be limited in how much they can collect for these types of damages. In most personal injury cases, there are two types of damages: punitive and compensatory. Compensatory damages are meant to handle the medical expenses or lost wages. Compensatory damages focus specifically on the actual damages suffered by the plaintiff as a result of the accident, such as medical bills or loss of property.

It is important to know that there are a few restrictions that the law places on the courts when awarding exemplary damages. First, exemplary damages can never be awarded in excess of the actual damages awarded to the injured party. Meaning, if you have $100,000 in medical expenses, the exemplary damages cannot exceed $100,000. Second, the court also restricts exemplary damages by not allowing the courts to award more than three times the amount of the actual damages and less than $250,000 (there are some exceptions to this rule if there has been a death).

To further the example, if compensatory (or actual) damages are $100,000, the most a plaintiff could receive in exemplary damages is $250,000 (Three times $100,000 is $300,000, but the total must be less than $250,000; with capped ceiling). However, in order for a plaintiff to receive an amount beyond the compensatory damages, the statute requires the plaintiff to show that the defendant acted repeatedly reckless in a willful and wanton manner, or knowingly aggravated the action that caused the injury.

It is important to remember these limitations when you are suffering a catastrophic loss to ensure you make an effective, long-term plan for you and your family. If you have questions about a personal injury or other legal matter, contact Harding & Associates at 800-878-7888 or 303-762-9500.

Citations: CRS 13-21-102, CRS 13-21-203

Car Accidents and the Statute of Limitations

Overview

The aftermath of a car accident represents what oftentimes is best described as a life altering experience. If you find yourself in such a position, you likely face physical injuries, pain and suffering and perhaps even permanent physical damage. You also may find yourself juggling medical bills and not being able to work.

On top of all of these significant problems, concerns and issues, you face tremendous legal challenges as well. The reality is that even pursuing what seems like a very obvious claim for damages and injuries can seem like (and actually turn in to ) an insurmountable task.

As a Colorado resident, if you find yourself pursuing a claim for injuries and damages with an insurance company, you must understand a provision in Colorado law known as the statute of limitations.

What is the Statute of Limitations?

At its essence, the statute of limitations is law that establishes a specific time period in which you must file a lawsuit to recover compensation for damages and injuries you sustained as the result of the negligence of another motorist. This type of lawsuit typically is referred to as a personal injury case.

Pursuant to the terms of the Colorado statute of limitations, a personal injury lawsuit to recover compensation for injuries sustained in a car accident generally must be filed within three years of the accident. If you fail to file a lawsuit within this three year time period, you more than likely will be forever precluded from obtaining compensation for your losses, even if your injuries are very serious. (Other types of personal injury cases must be filed within two years.)

Legal Representation

When all is said and done, the best course of action for you to take to ensure that you fully protect your rights and interests is retaining a capable, experienced Colorado personal injury lawyer. A Colorado personal injury attorney understands the elements of the law, including how to comply with the requirements of the statute of limitations.

The law firm of Harding & Associates focuses its practice on assisting clients in personal injury cases. This includes providing representation to people injured in auto accidents because of the negligence of careless drivers.

The attorneys at Harding & Associates do not charge for an initial consultation. You can schedule an appointment with us by calling 303-762-9500 or 800-878-7888, or emailing us at info@hlaw.org, to schedule an appointment.

Understanding Caps on Damage Awards: Limits Paid to Victims of Negligence

Over the course of the past couple of decades, an inordinate amount of media attention has focused on so-called “high awards” or “high jury verdicts” in lawsuits involving an injured person or medical negligence. A prime example of a case that received a great deal of attention a number of years ago, and that remains in the minds of many people when lawsuits are discussed, is the woman injured by a spilt cup of coffee from McDonalds.

In that particular case, the woman ended up suing and receiving a jury verdict awarding her $3 million for her injuries. The jury verdict made headlines not only in the United States, but around the world. What did not garner much media attention was the fact that the injured woman simply did not actually receive $3 million as a result of the jury’s verdict in her case.

State laws, including those in Colorado, place caps on what are called punitive damages. Punitive damages represent a dollar amount above and beyond what a jury awards for actual damages. Punitive damages are added to a jury’s award as a means of “punishing” a negligent party who causes injuries because of particularly egregious or reckless conduct.

A jury might find that an injured person is entitled to compensation in the amount of $100,000 for actual damages (medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and so forth). If the person who caused the injury was extremely reckless, a jury might add another $1 million to the award in the form of punitive damages. Even though this is the decision of the jury, state law limits the total amount a person can receive in the form of punitive damages to a dollar amount well below the $1 million awarded by the jurors in a particular case.

If you or a loved one has been injured because of the negligence of someone else, contact the experienced accident attorneys at Harding & Associates. We will schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with you to discuss your case. An appointment can be scheduled at your convenience by calling us at 800-878-7888 or 303-762-9500. Our legal team can answer any questions you may have about punitive damages and other issues associated with your claim.

What is Contributory Negligence?

If you are injured in an auto-accident or if you have been the victim of an intentional or negligent incident, one common defense that will be used against you will be the defense of contributory negligence.

Contributory negligence allows the defendant to show that the plaintiff was also responsible for the injury or damages. Contributory negligence is measured as a percentage of fault, meaning that both parties will be assigned a percentage of the fault for causing the incident.

For example, a defendant would argue that the plaintiff was at least 51% responsible for the damages under C.R.S. 13-21-111, which states states: “Contributory negligence shall not bar recovery in any action by any person or his legal representative to recover damages for negligence resulting in death or in injury to person or property, if such negligence was not as great as the negligence of the person against whom recovery is sought[.]

The statute further states: “[…] but any damages allowed shall be diminished in proportion to the amount of negligence attributable to the person for whose injury, damage, or death recovery is made.” Here, that statute allows the court to reduce the judgement against a defendant by the percentage of fault caused by the plaintiff. For example, if total damages were $100,000 and the court ruled the plaintiff was 49% at fault, the plaintiff’s judgement would be reduced to $51,000 ($100,000 – $49,000) to account of the part the plaintiff played in causing the damages.

When approaching litigation as a plaintiff, it is important to remember that defendants have several legal defenses, such as contributory negligence, that can be used to avoid liability, or reduce the overall judgement. The attorneys on our legal team at Harding & Associates stand ready to schedule an initial consultation with you. You can schedule a no-obligation, no-cost initial consultation by calling our offices at 800-878-7888 or 303-762-9500.

Under C.R.S. 13-21-111

Calculating Lost Wages in a Personal Injury Case

Injured parties can’t work and it can be devastating for families. For most individuals suffering from a major injury, many sleepless nights are spent worrying about your immediate and future financial needs.

If plaintiffs are engaged in multiple levels of employment, they may have a more difficult time proving their lost wages. For instance, many individuals have part time jobs by taking care of a neighbor’s yard or bartending on the weekends. Non-traditional jobs add a lot of value to many people’s lives, but non-traditional jobs cannot necessarily be easily included when calculating lost wages.

Lost wages are included in the compensatory damages owed to a plaintiff and the court requires documentation that shows the losses the plaintiff has suffered. Courts can be skeptical of what plaintiffs may claim as lost wages if there is no formal tax document provided, such as a W-2 or a 1090 Form to accompany the claim of loss.

Here, plaintiffs must consider what their overall income is and from what sources. After considering all sources of income, plaintiffs and attorneys identify which ones can be readily identified with formal tax documentation or other reasonable ways to show income.

Plaintiffs must also remember how much income may be lost in the future due to the injury. Key factors in determining loss of future income include the plaintiff’s current income, what was the expected income in the future, and how much time the plaintiff needs to recover. Here, plaintiffs will need to show documentation of current income and a calculation of future income based on the time needed to recover from the injury. Further, plaintiffs will often times need a formal medical recommendation of how much time may be needed to fully heal.

The emphasis here is that plaintiffs will need reliable documentation to show the current income and a reasonable explanation of future income, multiplied by the time needed to recover. Further, plaintiffs must ensure this documentation is available and entered into the record to show the court to ensure the most appropriate judgement is awarded.

The attorneys on our legal team at Harding & Associates stand ready to schedule an initial consultation with you. You can schedule a no-obligation, no-cost initial consultation by calling our offices at 800-878-7888 or 303-762-9500.

Protecting Your Interests After a Car Accident: Understanding a Lien Agreement

In the aftermath of a car accident, you will need to make contact with a variety of different types of entities. These include insurance companies, but also health care providers of different types. Not only do you need to be cautious of documents you sign related to insurance claims you must also take care when it comes to paperwork provided by a healthcare provider.

When you seek medical treatment following an accident, you need to understand that some healthcare providers will provide you with what is called a “Lien Agreement.” The Lien Agreement is likely to be part of the packet of initial intake forms provided to you by a healthcare provider.

If you are like the vast majority of people, you sign whatever is handed to you by a healthcare provider. This is particularly the case when you are injured and not feeling your best. The reality is that there is a great deal of truth in the long-used adage that you must – must – read and understand what you sign.

In addition to reading and understanding what you actually sign, when it comes to documents provided to you following an accident, there are certain agreements that you must not sign. The Lien Agreement is one of them.

A Lien Agreement from a healthcare provider is designed to give the doctor or hospital the ability to bypass your health insurance company and engage a lien company to pay for the services provided to you. Signing this agreement will lower the amount of recovery you personally receive when your claim is settled or when you get a judgment in a lawsuit.

The challenges of navigating the paperwork you face following an accident underscores the need for capable and experienced legal assistance in the aftermath of an accident. The attorneys on our legal team at Harding & Associates stand ready to schedule an initial consultation with you. You can schedule a no-obligation, no-cost initial consultation by calling our offices at 800-878-7888 or 303-762-9500.

During an initial consultation, we have the opportunity to begin to evaluate your case. We can also explain to you the full range of legal services we can provide to you in the aftermath of an accident.

Two Common Mistakes an Injured Party Makes After a Car Accident

In the aftermath of a car accident, it is very easy for an injured person to make a misstep when dealing with an insurance company. In other words, following an accident, the other driver’s insurance company will make contact with the injured person. The insurance company may appear to be make reasonable, logical and necessary requests of the injured party. However, in the final analysis, an injured person oftentimes makes significant mistakes when dealing with an insurance company following a car accident.
Requests for Medical Records, Including Medical Bills
If you are injured in a car accident, the other driver’s insurance company will approach you to sign a release for medical records. The insurance company will tell you that these records are necessary in order to fully consider the claim you have filed for compensation.

Although there is some truth to this, and medical records are necessary, the insurance company also wants to get its hands on billing statements. The reality is that an insurance company is not legally entitled to see everything on a billing statement. You have the right to have some elements of the billing statement redacted. What that means is that there are elements of a billing statement that do not have to be provided to an insurance company. This is one area in which a significant mistake can be made when dealing with an insurance company.

By way of example, assume that you were billed $50,000 for medical treatment. However, the hospital discounted that amount to $10,000. This is a process that commonly happens with health care providers of all types.
The insurance company will see the discount and realize that you were only obligated to pay $10,000. If you end up reaching a settlement, this lower amount is what the insurance company will pay. As mentioned previously, you were not obligated to provide the insurance company with any information from a billing statement that showed the amount discounted by the hospital or other health care provider.

By retaining a lawyer promptly after an accident, you best protect yourself from this type of scenario. You put yourself in the best possible position to maximize your compensation. The legal team at Harding & Associates stands ready to schedule an initial consultation with you. You can schedule a no-obligation, no-cost initial consultation by calling our offices at 800-878-7888 or 303-762-9500.