Denver Car Accident Lawyer Explains Damages in Colorado Motor Vehicle Accidents
When seeking financial compensation for injuries sustained in an auto accident, you need two key pieces of information: You need to know who was at fault, and you need to know the total amount of your injury-related losses. Both of these are complicated issues that a Denver car accident lawyer will help you understand.
Determining fault in an auto accident requires a detailed factual investigation and a careful legal analysis of all of the various factors involved. Calculating your losses requires a clear understanding of not only how your injuries have impacted your life to date, but how they will continue to impact your life in the years (or decades) to come.
What Constitutes “Just Compensation” for Your Injuries?
You may be familiar with the phrase, “just compensation.” Under Colorado law, when you get injured in an auto accident, you are entitled to just compensation for your injury-related losses. The law considers it “just” for accident victims to have their losses covered by the drivers (or other parties) that are responsible for their injuries. If someone else was 100 percent at fault in your accident, then you are entitled to receive payment for 100 percent of your losses. In legal terms, these losses are referred to as “damages.”
Damages from an auto accident fall into two categories: economic and non-economic. Within each of these categories, accident victims can seek just compensation for their current and future losses. Depending on the extent of a victim’s injuries and when their auto accident claim settles (or goes to trial), current losses resulting from an accident can pale in comparison to the losses that the accident victim will continue to sustain in the future.
Economic Damages in Auto Accident Claims
Economic damages are losses that are financial in nature. In a typical case, these damages will consist of:
- Medical Expenses – All medical expenses you incur in relation to your auto accident injuries.
- Lost Income – Wages, salary, tips, benefits and any other forms of compensation you are unable to earn due to your injuries.
- Loss of Earning Capacity – Future loss of income due to inability to work or being forced to take a lower-paying job.
- Other Out-of-Pocket Costs – Gas; ridesharing costs; payments to landscapers, cleaners, nannies and other service providers; costs to modify your home or vehicle; and, all other costs you incur as a result of being injured.
Non-Economic Damages in Auto Accident Claims
Non-economic damages are losses that are not financial in nature, but for which financial compensation is still available under Colorado law. Potential non-economic damages in an auto accident claim include:
- Emotional Trauma – Fear, anxiety or other psychological trauma you experience as a result of being involved in a serious auto accident.
- Pain and Suffering – Physical pain and suffering you experience as a result of your injuries.
- Scarring and Disfigurement – Permanent scarring and disfigurement due to burns, severe fractures, loss of limbs and other accident-related injuries.
- Loss of Society, Services, Support, Companionship and Consortium –
- Loss of Enjoyment of Life –
Many of these types of non-financial losses will have financial aspects as well. For example, you may need to see a psychologist or psychiatrist for treatment of emotional trauma or anxiety, you may need to buy pain medications, and you may be unable to work as a result of significant scarring. When this is the case, you are entitled to just compensation for your out-of-pocket financial losses as well as the non-financial impacts of your injuries.
What if You Were Partially at Fault in the Colorado Auto Accident?
If someone else was 100 percent at fault in the accident, then he or she (or his or her insurance company) is liable for 100 percent of your accident-related losses. But, what happens if you were partially at fault in the collision?
In Colorado, an accident victim’s percentage of fault plays an important role in determining what constitutes just compensation. When it comes to a partial fault in an auto accident, Colorado follows a rule known as “modified comparative fault.” This rule states:
- If you are 49 percent or less at fault in an accident, then your award of compensation will be reduced in proportion to your percentage of fault; and,
- If you are 50 percent or more at fault in an accident, then you are not entitled to any financial compensation.
Let’s say, for example, that an investigation reveals you were 10 percent at fault in an accident and your total losses amount to $200,000. Under Colorado’s modified comparative fault rule, you would be entitled to recover $180,000. However, if the investigation reveals that you were 50 percent at fault, then your financial recovery would be $0.
As you can see, when seeking financial compensation for an auto accident, establishing fault is a critical step in the process. In order to prevent the insurance companies from unfairly reducing or denying your award of compensation, it is imperative that you hire an experienced Denver automobile accident lawyers who can effectively present the evidence needed to prove your claim for damages.
Understanding Contingency Fees for Car Accident Lawyers
When you hire a Denver car accident lawyer to handle your claim, your attorney will represent you on a contingency-fee-basis. This means that you will not have to pay anything out of pocket, and you will not be responsible for reimbursing any costs or paying any legal fees unless you receive a settlement or court award. If you receive just compensation, the expenses incurred pursuing your claim will be deducted from your award, and your attorney’s legal fees will be calculated as a percentage of your financial recovery.
Unfortunately, many people wrongly assume that this type of contingency-fee arrangement means that their attorney will end up receiving the bulk of their award. In reality, even when factoring in legal fees and costs, the amount you recover with the help of an attorney is likely to far exceed any amount you might have been able to secure on your own. At Levine Law, whenever we receive a settlement offer on behalf of a client, we help our clients understand exactly how much they will take home so that they can make an informed decision about how and when to resolve their claim.