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Auto Accident 101 for Colorado Residents

Being injured in an auto accident can be a frustrating, difficult and even life-changing experience. If your injuries are severe, securing financial compensation could be a crucial step on your long road to recovery. So, what do you need to know in order to protect your legal rights? The attorneys at Levine Law have created the following guide to best assist victims of Denver and Colorado car accidents. 

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Jordan S. Levine

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Navigating the Do's and Don'ts of Colorado Auto Accidents

After a car accident, you may seek the advice of a Denver auto accident lawyer in order to learn more about your legal options and protect your rights. While an experienced attorney will do everything possible to protect you, a few key mistakes on your part early in the process can limit your ability to obtain the full compensation you deserve.

What should I NOT do after a car accident?

If you are in a car accident, avoid making these mistakes. Protect yourself and those you love by knowing what NOT to do after a crash:

  • Do NOT ignore the time limits set by your policy. Many auto insurance policies require you to complete certain steps in the claims process within a certain time limit. Know when these time limits are and stick to them.
  • Do NOT give any statements to your insurer until you are sure you understand your coverage. Take time to review your auto insurance policy before giving a statement about the accident – either spoken or written – to your insurer. If you have questions about any part of your policy, talk to an attorney.
  • Do NOT sign any release or waiver before talking to an attorney. A release or waiver may require you to give up valuable legal rights. You should always speak to your own attorney before signing any release or waiver, and both you and your attorney should read the document carefully.
  • Do NOT automatically accept your insurer’s appraisal of your losses. Insurance companies must protect their own bottom line, so their appraisal of your losses in the crash will likely be lower than the value of your actual losses. Get your own appraisal before talking to the insurer about their number.

What should I DO after a crash?

If you have been involved in an auto accident, be sure to complete the following steps:

  • Get immediate medical attention if needed, including emergency care.
  • Talk to witnesses, take photographs, or make a sketch of the accident scene if you can.
  • Contact your insurance agent promptly after an accident. Be forthright when sharing information, but do not admit that the accident was your fault – even if you think it was. Stick to the facts until you talk to your lawyer.
  • Cooperate with any police officers who respond to the accident scene. Get the contact information for officers who respond, so you can contact them later if needed.
  • Check your insurance policy to refresh your memory on the types and amounts of coverage you have. Contact an attorney if you have questions or need help obtaining compensation.

What if I’ve already made one of these mistakes?

Don’t give up. Even if you’ve accidentally done one or more of the “do not do” tasks, you still have the right to seek compensation. A Denver auto accident lawyer can help you protect your legal rights and limit or eliminate any damage that would harm your chances of recovery.

Do I Really Need to Speak with an Attorney About My Accident? 

You would expect a law firm to tell you that you need to speak to an attorney after an automobile accident in Colorado. In truth, many fender benders and minor accidents may NOT require the help of an attorney. Small settlements are fine to accept. That said, here are some situations where it may be in your best interest to consult with a Colorado law firm: 

You Need to Seek Appropriate Medical Treatment

After an auto accident, it is will not always be immediately apparent whether you have suffered a traumatic injury. For various reasons, it is important that you see a doctor as soon as possible, and an experienced personal injury attorney will be able to refer you to a physician who specializes in diagnosing and treating accident-related injuries.

You Need to Preserve Critical Evidence

If you are entitled to a financial recovery, you will need evidence to prove your claim for compensation. This means conducting an investigation, and investigating an auto accident requires the involvement of experienced legal and forensic professionals.

You Need to Protect Yourself Against the Insurance Companies

If you trust the insurance companies to pay what you owe, you will be doing yourself an extraordinary disservice. The insurance companies will always put their interests first; and, if they can get away with paying you nothing, they will.

You Need to Find Out What Your Case is Worth

Before you can make an informed decision about accepting a settlement, you need to know what your case is worth. This requires calculating your current and future financial and non-financial losses, and you will need to work with an experienced Denver accident attorney to make sure you to not unknowingly settle for too little too soon.

You Need to Explore All Options for Recovering Just Compensation

What if the driver who hit you was uninsured? What if his or her insurance isn’t enough to cover all of your accident-related losses? While the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage will be enough in some cases, in others, it will be necessary to explore the other sources of compensation you may have available.

You Need to Be Prepared to Go to Trial

If a fair settlement offer isn’t on the table, you will need to be prepared to go to trial. Your trial attorney will need to be up to speed on your case; and, in addition to providing the best opportunity to secure a fair settlement, hiring an experienced attorney up front will also let the insurance companies know that you are willing to take your case to court.

You Need to Make Decisions with Your Long-Term Best Interests in Mind 

When you need help paying your medical bills or are unable to work due to an injury, it is easy to focus on your immediate situation. The insurance companies know this, and they often use it to try to coerce accident victims into accepting unjust settlements. You need to make decisions with your long-term best interests in mind, and a personal injury lawyer who understands your situation will be able to help you see the bigger picture.

What should I do immediately after an auto accident?

After an auto accident, your claim for financial compensation is important, but even more important is your health. As a result, seeking medical attention should be your first priority. If you are physically able to do so, before leaving the scene of the accident, you should also try to:

  • Gather insurance information from all drivers involved in the accident
  • Collect names and contact information from any witnesses
  • Take plenty of photos with your phone
  • Make sure you know where your vehicle is being towed

Will health insurance cover medical bills from an automobile accident?

Yes, if you have health insurance, you can (and should) use it. If you are entitled to compensation from one or more auto insurance companies, your health insurer will seek subrogation as part of the claims process.

Do I need to report the accident to my auto insurance company?

Yes, even if you are sure another driver was at fault, you still need to report the accident to your insurer (it is most likely required under the terms of your policy). However, you do not have to give a statement, and you should be careful to avoid saying anything the insurance companies might be able to use against you. The best thing to do is to simply report the bare facts of the accident and then say that you need to speak with your attorney before saying anything further.

When is it okay for me to go back to work?

It depends on what your doctor says. If your doctor says you need to rest, then you should rest. If your doctor says it is okay to resume light work, then you can resume light work. While we understand that you may not want to miss a paycheck, returning to work too soon could have even greater negative financial ramifications.

How do I know if the insurance companies are offering a fair settlement?

In order to assess whether the insurance companies are offering a fair settlement, you need to know who caused the accident and what you can expect in terms of the long-term effects of your injuries. Both of these require the help of an attorney who can conduct a thorough investigation and accurately assess your financial and non-financial losses.

Should I hire an attorney to handle my insurance claim?

Yes. At most Colorado accident law firms, it costs you nothing out-of-pocket to hire an attorney, and the law firm will only take your case if we believe we can help you secure compensation that you would not be able to secure on your own. If you have been seriously injured and you want to make sure the insurance companies treat you fairly, the best way to protect yourself is to hire experienced legal representation.

10 Common Symptoms of Traumatic Injuries from Vehicle Collisions

Following an auto accident, one of the most important things to do is to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Auto accidents can result in various internal and external injuries, and obtaining a prompt diagnosis is one of the first steps on the road to physical and financial recovery.

Many accident victims will experience a variety of different symptoms, and many of these symptoms can be associated with multiple types of traumatic injuries. To avoid unnecessary and potentially long-term consequences, accident victims must rely on their doctors’ advice and not simply assume that they will get better over time. Here are the top 10 warning signs you need to look out for: 

1. Localized Pain

Localized pain in the limbs and extremities could be a sign of soft tissue damage (a sprain, strain or tear) or potentially a broken bone. An x-ray, MRI or other forms of imaging will generally be necessary in order to provide an accurate diagnosis. 

2. Loss of Muscle Strength or Mobility

Loss of muscle strength or mobility could be symptomatic of a sprain, strain, tear, broken bone or nerve damage. The location and extent of physical limitation will help determine the nature of the injury, along with a physical examination and medical imaging.

3. Swelling or Bruising

Swelling or bruising could be a sign of a variety of different injuries, from minor contusions that will heal on their own to broken bones that may require surgery.

4. Back Pain

Back pain can be a sign of many of the injuries previously discussed as well as herniated discs, spinal fractures and other spinal cord injuries. Imaging is needed to provide an accurate diagnosis; and, depending on the severity and location of the injury, surgery may be required.

5. Chest or Abdominal Pain

Chest or abdominal pain could be a sign of a rib fracture or other chest wall injury, or damage to the lungs or other internal organs. Other injuries are possible as well. Due to the potential complications from internal organ injuries, it will be important to obtain a diagnosis as soon as possible.  

6. Ringing in the Ears (Tinnitus)

Ringing in the ears, or tinnitus, is caused by exposure to loud noise. The damage caused by this exposure can usually heal, although medical intervention may be necessary to relieve symptoms or repair damage to the inner ear.

7. Blurred Vision

Blurred vision is a potential sign of a concussion or another form of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Blurred vision can either be a symptom of the brain injury itself or a of sequela known as post-trauma vision syndrome. Double vision is another common visual impairment caused by TBI.

8. Headaches

Headaches following a traumatic accident are most often symptomatic of concussions, though they may also be indicative of other, more-serious forms of TBI. Dizziness, disequilibrium (loss of balance), trouble concentrating and other symptoms are common as well.

9. Memory Loss

Memory loss is a symptom that is typically associated with more-severe forms of TBI. Short-term memory loss can also be a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

10. Shortness of Breath

Shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing, can be a sign of a traumatic injury to the chest or back. If shortness of breath lasts beyond the initial shock of being involved in an accident, prompt medical treatment may be necessary.

7 Signs You May Need to See a Doctor After a Car Accident

When you are involved in a car accident, it can be difficult to figure out you need medical attention. Adrenaline and stress can mask the symptoms of many types of injuries, and some injuries will trigger gradually worsening symptoms. This is why our Denver accident lawyers always recommend seeking medical attention after a vehicle collision. But, if you are at home and wondering if you should see a doctor, here are seven signs that you may need treatment for a traumatic injury:

1. Your Pain Isn’t Going Away

If you were in pain but didn’t see any physical signs of an injury, you may have chosen to go home to rest instead of going to the hospital. But, if it has now been several days and your pain still isn’t going away, this is a sign that you should see a doctor for a diagnosis.

2. Your Pain is Getting Worse

Likewise, if your pain is getting worse, this is a sign that you should see a doctor as soon as possible. Worsening pain can potentially be a sign of a serious internal injury and receiving treatment promptly could be critical to avoid long-term effects.

3. You are Experiencing Headaches

Concussions are common injuries in all types of auto accidents; and, if you have a concussion, it will be important for you to rest – both physically and mentally – until your brain has recovered. Whiplash, spinal cord injuries and various other potentially-serious injuries can cause headaches as well.

4. You are Experiencing Stiffness or Limited Mobility

Stiffness and limited mobility can be symptomatic of a variety of different traumatic injuries. From your lower back to your wrists and ankles, any physical discomfort or limitations should be assessed for medical treatment needs promptly. 

5. You are Experiencing Hearing or Visual Impairments

Hearing and visual impairments can be symptomatic of different types of injuries as well. While this includes direct damage to the eyes and ears, it also includes various types of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and spinal cord injuries (SCI).

6. You are Having Difficulty Remembering, Concentrating or Sleeping

Difficulty remembering, difficulty concentrating, and other cognitive impairments are common symptoms of concussions and other forms of TBI. The same is true for sleeping. Even if you think it is simply your pain that is keeping you up at night, this may not necessarily be the case.

7. You are Having Difficulty Using the Restroom

Finally, difficulty using the restroom can be a potential symptom of SCI, particularly in the lower back. Similarly, if you are experiencing a loss of bowel or bladder control after an auto accident, you should see a doctor promptly.

What Causes Fatal Auto Accidents?

Drunk Driving Wrecks 

Almost half of the fatal car accidents in large cities like Denver are caused by drunk drivers. As staggering as this fact is, it has been a fact for a long time, despite media campaigns against drunk driving, stiff penalties for DUIs, and extending liability to parents and providers of alcohol. The third biggest contributing factor in fatal car accidents is aggressive driving/road rage. 

Given that almost half of all fatal car accidents involve drunk driving, it is important to know how to assert liability in a DUI auto accident and what type of damages can be recovered in a wrongful death lawsuit based on such an accident. For liability in most car accidents, proof of negligence on the part of the driver who caused the accident is enough. For liability in DUI cases, a driver has to have a blood-alcohol level of .08 or higher to be legally intoxicated. If it can be shown that the driver got on the road after consuming alcohol at a bar, restaurant, or other facility serving liquor, liability may extend to that facility through dram shop laws.

Recovery of damages in DUI wrongful death cases includes compensation for property damages, medical expenses, loss of companionship, loss of future income and possibly punitive damages. 

Distracted Drivers 

Despite the fact that distracted driving laws are in effect Colorado for all drivers, and cell phone use is banned entirely for drivers under 18, the second most common cause of fatal auto wrecks is distracted driving. NHTSA studies have concluded that the distraction of talking on a cell phone — let alone texting or checking emails — can render a driver as or more impaired as being legally intoxicated. When asserting liability for distracted driving car accident fatalities, the cell phone records are often the best evidence. Recovery of damages would be the same as described above.

Aggressive Driving 

The third biggest factor in car accident fatalities is aggressive or reckless driving. Improper lane changes, tailgating, stopping short, flashing lights, improper passing, rude gesturing, etc., are all examples of aggressive driving and actions which can lead drivers to take their eyes and minds off proper driving.  Colorado laws and organizations are handling this behavior in a number of ways. One of them is an initiative by the Colorado State Patrol, or CSP, called ADAPT: Aggressive Drivers Are Public Threats. ADAPT is an extensive media campaign utilizing PSAs, mailings, high school assemblies, and many other public out-reaches. To assert liability in an accident involving an aggressive driver, often the place to start is with a citation for reckless or careless driving. If the driver changed lanes improperly, followed the car ahead too closely, passed a car improperly, or any other traffic violation, then the driver can be cited for careless or reckless driving. The citation then becomes part of the evidence against the driver in a wrongful death lawsuit seeking recovery for damages from a fatal car accident due to that reckless or careless driving.