Colorado Car Accident Settlement Process and Timeline
There may be no place in America more beautiful than Colorado: from the eastern plains to the Rocky Mountains in the west, this is one gorgeous state. It is also a great place for road trips: to ski resorts in Aspen or to catch a ballgame in Denver. But with all that driving, through exciting mountains and agonizingly endless plains, through cold icy canyon roads and urban Denver traffic, comes a higher chance of car accidents – and if you’re one of the unlucky parties involved in an accident, you’ll want to read up on the Colorado car accident settlement process and timeline.
Do I Need to Report a Car Accident in Colorado?
In nearly every conceivable accident, yes – Colorado requires drivers to report accidents when there are any injuries or damage to property whatsoever. In addition, drivers are required to offer aid or arrange for transport to a medical facility if the other driver is injured, to exchange insurance and license information with the other driver, and to stay at the scene of the accident (unless seeking medical attention) until the police have responded and completed their report.
Colorado Car Insurance Laws
Colorado was, until a change in laws in 2003, one of the rare "no fault" states when it came to auto insurance claims – a person involved in a car accident filed a claim under their own policy. Now, under the newer (and more common nationally) "tort system," fault on the part of one of the drivers must be shown before insurance claims will be paid out – and the party at fault (and their insurance company) are responsible.
Furthermore, Colorado drivers must obtain minimum amounts of liability insurance coverage:
- $25,000 for liability for bodily injuries per person,
- $50,000 total for liability for injuries if more than one person is injured, and
- $15,000 in coverage for liability for others’ property damage.
How Do Car Accident Settlements Work in Colorado?
Settling a case is exactly what it sounds like – resolving it immediately and informally for a mutually agreeable remedy and dropping the pending lawsuit. Nearly all car accident cases end in settlement rather than with a jury verdict, largely because many of the damages are easily calculable and the cost of fighting over those damages in court serves as a disincentive to both sides against risking a bad verdict. A settlement simply allows the parties to control the outcome.
In Colorado, there is no explicit requirement to settle or even have a settlement conference. However, there is a powerful tool that encourages settlement – the “offer of settlement” statute. This law says that if one party offers a settlement that is more favorable than the eventual verdict, and the other side passes, the party that passed pays for the costs of litigation. For example, if an insurance company offers $40,000 and the injured party passes – then is only awarded $20,000 at trial, the injured party has to pay the legal fees for both sides.
What is the Average Car Accident Settlement in Colorado?
There is no average settlement, as every case differs: a case involving a fender bender is going to settle for less than a drunk driver killing a family.
When coming to a settlement, the parties and their attorneys will consider:
- Coverage maximums (insurance companies won’t pay more than the coverage limit)
- Car repairs
- Medical bills (past and future)
- Pain and suffering
- Lost wages from time away from work
How Long Do I Have to File a Car Accident Lawsuit in Colorado?
The time limit (Statute of Limitations) for filing a case in Colorado is clear cut: three years for auto accidents. This is measured from the date of the accident, so even if insurance claims, denials, and attempts to settle take time, you and your attorney will still need to watch that three-year clock.
Get Legal Help with Your Colorado Car Accident Settlement
Car accident claims and settlements are not to be taken lightly. Not only are these final, legally binding documents, but if you're not careful, you could end up with an insufficient amount to cover medical bills and expenses down the line – or waiving claims altogether, especially if you miss the time limit to file. Luckily, you can avoid these mishaps by speaking to a skilled car accident attorney in Colorado today.
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