Colorado Car Accident Settlement Example

Read this real-world settlement example to get an idea of how your Colorado car accident claim might turn out.

Jim is driving down a street in Boulder, when an oncoming car turns left in front of him, impacting Jim's vehicle on the driver's side of the front bumper. Jim, who is wearing his seat belt, gets jolted around in his car. He feels immediate neck pain, and his right wrist, which was caught in the steering wheel, feels broken.

The police arrive and call an ambulance to take Jim to the hospital. At the hospital, they diagnose a broken wrist, and put Jim in a cast. They diagnose his neck pain as a whiplash-type strain, and tell Jim to take it easy for a week. He sees an orthopedist for his wrist, and gets his cast off in six weeks. After three more weeks of physical therapy, Jim's wrist is healed. He sees a chiropractor four times a week for his neck, and, after five weeks, his neck feels better. Jim is a plumber and missed six weeks of work, with his right wrist in a cast.

Report the Accident and Get The Police Report

The first thing Jim should do is report the incident to his own car insurance company, and to the insurer of the driver that hit him. Jim may also be legally obligated to notify proper government authorities of the accident. Learn more: Do I need to report a car accident in Colorado?

Since the police came to the scene, Jim should be sure to get a copy of the police report, to make sure there are no discrepancies, and no surprises.

Watch the Statute of Limitations

Jim needs to be aware of Colorado’s statute of limitations, which sets a deadline for filing any lawsuit over the accident.

In Colorado, the statute of limitations for car accidents is two years. This means, if you were injured in a car accident as a driver, passenger, or pedestrian, or if you only have property damage, you have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit in the state’s courts.

If you have not settled the case, and you don’t file a lawsuit within the time period set by the statute of limitations, your case is over unless you fall within one of the very limited exceptions that might stop the clock. Don’t wait until the last minute. If you can’t settle your case well before the statute of limitations expires, you should contact an Colorado car accident lawyer. For discussion of more state laws that could affect your case, check out Colorado Car Accident Laws.

Colorado’s Shared Fault Rule

As Jim is recovering from his car accident injuries, he should keep the adjuster informed of his progress.

You want to make sure that the adjuster has all of the medical and financial documentation that supports your claim for damages. You also want to make sure that the adjuster has all of the information necessary to evaluate who was at fault in the accident. While a case like Jim’s -- a cut in front type collision -- is often the fault of the driver making the turn, Jim needs to be aware of the rules of comparative negligence because the person that hit him is likely to claim that Jim was negligent for driving too fast or for not slowing down.

Colorado has what is called a “modified comparative fault” rule when an injured person shares some amount of blame for the underlying accident. Under this rule, your total damages award is reduced by whatever percentage of the “fault” the judge or jury believes is yours, up to a certain point. If, for example, you were awarded $300,000 in damages, but were found 20% at fault, your damages would be reduced to $240,000. However, if you were found to be 50% or more at fault, you would receive no damages whatsoever from other at-fault parties.

In order to maximize your potential recovery, you want to make absolutely sure that the defendant’s adjuster knows that you did nothing wrong. (Learn more about Proving Fault for a Car Accident.)

Settle The Claim Or Retain An Attorney?

It's important to note that the other driver may carry only the minimum amount of liability insurance required under Colorado's car insurance laws. In Colorado, a driver is only required to carry bodily injury liability coverage in the amount of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident, and property damage liability coverage in the amount of $15,000 per accident. If your medical bills and other damages exceed those minimums, but the other driver carries no additional coverage, then an insurance settlement may not cover your losses. In that situation, you may want to talk to an attorney about your other options.

In Jim’s case, his out-of-pocket (compensatory) damages total $23,300. The breakdown looks like this:

  • $13,300 in medical bills (ambulance, hospital, doctors, and physical therapy)
  • $7,000 in lost income
  • $3,000 in vehicle damage

Jim and his attorney decide that another $30,000 in damages is appropriate to compensate for Jim’s pain and suffering in connection with the accident, and they make an initial demand of $85,000 to settle the claim. However, the defendant’s adjuster advises that the defendant only has $50,000 in liability coverage, and offers that amount. Jim has no underinsured motorist coverage of his own, so, after considering the matter, Jim accepts $50,000 to settle the case.

As mentioned above, you want to settle your claim or file a lawsuit (or at least turn the case over to a lawyer) well before Colorado's two-year statute of limitations time period runs out. But you also don’t want to settle it too early, meaning before you are either fully recovered or are as good as you are going to get. This is known as reaching "maximum medical improvement" or MMI.

In Jim’s case, he was at MMI, and so he was ready to settle.

Learn more about Settling a Car Accident Case.

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