It’s no secret that we live in a dangerous world. You can get hurt at any time, anywhere. We have evolved to realize that danger is simply a part of our lives. And because of that, we tend to become oblivious to hazards that are around us every day. We can take every step to increase our own safety, but we clearly can’t do anything about anyone else’s actions, their carelessness, or negligence. And those things can and do create a lot of harm around us, no matter how careful we are.
One of the areas where this negligence becomes exceedingly evident is driving a motor vehicle. In 2016 in Colorado alone, there were over 19,000 vehicle accidents resulting in 210 fatalities, and thousands of injuries. The auto insurance industry estimates that on average, a driver will be involved in an accident every 18 years. If this is accurate, the odds are that you’ll be in at least three accidents in your life, if you were licensed at age 16.
There are specific steps you should take after being involved in a car accident. In this article, we’ll present those steps that are vital to your health, safety, and those steps that will provide important evidence when it comes to recovering damages for the injuries that you’ve suffered. And keep in mind that while we’re discussing vehicle accidents here, these steps apply to any accident, whether it’s a car crash, slip and fall, etc.
In Colorado, it is illegal to leave the scene of an accident. If you do, you could face misdemeanor or felony charges, up to $750,000 in fines, and jail time. Stay at the scene and call the police. Wait until they arrive, and cooperate with whatever they may need from you regarding the investigation.
Especially if there are injuries and property damage involved, the first thing you should do is call 911. Law enforcement officers are trained to investigate the scene of any accident and document what they see. When they arrive at the scene, they will ask questions of you, other drivers involved, and any witnesses present. If you’ve been injured in a car accident, the police report that is generated will be a vital piece of evidence in your case that will support your allegations toward the negligent driver.
In Colorado, you are not legally required to provide aid to anyone injured in an accident, and in fact, you can be sued if you provide aid that you are not qualified to administer. Colorado Good Samaritan Laws only protect licensed medical professionals who volunteer aid. The best thing you can do is to make sure that you are okay, and call 911.
Share your contact information with any other drivers involved in the accident, and write down their information, as well. You will want to collect their name, address, phone number, license plate number, and driver’s license information. Most importantly, exchange insurance information, including the name of their insurance company and policy number (snap pictures of insurance cards). When you provide this information to your attorneys, it will make it easier for them to contact those parties involved in the accident and submit insurance claims.
While sharing information is acceptable, never apologize or claim to be at fault for the accident. Remember that everything you say at the scene of the accident may be noted and reported by the “other side,” and has the potential to be used against you when you file your claim. Do not apologize for the accident. Do not admit fault for the accident. Do not attempt to explain what happened to anyone but the police.
If there are witnesses to the accident, speak with them at the scene and discuss what they saw. Ask if you can record their contact information. This will prove very beneficial to your claim in the future when your attorney is collecting evidence to support your case and recover damages.
Luckily, most of us have smartphones that we can use to immediately document the accident with photographic evidence. Take pictures of:
Remember that if you don’t take photographs, you will have no visual evidence to support your claim of damages, so it is vital that you take as many pictures as you can.
Assuming that you have an auto insurance policy, you should contact your insurance company immediately after the accident to report it. If you don’t report the accident to your insurance company, it could negatively affect your future ability to obtain auto insurance coverage.
There are three parties that you should discuss the details of your accident with: your attorney, your insurance company, and law enforcement. These are the only three parties that you are obligated to talk to. The negligent driver’s insurance company may ask you for a statement about the accident. Don’t do it. You are not required to talk about the accident or discuss any details with the negligent driver’s insurance company, and in fact, doing so may negate your ability to obtain compensation for the injuries that you have suffered. Anything you talk about regarding your accident can be potentially used against you to limit the damages you’re able to recover, so keep your accident conversations limited to the three parties mentioned above.
If the negligent party’s insurance company offers you a settlement, you must have it reviewed by your attorney. Their insurance company will automatically try to “lowball” with an offer that undervalues your claim. They will pressure you to accept the settlement with manipulation tactics. This is where having a competent, experienced personal injury attorney becomes vital, because your attorney will already be aware of these pressure tactics, and can communicate with the insurance company regarding the settlement for you so that you can get the compensation for your injuries that you deserve.
If you’ve been injured in an accident in Colorado that wasn’t your fault, we at Marathon Law encourage you to contact us today for a free, confidential consultation. We will listen to the details of the accident and your injuries, and offer you an educated assessment of the strength of your case and what it might be worth. You can contact us by phone at (303) 704-1222 or via our website.