Accidents are inevitable, especially in and around major cities like Denver. During the latest reporting year in Colorado, the state DOT says that there were 119,373 total motor vehicle crashes. Out of those, there were 601 fatal crashes and 25,894 crashes involving an injury.
If you or a loved one are involved in a motor vehicle accident, one of the most important things to know is whether or not you will receive compensation for your losses. If someone else is at fault for your crash, you are usually entitled to compensation for your damages (monetary losses). However, understanding this process and the types of compensation available can be difficult.
Types of Damages You Can Collect Compensation For
When discussing compensation for a motor vehicle accident, there are two basic types – economic damages and non-economic damages.
This is an economic damage that is used to cover the costs of past, current, and future medical care that a crash victim may incur. The costs of past and current medical care can generally be established by gather medical bills. Calculating the cost of future medical care that may be needed may require help from expert medical witnesses who can testify as to the expected care going forward.
This is an economic damage that is meant to help victims who cannot work due to their injuries. This can cover work missed while a victim is recovering, and it can also cover the cost of lost future income if they are unable to work or can only work in a diminished capacity. These damages can generally be assessed by examining a victim’s income history as well as their future earnings potential.
Pain and suffering
This is a non-economic damage that is not as easily quantifiable as medical care and lost income. These are generally referred to as pain and suffering damages and can include:
- long-term physical pain
- emotional distress
- loss of enjoyment of life
- loss of consortium
In cases where the at-fault party’s actions were grossly negligent or intentional, punitive damages may be awarded to the plaintiff. As the name suggests, these damages are designed to punish the defendant and to discourage the same actions in the future.
We want to point out that Colorado puts caps on certain types of damages. Damage caps can limit the amount a person can recover in personal injury cases.
Is there a limit to how much money I can be awarded after an auto accident in Colorado?
In Colorado, there is no cap on economic damages (medical expenses and lost income). However, the state does place a cap on how much a person can receive for non-economic damages (pain and suffering). This cap is $250,000, plus inflation. As of 2019, the most a person can receive in non-economic damages is $468,010. For wrongful death non-economic damages, the cap is currently $436,070.
Keep insurance minimums in mind
When it comes to securing the compensation you deserve after a car accident, you will generally be dealing with insurance carriers. However, it is important to understand that most Coloradans carry only the basic minimum coverage required by the state. The Colorado minimum insurance requirements are:
- $25,000 bodily injury per person per accident
- $50,000 bodily injury for all persons per accident
- $15,000 property damage liability
For more serious injuries, these minimums will not be enough to cover a victim’s expenses. Consider that a spinal cord injury can range from $359,000 to over $1.1 million, according to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC).
Is it necessary to file a lawsuit after you have been injured in an auto accident?
If the insurance minimums do not cover the total cost of your losses then you may need to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
Can you negotiate a settlement?
Whether you are working with insurance carriers after a motor vehicle crash or have filed a personal injury lawsuit, there will likely be negotiation involved. It is recommended that you work with an attorney that specializes in motor vehicle accidents. Insurance carriers will almost always offer less than what you truly deserve at first. With help from a skilled attorney, you can present your case and work to receive a higher settlement.