Who is responsible & what to expect
In Colorado, roughly 450 traffic fatalities occur each year, and car accidents are the most common type of accident for which people file a personal injury lawsuit. Drivers who are distracted by texting or phone calls, and drivers who are intoxicated, make our highways and neighborhoods especially dangerous.
A simple auto accident case is one where the liability (fault) is clear and injuries suffered are easily identified and explained. Few cases fall completely in this category, and careful investigation and research is crucial to a successful claim. Many people don’t know that a traffic citation may not determine responsibility in a civil lawsuit.
Talk to an attorney as soon as possible about what happened, who’s responsible, how you will pay for medical expenses and loss of income, and whether you may have a potentially successful case.
We understand that you may feel confused about the details or wondering if you could have done something to avoid the accident. But you also want to take some control of what happened to you, and what will happen next. You’re in the right place.
The attorneys of Chalat Hatten & Banker have represented victims in every type of roadway accident, and with every type of injury or circumstances of wrongful death. We know that deep experience, insight, and compassion are required. As the victim you are likely facing many months of painful physical and emotional recovery; or as the bereaved family, your suffering is already unimaginable. We’d like to be the experienced legal ally on your side, letting you focus on the difficult process of healing and closure, starting now.
What makes a car accident case unique?
The leading contributing factor in car accidents is driver error, most often due to distracted driving or drunk driving. Other factors contributing to auto accidents are traffic violations, equipment or vehicle failure and road conditions.
The nationally recognized Consumer Reports National Research Center performed a national study in which nearly two-thirds of the survey respondents reported that they had seen drivers in other vehicles texting on a cell phone or other mobile device in the previous 30 days. Almost all had observed motorists talking on a handheld phone. In the same period, more than half had seen a dangerous situation that was related to a distracted driver.
Colorado is one of nine states where texting while driving is prohibited. We have experience in securing phone records to prove the use of the phone at the time of the accident, raising the presumption of a distracted driver.
Our lawyers have represented victims of accidents caused by drunk drivers. These have included accidents on highways, in neighborhoods, involving pedestrians, and accidents involving individuals with disabilities. We have also had a number of cases arising from car versus house accidents, hit and run cases and dram shop (against a tavern for over-serving) cases. We understand alcohol toxicology, and the science of how to prove a defendant driver was drunk. We have experience in managing a civil case which is parallel to criminal proceedings, such as a wrongful death case pending while a criminal case for vehicular homicide advances to trial. Such cases often involve ethical working relationships with local law enforcement and compelling information by subpoena or motion which the at-fault drunk driver seeks to with-hold under 5th Amendment protections. We typically ask for punitive damages in drunk driving cases, and in one recent case we were awarded punitive damages in excess of $2 million.
Who is held responsible for my car accident?
Most serious motor vehicle accidents will be assessed by the attending police officer or state patrol, but resulting traffic citations may not determine the responsibility in a civil lawsuit. Your personal injury claim for the motor vehicle accident will be filed in a different court from the traffic offenses. If you believe that your car accident resulted because of the negligence of another party, then you should speak to an attorney.
Colorado requires all drivers to carry bodily injury liability coverage of at least $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. This insurance provides coverage when an insured causes an accident in which someone is hurt or killed. Colorado also requires $15,000 in property liability coverage, for instances when the at-fault driver causes damage to someone else’s property. Usually, this is someone else’s car, but it could apply to buildings, utility poles, garage doors, etc.
Collision coverage, which is optional, covers damage to your car from a collision with another car, but also applies in one-vehicle accidents where your car strikes another object. Comprehensive coverage – also optional -provides protection when your car is stolen or damaged in ways that don’t involve an impact. Covered risks include hail, fire, theft, flood, earthquake, explosion and falling objects.
Medical payments coverage, or MPC, pays for reasonable expenses you and your passengers incur because of injury in a motor vehicle accident, regardless of fault. As of July 1, 2003 this optional coverage is available in place of Colorado’s formerly mandated PIP coverage. Coverage amounts available vary from company to company. You may wish to purchase it if you or your passengers do not have health insurance, or to supplement your health insurance.
Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage protects you by allowing you to make a claim against your own insurance carrier if you are injured as a result of the negligence of a driver who had no bodily injury liability insurance. This coverage also provides protection if you are the victim of a hit-and-run accident.
A close cousin to uninsured motorist coverage is underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. Your insurance carrier is required to offer you the opportunity to purchase underinsured motorist coverage up to the limits of the amount of the liability coverage that you have purchased.
Uninsured motorist coverage is available in two forms: property damage coverage (UM PD) and medical coverage, which is designed to pay your bills when you are hit by a driver without insurance. If you were seriously injured in an auto accident, incurred high medical expenses, and the person who caused the accident had liability limits lower than your underinsured motorist limits, you are entitled to make a claim against your UIM carrier for the difference between the two figures.
In Colorado, insurers are required to offer you this coverage at the same limits as your liability coverage. UM/UIM can be waived only if rejected in writing. You can also select other limits. Most people choose to carry UM/UIM to cover their economic damages, such as medical bills, as well as some non-economic damages should the person who hit you be uninsured or underinsured.
Our experience and knowledge extends to insurance questions and details including primary auto coverage, under-insured and un-insured policies, stacking, excess and umbrella coverage, permissive driving coverage, family car doctrine, bad-faith and excess claims. If you have complications in your insurance picture then we will be able to assist you.
What to expect from a car accident lawsuit
Investigation and research is the starting point for a successful car accident claim. Close review of the accident scene will help identify the primary factors contributing to the auto accident. We have working relationships with well-qualified engineers and traffic accident reconstruction experts whom we retain as is necessary for our clients. Through these expert-witness relationships, evidence, and study, we have gained and can employ, for the benefit of our clients, our working knowledge of momentum analyses relating to accident reconstruction, Event Data Recorder (EDR) evidence, and US DOT coding.
A simple auto accident case is one where liability is clear – fault for the accident is not disputed – and the injuries suffered by those involved are easily identified and explained. Having at least one physician who can describe the injury as resulting from the accident is critical, and significant body-damage to the vehicles helps persuade a jury of the severity of the collision. We frequently handle this type of case on a discounted fee basis.
A complex auto accident case may involve a plaintiff with pre-existing medical conditions, little damage to the vehicles, or a wide range of care providers.
Few cases fall completely within the simple category, and most require thoughtful analysis and presentation of the damages to recover fair compensation for the victim.
A successful claim for a car accident usually involves serious damages. We have represented victims who were airlifted and hospitalized for Level 1 care. Therefore we understand the implications of complex, multiple and high-trauma injuries, related surgical procedures, and rehabilitation. Our experience has involved every Level One hospital, and pediatric facility, in Colorado. We have a solid reputation for ethical and informed relationships with the medical staffs in these hospitals, as well as with the rehabilitation community including Craig, Spalding, and other rehab/TBI/SCI institutions.
The nature of the injuries suffered in many car accidents often means expensive treatment and rehabilitation are needed over a long-term period. Past and future medical expenses are often coupled with a loss of income if the victim was previously employed. The injured victim may seek compensation from the negligent party for all of these expenses. Read more about Damages.
Handling all Cases on a Contingency Basis
For your car accident case, as in all of our personal injury cases, you will only be asked to pay attorney fees if we are successful in recovering compensation for you.
Accidents happen. What’s next?
Chalat Hatten & Banker can help. Let’s talk one-on-one about your case. We’ll answer your questions during a free, no-obligation consultation. Call 303-861-1042 today.
How We Helped a Client Win a Car Accident Case
$1.2 Million in Damages When Utility Truck Kills Grandmother
Mother and Grandmother Die from Car Accident Injuries.Husband Pursues Wrongful Death Claim Court: Confidential settlement reached. Plaintiff’s Counsel: Chalat Hatten Law Offices PC Facts…