A horrifying truck accident which occurred last week in Denver demonstrates the uncertainty as to with whom you may be sharing the road. Last Thursday Francis Hernandez, 23, was driving a Chevrolet Suburban when he crashed into a Mazda pickup truck that was turning into a Good Times in Aurora. The collision drove the pickup into a Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop, killing two women in the truck and a 3-year-old boy waiting for ice cream.
Aurora police had stopped Hernandez in April for speeding, and failing to signal for a turn. They found he had two outstanding warrants for failure to appear in Adams County and Arapahoe County. That arrest was one of 16 that Hernandez racked up over five years, most of them for driving offenses. He is also suspected of being in the country illegally.
Many motorists will seek some protection by obtaining Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage or Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage under their automotive insurance policy. Recent changes in Colorado law make this an even better idea by increasing the benefits likely to be gained from such coverage.
In 2007, the Colorado statute pertaining to UM coverage was amended with respect to policies issued or renewed after January 1, 2008. The amendments help innocent victims in several ways. The availability of UIM coverage is no longer dependent upon the amount of UM coverage carried by the injured party – UIM coverage is now triggered when liability coverage does not fully compensate the injured party.
One of the most important changes under the new law is the prohibition for the UIM carrier to reduce available limits of coverage by offsetting the limit by the amount paid by the responsible party. As an example – prior to the 2007 changes, if an injured party who had $50,000 in UIM coverage suffered damages in the amount of $65,000, and the responsible party – the tortfeasor – had paid $25,000 then the UIM carrier could reduce the UIM by the amount paid by the tortfeasor, reducing available UIM coverage to $25,000 and resulting in only $50,000 paid to the injured person. Under the new law, the injured party would receive the $25,000 from the tortfeasor and $40,000 from the UIM coverage.
However the statute does not prohibit reducing the amount of coverage by amounts actually received by the injured party. In the above example, the injured party could not receive $25,000 from the tortfeasor and look to his UIM coverage for the full $65,000.