Bodily Injury Insurance and Limits
Bodily injury insurance is a type of auto insurance policy coverage costs related to injuries sustained in a car accident. It takes effect on behalf of the policyholder driver, who is established to have been at fault in an accident where other people or parties sustained physical injuries.
Bodily injury insurance coverage encompasses both short- and long-term costs, which do not apply only to the injured passengers of another vehicle involved in the accident. It also extends to any pedestrians or bystanders who sustained injuries in the accident caused by the at-fault driver.
State laws in Colorado require all drivers to have bodily injury liability insurance. The minimum bodily injury liability insurance in Colorado is $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident, and $15,000 per accident for property damage.
DETAILS OF COVERAGE
Bodily injury coverage is not limited to literal physical injuries, although these comprise a large portion of liability insurance. This insurance can also be used to provide compensation to car accident victims regarding any psychological and emotional harm they experience arising from their injury.
Third-party claims on bodily injury also extend to the following types of damages or losses:
- Medical expenses: Relevant medical expenses arising from injury in an accident caused by another (at-fault) driver include ambulance transportation, hospital admission, medical services, and equipment fees. This coverage is important because car accident victims can end up with an extensive list of fees for the medical care they receive. Other expenses that may be covered include rehabilitation, physical therapy, and follow-up visits to the doctor or hospital.
- Pain and suffering: As mentioned, bodily injury insurance may also be used to cover emotional and psychological harm inflicted on victims of car accidents. This is especially important because car accident victims experience trauma and distress, which can continue to affect them long after the incident. Although the concept of pain and suffering is abstract and difficult to quantify, insurers acknowledge the validity of the experience in relation to car accidents. This makes it likely for car accident victims to be compensated for any related emotional or psychological stress they undergo.
- Loss of wages: Depending on the severity or extent of a car accident victim’s injuries, they might require prolonged or extensive medical attention that can affect their ability to work and earn an income the way they did prior to the accident. This is especially significant among victims whose jobs require physical exertion or good health. If they have a serious injury that prevents them from returning to work until they receive the right treatment and have adequate recovery time, they may be compensated for loss of wages or earning capacity during this period under bodily injury insurance.
- Funeral expenses: If the car accident results in the death of a victim, insurers can cover funeral expenses under bodily injury insurance. This way, the burden of the victim’s family members and friends is somehow eased, even if only in financial terms.
- Legal fees: In case an injured party decides to sue the at-fault driver for any injuries or damages sustained, bodily injury insurance may cover related legal fees for those seeking compensation for both economic or non-economic damages. In case the victim dies, their family can also sue the at-fault driver on behalf of their deceased loved one and have their legal fees covered through bodily injury insurance.
If you are the liable driver and also got injured in the accident, bodily injury coverage will not cover any of your expenses associated with the accident.
Since you never know when you’ll figure in a car accident where you can end up being either the victim or at-fault driver, it pays to carry more than the mandatory minimum insurance requirement. If you can afford more insurance, consider getting the following types of coverage:
- Med Pay or MPC: Colorado insurance companies are required to offer you medical payments coverage of at least $5,000. Med Pay covers reasonable medical expenses arising from physical injuries if you are a victim in a car accident. You have the option to refuse it expressly in writing. Conversely, you can also opt for higher coverage through Med Pay.
- Uninsured motorist (UIM) coverage: You can use UIM to cover both economic damages (e.g., medical bills) and certain non-economic damages arising from a vehicular accident involving an uninsured at-fault driver.
- Collision coverage: Collision car insurance covers the cost of repair or replacement needed for damage to your vehicle caused by a crash with another car or a stationary object, such as a fire hydrant, electrical pole, streetlight, or tree. It won’t cover any of your medical expenses resulting from the crash.
- Comprehensive coverage: Comprehensive car insurance covers damages to your car that do not arise from a collision. It typically applies to force majeure or “acts of God or nature” which are usually beyond your control, such as earthquakes, fire accidents, flooding, etc.
CAN YOUR ATTORNEY FIND OUT THE number OF BODILY INJURY LIMITS?
In many states, attorneys can find out the bodily injury limits of a particular at-fault driver by asking their insurance company for that information.
DOES THE AT-FAULT DRIVER HAVE BODILY INJURY LIMITS REQUIRED BY LAW?
When a client comes to see me and hires me, one of the first things that I will do is find out if the at-fault driver carries bodily injury limits. In Colorado, every driver must carry at least $25,000 in bodily injury limits. Like anything else, those drivers who are trying to save money on their insurance premiums usually will carry the state minimum bodily injury limits. Those who have more money and more money to lose will often carry higher bodily injury limits like say $100,000 or $300,000.
IF THE AT-FAULT DRIVER DOES NOT HAVE BODILY INJURY LIMITS, THEN HE OR SHE IS CONSIDERED AN UNINSURED DRIVER
Without bodily injury limits coverage, the at-fault driver becomes an “Uninsured Motorist”. In the state of Colorado, everyone is required to carry $25,000 in bodily injury limits coverage. However, some people end up not being able to pay their premiums or their insurance is canceled. When this happens, these drivers are considered to be “uninsured”.
WHAT CAN YOU DO IF HIT BY AN UNINSURED MOTORIST?
If you are hit by an uninsured driver, then you have no real recourse except to fall back on your own Uninsured Motorist coverage. The problem is that Uninsured Motorist coverage is not mandatory in Colorado, so a lot of people are not encouraged to purchase this type of coverage by their insurance agents. So, if you are injured or killed by an uninsured motorist and did not purchase this coverage, you are out of luck! You can try to go after the at-fault driver individually, but if he does not have bodily injury limits coverage, then he or she probably cannot afford it. If one cannot afford bodily injury limits coverage, then they usually do not have much money to go after in an individual lawsuit. More than likely, you will have great difficulty in finding a personal injury attorney to take a case against an individual who does not carry bodily injury limits.
THERE ARE MANY UNINSURED DRIVERS ON COLORADO ROADS
In these types of uninsured situations, we hope that you would have purchased Uninsured/Underinsured motorist coverage. This is a very important coverage for you to have on each and every vehicle that you own. This prevents an injured person from having no recourse for their injuries. I always encourage my clients and anyone else to purchase and carry uninsured motorist coverage because there are definitely a lot of uninsured drivers on Colorado roads. In fact, Colorado has one of the highest rates of uninsured drivers in the country. It is estimated that 16% of all drivers in Colorado do not carry car insurance, so they would not have any bodily injury limits coverage either.
IN COLORADO, INSURANCE COMPANIES ARE NOT REQUIRED TO REVEAL THEIR INSURED’S BODILY INJURY LIMITS.
My real point today is that the at-fault driver’s insurance company is not required to tell your car accident attorney the amount of their insured’s bodily injury limits. Insurance companies are required to let your car accident attorney know their insured’s bodily injury limits coverage if a lawsuit is filed. Of course, no personal injury attorney is going to file a lawsuit just to find out the at-fault driver’s bodily injury limits.
COLORADO SHOULD FOLLOW FLORIDA’S EXAMPLE
I think the Colorado legislature should pass a statute in Colorado similar to the one in Florida (where I practiced personal injury law for 16 years). In Florida, the Florida legislature saw that this was an unfair advantage to the insurance companies, encouraged litigation and discouraged pre-suit settlements, and felt that there should be a law on this issue. Therefore, in Florida, the legislature passed a statute that reads as follows and requires the insurance companies to tell you within 30 days how much bodily injury limits coverage is available to the at-fault driver:
FLORIDA STATUTE 627.4137 Disclosure of certain information required.
(1) Each insurer which does or may provide liability insurance coverage to pay all or a portion of any claim which might be made shall provide, within 30 days of the written request of the claimant, a statement, under oath, of a corporate officer or the insurer’s claims manager or superintendent setting forth the following information with regard to each known policy of insurance, including excess or umbrella insurance:
(a) The name of the insurer.
(b) The name of each insured.
(c) The limits of the liability coverage.
(d) A statement of any policy or coverage defense which such insurer reasonably believes is available to such insurer at the time of filing such statement.
(e) A copy of the policy.
In addition, the insured, or her or his insurance agent, upon written request of the claimant or the claimant’s attorney, shall disclose the name and coverage of each known insurer to the claimant and shall forward such request for information as required by this subsection to all affected insurers. The insurer shall then supply the information required in this subsection to the claimant within 30 days of receipt of such request.
(2) The statement required by subsection (1) shall be amended immediately upon discovery of facts calling for an amendment to such statement.
(3) Any request made to a self-insured corporation pursuant to this section shall be sent by certified mail to the registered agent of the disclosing entity.
Florida just fully requires the at-fault driver’s insurance company to tell your car accident attorney in writing, the bodily injury limits when requested to do so by the claimant or the claimant’s car accident attorney. This should be the law in Colorado and every state as it lets the injured victim know if there will be enough bodily injury limits insurance available to cover medical bills, pain and suffering, etc. Also, a requirement like this allows an injured victim to know if they should notify their own insurance company in regards to their Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage (if the injured victim wisely chose to purchase this coverage).
I really do not know why the Colorado legislature chooses not to make bodily injury limits available to the public and those who are injured in car accidents. Most likely, insurance companies have a large group of lobbyists in Colorado and have shot down any attempt to make this bodily injury limits law.
INSURANCE COMPANIES & YOUR CAR ACCIDENT ATTORNEY
A good car accident attorney will attempt the insurance adjuster for the at-fault driver to reveal the bodily injury limits. I find that insurance companies will tell you if their insured carries the state minimum bodily injury limits. This can be quite useful if you have serious injuries. In the situation that one has very serious injuries, then the insurance company will most likely tell your car accident attorney the bodily injury limits are the state minimum. $25,000. I also find that insurance companies may informally say that “oh yes, we have plenty of bodily injury limits, $1 million”. In any event, I can find out the bodily injury limits more than half the time.
A statute in Colorado that requires insurance companies to reveal the bodily injury limits would discourage litigation in Colorado. For example, if your car accident attorney knows that the at-fault driver carries the state minimum of $25,000 in bodily injury limits, then he or she will most likely say it is not worth it to file a lawsuit. However, if a client has died or has a very serious injury and your car accident attorney knows that the at-fault driver carries $1 million dollars in bodily injury limits and the carrier is not being reasonable on settlement value, then your car accident attorney can file a lawsuit, knowing that there will be plenty of insurance coverage to go after.
If you have any concerns regarding bodily injury liability insurance, please contact Allen Accident Law.