Many clients or potential clients call and ask me if they have a “case”. Every factual situation is different and every legal situation calls for different legal interpretation and the proper interpretation of Colorado case law and statutes. The most common type of personal injury case in Colorado and in most states is a car accident, motorcycle accident or Truck accident. As I have written before, drivers in Colorado must carry $25,000/$50,000 Bodily Injury coverage (which protects you if you injure or kill someone else). This is not much in the way of coverage considering today’s cost of living and medical bill expenses. One visit to the Emergency Room, after a car crash, can easily exceed $10,000. So, I also recommend that drivers in the State of Colorado carry a minimum of $10,000 in medical payments coverage. This coverage covers your medical expenses at the hospital and a possible ambulance ride to the Hospital.
So, do you have a case? Whether you have a cases depends on basically 3 things. First, there must be liability which means there must be someone at fault. If there is no liability, then there is no case. For example, if you are driving down I-25 and veer off the highway and hit a tree due to no fault but your own, there is no liability and there is no at fault party to pursue. However, if you veered of the highway because another driver fell asleep and pushed you off the highway, then there is said to be “clear” liability and that other driver is “liable” or at fault. The first thing that you need to have a successful case is a case with liability where the other party is at fault for your accident and injuries. The second element of a case is causation. If the other driver or at fault party did not “cause” your injuries, then the case stops there and you have no case. So, the at fault party must have “caused” your injuries for that party to be responsible or liable. Liability and causation are the hallmarks of a personal injury cases and without both of these elements, then it does not matter how badly you are injured.
The last element of a case is whether or not you have suffered injuries and financial damages. If you have the first two elements and have suffered injuries, then you can recover money damages in the State of Colorado. Colorado used to be a no-fault or PIP state, but changed to a fault state as the legislature thought this would save money and cut down on the number of lawsuits. Of course, it has had the opposite affect and things were arguably better for injury victims when Colorado was a no-fault state. In any event, the worse your injuries, the more money that can generally be sought against the at-fault driver’s insurance company. If you have relatively minor injuries, your case may be worth less than $10,000 and we call those cases, minor, soft tissue injury cases. Usually, the insurance companies will fight tooth and nail when you have this type of case and it generally does not make sense to file a lawsuit when your damages are less than $10,000 as court costs and litigation can eat up this amount of money. It is normally better to settle the minor, soft tissue cases without going to Trial as it is always a risk to let a jury decide your fate. On the other hand, if you have more serious injuries, like a fracture, head injury, permanent scarring, herniated disc (s), then it can make perfect sense to litigate your case if the insurance company is not willing to settle, pre-suit in an amount that is reasonable given your injuries. It may take some time to litigate your case in order to force the insurance company to realize that your injuries and damages are worth what we are asking for. A lot of cases do settle in Mediation which is where you and I along with the other side (the insurance company adjuster and maybe their lawyer) sit down with a neutral mediator and try to settle your case without spending more money in Court.