Injuries can happen in many different ways, from car accidents to falls to violent encounters.
And after an injury, you’ll quickly discover the limits of your health insurance, which may leave you with copays, “out of network” costs,” treatments or tests that aren’t covered for random reasons, and other expenses.
It’s unsurprising, then, that 41 percent of Americans (about 100 million adults) carry medical debt and 12 percent report they owe more than $10,000.
Meanwhile, you could be out of work for days, weeks, or months due to your injuries. But your bills still have to be paid – including those medical bills – even if you’re in so much pain you can hardly think straight.
If an injury has left you or a loved one in a difficult position, you may wonder about your options.
Can a Breckenridge Personal Injury Attorney Help?
Yes. It’s a good idea to consult a Breckenridge personal injury lawyer to learn if you may have a claim against the person or entity responsible for your accident.
In many situations, we can help the injured party recover all or most of their damages for the following types of cases:
- Car accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Truck accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Wrongful death
- Premises liability
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
What if It Was My Fault or Just an Unavoidable Accident?
You should still speak with a personal injury lawyer to be clear on your options for three critical reasons:
- You might be wrong. Believe it or not, we meet many people who think an accident or injury was their fault when it wasn’t. It’s often hard to know exactly what happened – you may have been distracted by your injury, or you simply didn’t have all the facts. A personal injury lawyer will review the details and provide further investigation if needed. Sometimes, we find out that another party is liable for damages.
- Fault can be shared under Colorado law. Even if you made a mistake, the other party could still be primarily at fault, in which case you would be able to collect some damages.
- Even if you were entirely at fault or the injury was unavoidable, there may still be a relevant insurance policy to cover your damages. We can help you determine if any options are available to help with your costs.
How Can You Prove Fault in a Personal Injury Case?
In most personal injury cases, we work to show that another party was negligent, leading to your injuries. There are four elements of negligence:
- Duty of care. We must show that the defendant owed you a duty of care. This broadly means taking reasonable steps not to harm others, which can vary depending on the situation. For instance, if someone is driving a car, it’s reasonable to expect they won’t drive 50 MPH over the speed limit or scroll through Instagram while driving. But if they are managing a grocery store, it’s reasonable to expect they will clean up spills and other hazards that could cause a customer to get hurt.
- A failure in this duty of care. Next, we’ll need to provide evidence that the other party didn’t meet their obligation. In other words, they failed to act as a reasonable person would to protect others – they were speeding excessively, they didn’t clean up a spilled drink, etc.
- Lack of care led to the injury. We’ll present evidence that the defendant’s lack of reasonable care in the situation caused your injuries. This can include physical injuries, emotional distress, lost income, property damage, and more. The most important consideration is to show that the defendant’s actions directly caused these injuries.
- Real consequences. You suffered significant difficulties as a result of your injuries. In other words, you didn’t just have a few scratches but a substantial injury.
Allocation of Fault and Modified Comparative Negligence
Earlier, we talked about shared fault under Colorado law. This is a legal concept called modified comparative negligence.
Many states that have at-fault systems for personal injury cases use modified comparative negligence, in which each party in a case is allocated a percentage of fault.
In some cases where there is overwhelming evidence that one party was entirely at fault and the other party was blameless, this allocation could be 100/0.
But many cases are not so simple – the allocation might be 70/30 or 60/40 or any other breakdown totaling 100. When this occurs, the party that is more than 50 percent responsible is deemed to be at fault, and the other party can collect damages from them.
But there is one more stipulation: The less-responsible party will have their own percentage of fault deducted from their final award. In practical terms, if you have $10,000 in damages and are 30 percent at fault, you will receive $7,000.
There are two significant ramifications to understand:
When we say that you should speak to a lawyer even if you believe you’re at fault, this is one reason why.
Often people tell us the accident or injury was their fault because they made a relatively minor error, while the other party made a far more significant contribution to the incident.
In these situations, we may still be able to recover most of their damages because they only had a small percentage of fault.
While modified comparative negligence can be beneficial to the plaintiff in many cases, the other party’s insurance adjuster will take full advantage if they can.
They may argue that you were mostly at fault and, therefore, they shouldn’t have to pay anything. Even if they don’t win the argument, they often succeed in placing a higher percentage of blame on the plaintiff, meaning that they can pay less for the claim.
Either way, they save money – and you lose. But you can fight back by engaging an experienced Breckenridge personal injury lawyer to gather evidence in your favor and present it in your case.
Does That Mean You Have to Go to Trial to Prove Your Case?
It’s possible but unlikely because most personal injury cases settle out of court in negotiations with the other party and/or the relevant insurance carrier.
Modified comparative negligence statutes provide a framework for settling personal injury claims in court, but they also influence out-of-court negotiations.
What this means is that attorneys for both the injured party and the defendant or insurance company will each try to convince the other they could win at trial.
The more evidence we have in your favor, the more the other party or insurance company will be motivated to negotiate a reasonable settlement for your damages.
As you might imagine, this is why we work hard to find as much evidence as possible in your case. Our policy is to always prepare as if we were going to trial because this level of preparation improves our ability to settle your case quickly and for a fair amount.
Some common types of evidence we look for include the following:
- Photographic or video evidence. If you’re hurt in an accident – whether it’s a car accident or a slip and fall in a shoe store – it’s helpful to take pictures of the accident scene, your injuries, and any damage to property like your vehicle. However, we know it may not be practical to start taking pictures when you’re bleeding, in pain, or otherwise distracted. That’s why we have a skilled investigative team to search for other sources of photographic evidence – in today’s world, this often means security or doorbell cameras, dashcams, other witnesses who took pictures on their phones, traffic cameras, etc.
- Witness accounts. If you have the names and contact information of people who witnessed your accident or injury, these will be helpful to our investigation. But again, we can search for witnesses if you can’t get their information. Frequently our investigators visit the scene, knock on doors, meet people who live and work in the area, and find those who saw what happened.
- Electronic evidence. Aside from photos or videos, the abundance of digital devices in our modern world may also provide other types of evidence. One example is event data recorder (EDR) data from each vehicle in a motor vehicle accident – not only cars but also large trucks and motorcycles usually have EDRS. Sometimes called “black boxes,” these recorders store data about a crash, such as how fast and in what direction the vehicle was moving and the driver’s actions before and during the accident. Another example would be smartphone data, which might show if another driver was texting, using social media, or distracted while driving during the crash.
The sooner our investigative team gets to work, the more evidence they will likely find. Some types of evidence are destroyed after days or weeks – for example, video files are erased often because they eat up hard drive space.
If you’re recovering from an injury and even suspect another party’s negligence could be involved, please contact a Breckenridge personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
How Can You Get Advice From a Breckenridge Personal Injury Law Firm?
The Olson Law Firm offers free, confidential consultations for anyone with questions or concerns about a potential personal injury case.
Attorney Sean Olson founded the firm to help injured people get the compensation they need to recover and move on with their lives. He personally meets with every client and is always available to answer calls or emails.
Call the Olson Law Firm today at (720) 730-4325.