What Is Bodily Injury In a Car Accident?
“Bodily injury” is a term used by insurance companies to describe a type of car insurance, bodily injury liability. Most states (including Colorado and Wyoming) require drivers to carry a minimum amount of bodily injury liability. In the event of a car accident, the at-fault driver’s bodily injury liability should cover medical expenses for injured parties other than the at-fault driver.
So My Liability Insurance Doesn’t Cover My Injuries?
Not if the accident was your fault, no. Many people are unpleasantly surprised to find out that their liability insurance only covers their liability to others, not their own injuries. However, if you purchased MedPay coverage, this will pay for your injuries in a car accident, no matter who was at fault.
If you were not at fault for the accident, the other driver’s bodily injury liability insurance should cover:
- Your medical expenses, like hospital bills, prescriptions, follow-up appointments, etc. Your attorney will probably want to wait until your treatment is complete to be sure all your medical costs are accounted for in your claim. However, if your condition is permanent or it looks like you will need long-term care, your lawyer can put together an estimate for future costs.
- The other driver’s legal fees.
- Your lost income if you miss work due to the injuries. Remember that paid days off still count as lost income because you can no longer use those days.
- Your pain and suffering. That refers to both physical pain and emotional or mental anguish.
- Funeral/burial costs if a loved one died due to the accident.
What About Car Repairs?
These are covered by the at-fault driver’s property damage liability policy, which is also required in Colorado and Wyoming. If you were at fault for the accident, Collision coverage (which is optional) would pay for your property damage.
How Does a Bodily Injury Claim Work?
If you pay any attention to car insurance commercials, you might think filing a claim is simple. You might expect you’ll get paid right away because the insurance company and its employees all care very much about you.
Unfortunately, in the real world, insurance adjusters care very much about the bottom line. If they can find a reason to reject your claim, they will. In modified comparative negligence states like Colorado or Wyoming, they often use fault as a reason. In other words, you make a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance, and the insurance adjuster decides that maybe you were at fault, so they don’t have to pay your claim.
How Does Modified Comparative Fault Work?
Under modified comparative negligence statutes, fault in an accident is decided based on percentages. Most cases are settled out of court, but if a case goes before a jury, the jury is then asked to give each driver a percentage of fault. Whoever is mostly responsible – by a 51 percent or higher – is considered to be “at fault” for the purposes of insurance. The non-fault driver can collect damages from the at-fault driver, which that driver’s insurance company usually pays.
There is another thing you need to know about modified comparative negligence: If you are assigned a portion of fault less than 50 percent, you can still collect damages, but you will lose your percent of responsibility from the final award. So if you have $30,000 in damages and are 20 percent at fault, you would only receive $24,000.
Once you understand how modified comparative negligence works, it’s easy to see why an insurance adjuster would be so insistent that you were at fault for an accident, even if there’s evidence the other driver made mistakes. If you are only a little bit at fault, the insurance company can still reduce its burden by shifting some blame to you.
Who Decides Your Percentage of Fault If You Do Not Go to Court?
The insurance companies – yours and the other driver’s. Most car accident cases are settled out of court by the insurance carriers. If you don’t have a lawyer, you just have to hope that your insurance company fights to get all the compensation you deserve. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. Your insurance company adjuster will likely blame the other driver because they don’t want to pay any damages. But they might agree to a settlement that assigns some blame to you because:
- It means they don’t have to pay anything.
- You still receive a check if your percentage of fault is less than 50 percent. Your insurance carrier can say they did their job and secured your settlement.
- Your insurance company doesn’t want the expense of arguing about the accident in court.
- Settling your claim as quickly as possible reduces their costs (hours spent working on your claim).
It’s also helpful to remember that comparative fault is still an issue for the insurance companies. If your lawyer is able to show strong evidence that the other driver caused the crash and you were blameless, their insurance adjuster will usually be more amenable to making a fair deal.
How Can You Prove the Other Driver Was at Fault?
This varies depending on the nature of the accident, but your first step should be speaking with a car accident lawyer. We will go over the accident report, then assign an investigator to search for more evidence. In some cases, we might visit the crash site, looking for doorbell or security cameras that might have captured the accident. We may also look for witnesses who might have been missed when the police arrived. Additionally, we can ask the court for access to the “black box” data from both vehicles, which allows us to learn more about the accident – for example, how fast and in what direction each car was going. By gathering all this evidence, we not only put together a complete picture of the crash, but we are fully prepared to fight for your damages in court or negotiations with the insurance carrier.
Should You Negotiate with the At-Fault Driver’s Insurance Company Yourself If You Think Your Settlement is Too Low?
We don’t recommend this option for several reasons. First, it’s too easy to say something the insurance adjuster might misconstrue to mean you were at fault. Also, they are probably recording your phone call so they can play it back and pick apart everything you say. Even people who think they’re speaking carefully can accidentally say something the insurance adjuster twists into a different meaning.
The other problem is that most people who don’t work in the legal field or the insurance industry have no idea what their claim is worth – it’s easy to miss costs or losses. One of the first things we do when talking with clients is attempt to calculate all their damages. Often we mention things they never thought of or point out that their treatment is not complete. We will cover all possible damages, then discuss what typical settlement amounts might be for similar damages.
Sometimes when the insurance adjuster realizes there is considerable evidence that their client was at fault and none that you did anything wrong, they will simply make you an offer. This seems like good news, because it means they aren’t trying to blame you, and you don’t have to worry about how to prove the other driver was at fault. But you should be very careful about accepting the insurance company’s offer – it may be a lowball one. If you accept, you’ll be signing paperwork that says the insurance company has fulfilled their responsibility where the accident is concerned – you have no more business with them. Then, if you later realize you have additional damages, you won’t have any legal recourse to collect from the insurance company.
How Should You Evaluate an Insurance Company’s Offer?
Ask a car accident lawyer to review the offer before you sign anything. If it’s a good deal and covers all your damages, sign it and send it back. If not, your lawyer can help you by negotiating with the insurance carrier on your behalf and fighting to get all your damages covered. Your attorney can also answer any questions you have about an offer or your damages.
Where Can You Get Help with Your Colorado or Wyoming Car Accident Claim?
Please contact the OIson Law Firm for a free case review at 720-410-6188. Our hardworking attorneys and investigators will review all the details and search for more evidence to prove your case. We always prepare as if we are going to court, and this helps ensure you receive a more equitable settlement for your car accident.
Attorney Sean Olson started the Olson Law Firm to help injured people tell their stories and pursue the compensation they need to put their lives back together. He personally meets with each client and is always available to answer questions or update you on your case.