Summit County was named for its mountains, and while these offer a scenic view, they can also be challenging to drive.
If another driver makes an error or engages in negligent behavior like driving while drunk or distracted, they can easily cause a severe accident in which you are injured. You might be out of work, expected to pay a stack of medical bills, and left without a running vehicle.
What can you do to get compensation for your injuries?
A Summit County Car Accident Attorney Can Help
Many people tell us that a car accident caused them multiple problems. They may struggle to get their health insurance company to pay for their care, have expensive copays, or need help paying their bills while they’re out of work.
Unfortunately, the other driver’s car insurance company isn’t always as helpful as expected in these situations.
Understanding Fault in Car Accidents and Colorado Law
Having your claim rejected by the at-fault driver’s insurance company is frustrating, but it’s not unusual. Insurance company claims adjusters will look for any excuse to deny a claim.
One common reason is that the insured wasn’t at fault, which isn’t surprising when you consider that in many accidents, both parties claim the other was at fault.
What About the Police Report?
We usually begin our investigation with the police report, but it’s important to remember that this report is not a definitive conclusion of fault. The responding officer gathers facts about the accident, mostly from observing the scene and interviewing the drivers and other witnesses.
They’re often needed elsewhere and don’t have the time or resources for a more thorough investigation, so in some cases, they may not have the complete picture of what happened.
The police report will contain both drivers’ statements about the events of the accident, other witness statements if these are available, and some general information about when and where the crash happened.
There are sections describing the damage to both vehicles and any other property, as well as identifying info about the drivers. There are also fields marked as “officer opinion only,” in which the officer is tasked with reporting “human contributing factors” and “driver actions.”
Contributing factors may involve distraction, aggressive driving, or fatigued driving. Driver actions include things like failing to yield or running a stop sign.
These sections are marked as “opinion only” because unless the officer actually witnessed the accident, they are only making an educated guess based on limited information.
That’s a difficult task, and no one will get it right 100 percent of the time, so if you feel the information in this field is inaccurate, we can work to refute it.
Proving Fault in Your Car Accident
After reading your accident report, we’ll review some important details with you to ascertain how accurate they are. If you disagree with anything in the report, we’ll make a note of it and continue our investigation.
Our firm employs an excellent team of skilled investigators who will work to find additional evidence in your case. They will visit the accident site to observe and seek out any witnesses who may have been missed.
Next, our investigators will look for any visible cameras in the area – traffic cameras, security cameras, doorbell cameras, etc. These are often excellent sources of information, and in some cases, we may even locate a video showing exactly what happened in the crash.
The more time elapses after an accident, the more likely it is that any existing video was erased, so the sooner you contact us, the better.
Other electronic evidence can also be helpful. After filing a lawsuit on your behalf, we can request black box data from both/all vehicles involved in the crash.
Most cars produced in the US in the last few decades have event data recorders or EDRs. These boxes are well-protected from crash damage and record various information about an “event,” which is usually a significant collision.
Data includes a report on the car’s system status, the direction the vehicle was headed, its speed, and actions taken by the driver. We can use this information to put together a more complete picture of what happened in your crash.
What if You Think the Accident Was Your Fault?
First, please resist the urge to say this out loud to anyone other than your attorney. Like the responding officer, you may not have all the facts, either, and you could be incorrect.
In fact, we’ve met many drivers who thought they were at fault – but weren’t. When the police ask for your statement, you should answer their questions honestly, but don’t give your opinion on fault or volunteer any information you weren’t asked about.
Second, you should speak with a Summit County car accident lawyer right away, so we can help you determine what actually happened and offer solutions. Even if you really are at fault, it may be possible to get some of your expenses paid by your own car insurance company.
That said, it’s worth mentioning that fault is a complicated subject in civil cases in Colorado because it doesn’t all have to be assigned to one person.
What Is Modified Comparative Negligence?
Many states, including Colorado and Wyoming, use a system called modified comparative negligence in civil cases like those involving car accidents. This system is designed to address the large number of cases where both drivers had some fault in the accident.
Often people think of accidents as being cut and dried – one party is at fault, and the other is innocent. But in real life, this is seldom the case.
Even good drivers make mistakes, and sometimes two drivers make mistakes at the same time.
With this in mind, how do we sort out liability in a car accident? Under modified comparative negligence, the party that is most at fault (more than 50 percent) is liable for the other party’s damages.
For this reason, if you made a small mistake in the accident, it may still have been mostly the other driver’s fault.
For example, maybe you were going 10 miles per hour over the speed limit, but the other driver decided to run a red light.
Could you have stopped in time to avoid the other driver if you had been going a little slower? Maybe, maybe not.
Did the increased speed contribute to more damage from the accident? Possibly.
But you had the right of way, and we could argue that the other driver was mostly at fault for the accident.
If a car accident case goes to trial, a jury is tasked with assigning a percentage of fault to each driver, but most personal injury cases settle out of court. In these everyday situations, insurance companies will negotiate who pays for what.
Keep in mind that both companies will want to pay as little as possible. Both insurance companies will likely insist that their clients had little to no responsibility for the accident.
However, insurance adjusters are practical and primarily concerned with saving the company money. Your insurance company might agree that you had some percentage of fault, less than 50 percent because that will relieve them of responsibility for paying the other party’s claim.
But this percentage of fault will be reduced from your damages when you make a claim with the other insurance company.
Unfortunately, you can’t count on your insurance company to fight for your right to compensation, but you can count on your lawyer. We’ll work to show that you had little to no fault in the accident so you can get the compensation you need to move forward with your life.
Should You Call the Insurance Company and Explain It Wasn’t Your Fault?
No, we strongly recommend that you don’t speak to the insurance company representatives without talking to a lawyer first. The insurance company will probably record your call, then comb through it, looking for anything they can interpret as an admission of fault.
Many people who just want to explain why the crash wasn’t their fault inadvertently say something that is later taken out of context and used against them.
If you have the urge to call the insurance company and set them straight, please call an experienced car accident lawyer instead.
How Can You Find a Summit County Car Accident Law Firm?
Please contact the Olson Law Firm for a free consultation about your case.
Attorney Sean Olson founded the firm to assist accident victims with the often difficult process of obtaining the compensation they deserve for their injuries. He meets with every client personally to discuss their case, learn about their goals, and answer questions.
If we take your case, we’ll keep you updated on our progress, and we’re always responsive if you have questions or concerns. We work on a contingency basis, and you won’t owe us anything until we win or settle your case.
There is no risk in finding out more about your options, so call (303) 586-7297 today.