First, how long it will take to try to settle your case depends largely on how you do in terms of your recovery. At the Tenge Law Firm, we don't like to submit a client's claim for a settlement unless and until you have received all the treatment your medical providers recommend, and are either all healed, or have reached maximum medical improvement ("MMI"). It is at one of those points in time that we believe it is appropriate to commence preparing the actual settlement demand. Keep in mind, that there are situations where the injured person will need treatment for life, or may still be receiving care for years after an accident. Thus, regardless of MMI status, BE AWARE that all states and the federal law impose time limitations for bringing injury claims. In Colorado, the general limitations period is 3 years from the date of accident. However, there are certain situations in which you may need bring your claim, or provide notice of it, within 180 days. Contact a lawyer now.
You have reached MMI when you have received ALL medical and rehabilitative care, including appropriate surgeries and/or diagnostic tests (MRIs, CT scans, X-rays, for example), so that you know exactly what your injuries are, and if they are not fully healed, what future pain and limitations you may have, including any and all future care and the cost thereof. MMI assumes you are not all the way better Again, it is best to make sure the injured victim has reached MMI, and then all future care and treatment needs (and especially the costs) are known and can be claimed and recovered against the Defendant and/or their insurance company.
Investigate the Facts of the Accident and the Mechanism of Injury.
Before you make any claim it is important to investigate the facts of the accident, the damage to the cars involved, the mechanism of injury (i.e. how the forces of the car wreck caused or contributed to the injuries to your body), take plenty of photos and/or videos of the scene, the cars involved and even your injuries (if possible), interview witnesses and get statements from them (they can forget, move away, or even die). Essentially you are making sure you have solid evidence in place to prove liability against the other driver. You are also establishing how the forces of your accident impacted your body and caused your injuries. You will need this evidence in place both to prepare and settle your case, but also to bring your case to trial if you are unable to reach a settlement with the insurance company and/or defendant. PLEASE SEE MY LEGAL GUIDE ON WHAT TO DO AFTER AN ACCIDENT.
Get Medical Treatment.
You will need to receive any and all medical, rehabilitative or surgical care your medical providers recommend. It is imperative to know exactly what injuries you sustained in the accident, and what pain and limitations you may have into the future, and the cost of any future care, including without limitation, surgery, physical therapy, medications, etc. This may require that you ask the medical provider for a "narrative report" concerning your diagnosis, treatment, cause of your injuries, future care and cost, surgical care if applicable, limitations, impact on doing your job and your activities of daily living (ADLs). Make sure you follow your medical providers' advice. Don't miss appointments. Don't simply "live with it". Go get medical treatment. Be sure to explain all your symptoms to your medical providers whether or not you believe it is "accident related". In short, let them be the judge of that!
Commence a Health Insurance and/or MedPay Claim to Get Medical Care.
If you have medical payments coverage on your automobile in Colorado you will want to open a medpay claim and submit all your accident-related medical expenses to the medpay carrier under the medpay claim number. When you go to the doctor, you provide your medpay claim information. Medpay is PRIMARY - meaning it pays FIRST before health insurance. If and when you exhaust your medpay benefits, THEN your health carrier becomes PRIMARY, and then you submit your bills to the health carrier as you would for a typical healthcare visit unrelated to an accident. PLEASE SEE MY LEGAL GUIDE ON MEDICAL PAYMENTS COVERAGE.
Insurance Coverage Analysis.
Before settling an injury claim, it is imperative to investigate/determine any and all possible insurance coverage available to cover your injuries, losses and damages arising from the accident. An in depth explanation of this aspect is way too broad for this article, but suffice it to say, you want to determine potential liable defendants (who was possibly at fault), what insurance they have and how much, whether you have UM/UIM coverage in the event the person who hit you is either uninsured or underinsured. PLEASE SEE MY LEGAL GUIDE ON UM/UIM COVERAGE FOR FURTHER EXPLANATION.
Calculate Wage, Business or Earnings Losses - Past and Future.
Many injured victims are unable to work due to their injuries. At a minimum, injury victims miss work attending medical appointments. Make sure you document your wage or business losses any and all ways possible. Document, document and document some more. If you have a viable, provable wage or business loss sustained as a result of the accident, this will add significant value to your claim, and frankly, make it more likely to settle versus going to trial. Also, if you will lose income in the future, or have lost earning capacity, project and total the amount and make it part of your claim as well.
Calculate Your Out of Pocket Expenses.
An injury victim is entitled to all damages which are a "consequence" of the underlying accident and injuries. Thus, for any out of pocket expenses you incurred, make sure you document and total them, and include these in your settlement demand to the insurance company. Examples include, copays, uninsured medical expenses, over the counter medications or devices, mileage expenses traveling to and from medical appointments, deductibles, home maintenance care, lawn care, personal care, childcare, etc.
Investigate the At Fault Person and/or Company.
It is important to have an understanding about the background of the at-fault driver and their employer if they were on the job at the time of the accident. This is ESPECIALLY true if you were injured by a commercial vehicle, such as an 18 wheeler tractor trailer truck. You need to figure out who you are dealing with, and if there are any "aggravating" factors associated with the at fault party(s). For example, excessive speed, prior accidents, and drugs or alcohol. If the other driver was texting or on the cell phone, this is important to know and establish as they are both "aggravating" factors which should increase your claim value. If a commercial vehicle was involved, you will need to thoroughly assess the company and the driver. This frankly is another topic in and of itself.
Total your Injuries, Damages and Losses.
You will need to assemble, calculate and total ALL the above to figure out your total injuries, damages and losses for preparing your claim for a demand. You will also be entitled to other types of damages as well. PLEASE SEE MY LEGAL GUIDE ON TYPES OF DAMAGES IN COLORADO.
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