Who Will Pay My Medical Bills After
If you’re injured in a motor vehicle accident in Colorado, many drivers figure their own insurance policy will cover their medical and other expenses and losses associated with the accident. However, if you have only the basic auto policy required by the state, you may be in for a rude awakening.
Colorado is an at-fault auto insurance state, meaning if you’ve been injured and your car is damaged by the negligence or actions of another driver, that driver can be held financially responsible, either through insurance or personal assets.
If you have only basic liability coverage, the problem lies in the time it’s going to take to get reimbursement from the at-fault driver and/or their insurance company. Your physicians and treatment centers are probably going to demand payment quickly, if not at the time of your visit. So how do you pay? Use your health insurance?
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident in or around Denver, Colorado, contact Mark A. Simon, Attorney at Law. Our team has been handling car accident and personal injury claims for more than three decades. We have the knowledge and resources to press your insurance claim — or file a lawsuit — to fight for the compensation you deserve.
Mark A. Simon, Attorney at Law also proudly represents clients in or around Aurora, Commerce City, Englewood, Arvada, Lakewood, Centennial, Wheat Ridge, and Thornton.
Colorado Auto Insurance Laws
Colorado is an at-fault — or tort — auto insurance state. This means that the at-fault driver is financially liable for any property damages or personal injuries he or she causes, all within some legal parameters and definitions.
As for the insurance requirements to legally drive in Colorado, a person need only purchase the basic liability policy that affords:
$25,000 in personal injury coverage for one person
$50,000 in person injury coverage for all persons
$15,000 for property damage
This type of policy is generally referred to as 25/50/15. You can certainly buy higher limits, but the point to remember is that, being liability insurance, this basic policy covers only injuries and property damage you cause to others, not what happens to you or your passengers. As the Colorado legislative website puts it: “Liability insurance covers bodily injury to another person or property damage to another's vehicle or property when the insured is at fault for an accident."
At the time of purchasing your basic policy, the state requires that the insurer offer you a $5,000 MedPay (medical payment) rider for injuries suffered by you or your passengers. If you opt out of Med-Pay, your initial medical bills after an accident will be your responsibility until the claim or lawsuit against the other driver can be resolved.
Uninsured Motorist (UM) or UnderInsured Motorist (UIM) riders are not required under Colorado law, but they would also cover your injuries and losses until the claim or lawsuit could be resolved.
How to Obtain Compensation for Your Injuries and Losses
Since Colorado is an at-fault state, if you are injured and/or your car damaged in an auto accident when the other party is deemed at fault, you have three options:
File a claim with your insurance company, which will then seek a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company
File a claim directly with the at-fault driver’s insurer
File a personal injury lawsuit
It’s advisable that, before you take any of these actions, you consult with a personal injury/car accident attorney who can assess your options and advise you on the best route to take, or who can even assume the entire claim/lawsuit process on your behalf.
Remember, if you wish to file a lawsuit, Colorado imposes a three-year statute of limitations from the date of the accident, but when it comes to insurance claims, claims must be filed “promptly,” which generally means within days.
Should I Use Health Insurance for My Injuries?
Since your injuries will need to be taken care of immediately but the claim/lawsuit process could take a while (even months) before you receive your settlement or court award, you will somehow have to assume financial responsibility for your treatment and medical expenses.
If you don’t have MedPay, you can definitely turn to your health insurance, but you will have to pay your deductibles and copay. The insurance company will also no doubt have its hands out when you receive your compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance or from the court judgment. They will want to be reimbursed.
Also, some health insurance policies contain a “secondary” provision that states they will pay only any excess amounts after your car insurance or that of the other driver has exhausted its limits.
If you have no health insurance, you are pretty much on your own to make a deal with your providers. Some may agree to take a portion up front. However, if you just run up the bills and never pay, the providers are known to pull the trigger quickly by sending your debt obligation to a bill collector. That could happen before your settlement or court award comes in.
In other words, whether you have insurance or not, it’s a good idea to involve an experienced attorney to advise and guide you through your physical treatment and recovery period until your compensation comes in.
Comparative Fault in Colorado
Colorado observes what is known as the modified comparative fault, or negligence, rule. What this means is that you and the other driver will each be assessed a portion of the fault.
Say you are rear-ended and suffer neck and back injuries, but one brake light is out during the collision. The court or the claim adjuster for the insurance company may hold you 20 percent (or more or less) at fault. Thus, if your compensation package is $20,000, you would receive only $16,000 -- $20,000 minus 20 percent.
Also, if your portion of fault rises above 50 percent, you can collect nothing. For this reason, modified comparative negligence is also known as “the 51 percent rule.”
Rely on Trusted Legal Experience
Many people who have been injured in auto accidents just assume that their insurance company will take care of everything, but that’s not always the case, especially if you have only basic liability coverage. On top of that, filing a claim with the other driver’s insurer, whether by yourself or through your own insurer, can become a lengthy back-and-forth process of questioning, answering, and negotiating.
You may find yourself on the phone being grilled by the third party’s insurance adjuster over what part you played in the accident. The more blame they can pin on you, the less they’ll end up having to pay out. It’s often, if not always, better to let your attorney handle the claim adjusters.
If you’re in or around Denver, rely on experience you can trust. If you or a loved one has been injured in an auto accident, contact Mark A. Simon, Attorney at Law, immediately.
With our 30-plus years of experience, we will listen to your story, formulate a strong plan of action, and fight for the best possible outcome in terms of compensation, whether it’s through an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit.