What Should You Do After a Car Accident?
It can be jarring and scary when a motor vehicle accident occurs. And in the moments following a car crash, you may not know what to do. It is common to enter a state of shock, become disoriented, confused, and have difficulty thinking clearly. Because of the stressful nature of a car crash, you should be prepared with an accident procedure and a checklist of what to do if you are involved in a collision.
If you have been involved in a car accident in Colorado, there are several steps you should follow, and it is critical to take action right away. We recommend keeping a list of phone numbers, your insurance information, a list of questions to ask, and a checklist of information to obtain from the other party in your car if an incident occurs.
Use the following steps as a guide on what to do after a crash, and contact us if you or anyone you know need advisement on the proper steps to take following an auto accident.
I was Involved in a Car Accident. What Do I Do?
1. Do not leave
Never leave the scene of an accident. However, you must be out of harm’s way so if necessary, and possible, move your car to a nearby, safe location.
2. Check for Injuries and Call the Police
If a serious injury occurs, call 9-1-1 immediately and tell them you need medical assistance.
Even if no one is seriously injured, you should always call the police. A police report is often needed to file an insurance claim. Additionally, it serves as a valuable piece of evidence in case investigation.
3. Exchange Information with the Other Driver
Ask the other driver for their driver’s license number, insurance card information, address and contact information. Also, make sure to obtain their license plate number and document the time and date of the accident.
4. Document and Gather Evidence
Use your phone to take pictures of the scene and any damage sustained to your vehicle as well as the other vehicle, from multiple angles. Also, check for skid marks and if there was damage to any property surrounding the accident scene.
If you sustained a visible injury, it is important to document these as well. In addition, obtain contact information and a brief statement from anyone who witnessed the accident.
5. Seek Medical Attention
Whether you were visibly injured or not, we always recommend seeking medical care immediately following a car accident. Latent injuries are common with vehicle crashes and often do not show up right away. Disclose any pain or discomfort you are experiencing, even if it is only slight, and be sure to make your doctor aware of any pre-existing conditions.
If you are injured, follow your doctor’s instructions, recommendations for other medical care such as physical therapy, and make sure you do not miss any follow up appointments.
6. Contact Your Insurance
Notify your insurance company as soon as possible, even if you believe you are not at fault. Most insurance companies have policies that require you to notify them within a certain time frame following a motor vehicle accident. It is also important to confirm if you have medical benefits as part of your insurance coverage.
Be honest when speaking to your insurance company and the other driver’s insurance company, but it is best to stick to the details of the accident and avoid discussing who is at fault.
7. Call an Attorney
It is best to consult with a Colorado personal injury lawyer who has extensive knowledge and experience dealing with traffic accident law as soon as possible following the incident. Your lawyer can protect your rights during the legal process, determine how much your claim is worth and the damages you are eligible to collect and advocate for you against the insurance companies while you focus on your recovery.
The attorneys at Chalat Hatten and Banker have represented victims in virtually every type of traffic accident, across Colorado and understand the shock, trauma, and uncertainty car accident victims endure after an auto accident. If you need an experienced car accident lawyer who not only cares about your case but who can also expertly support, investigate, litigate and negotiate on your behalf, contact us or fill out a free online consultation form.
Evan Banker – Top Lawyer 2020
Evan Banker is passionate about the practice of law. “We believe that the law is the great equalizer. In a courtroom, it is not a miracle for David to defeat Goliath, or for an individual to hold a big corporation or insurance company accountable. That is justice, nothing more, nothing less. That is what our clients deserve.” Whether he is representing someone who has suffered life changing permanent injuries and has lost a career, or someone who is struggling with medical bills, Evan is always focused on why clients come to him for help. “It is about taking responsibility. When someone causes harm, they are responsible to make it right, and yes, that means financially compensating
the person they hurt.”
Evan has been selected as a 5280 Top Lawyer because of the reputation he and his firm, Chalat Hatten & Banker, have built by succeeding with integrity. That begins by only taking cases they believe in and are willing to stake their reputation on. It shows in the respect they have earned from their opponents, who know the attorneys at Chalat Hatten & Banker are true to their word, and will be formidable adversaries in trial. The same lawyers Evan argues against in court are among his colleagues who have chosen him as a 5280 Top Lawyer.
Most importantly, the integrity and hard work the lawyers at Chalat Hatten & Banker put into their cases pay dividends for their clients’ future wellbeing. Evan has secured numerous successful settlements for his clients, and where settlement was not possible, verdicts in their favor. His notable trial experience includes one of the largest auto/pedestrian verdicts in Colorado history – an $18.1 million verdict – and a defective product case against Ford Motor Company which resulted in a $7 million judgment.
Evan is deferential about his trial successes. “Most cases settle for fair compensation. When we take these cases to trial, it is because someone refused to take responsibility for the harm they caused. These numbers sound big, but that’s how much was needed to equalize the damages caused by the defendant and the lifetime of care that follows. It’s what justice required for our client.”
Using An Expert Witness to Calculate or Prove Damages
On a June morning in 2016, Richard Terlingen came to Denver District Court for a case management conference. He was rolling
down the hallway using a sip-and-puff wand to drive his heavy-duty, extra-large electric-power wheelchair. He mis-judged the
courtroom entrance by an inch or so on the right and bashed into the door frame. Richard cussed softly to himself and backed
out. He was a big man in a big wheelchair. Richard Terlingen, age 61, was paralyzed from the neck down. He was a quadriplegic
(medical term: “tetraplegic”). He had no movement or sensation in his arms, legs or trunk. Before his injury, Richard stood 6’6”
and weighed about 260. An award-winning media salesman, he had a big voice, and a direct manner.
When the case was called his wife joy-stick’d Richard up to the well of the courtroom. The court had a busy docket. Other lawyers
and courtroom observers figured Richard had a big case. True. Most people assume that if there are big and obvious injuries
in a case that these inevitably convert into big money verdicts and settlements. You show up. The defense sees your client.
They pay. False. To get the top result by settlement or trial, the injured person’s lawyer must work up the case and be ready to
present hard evidence in order to prove damages. In Richard’s case, we planned on 5 expert witnesses on damages.
EXPERT WITNESS #1: Responding Senior Paramedic
The responding senior paramedic would testify that Richard had no sensation or movement in his arms or legs. Richard was in
critical condition and deteriorating. Within 14 minutes he had assessed Richard’s vital signs, activated an emergency code at the
hospital, immobilized him on a gurney in the ambulance, and handed him off to the trauma team at Denver Medical Center.
By showing how critically injured Richard was, we were able to establish a baseline explanation for the $2 Million in medical
billings in the case.
EXPERT WITNESS #2: Orthopedic Spinal Surgeon
Richard’s spinal cord injury was treated by one of the country’s most experienced, and well-trained spinal surgeons. Using x-rays,
he would testify as to the anatomy of the injury and how the spinal cord injury permanently destroyed Richard’s ability to move
his limbs, or to have sensation in his body below the injury level at his spine. The spinal cord does not have to be “severed” in
order to cause paralysis. An injury which disrupts the blood flow or bruises the spinal cord can cause permanent spinal cord injury.
EXPERT WITNESS #3: Attending Medical Doctor, Rehabilitation and Spinal Cord Specialist
Richard was admitted to Craig Hospital, the top SCI/TBI Rehabilitation Hospital in the United States. The rehabilitation doctor
guided a team of therapists and specialists during Richard’s 4-month hospital stay. He would testify that Richard’s diagnosis was
C-4 complete tetraplegia—Richard would never regain movement or sensation below his collar bone. The attending would testify
in detail about Richard’s hospitalization, rehabilitation and prognosis, and that Richard’s remaining life expectancy, due to his
injury, was reduced to 9.5 years.
EXPERT WITNESS #4: Consulting Life Care Planner (LCP)
We hired a specialist to project what Richard’s medical and health care needs would be for his remaining life expectancy. She
calculated the reasonable billings to date and the cost of round-the-clock care, what assistive devices Richard would need,
transport, medical appointments and probable hospitalizations.
EXPERT WITNESS #5: Consulting forensic economist
The job of the economist is to quantify lost income and employment benefits, future medical and healthcare expenses, the
costs of home improvements to make Richard’s home wheelchair accessible, what a lift-equipped van would cost, and to
calculate the cost of the life care plan. A good economist projects a range of value for an aggregate fund in today’s dollars, to
compensate the injured person for probable future losses. In Richard’s case, she calculated $10.6 – $11.3 Million was needed
for his life expectancy.
MOST IMPORTANT WITNESS: Richard Terlingen
As lawyers, we can put all the experts on the stand that the court will allow. However, the tipping point for any “big case,” is
the injured person’s own testimony. The jury wants to see and hear for themselves how the harms and losses have affected
the injured person’s life. They must judge his credibility based upon his demeanor, strength of memory, consistency of testimony,
and subjective factors weighing on bias and interest. As Atticus Finch would say, “you never really understand a person until
you consider things from his point of view.”
Richard’s good humor, stamina, love of his family, his faith, humility, and courage would give the jury an opportunity to understand
his life, and his losses. Today, Richard and his family live in a totally renovated home. The floors are a special concrete, flat and
wheelchair friendly. There are no doors. Room entries are extra-wide. Tables and fixtures are especially designed to accommodate
Richard’s needs. He doesn’t often bash into things. But when he does, he makes a few quiet remarks, backs up and tries again.
It takes an experienced lawyer to present damages in a big case.
Complex Cases Require Experienced Lawyers
IT ONLY TOOK 1.7 SECONDS. The Ford Taurus was northbound at 65 mph. It lost control, crossed the median, ejected its driver, became airborne, then crashed into the windshield of a southbound HVAC service van. The impact instantly killed the van driver and injured his co-worker in the passenger seat.
First responders smelled alcohol on the breath of the Taurus driver. Her blood test result was positive for alcohol. Felony charges were filed against her alleging careless driving causing death—aggravated by DUI.
The wrongful death case on behalf of the family of the van driver would appear simple and straightforward. Make a claim. Settle it quickly. Case closed.
However, to get the best outcome for our clients, the van driver’s widow and their 2-month old baby, would be complicated and time-consuming. The case required five different legal proceedings to get top dollar for the family.
CASE #1 – Uninsured motorist coverage. The at-fault driver was uninsured. Our investigation determined, however, that the service van was owned by and, therefore, covered by the HVAC company’s $1 Million uninsured motorist (“UM”) policy. UM coverage is insurance you buy in case an un- or under-insured driver runs into you. The statute and insurance explanation can be viewed on Colorado.gov—just search for “UM/UIM coverage.”
In this case, the passenger of the van was also injured. The UM insurer, therefore, deposited its policy proceeds with the court. It filed a case (legal term: “interpleader”) so that a court could decide how to divide the money between the widow for the death of her husband and the passenger for his injuries. The widow and her baby received most of the money. This led to CASE #2, probate proceedings to approve and apportion the UM settlement.
CASE #3 – The Colorado Victims’ Rights Act (VRA) ensures that crime victims are treated with fairness, respect, and dignity, and that they have notice and the right to attend any hearings at the critical stages of the criminal case. Victims also have the right to submit a victim impact statement at the time of sentencing. In this case, we attended hearings with our client and worked in cooperation with the victim rights advocate assigned to the case. The statute and applicable forms can also be viewed on the Colorado.gov site—just search for “Victim Rights Act.”
CASE #4 – Workers Compensation Case, Benefit Penalty. Employees who are injured or killed on the job are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits as a matter of law. However, if the injury or death is allegedly the result of the employee failing to follow a safety regulation, then the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier can reduce the benefits it owes by 50%. Because our van driver was unbuckled from his seat belt at the moment of the collision, the workers’ compensation carrier petitioned to reduce the widow’s support benefits by half. The evidence, however, persuaded the carrier that belted or not, no one could have survived the impact from the Taurus. The penalty claim was dropped. We settled the compensation claim for the widow and baby for a lump sum plus structured settlements. Colorado.gov, search for “workers compensation benefits/ penalty.”
CASE #5 – Lawsuit and judgment against the at-fault driver. In the end, we decided that we needed to finalize any claim against the at-fault driver. The van driver was the primary breadwinner and source of support for his wife and his baby. They were a young family, and he had a long work life ahead of him. We filed a complaint against the at-fault driver and took a default judgment against her for $2,282,005.00. The judge found the conduct of the at-fault driver was a basis to exceed the caps on wrongful death damages and to bar discharge in bankruptcy.
Complicated cases require experienced lawyers to get the top dollar/best result.
Motor Vehicle Accidents 2019
Motor vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of death among healthy U.S. citizens. An estimated 2.5 million people are severely injured or permanently disabled every year, from an auto accident. As distracted driving trends arise, the number of motor vehicle accidents are drastically increasing. The most common causes of accidents resulting in death are drunk driving, speeding and distracted driving. Statistically most fatal crashes happen during weekends and on holidays.
The U.S. has more than 220 million licensed drivers and they all risk their lives every time they get into an automobile as driver or passenger. As drivers, it is our responsibility to ensure that we have proper auto insurance and that we follow traffic laws. It is important to check your insurance policy to make sure that you, your passengers, and everyone else involved receives proper treatment for injuries sustained in automobile accidents.
Distracted driving crashes have increased for both teen and adult drivers in the recent years. An estimated 60% of people use cell phones while driving. According to the https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/distracted-driving , texting is the most alarming distraction amongst drivers. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed. Injuries sustained from distracted driving crashes are often catastrophic and fatal.
Tips and facts:
- Most car accidents happen within 3-4 miles of your home.
- Almost half of all fatal car accidents involve alcohol.
- Seat belt laws exist in all 50 states.
- Drive the speed limit.
- Do not run red lights or stop signs.
- Always call the police after an auto accident.
- Leave your phone on silent or off while driving.
Sharing The Road: Motorcycles
According to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) motorcyclists are about 28 times more likely than passenger vehicle occupants to die in a motor vehicle crash, and 5 times more likely to be injured. The increase in motorcycle fatalities continues to be a tragic trend over the last few years. It is important for motorists and motorcyclists to share the road responsibly and be mindful of ways they can help prevent auto/motorcycle crashes.
Important ways motorists can reduce traffic fatalities and keep our roads safe is to understand the challenges motorcyclists face, such as size, visibility, downshifting and weaving. Motorcyclists are among the smallest and most vulnerable vehicles on the road, putting riders at greater risk of death and serious injury in a crash. Although motorcyclists are considered a vulnerable vehicle, they must abide by the same traffic laws as motorists. Motorcyclists are encouraged to always wear a helmet that meets DOT (Department of Transportation) Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Click here https://www.nhtsa.gov/motorcycle-safety/choose-right-motorcycle-helmet, to learn more on how to choose the right helmet.
Tips for Motorists:
- Motorists are operating a much larger vehicle and it is imperative that they keep a close eye for motorcyclists. Always allow the motorcycle the full width of a lane.
- Check all mirrors and blind spots for motorcycles before changing lanes.
- Always allow more distance behind a motorcycle. An extra 3-4 seconds in follow distance gives the motorcyclist more time to stop in an emergency.
- Always use a turn signal when changing lanes or merging with traffic.
- Never drive distracted or impaired.
Tips for Motorcyclists:
- Always wear a DOT- compliant helmet.
- Use reflective tape and gear to be more visible. This is particularly important for those who ride at night.
- Always drive with a current motorcycle license. In 2016, 27% of motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were riding without a valid motorcycle license.
- A motorcyclist must follow the same traffic laws and rules as a motorist.
- Use proper signals when turning lanes and always ride within the speed limit.
- Never ride distracted or impaired.
Facts on Motorcycle Safety:
- In 2016, helmets saved the lives of 1,859 motorcyclists who were in a crash.
- Motorcycle riders involved (killed or survived) in fatal crashes in 2016 had higher percentages of alcohol impairment than any other type of motor vehicle driver. https://www.nhtsa.gov/
- Motorcyclists are more likely to get into a crash, their first year of riding than any other time.
- Motorcycle fatalities have increased drastically since 2014.
- The most common causes for motorcycle accidents are, speeding, driving under the influence, lane splitting, sudden stops and inexperienced riders.
Colorado’s new Red Flag Law
It doesn’t matter which side you take in the gun debate. Everybody wants the killing to stop. Red flag laws were proposed after the February 14, 2018 shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. These laws change the focus away from reaction to prevention. Colorado is one of 12 states to enact a red flag law since the Parkland shooting.
Technically, a red flag law is an “Extreme Risk Protection Order” (ERPO) statute. Colorado’s new Red Flag law goes into effect on January 1, 2020. CRS 13-14.5-101, et seq. It is named the Deputy Zachary Parrish III Violence Prevention Act. Parrish was a Douglas County Sheriff’s deputy who was shot and killed on December 31, 2017 by a mentally ill man.
The Parrish Act allows a court to order the relinquishment of firearms upon evidence from family members or other concerned parties that a person poses a “significant risk of causing personal injury to self or others in the future by” having or purchasing a firearm. The Parrish Act is complex and abstract. It provides for expedited hearings, the admission of credible evidence, and notice to the person who is alleged to pose the “significant risk.”
As with any new law, there will be disagreements. Some public officials threaten court challenges. Act sponsor Rep. Tom Sullivan, whose son Alex was murdered On July 20, 2012 at the Aurora Theater shooting, has weathered a recall effort by gun lobbyists and extremists.
History and context help to understand the policy tensions of gun safety legislation. The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution says: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The United States Supreme Court has held that an individual’s right to keep and bear arms is unconnected to service in a militia. District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008). No law can bar the right to bear arms for defensive purposes. However, even Justice Scalia, who wrote Heller, recognized that 2nd Amendment rights are not unlimited. The right is “not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”
The ‘‘Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act” established a national instant criminal background check system which can block a dealer’s gun sale to a convicted felon. Over 200 million background checks have been conducted since 1998. About .06 percent (120,000) of these background checks result in a block of the dealer’s sale. A less well-known provision of the Brady Bill empowers state courts to order the relinquishment of firearms in cases of sexual abuse, domestic abuse, stalking, or conduct which places an intimate partner or family member “in reasonable fear of bodily injury.”
Since 2013, Colorado has been one of 17 states which allow a court to enter a Brady-type order for the relinquishment of firearms or ammunition. After proof, by a preponderance of evidence, a history of abuse, domestic violence, or threatened physical harm, directed at an intimate partner, family member or former spouse, a Court, may order firearms relinquishment under our Civil Protection Order (CPO) law, CRS 13-14-101, et seq.
I have tried CPO cases both privately and pro bono. CPO-Brady cases can become very complicated, very quickly. To meet the victim’s burden of proof may require medical or mental health and firearms expert testimony, and/or the detailed research of hunting licenses, police reports, and transcripts from prior court proceedings.
When drafting the Parrish Act, Colorado law makers were working with the context of the 2nd Amendment, Heller, the Brady Act, and Colorado’s existing CPO statute. Parrish broadens the scope of inquiry concerning the risk – from an identified victim – to the public at large. It provides strict criteria upon which to make a finding that a gun-owner is a credible threat, for the admission of evidence, notice of hearing, and requires detailed findings to support any relinquishment order. The Parrish Act maintains appropriate constitutional safeguards against unlawful seizure of firearms.
Gun right absolutism ignores our tragic experiences. Doctrinaire logic must be tempered by practical wisdom. The second Amendment is not a “suicide pact.” Colorado’s new ERPO statute may save lives. We can recognize and uphold the right to bear arms while also upholding everyone’s right to safety.
Texting and Driving
In 2017, 3,166 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving drivers who were texting while driving. That total rose to 4,637 people in 2018. Statistics involving texting and driving are alarming. 1 out of 3 people text while driving and each day 11 teens die in crashes caused by texting and driving. Most would argue that texting and driving is an issue primarily amongst teenage/younger drivers, but according to a poll by teensafe.com, 77% of adults believe they can easily manage texting while driving, while 55% of teens feel the same. Research done by AT&T shows that 77% of American teenagers report that adults close to the them instruct them to not text and drive, yet they see those same adult’s text or email while they drive. Both painfully high statistics for such a dangerous distraction.
According to The United States Department of Transportation, cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes annually. The number of annual crashes is disturbing considering that 47 out of the 50 states ban texting while driving. Testing done by the National Safety Council shows, that the maximum amount of time a driver can safely divert attention from the road is two seconds, but on average it takes a driver five seconds to send a text message. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute reports that someone texting while driving mimics the driving ability of someone who consumed four beers in one hour.
Distracted driving doesn’t stop at texting. With the rise in social media, statistics show that distracted drivers have admitted to posting content while driving, checking their social media accounts, sharing photos, snapchatting, changing music playlists and taking videos while driving. These are all forms of distractions while driving and can cause serious motor vehicle accidents, resulting in catastrophic injuries, including death.
Think twice before texting and driving:
- Insurance penalties for distracted driving have grown by nearly 8,000%
- Texting while driving increases the risk of crashing by 23 times.
- Approximately 660,000 drivers use their cell phones while driving during daylight hours.
- 47 out of the 50 US states ban texting while driving, and 15 states ban drivers from hand-held phone use
- Men are about four times more likely to drink and drive, but women text and drive more often.
- Texting increases your chances of rear-ending someone by a multiple of 7