Recovering damages for medical and vehicle expenses after an accident
If you’ve been in a car accident and the at-fault driver has fled the scene, it’s important not to panic. Here are a few tips on what to do at the scene and how to get your bills paid later.
Call the police and emergency responders.
As with any auto accident, the first priority is to assess injuries and call for emergency medical assistance if needed, then get the police on the scene. Make sure you get a copy of the police report–this will help smooth the insurance claims process later.
At the scene: get as much information as possible.
Write down any details you remember from the other car and driver, as soon as possible, so that you don’t forget anything in the aftermath. (Tip: use the video or audio recording feature on your smartphone to dictate the information.) Try to get the following:
- License plate number
- Vehicle make, model and color and any distinguishing features (bumper stickers, custom paint, decals, rust spots, etc.)
- Any damage to the other vehicle you may have seen
- The direction the vehicle sped off in
- An accurate description of what happened and when
- Location details (are there any traffic cams or security cameras nearby?)
- Any other information you can provide about the other driver or vehicle (speeding, reckless driving, etc.)
- Photos of the scene, damage to your car, and any other property
- Witness contact information and reports
Do not attempt to follow the driver. Not only can it be dangerous, but it also puts you in the same position of “leaving the scene” and makes it even more difficult for police and the insurance company to determine fault later.
Who pays the medical bills? Who’s responsible for vehicle damages?
If the at-fault driver is never located or identified, recovery for medical damages will likely come from your own car or health insurance policies. A lot will depend on your levels of auto insurance coverage and any deductibles. Check your policy to see what you have of the following:
- MedPay: Since 2009, all Colorado insurance companies have been required to offer $5,000 in Medical Payment coverage (MedPay) (though you can opt-out of coverage, so check your policy). There is no deductible and you can submit claims immediately and throughout your treatment. MedPay coverage ranges from $5,000 to $25,000, so you’ll need to check your coverage limits.
- Health Insurance: After MedPay, this is the fastest way to access treatment following the accident. It’s also what you’ll rely on if you only have liability coverage on your auto insurance policy (meaning you have declined Collision and Uninsured Motorist Coverage). Liability only covers any damages that you may cause to someone else, so won’t help you in a hit-and-run situation.
- Collision Coverage: This will cover damages to your vehicle only, minus your deductible and up to the limits of your policy.
- Uninsured Motorist Coverage: Colorado requires insurance companies to offer uninsured motorist coverage equal to the bodily injury liability limits of the insured, with the following minimums required:
- $25,000 per person for bodily injury
- $50,000 per accident for bodily injury
- $15,000 per accident for property damage
It’s important to note that this coverage will not reimburse your expenses until after treatment has been completed–another reason that your health insurance will usually be the fastest way to receive treatment following an accident. Depending on your situation, you may need to use a combination of the above to cover all of your expenses, depending on your individual policy limits.
Bottom line on medical coverage: Start with MedPay, then your normal health insurance, and then let your health insurance company settle with your UIM.
If medical expenses are very high or the insurance company feels that treatment is not “reasonable or necessary,” they may attempt to withhold payments or request you be examined by a doctor of their choice.
Navigating the available coverage and making sure that you get a fair settlement from your insurance company is where a personal injury attorney can make a big difference.
If you have been injured in an accident, contact us for a free case evaluation.