Quick action can protect your right to compensation following a Colorado auto accident.
Surprise, disorientation, and possibly pain might be the first things you feel when you become the victim of a Colorado auto accident. But anger often follows soon thereafter, especially if the other driver zooms off, leaving you in a wreck of twisted metal or injured on the ground.
Act Fast: Pictures Can Prevent the Other Driver from Running
Acting quickly, however, may keep that driver from running and may give you an advantage if he or she does leave the scene. The smartphone in your pocket or purse can be your best ally in this or any accident scenario.
If you have been injured or suspect you’ve been hurt, your first step is to call 911. Once police and emergency personnel are on their way, turn on your smartphone’s camera app and start snapping pictures. You can start taking pictures even before you exit your vehicle. Get pictures of the car or truck that hit you, the license place, and the driver if possible.
Not all hit-and-run drivers leave the scene immediately. If the other driver knows you’ve got these identifying pictures, he or she will be less likely to take the chance of running.
Take wide-angle shots whenever possible to avoid provoking the other driver by respecting his or her personal space.
Watch What You Say; Don’t Provoke the Other Party
Avoid saying things that might provoke an angry or defensive response. The other driver may feel he or she has done nothing wrong.
He or she may be even more emotional than you. Don’t make it worse. Be concerned with the other driver’s well-being. Don’t accuse the other driver or admit blame for the accident. Throwing blame might make someone worried enough to want to drive away.
If the other driver begins showing hostility or aggression, back away, avoid eye contact, say nothing and retreat to the relative safety of your vehicle. Call 911 again to let police know you feel threatened. Your accident may well have been the result of aggressive driving or road rage, which can quickly escalate to physical violence.
If the other driver decides to leave the scene and your vehicle is still able to drive, you might be tempted to chase after him. Don’t. The fleeing driver is already breaking the law by driving off, is probably agitated, and could be dangerous.
Some drivers flee the scene of accidents because they’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Others could have arrest warrants out for them or lack a valid driver’s license or liability insurance.
When the Other Guy Flees, Get Advice, Witnesses, Help
The best thing to do when the other guy has fled the scene is to focus on the next steps. If you haven’t already done so, call your personal injury attorney and do what he or she says. If other people have stopped to help you, ask them to wait for the police to arrive. They may be valuable witnesses for the police investigator and could help you win future court proceedings.
If you have enough information about the fleeing driver, such as a vehicle description or even a partial license plate number, state law empowers police to issue a Medina Alert and broadcast the driver’s identity and car description so he can be apprehended.
If you’re even slightly injured, take the ambulance ride and get checked out by emergency room doctors. A doctor may order X-rays or an MRI scan to detect broken bones or internal organ damage.
Doctors will not only detect and care for any major medical issues you have. They’ll also document lesser injuries, such as scrapes and bruises, outward signs of the pain you may soon experience.
Your Responsibilities: Avoid Being Guilty of Hit and Run
Even if you’re not to blame, say, if another driver admits fault and tells you to leave, take the steps to avoid committing a hit and run accident.
Exchange Information: According to the non-government, online source for information about driving, DMV.org, drivers must stop and check that everyone involved is uninjured. If someone is hurt, call an ambulance and do whatever you can to give aid to the victim.
File a report: Colorado law requires all parties in an accident to report it immediately. If a police officer arrives at the accident scene and investigates, then you’re not required to file your own report. You can file a report online with the state Division of Motor Vehicles. If your accident happened within a city or town, you’ll probably want to check with the municipality’s police department.
It’s important to note that you cannot file online if:
- The accident resulted in any injuries or deaths.
- The accident was a hit and run.
- The accident damaged public property.
- Any party in the accident was suspected of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
State Lawmakers Get Tougher on Hit-and-Run Drivers
The Colorado General Assembly recently enacted new rules to combat increasing numbers of hit-and-run accidents, which have been happening at an average 17 times a day. Starting Jan. 1, 2018, anyone fleeing the scene of an accident involving serious injury or death will have his or her license suspended automatically. Police are authorized to seize the violator’s license immediately, although the driver has seven days to request a hearing before the license suspension goes into effect.
From 2011 to 2013, about 28 percent of the auto accidents in Denver involved a driver fleeing the scene, Colorado Public Radio reported in 2014. The rate was about 18 percent higher than the national average.
With No One to Blame, How Can You Be Made Whole?
It’s true that it’s better to be hit by a well-insured responsible driver than by a fugitive from justice, but you may still have some recourse: your own insurance policy.
State law requires Colorado drivers to carry at least $25,000 of coverage per person for bodily injuries, $50,000 per accident for bodily injuries, and $15,000 for property damage.
Although it’s an option, auto insurers are required to offer you similar coverage through uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist policy provisions. And if you decline, it has to be in writing, according to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association. If you have this kind of coverage, your personal injury attorney can seek compensation for your injuries from your insurer. You may have an extra $5,000 resource for monetary help if you opted for medical payments coverage as part of your auto policy.
If you’ve sustained an injury in a hit-and-run accident, contact an experienced Colorado personal injury attorney to discuss the details of your case.