What if I am injured by an uninsured driver?
Although the State of Colorado requires every owner of a vehicle to have bodily injury liability insurance in case of an accident, not every vehicle owner complies with this law. Statistics in Colorado indicate that approximately 15 percent of motor vehicles involved in accidents in Colorado do not have the required liability insurance. If you are the victim in an automobile accident, there is a 15 percent chance that the person who caused the accident is uninsured. (Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association)
Even if the owner or driver of a vehicle does have some liability insurance, the State of Colorado only mandates a minimum of $25,000.00 in bodily injury liability coverage. This liability insurance is referred to as Bodily Injury coverage or BI coverage on many policies. If you are injured in an accident that was caused by another driver, it is the other driver’s BI coverage that provides compensation to you for your injuries. With the price of medical treatment these days, it does not take long to exceed $25,000.00 in medical bills from injuries sustained in an automobile accident. The cost of a visit to the emergency room following an accident can easily reach $10,000.00, not including the paramedic’s bill for transporting you to the hospital.
Who pays my bills if the driver of the vehicle that caused the accident doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t have enough insurance?
You likely purchased Uninsured Motorist (UM) Coverage and Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage when you purchased your own automobile insurance coverage. Colorado requires your insurance provider to include this coverage in your policy unless you specifically decline the coverage in writing. Your UM Coverage provides coverage for your losses, medical bills, and injuries when the driver of the vehicle that caused the action has no insurance. Your UIM Coverage provides coverage for your losses, medical bills, and injuries when the driver of the vehicle that caused the action does not have enough insurance coverage or is underinsured. If you own and insure more than one vehicle and depending on when your policies were issued, you may have UM/UIM coverage under multiple policies that can be combined (stacked) for additional coverage.
If you have been injured as result of the actions of a driver that did not have insurance or did not have enough insurance, contact the attorneys at Larson & Larimer PC as soon as possible. The attorneys at Larson & Larimer PC are experienced in fighting to protect your right to be compensated by your own insurance company when the at-fault driver is uninsured or underinsured. Although your own insurance company has certain obligations and duties to you as their insured, they will still attempt to minimize your compensation. The attorneys at Larson & Larimer PC will fight to ensure you receive the compensation you are entitled to.
Changes to Colorado Insurance Law: Consumers Receive the Coverage They Pay For When Injured by Uninsured Drivers
C.R.S. 10-4-609 addresses UM/UIM claims and makes it possible for consumers to receive the full coverage they believed they were purchasing when buying their UM/UIM coverage in the State of Colorado. All UM/UIM policies issued or renewed in Colorado on or after January 1, 2008, are subject to the newly revised statute. Please take note of the two most important changes to the law:
1. Before January 1, 2008, your insurance company was allowed to “offset” the amount paid by the at-fault driver’s insurance company against the amount available under your own UM policy.
What is “Setoff”?
Before January 1, 2008, your own insurance company was allowed to reduce (“setoff”) the UM coverage they would have to pay you by the amount of liability insurance available under the at-fault driver’s insurance policy.Example: John was driving home from work and was hit by Matt, who had been out all night drinking with his buddies. Matt’s blood alcohol level was above the legal limit and he was cited for driving under the influence. John was severely injured, unable to work during his recovery, and had medical expenses and lost wages totaling $150,000. Matt had insurance but his bodily injury liability policy limit was only $50,000. John had purchased $100,000 in UM/UIM coverage on his own policy.
Outcome Before January 1, 2008: After Matt’s insurance company paid John Matt’s policy limits in the amount of $50,000, John’s insurance company would then have been able to deduct or “setoff” the $50,000 payment from John’s UM/UIM coverage, leaving John with only an additional $50,000 in coverage. His total compensation would have been $100,000. John would have been left to pay the remaining $50,000 out of his own pocket.
Outcome After January 1, 2008: Matt’s insurance company paid John Matt’s policy limits in the amount of $50,000. John’s insurance company is now legally obligated to pay the total of John’s UM/UIM policy limits of $100,000. John’s total compensation under the new law would be $150,000, which would cover all of his medical expenses and lost wages.
2. Before January 1, 2008, insurance companies could include “anti-stacking” clauses in their UM policies, which kept those who purchased multiple policies on multiple cars within the same household from obtaining UM coverage on each separate policy to maximize potential coverage.
What is “Anti-Stacking”?
An additional change in the law prevents insurance companies from using “anti-stacking” language when writing insurance policies. Before the new law became effective, insurance providers were able to collect premiums for UM/UIM coverage on multiple policies covering multiple vehicles in the same household. However, the insurance companies would not allow policy holders to simultaneously use these multiple coverages. Since the new law became effective on January 1, 2008, however, policy holders have been able to combine (“stack”) UM/UIM policies.
Colorado Uninsured Motorist Law in a Nutshell
Before January 1, 2008:
- Insurance companies were allowed to set-off the amount paid under the at-fault party’s BI liability insurance against the insured’s UM/UIM liability coverage.
- Insurance companies could include “anti-stacking” clauses in their policies.
After January 1, 2008: (Applies to policies issued or renewed in CO on/before this date)
- Insurance companies are not allowed to set-off the amount paid under the at-fault party’s BI liability insurance against the insured’s UM/UIM liability coverage, allowing for potentially higher recoveries.
- Insurance companies cannot include “anti-stacking” clauses in their policies. If your insurance agent informs you that you may be able to save money by dropping additional premiums for your multiple vehicles, know that you may also limit your coverage and your insurance company’s UM/UIM liability in the event that you are involved in an accident.