By Jacob F. Kimball
Managing Attorney – Civil Division
The Gasper Law Group, PLLC

Auto Insurance Illustration - 01-23-15

What Types of Auto Insurance Do I Need?

Too many consumers do not understand what type of automobile insurance they have purchased or should have purchased to meet their needs. Oftentimes, people do not discover what their insurance actually covers (or does not cover) until a catastrophic event occurs—and the discovery is usually not a happy surprise. This article explains several of the standard types of auto coverage. Of course, it is the actual insurance policy and state law that will determine what your policy actually covers, but the basic concepts are discussed below.

Liability Coverage

To be “liable” means to be legally obligated or responsible to another for some act or failure to act. “Liability coverage” basically covers bodily injury, death, and property damage arising out of the use of the motor vehicle that the policy owner causes to another person’s body or to another person’s vehicle unintentionally. In other words, liability coverage will not cover injuries you cause yourself or your own vehicle, or those that another person causes you or your vehicle. Colorado statute, the “Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Act,” requires motor vehicles owner-operators to have an automobile insurance policy that contains liability coverage of at least $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident.

Collision Coverage

Collision coverage covers accidental damage to your own vehicle. It covers damage if you wreck your own vehicle or if another driver damages your vehicle. Most auto lenders will require that you purchase collision coverage, because it protects the collateral that secures their auto loan.

Comprehensive Coverage

Do not be fooled by the word “comprehensive”—comprehensive coverage is not comprehensive. Instead, comprehensive coverage generally covers only damage to the vehicle caused by perils other than collisions, such as vandalism, theft, fire, natural disasters, and falling objects. It also covers an unfortunately common occurrence in Colorado: damages from hitting an animal. Like collision coverage, most auto lenders will require comprehensive coverage to make sure you are adequately protecting their collateral.

Medical Payments Coverage

Medical payments coverage, which is often abbreviated “medpay,” covers medical expenses incurred by the insured due to bodily injuries arising from the ownership, maintenance, or use of a motor vehicle. Medpay is generally limited to accident-related trauma or medical care; thus, it will not cover damages such as wage losses. Typically, the medpay payments are made directly to the medical providers who provided the care in question. An insurer must give its insureds the option of purchasing medpay, and medpay coverage will exist unless the named insured on the policy rejected it in writing.

Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist (“UM/UIM”) Coverage

Uninsured motorist insurance—often abbreviated “UM”—applies when the person who injured has no insurance coverage. Underinsured motorist coverage—often abbreviated “UIM”—applies when the person who injured you has some insurance, but it is not enough to compensate you for your injuries and damages. This type of insurance must be offered to you when you purchase your policy; unless you waived, opted out, or rejected it when you purchased your policy, then you likely have it. In Colorado, making an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim will not increase your premiums or cause your insurer to cancel, reduce coverage, or refuse to renew your policy.


As mentioned above, these are the general types of coverage, but most insurance companies offer a variety of supplemental coverage, different sized deductibles, and coverage limits to meet your budgetary constraints and protect your assets and family members from unexpected events.

Insurance coverage plays a very important role in accidents causing injuries. If you have been injured in an accident, finding available insurance coverage in your own policies and in the policies of the person who harmed you is of paramount importance. If the person who injured you has little or no insurance, it may be extremely difficult to get the compensation you deserve. For this reason, we recommend you hire an experienced personal injury attorney, such as those at The Gasper Law Group, to help you navigate the insurance coverage issues you are likely to face.

By Jacob F. Kimball
Personal Injury Attorney
The Gasper Law Group, PLLC

An important question with any claim for personal injuries is who was at fault for the accident. Many times, there are multiple parties at fault for an accident, including the injured person. Just because an injured person is partially at fault does not necessarily mean that he or she cannot recover damages. In Colorado, the questions of apportioning fault and recovery are determined by the principles of contributory negligence and comparative fault.

Contributory Negligence (Plaintiff’s Negligence)

“Contributory negligence” refers to the negligence of the plaintiff in causing an accident. (“Plaintiff” means the person who makes a claim for personal injuries.) A plaintiff is contributorily negligent if his or her own negligence played a part in causing his or her own injuries. In Colorado, the plaintiff cannot recover any damages if the plaintiff’s fault is equal to or greater than the fault of the defendant (i.e., the person against whom the plaintiff is making a claim). On the other hand, if the plaintiff is at fault, but his or her fault is less than the defendant’s fault, then the plaintiff can still recover, but the jury is required to reduce plaintiff’s damages by the percentage of fault attributable to the plaintiff.

To illustrate by example, suppose Jack makes a right turn through an intersection in front of Jill, but Jill is speeding through the intersection and driving drunk, and the two vehicles crash, so Jack sues Jill. If the jury determines that Jack and Jill were each 50% at fault, then Jack cannot recover any damages. Likewise, if the jury determines that Jack’s fault was 60% and Jill’s fault was 40%, then Jack gets nothing. On the other hand, if the jury determines that Jack was only 25% at fault and Jill was 75% at fault for the accident, then Jack can still recover damages, but those damages must be reduced by 25%.

In the insurance claims process, contributory negligence is very important, and you may not even know that the insurance company is reducing its offer because it thinks you were partially at fault for the accident. Oftentimes, insurance adjusters will make their own determinations of fault that differ from the law enforcement’s investigation. For example, a police officer may issue a defendant a ticket for causing the accident, but the insurance adjuster will nevertheless blame the plaintiff for at least contributing to the accident. The insurance adjuster will then reduce any offer by the amount he or she believes you were negligent. At trial, you may need the help of an accident reconstruction expert to prove the defendant’s fault, because traffic citations are typically not admissible evidence in Colorado. For these reasons, an experienced personal injury attorney can help you by proving the accident was not your fault, or that the accident was mostly defendant’s fault.

Comparative Fault (Negligence of Two or More Defendants)

Generally, if more than one person caused another person’s injuries, Colorado’s Pro-Rata Liability Statute (C.R.S. § 13-21-111.5) provides that fault should be “apportioned” appropriately. (Exceptions apply, such as when two or more persons act “in concert” or conspire with one another.) Under the statute, “apportionment of fault” or “pro-rata liability” means that each person accused of playing a role in causing the plaintiff’s injuries is assigned a percentage of fault by the jury or judge. Consider, for example, a chain reaction motor vehicle accident involving more than two vehicles. It may be that two or three cars were following the plaintiff too closely right before the accident and all ran into each other and then into plaintiff. In that circumstance, two or more persons’ negligence caused plaintiff’s injuries, so the judge or jury will need to sort out how fault should be divided among them. Once fault is divided among defendants, they will typically be responsible for a share of plaintiff’s damages proportionate to their degree of fault.

Comparative negligence can also be a factor in slip and fall or premises liability cases. For example, suppose a plaintiff slips on a patch of ice in front of a store. The store’s maintenance company may be at fault for failing to remove the ice, while the store’s landlord may be at fault for not fixing a leaky gutter that led to the formation of the ice. In this circumstance, a jury may apportion fault among the two negligent parties, which will then determine what percentage of the plaintiff’s damages each party will be responsible to pay.

Contributory negligence and comparative fault will shape how much money you can expect to recover if you are injured in a motor vehicle accident. Insurance companies may base their decisions on what to pay you based on these principles without explaining their reasoning. The experienced attorneys at The Gasper Law Group can help you navigate the process and make the best arguments for your unique situation to get you the compensation you deserve.

By Jacob F. Kimball
Attorney at Law
The Gasper Law Group, PLLC

Woman Reading Letter After Receiving Neck InjuryIf you have ever been injured in an automobile accident or sports, there is a good chance you have suffered a “soft tissue” injury. In addition, if you have made an insurance claim for personal injury, the insurance company may have mentioned the phrase “soft tissue injuries,” or even used it in a negative sense—such as, “Your injuries are just soft tissue injuries”—as if soft tissue injuries were somehow inferior or less deserving of compensation. But soft tissue injuries are very real and can cause real, persistent pain. Because soft tissue injuries can be painful and lingering, and claims for soft tissue injuries can be difficult and contentious, many personal injury victims are frustrated by the diagnosis, treatment, and claims process surrounding soft tissue injuries. Sometimes insurance adjusters treat soft tissue injuries with scorn or skepticism. Soft tissue injury claims can be the target of heightened fraud monitoring because of the potential for the victim to exaggerate the existence or seriousness of the injury. This perception is sometimes depicted in television and movies satirically as a healthy person wearing an awkward neck brace to convince a jury that the person should be awarded an unfair verdict. It would be naïve to assume that no one ever fakes or exaggerates soft tissue injuries, but it would also be unfairly skeptical to assume that such injuries do not occur or do not merit fair compensation. Just because a type of injury may be more susceptible to fraud does not mean that your soft tissue injury is made up or exaggerated, but it does mean you may need to take extra care documenting the diagnosis and treatment of the injury to prove your claim to the insurance company. For this reason, you need an experienced personal injury attorney who can demonstrate to the insurance company why your soft tissue injury is legitimate and deserving of compensation. The most common soft tissue injuries in auto accident claims are sprains and strains of the neck and back. Whiplash is a common cause of soft tissue injury in car accidents. Typically, when someone refers to a soft tissue injury, he or she means injury to ligaments, tendons, and muscles. The following are common types of soft tissue injuries:

  1. Sprains. Ligaments are tissues that connect bones to one another. Sprains occur when those ligaments are stretched or torn.
  2. Strains. Tendons are the tissues that connect muscle to bone. Strains occur when those tendons are stretched or torn. A strain can also be an injury to a muscle.
  3. Contusions. Contusions are bruises caused by injury of the muscle, tendon, or ligament tissues. Contusions can be evidenced by discoloration of the skin caused by blood accumulating around the injury.
  4. Tendonitis. Sometimes injuries to tendons are accompanied by inflammation in the tendon or surrounding tissues (e.g., swelling, heat, redness (if visible), and pain), which constitutes tendonitis.
  5. Bursitis. Bursitis is swelling and irrigation of the bursa, which is a fluid-filled sac located between a bone and a tendon or muscle that allows the tendons to slide over bones. Commonly-injured bursae are located at the shoulder, hip, elbow, knee, and ankle joints.

If you think you might have suffered a soft tissue injury, you should consult with a qualified health professional to get the proper diagnosis and treatment. Oftentimes, insurance companies will attempt to downplay the seriousness of soft tissue injuries and pressure you to settle for less than your claim is worth. You may feel overwhelmed arguing with the insurance company, while trying to find the time and money to complete the recommended treatment for your injuries, and doing everything else in your life that refuses to be put on hold. The experienced personal injury attorneys at The Gasper Law Group can deal with the insurance companies and their attorneys to get you the compensation you deserve and get your life back on track.

By Jacob F. Kimball
Managing Attorney
The Gasper Law Group, PLLC

Serving Alcohol - 12-11-14

With the holiday season comes social drinking. Work parties often include consumption of alcohol, as do gatherings of families and friends. Unfortunately, irresponsible drinkers can cause serious injury and death if they choose to drink and drive. Many wonder, If I serve my guests alcohol and then they drive drunk and injure someone, can I get sued? Others wonder if a bar or tavern serves alcohol to a person, and that person causes an auto accident, can the victim sue the bar or tavern?

According to Colorado law, “social hosts” are not civilly liable to injured persons (or their estates), or for damage to property, caused by the intoxication of any of their guests unless one of the following applies:

1. The social host knowingly served an alcoholic beverage to such person who was under the age of 21 years; or

2. The social host knowingly provided the person under the age of 21 a place to consume an alcoholic beverage.

In addition, it is important to note that the statute of limitations for such a claim is relatively short—just one year—and is measured from the time the alcohol is provided, not from the time it is actually consumed or from when the cause of the damages arising from its consumption are discovered. Furthermore, neither the person who actually consumed the alcohol nor his or her estate, guardians, or dependents can sue the social host.

While you might not consider your mandatory work party a social event, the law will likely consider your employer to be a “social host,” making it tough to sue an employer unless the employer served alcohol to an under-aged drinker. If an employer that is not in the business of selling alcoholic beverages serves alcohol at a social event, it will probably be treated as a “social host” under the civil law. In one Colorado case, an employer maintained a break room on its property where it kept a keg of beer, a television, and a pool table. Employees were welcome to use the room for social gatherings after work. One day after work, an employee used the room and consumed beer with his co-workers, then left in his own vehicle. The employee then collided with another vehicle, killing one person and injuring another. The court explained that, because the employer was not in the business of providing or selling alcohol, was not licensed to sell alcohol, and the employee did not purchase or pay for the alcohol, the employer is properly treated as a “social host” under the statute, and as such, could not be held liable because the incident had nothing to do with anyone under age 21 consuming alcohol. Thus, in Colorado, an employer who is not in the business of selling alcohol will likely be considered a “social host” under the statute even if it provides the alcohol on its own property to its own employees.

Bars and taverns are held to a slightly higher standard than that to which social hosts are held. Typically, bars and taverns are not liable when an intoxicated person causes injuries to other unless they “willfully and knowingly” sold or served alcohol to such a person who is under age 21 or who is “visibly intoxicated.” Thus, there is no civil liability for a social host who serves alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person, but there is for a bar or tavern that does the same.

Thus, one of the most important issues in dram shop claims is whether the server or provider “willfully and knowingly” served alcohol to someone under age 21. This issue is further complicated by fake IDs and social hosts’ control over the age of their guests consuming alcohol. In practice, the law essentially protects bars and social hosts who serve alcohol to minors who provide fake or false IDs or who make no effort to observe the sobriety of the alcohol drinker. For example, in the Colorado case of Dickman v. Jackalope, Inc., a passenger who was injured in a collision while riding in an automobile driven by a minor who had been served alcoholic beverages sued the bar that had served the alcohol, arguing that the bar, which never checked the drunk-driver for ID, should be liable for the passenger’s injuries. The court disagreed, interpreting the statute to mean that the bar had to know the person was at least 21 and serve the person anyway. Thus, a bar, tavern, or social host who serves a minor alcohol without checking that person’s ID may not be liable for injuries that person causes while drunk. In another example, a mother who provided a house for her teenage daughter to host a party at which the mother knew alcohol would be consumed, and may have even helped collect money for beer, did not “willfully and knowingly serve” alcohol to minors.

Of course, these examples should NOT be construed to mean it is okay—morally or legally—to neglect to check the ID of the person you are serving alcohol, or that there are no legal consequences for doing so; instead, this article is limited to whether doing so would create civil liability (i.e., open oneself to a civil lawsuit).

We hope you have a fun and safe holiday season and that you can avoid any of the tragic alcohol-related injuries or deaths that too often occur at this otherwise wonderful time of year. However, if you or someone you know is harmed or killed because of alcohol, the experienced attorneys at The Gasper Law Group can help you get the compensation you deserve.

By Jacob F. Kimball
Managing Attorney, Civil Division
The Gasper Law Group, PLLC

Colorado law requires that your automobile insurance company offer you uninsured motorist (“UM”) and underinsured motorist (“UIM”) insurance. UM insurance applies when the person who caused you harm has no insurance coverage. UIM insurance applies when the person who caused you harm has some insurance, but it is not enough to compensate you for your injuries and damages.

For example, suppose you are hit by a driver who had never purchased insurance or whose insurance policy recently lapsed. If you had the foresight to purchase UM insurance, you could make a claim with your own insurance company for UM benefits to cover your medical bills, and other damages. If you did not purchase UM insurance, then you may end up paying for those expenses out of your own pocket, which could be financially devastating.

In Colorado, the minimum amount of insurance a driver is required to purchase is $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident (i.e., if the person who caused the accident injured more than one person, the insurance company does not have to pay out more than $50,000 total). Anyone who has significant experience with medical bills knows that $25,000 does not go very far with today’s high medical costs. One surgery or an extended hospital stay could easily exhaust the at-fault driver’s $25,000 limit. If you purchased UIM insurance, your own insurance company would begin paying for your injuries and damages once the at-fault driver’s insurance limits are exhausted.

For example, suppose you purchased $100,000 in UIM coverage and are hit by a driver who only paid for the legal minimum insurance, and because of the accident, your medical bills and other damages total $100,000. You can recover $25,000 from the at-fault driver’s insurance company, and then you can recover the remaining $75,000 from your own insurance company in the form of UIM benefits.

There are important procedures for making UM/UIM claims. For example, it is typically best to get your UM/UIM insurance carrier’s permission before settling with an uninsured or underinsured driver; otherwise, your UM/UIM claim could be denied if you prejudiced your UM/UIM carrier. In addition, oftentimes, your UM/UIM insurer will dispute the amount of your damages, arguing that you were fully compensated by the at-fault driver’s insurance. You may even need to file a lawsuit and conduct an evidentiary hearing to demonstrate that your damages exceed the at-fault driver’s insurance limits. For these reasons, we recommend you retain an experienced personal injury attorney, such as The Gasper Law Group, to help you navigate the process, protect your rights, and get you the full amount of compensation you are entitled to.

In Colorado, you get UM/UIM insurance automatically unless you “opted out” or “waived” the coverage in writing, which usually happens when you first purchase the insurance policy. Many times, people do not know or understand what they are signing, and do not recognize a UM/UIM waiver. The attorneys at Gasper Law Group can request your application materials to find out whether or not you actually opted out in writing. We have experience with insurance companies that originally denied UM/UIM coverage, but later backed down when it was shown that the insured never actually signed a written waiver.

Many wonder if making an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim will increase their premiums or cause their insurer to cancel, reduce coverage, or refuse to renew their policy. In Colorado and many other states, this is prohibited; an insurer cannot deny or reduce coverage or raise premiums for the use of uninsured/underinsured motorist or medical payments coverage.

By Jacob F. Kimball
Managing Attorney, Civil Division
The Gasper Law Group, PLLC

Unfortunately, the wrongful acts of another often rob family members and friends of their loved ones. In such cases, you may be able to bring a wrongful death action to receive compensation for your loss. Automobile accidents are a common cause of wrongful death, but wrongful death actions can arise from many types of intentional or accidental acts.

The statute of limitations for wrongful death actions is two years from the date of death, regardless of when you actually discover what caused the death, which means you must bring the action within two years or it is barred. However, there are exceptions to this rule, such as whether the person bringing the wrongful death claim is “disabled” (which includes being less than 18 years old), and whether the person who caused the death fraudulently covered up certain facts regarding the cause of death. If you have questions about whether a wrongful death claim is barred by the statute of limitations, you should consult with an experienced wrongful death attorney.

In wrongful death actions, Colorado law allows recovery of “economic damages” (e.g., funeral costs, lost wages, and medical expenses) and “noneconomic damages” (e.g., grief, loss of companionship, pain and suffering, and emotional stress). Colorado law limits the recovery of “noneconomic damages” to $250,000 adjusted for inflation (which, at this time, is $436,070), but does not limit recovery of economic damages. One exception to the noneconomic damages limit exists when the act that caused the wrongful death constitutes a “felonious killing” (murder in the first or second degree or manslaughter).

In addition, in certain circumstance, a person may want to elect a “solatium” payment, which is $50,000 adjusted for inflation (which, at this time, is $87,210) instead of noneconomic damages. An experienced wrongful death attorney can help you decide whether a solatium claim rather than a noneconomic damages claim is the appropriate choice under your circumstances. Regardless, solatium creates a damages floor for noneconomic damages, meaning you should be able to recover at least economic damages plus solatium, assuming, of course, you meet the other statutory requirements.

Only certain individuals can bring a wrongful death claim. To bring a wrongful death claim, you must have “standing.” Standing means the law recognizes you have a certain right that the courts can enforce or that you can make a certain legal claim. You may have standing to bring a wrongful death claim if you are one of the following:

–             the deceased’s spouse;

–             heirs of the deceased (e.g., the lineal descendants of the deceased);

–             designated beneficiaries of the deceased;

–             one or both parents of the deceased, if the deceased was unmarried and had no children at death.

Typically, the deceased’s siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, and nieces and nephews do not have standing to bring wrongful death actions.

If someone else makes a wrongful death claim but you too had standing to make such a claim, then the person who made the claim may be required to share the proceeds of the claim with you. If the proceeds are shared, they should be divided in proportions based on the nature of your relationship to the deceased.

You should also be aware that there are timing restrictions governing when heirs, spouses, and designated beneficiaries can bring a wrongful death claim, as some can only bring such a claim during the first year following death, while others must wait until the second year after death. Therefore, we recommend consulting with an experienced wrongful death attorney if there is a question about the timing of the claim.

Because of their nature, wrongful death actions quite complex and are almost always highly emotional. For these reasons, you should consult with an experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as you believe you or someone else may be making such a claim. If you have questions, the Gasper Law Group offers free consultations regarding wrongful death claims.

By Jacob F. Kimball
Attorney at Law
The Gasper Law Group, PLLC

Survival actions may be brought when the intentional or negligent act of another causes a death. It is important to understand the difference between survival actions and wrongful death actions, as they are different legal theories entitling claimants to different damages, but may sometimes be brought in the same lawsuit. Essentially, in a wrongful death action, the person making the claim is seeking damages suffered by him or her because of the decedent’s death, whereas in a survival action, the deceased’s estate is advancing the deceased’s claims against the person who caused the death.

In a survival action, damages are limited to “pecuniary” losses that occurred before the deceased died. For example, if a person gets in a car accident and dies in the hospital from those injuries a month later, that person’s lost wages and medical expenses incurred between the time of the accident and death would be recoverable in a survival action.

To bring a survival action, you must have proper legal “standing.” Because the beneficiary of a survival action is the deceased’s estate, the action should be brought by the estate’s personal representative.

Survival actions can be quite complex and emotional. In addition, they may overlap with wrongful death claims. As a result, you should consult with an experienced survival and wrongful death action attorney. If you have questions about whether you may have a survival or wrongful death action, the Gasper Law Group offers free consultations.

By Jacob F. Kimball
Attorney at Law
The Gasper Law Group, PLLC

Lucky I survived, but now what?

Lucky I survived, but now what?

Car accidents are unfortunately a very common source of injuries. The legal issues that arise from car accidents are typically related to insurance and medical care. Most motor vehicle accident victims need money for treatment and to compensate them for their injuries. Insurance is a common source of that money, but many people encounter difficulties or frustration when trying to convince an insurance company to pay them what they deserve.

Other problems that arise with insurance include uninsured and underinsured motorist benefits (often abbreviated, “UM” and “UIM”) and payment of medical expense payments (often called “medpay”). In addition, insurance companies often request that victims of accidents provide recorded statements regarding how the accident occurred and about the victim’s injuries. Because of the potential pitfalls of these insurance issues, you need an experienced, qualified personal injury attorney who can protect your rights and guide you through the insurance claim process.

Another common problem caused by automobile accidents is medical bills. Quality medical care grows more and more expensive, and health insurance seems to cover less and less, if you can even afford it. An experienced, qualified personal injury attorney can help you identify those healthcare providers in your area that provide treatment “on a lien” (i.e., they get paid when you get paid) and guide you, if needed, in selecting a medical expense lender who may be able to assist you with your medical bills until you recovery money for your injuries.

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Dealing With Out Of State Protection Orders In Colorado
By Steven J. Davis, Attorney
The Gasper Law Group, PLLC

Protection orders, restraining orders, however they are called or referred toa re serious matters, especially to those needing them and those they have been served against. Anyone who has dealt with them can surely concur that they usually involve messy, high conflict situations with a lot of emotion involved. They can be issued out of either criminal cases or imposed through the civil process and both can ultimately end up in criminal charges as a result of a violation.

An interesting question was brought up recently involving a protection order issued in California as a result of a domestic violence case and the enforceability of such order. A rather experienced attorney did not believe that the order was enforceable by a Colorado law enforcement officer. I, as a former Deputy District Attorney tended to disagree, but could not honestly refer to the exact statute, so I felt compelled to research it further.

What I found is that enforcement of the order by law enforcement is written specifically into 13-14-110 (4) which states filing of the foreign protection order in the central registry or otherwise domesticating or registering the order pursuant to article 53 of this title or section 14-11-101, C.R.S., is not a prerequisite to enforcement of the foreign protection order. A peace officer shall presume the validity of, and enforce in accordance with the provisions of this article, a foreign protection order that appears to be an authentic court order that has been provided to the peace officer by any source. If the protected party does not have a copy of the foreign protection order on his or her person and the peace officer determines that a protection order exists through the central registry, the national crime information center as described in 28 U.S.C. sec. 534, or through communication with appropriate authorities, the peace officer shall enforce the order. A peace officer may rely upon the statement of any person protected by a foreign protection order that it remains in effect. A peace officer who is acting in good faith when enforcing a foreign protection order is not civilly liable or criminally liable pursuant to section 18-6-803.5 (5), C.R.S.

So yes, a protection order issued in another state is enforceable in Colorado, but to go back to the thoughts of the experienced attorney that thought otherwise, how many people actually know the statute? If a rather experienced attorney was not aware of the statute, does local law enforcement? Having a court certified copy of the protection order would probably be a good idea, but a better idea would be to have protection order domesticated, or otherwise registered in the local area where you reside. It’s safe to say that local officers are going to be more familiar local orders and it will make it easier to get the protection that a protection order is there to provide.

As always, it is definitely best to consult an attorney about matters such as these, but being armed with a little statutory knowledge doesn’t hurt.

By: Matthew B. Drexler*

Being injured in a motor vehicle accident is scary enough. Trying to sort out the complicated insurance regulations and policy language just compounds your experience. You may have heard that insurance companies have to offer you “Med Pay” to cover medical expenses resulting from an accident. This article provides pertinent information about Med Pay and the interplay between Med Pay benefits and common health insurance policies.

Med Pay is short for “Medical Payment Coverage” and is offered by automobile insurance companies as part of an automobile insurance liability policy. Med Pay funds are intended to pay for medical expenses stemming from an automobile accident. Med Pay, however, is not a replacement for health insurance. Med Pay and Health Insurance can be used, in tandem, to compensate an injured driver or passenger for medical expenses and injuries occurring after a serious automobile accident.

To be clear, Med Pay benefits are available to anyone in your vehicle, not just the named insured driver or owner. Med Pay benefits are also available regardless of who may be at fault for the accident.

By law (effective January 1, 2009) insurance companies offering Colorado insurance policies are required to offer at least $5,000 in Med Pay coverage. However, Med Pay is available in larger amounts. For example, a policy holder can obtain $100,000 coverage (per person) in Med Pay benefits to protect the policy holder and passengers in the event of a serious accident. Med Pay benefits can also be declined by a policy holder; however, such a waiver must be in writing. Even then, it is the insurance company’s responsibility to produce the documentation verifying a waiver of Med Pay. Otherwise, the insurance company may still be liable for payment of $5,000 towards medical expenses regardless of whether the insurance company received the associated premium.

By law, an automobile insurance company is required to set the minimum $5,000 benefit aside for thirty days to pay claims made by trauma care treatment providers (e.g. ambulance, trauma physicians) who provided treatment after an automobile accident. Clearly, Colorado’s Med Pay requirement (codified at C.R.S. § 10-4-635) is intended to protect emergency medical treatment providers; however, Med Pay benefits can be a substantial resource for an insured involved in a serious auto accident. After the thirty day period expires, the $5,000 benefit becomes available to pay other medical bills incurred. If a policy holder opts for higher Med Pay benefits, the policy holder may be entitled to the immediate use and disbursement of proceeds over the required set-aside. In other words, a policy holder who purchases a policy with $35,000 in Med Pay benefits may be able to access the additional $30,000 beyond the initial $5,000 to cover medical bills. The more serious an accident, the more important Med Pay becomes as a financial planning tool to cope with the increasing costs of medical care related to automobile accidents.

Here’s an example of how Med Pay benefits works: You and your passenger are injured in a serious auto accident. Your medical expenses, to date, total $50,000. Your passenger is more fortunate with $10,000 in medical expenses. If you maintain a $50,000 Med Pay policy, then you would have adequate coverage limits to cover both you and your passenger. Obviously, the more insurance you carry, the more protection and peace of mind you afford yourself.

While we recommend obtaining as much Med Pay coverage as possible, the decision often comes down to personal risk tolerance and practical financial limitations. Some folks rationalize that purchasing Med Pay is cheaper and therefore forego purchasing health insurance. This may make sense for automobile accidents; however, Med Pay benefits are not available for any other type of injury or accident (e.g. slip and fall, household accidents).
A colleague of mine refers to Med Pay benefits as “free money!” She’s right. Section (3)(a) of C.R.S. § 10-4-635 expressly provides:

An insurer providing benefits under medical payments coverage in the amount specified in this section or in a greater amount than the amount specified in this section shall not have a right to recover against an owner, user, or operator of a motor vehicle, or against any person or organization legally responsible for the acts or omissions of such person, in any action for damages for benefits paid under such medical payments coverage. An insurer shall not have a direct cause of action against an alleged tortfeasor for benefits paid under medical payments coverage.

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