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*
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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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By Matthew B. Drexler
Partner and Attorney
The Gasper Law Group, PLLC

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Serious accidents involving public or private transportation (including trucking accidents, airline accidents, passenger or commuter railway accidents or accidents involving trains, buses, or limos) are more complicated than passenger vehicle accidents. Often, an injured party faces more red tape, insurance regulations and procedural hurdles that are actually designed to limit or eliminate liability.

The attorneys at THE GASPER LAW GROUP are serious about Helping People First and are well positioned to stand up for the rights of those injured in serious trucking or bus accidents. Trucking and bus accident litigation involves far more than a police accident report and filing a lawsuit. Trucking and bus accidents involve commercial and/or governmental entities with significant resources and defense lawyers whose job is to limit liability of their insured drivers and trucking company clients. When they other side has a team of professionals and experts with the shared goal to limit your recovery, call THE GASPER LAW GROUP to assemble your own team.

Trucking accidents also involve some of the most serious injuries, which require additional analysis as to the impact, permanency and ongoing nature of medical treatment. Trucking accidents and other catastrophic accidents are not for the faint of heart. If you are the victim of a serious accident and just want a quick (yet undervalued) settlement, please don’t call us. THE GASPER LAW GROUP is dedicated to working with our clients to maximize potential recoveries whether the recovery is achieved by strong negotiation based on experience and a command of the facts of your case or whether the recovery is based on solid litigation and courtroom presentation. Serious accidents require diligence, knowledge of the major transportation industry and the ability to operate under pressure. Oftentimes, success is a result of stamina to withstand the litigation process that can be intentionally delayed by the insurance companies and the attorneys retained specifically by the insurance companies to represent their drivers.

As it turns out trucking and bus accidents are some of the most avoidable accidents. Federal and state regulations set stringent requirements for truck drivers that a trucking company must adhere to for the protection of the general public. These accidents routinely involve speeding, improperly secured loads, aggressive driving or tailgating, impairment from alcohol, drugs or over-the-counter medication, or failing to adhere to the usual and customary rules of the road. A recent trend involves distracted drivers who may be texting (mobile text messaging), emailing or surfing the internet when the collision occurs.

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By Matthew B. Drexler
Partner and Attorney
The Gasper Law Group, PLLC

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There you are simply minding your own business when a stranger approaches you, hands you a document and utters those shameful words, “You’ve just been served.” Your rather polite response comes natural, “Thank you.” If, on the other hand, you flew off the deep end and cursed the process server while chasing him down in your vehicle while hurling the papers back in his face, don’t call our Civil Litigation team (you aren’t the client we want to help quite frankly); instead, call our Criminal Defense team at THE GASPER LAW GROUP.

You next flip through the Civil Case Cover Sheet and Summons as if you have seen it before or already know what it says. You get to the good part, the Complaint and Jury Demand. As you read further, you learn who is suing you and suffer through a one-sided retelling of the facts you thought were long resolved. As you read further, you discover several claims for relief and may recognize some of them (e.g. breach of contract, negligence). You also find some that don’t make sense whatsoever (e.g. breach of good faith and fair dealing, breach of fiduciary dury, demand for accounting, quantum meruit, unjust enrichment).

If you are not enraged yet, you will be … at the end of the Complaint, you discover that the plaintiff is asking for judgment to enter against you together with attorneys fees, costs and interest at the maximum rate allowable by law! More distressing is the fact that the plaintiff doesn’t even tell you how much money they want from you! How can this be? They sue you, have the audacity to have you personally served and they can’t even give you a dollar figure of what they want? As it turns out, they aren’t allowed to; the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure do not permit a plaintiff to include a dollar amount in the “prayer for relief” (i.e. the section of the Complaint in which the plaintiff summarizes what they want in terms of damages, fees, costs and interest)

The first rule of civil litigation is not to panic. As a close friend and colleague of mine stated recently, frustration and anger begin where knowledge and experience ends. You may be frustrated, enraged and stressed after being sued, and that’s okay. But recognize these symptoms and reaction for what they are. They are signals to surround yourself with those who possess the knowlege and experience to handle a civil law suit and keep you out of harms way.

The second rule of civil litigation is don’t ignore a lawsuit. In most cases, the Summons contains deadlines in which to file an Answer and some courts even require that a plaintiff provide the defendant with a blank form to file an Answer.

The third rule of civil litigation is don’t do anything until you talk to an attorney. Even if you don’t hire one, it is still great advice to learn as much as you can before committing yourself to a particular position in your case. Did you know that you don’t have to file an Answer first? It may be important to file another responsive pleading such as a motion to dismiss or a motion to object to personal jurisdiction (can this court even issue orders against you) or to object to subject matter jurisdiction (can this court even hear this type of case). If you file an Answer – you know, the one the Plaintiff was nice enough to provide for you – you may actually waive your right to challenge personal jurisdiction.

The fourth rule of civil litigation (and we won’t discuss all 100 rules in this blog article) is to find the right lawyer who will properly analyze your case and put the requisite time into learning the factual background and legal principles involved in your case.

An effective attorney familiar with civil litigation and civil disputes will certainly be able to explain, in lay terms, what the plaintiff is actually seeking. Now, there are some lawyers who will try to tell you that they know how the case will end and will suggest that you settle the case immediately for some value the attorney thinks is reasonable. This is a silly strategy. As a recent illustration, we recenty saw a case where a client came from another lawyer’s office for a “second opinion” on the value of the case to compare with the other lawyer’s on-the-spot evaluation. We told the client that we had absolutely no idea what the settlement value of the case looks like. Puzzled, the client explained that the other attorney could offer almost an exact amount. We explained, nicely of course, that we could, in fact, tell the client a number if it made the client feel better but that we weren’t in the business of telling folks what they want to hear; we are in the business of giving solid legal advice based on the facts and circumstances of the case. Any number we would have offered would have been pure speculation and would ignore critcal information that would be disclosed or discovered throughout the case.

It turns out that the settlement value of a case has little to do with what one attorney thinks is a good value; it has so much more to do with the motivations and position of the plaintiff and what may be learned (good and bad) in the earlier stages of the case. In this case, the first lawyer offered an amount of $50,000 to settle a case and reasoned that this amount would actually be cheaper than the cost of defending the case at trial. While true, it ignored a larger issue. It turns out that the plaintiff was a good friend of the defendant and was being pressured by parents and friends to sue the client to recover money damages. Knowing that (because we asked the questions and listened to the full background), we were able to conduct an early settlement conference (without the parents and friends) to focus on what the lawsuit would do to the friendship between the plainitff and the client. In the end, the case settled for a much more reasonable amount and the parties were able to leave the settlement conference knowing that the money issue was behind them; they moved on with life and preserved a relationship that would have, nearly guaranteed, been destroyed in the litigation process. The first lawyer was absolutely right, $50,000 was probably less than taking the case to trial. Nevertheless, experienced lawyers learn not only about the facts of the case but will also explore the dynamics and personal relationships behind a case to encourage a more reasonable settlement or, if settlement cannot be achieved, to better prepare the case for trial.

Much of an attorney’s job involves uncovering facts and then determining how to present those facts in a favorable light. Finding an attorney that will do this instead of focusing on an off-the-cuff case valuation can be challenging. We invite you to contact The Gasper Law Group, PLLC to learn more about our law firm and to determine if we are the attorney best suited for you, your case and your goals. The Gasper Law Group offers free initial consultations and is committed to Helping People First!

So, what should you do after being sued?

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By Matthew B. Drexler
Partner and Attorney
The Gasper Law Group, PLLC

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Have you ever had your insurance company deny a claim you submitted, either in whole or in part?

Perhaps you were left wondering what went wrong and what can be done.
Sometimes a claim is denied for something you, as the insured, did: You let your insurance lapse or you bought the wrong coverage. Often times, though, insurance companies deny valid claims or refuse to pay claims despite the clear requirements of the policy. In these cases, you may very well have a bad faith insurance claim.
Bad faith first party insurance claims occur when an individual or corporation makes a valid direct claim to an insurance company and a settlement is refused, delayed or only partially paid.

Insurance companies owe a duty of good faith and fair dealing to those they insure, and part of that duty requires an insurance company to treat its policyholder’s interests just as their own.

Some signs that an insurer may be acting in bad faith are:
• Denial of payment without a communicated reasonable basis;
• Refusal to acknowledge or reply promptly upon notification of a covered claim;
• Failure to give a fair and reasonable evaluation or inspection of prospective damages;
• Making an unreasonable settlement offer.

The above list is clearly non-exhaustive and an insurance company can act in bad faith numerous other ways. The attorneys at THE GASPER LAW GROUP can determine whether your insurance company – who gladly took your premiums for months or years but has now turned against you – is acting in bad faith and whether you have a legitimate legal claim.
When we can establish that an insurance company has engaged in a bad faith practices, the insurance company is responsible for compensating the injured policyholder, paying the policy contract benefits and, in some cases, punitive damages that are intended to deter similar bad faith behavior in the future.
In certain circumstances, an insured or policy holder may even be entitled to emotional distress damages. For example, in Goodson v. American Standard Ins. Co. of Wisconsin, 89 P.3d 409 (Colo. 2004), the Colorado Supreme Court acknowledged that an insured purchases insurance to avoid suffering anxiety, fear, stress, and uncertainty with regard to a covered loss or accident. The Court explained:

The fact that an insurer finally pays in full does not erase the distress caused by the bad faith conduct. Damages for emotional distress the insured proves are therefore available in actions for bad faith breach of insurance contract upon the showing of the insurer’s liability.

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