COLORADO UNINSURED & UNDERINSURED MOTORIST LAWS

When you’re in an accident, the party who is responsible for the accident should pay for your damages. All drivers in Colorado are required by law to have minimum amounts of insurance. But what happens when the driver at fault doesn’t have the required insurance? Will you be able to recover the compensation you need to recover fully? Do you need to work with a Colorado car accident lawyer? Here’s some frequently asked questions and what you need to know about uninsured motorist coverage in Colorado.

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Colorado Uninsured Motorist law information for victims in Denver, Ft. Collins and CO Springs, Colorado.


What is Uninsured (UM) or Under-Insured (UIM) Insurance?

Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage and underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage are optional forms of automobile insurance that provide bodily injury protection to you in the event of a car accident. Depending on your policy, UM/UIM is sometimes called “stacked” or “unstacked” coverage. 

If you are involved in an accident with a driver who either has no auto insurance or insufficient auto insurance, or a hit-and-run where the driver is unknown, UM/UIM will help cover expenses related to your injuries caused by their negligence.

What Is Liability Insurance?

Liability insurance is a car insurance policy that provides financial protection against damage or injury you may cause to another person in an automobile accident. Liability coverage usually pays for the medical expenses, lost wages, and legal fees incurred by you due to such an accident. 

It also pays for any damages caused to another party’s property if your vehicle was responsible for that damage. When getting auto liability insurance, Colorado has mandatory minimum coverage required:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury or death caused to any one person in an accident
  • $50,000 for bodily injury or death to all persons in any one accident
  • $15,000 for property damage in any one accident

It is important to mention that liability insurance and UM/UIM insurance are not the same things. Many people get these confused. Liability insurance pays another person for damages you caused. UM/UIM insurance covers your injuries if the at-fault driver is underinsured or uninsured. 

How does UM/UIM coverage work in Colorado?

UM/UIM coverage in Colorado fills the gap between the other party’s insurance and your losses in an accident. UM coverage protects you if you are involved in a car accident with an uninsured driver or a hit-and-run. UIM coverage provides protection when the other party’s liability limits do not fully pay out the expenses related to your damages. 

Let’s say you are in an accident with an uninsured driver and have $30,000 in damages, but the other driver has no insurance. If you have $50,000 UM coverage, your policy covers the full $30,000 that you have in damages.

If you are in an accident and have $75,000 in damages, but the other driver has an insurance policy with a maximum limit of $50,000, their insurance pays you the full $50,000. Then you would file through your UIM coverage to collect the remaining $25,000. 

How do I pursue recovery after an uninsured motorist causes a car accident?

When you need to seek recovery after an uninsured motorist is determined at fault for your car accident, you file a claim with your insurance provider. However, the process can be challenging as insurance companies do not like paying out money to their own insured for UM/UIM claims.

Other important things you need to know about filing a UM/UIM claim include:

  • Your insurance company cannot increase your rates. Colorado has laws that prohibit insurance companies from increasing rates when people file UM/UIM claims. 
  • Some insurance companies will fight you when filing a UM/UIM claim. Sadly, many insurance companies do not want to pay out losses to their insured as it will hurt their bottom line. 
  • Never accept the first offer made by your insurance company. Insurance companies want to settle claims for the least amount possible while making the offer sound like it is the best you will get. Do not be misled, as it often falls short of the actual compensation you are entitled to receive.
  • If your UM/UIM claim is denied, appeal it. Another tactic some insurance companies use is to deny UM/UIM claims. Do not accept this, as you are entitled to compensation from your insurance company when the responsible party is uninsured or underinsured. 

Getting assistance from an experienced car accident attorney before filing your UM/UIM claim is beneficial. Your uninsured motorist lawyer knows how to work with your insurance company to ensure you are reimbursed the full amount you are entitled to receive. 

What if the person at fault in my car accident does not have enough insurance to pay all of my bills and expenses?

In this case, you can use your UIM coverage to pay for the additional costs. Your UIM coverage kicks in when a third party’s liability limits are insufficient. To receive compensation, you must show that the other party was at fault and that their insurance does not cover all of your expenses. 

It is important to note that if you choose not to purchase UIM coverage, you may have no legal recourse against an underinsured driver.

What happens if I’m injured in an uninsured car accident in Colorado?

Suppose you are injured in an uninsured car accident in Colorado and have UM coverage. In that case, you can file a claim against your insurance company for injuries, provided the other driver is deemed at fault. This coverage “steps into the shoes” of the at-fault driver and pays you the same kind of damages you could have recovered from the at-fault driver’s insurance had the driver been insured. 

Uninsured motorist insurance coverage may be available to pay your claim if any resident in your household owns a car that has UM coverage, regardless of whether you were occupying the car at the time of the accident. In fact, your uninsured motorist coverage will even cover you if you are a pedestrian hit by an uninsured driver.

Who will pay for my car and medical bills after a hit-and-run accident?

If you were the victim of a hit-and-run accident, you can receive compensation for your medical bills and other associated expenses through your insurance policy’s UM coverage, provided you have this coverage. Filing against your UM coverage is common in cases where the at-fault driver cannot be identified. Additionally, it can be helpful to speak with an experienced attorney to understand what options are available under the law.

Why Is Uninsured Motorist Coverage Necessary?

Even though UM coverage in Colorado is optional, it is necessary. Based on insurance claims and data from 2019, almost 13% of drivers in the United States were uninsured. In Colorado, 16.3% of drivers on the road were uninsured. By having UM coverage, you have peace of mind you are protected in the event of a car accident.

Is it mandatory for Colorado motorists to carry UM/UIM insurance?

Under Colorado law, insurance companies selling automobile insurance in Colorado are required to sell UM/UIM insurance as part of every policy sold unless the coverage is specifically refused in writing. However, UM/UIM insurance is optional in Colorado, meaning you do not have to add it to your auto insurance policy unless you want to. 

It may be in your best interests to add UM/UIM coverage to your policy just in case you are ever involved in a car accident and the other driver is underinsured or uninsured. UM/UIM coverage can help cover costs associated with the following:

  • Medical expenses for your injuries and the injuries of your passengers
  • Funeral expenses should someone die
  • Loss of income

What Happens If You Get Caught Driving Without Insurance in Colorado?

Driving without insurance is against the law in Colorado. If you are caught driving without insurance, you can incur the following penalties:

  • A fine of up to $1,000
  • Up to 40 hours of community service
  • Ten days or up to one year in jail
  • Driver’s license, registration, and license plate suspension for up to eight months

You could also face additional criminal and civil charges if you are involved in a car accident and are considered at fault. 

What current law works to protect Colorado drivers?

Colorado Revised Statute 10-4-609 closed previous loopholes in the law that prevented consumers from receiving the full benefits they thought they were buying when purchasing UM/UIM coverage in Colorado. All current uninsured and/or underinsured automobile insurance policies reflect this update.

What Is “Setoff”?

Under previous insurance laws, your insurance company would be able to “set-off” or reduce the amount of UM coverage they would have to pay you by the amount of liability insurance available from the at-fault driver. 

For example, the at-fault driver had $50,000 in liability coverage, and you had UM/UIM coverage of $200,000. Your total losses were $200,000. So, your insurance company would reduce your benefit to $150,000 since the other driver had $50,000 in coverage.

What Is “Anti-Stacking”?

Prior to the current law, insurance companies could collect premiums for UM/UIM coverage on multiple policies covering multiple cars in the same household. However, they would not allow the policyholder to “stack” these multiple coverages at the same time.

For instance, you had three vehicles, each with $100,000 UM/UIM policies. Even though you choose to “stack” the three policies for a combined coverage of $300,000, it was common practice for insurance companies to enforce “anti-stacking,” meaning they would only cover up to $100,000 per vehicle.  

Additionally, many Colorado insurance companies continued to sell multiple policies of UM coverage in a single household and continued to use and enforce “anti-stacking” provisions even after the Colorado Supreme Court ruled this essentially unnecessary in DeHerrera v. Sentry Insurance Company, 30 P.3d 167 (Colo. 2001).

In DeHerrera, the Supreme Court held that Sentry Insurance was incorrect in its reading of Colorado Revised Statutes 10-4-609. The Supreme Court instructed Sentry Insurance (and by implication all other insurance companies writing policies in Colorado) that UM/UIM benefits follow the person and not the vehicle. Additionally, the Court stated that one premium is sufficient to cover an entire family of drivers compared to one premium per car.

Can “Set-Off” And “Anti-Stacking” Be Used Together?

Previously, insurance companies could reduce your compensation by “setting off” and “anti-stacking” your compensation at the same time. The current insurance laws now prohibit that practice.

For example, you have two $100,000 UM/UIM policies for two vehicles. You get into an accident and experience losses of $250,000. The other driver had $50,000 in liability coverage. Before the change in law, your insurance company would “set-off” the $50,000 and “anti-stack” the policies. As such, you would only receive a total of $100,000.

Since the loopholes in the law were closed, in this example, you would now receive $250,000 since your insurance company can no longer “set-off” or “anti-stack” your policies.

Do I need a lawyer to make a claim for UM/UIM coverage?

While using a lawyer to file a UM/UIM claim is not always necessary, it can be beneficial. Your insurance company wants to pay you the least amount possible. They may not issue you the total compensation you are entitled to without legal representation. Working with an experienced attorney ensures you receive the compensation you deserve.

How much can I get from a UM/UIM claim?

The amount you can receive from a UM/UIM claim will depend on the specific circumstances of your case, as well as the limits of your policy. It is important to remember that these claims are subject to certain coverage and monetary limits set by individual insurers. Therefore, it is always best to speak with an experienced attorney to understand what options are available under the law.

Contact our car accident lawyers today

When you have been injured in a car accident, you need help to ensure you are fairly and justly compensated. At Bachus & Schanker, we offer a free case evaluation and consultation to provide you with legal advice and our recommendation for pursuing your claim. Our car accident lawyers understand the complexities of car accident injury claims, UM/UIM claims, and dealing with insurance companies to ensure the maximum amount you are entitled to receive.

Sources:

CRS 10-4-609

DeHerrera v. Sentry Insurance Company, 30 P.3d 167 (Colo. 2001).

Fitzpatrick, M. (2023). Penalties for Driving Without Insurance in Colorado. 

Mandatory Automobile Insurance in Colorado.

Timmons, M. (2023). Uninsured Motorist Statistics: Changes by State and Over Time.

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