CAN YOU SUE THE INSURANCE COMPANY AND NOT THE AT-FAULT SKIER?
A great question that I’m frequently asked after a skiing collision is how a victim can get insurance money from the at-fault skier without suing them personally. Understandably, folks don’t want to ruin the defendant’s life, they just want compensation for the harm.
Who do you sue in a skiing accident?
Under Colorado law, when you're seeking to obtain insurance money from a defendant who caused your injuries, you have to sue them directly. Why? There is no direct right of action against the third party (usually homeowners insurance) insurance company. The insurance company was not careless, did not violate the skier code and did not cause your injuries. You have to pursue your claim against the at-fault party. Under Colorado insurance law, their insurance company for an at-fault party will provide them a defense and be liable (pay) for any judgment or settlement against that defendant up to the amount of insurance that that defendant purchased. So if you're unable to settle your claims with the defendant's insurance carrier, by law you must file suit against the skier defendant.
Will suing someone ruin their life?
No. You are not ruining someone’s life by pursuing compensation for the harm they caused you. As I stated above, their insurance company will indemnify them up to the limits of their policy. All too often the insurance company fails to fairly adjust the claim. Defendants are often surprised that they’re getting sued as they thought their insurance company would take care of things. Sadly, insurance companies frequently put their financial interest ahead of the best interests of their insureds. The exception to this is if you seek damages beyond what the policy coverage is. For example, the at-fault skier or snowboarder has a $100,000 homeowners or renters liability policy and you have injuries, damages and losses that exceed the policy limits. Sometimes, although rarely, the person with inadequate insurance limits have significant assets. The “underinsured millionaire” is a rare instance, however, a settlement or judgment may include contribution from the at-fault party personally. The decision to pursue an amount beyond the policy limits depends on many factors, the most important one being the ability to pay. An asset investigation must be conducted whenever a settlement for policy limits takes place. It is also important to make certain that there is no umbrella policy coverage. Unlike an automobile collision, there is no underinsured motorist coverage equivalent under your homeowners or renters policy.
If you or a friend or a loved one has been involved in a skier collision or snowboarding collision and have questions about the value of the claim I encourage to you contact me. Consultations are always free. Call me at 303-300-5060 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.