Colorado Legal Digest – March 2023 Newsletter

Mar 31, 2023

“A GREAT OUTCOME”: $125,000 VERDICT FOR INJURED BICYCLIST$125K Verdict For Injured Bicyclist Won By Attorney Joe Sirchio

Two years ago Adam, a musician and avid back-country skier, was riding his bike to work when a pickup truck on his left abruptly made a right turn. The truck knocked him off his bike, causing him severe injuries, and leaving him facing knee surgery and a long, painful rehab before he could get back on the slopes.

But the truck driver and his insurance company had a different version of the crash. “They were gaslighting me from the beginning,” Adam says. “They said I was just being dramatic, that I didn’t even need an ambulance. They said it was my fault.”

Fortunately, Adam had a strong ally by his side — the law firm of Franklin D. Azar & Associates.

Adam’s ordeal started in a Golden intersection in May 2021, when the truck attempted its right turn and cut him off. “I tried to get out of the way, but he didn’t stop,” Adam recalls. “He steamrolled the bike. I bailed quickly, but my shoelace got stuck in a spoke.”

The elderly truck driver claimed not to have seen Adam and insisted that he had the right of way. But police and witness reports supported Adam’s version of events.

At the emergency room Adam complained of leg and back pain; he was also experiencing a lack of stability in his knee. After subsequent visits and tests it was determined that he had a torn medial collateral ligament (MCL). The other driver’s insurance company contended that the injury could have been a pre-existing condition and offered only $10,000 to settle the case. Shortly before trial, the offer was raised to $40,000—still well below Adam’s $90,000 in medical bills.

“I lost my job,” Adam recalls. “I had to borrow money from my family. But my attorney, Joe, is really good. He fights tooth and nail.”

Azar senior attorney Joseph Sirchio notes that the Azar firm isn’t shy about taking cases to trial when warranted. A Jefferson County jury returned a verdict in Adam’s favor, awarding him $125,000 in damages while finding him partially responsible for the crash. “It was a tough case, and a great outcome for the client,” Sirchio says.

After many months of rehab, Adam is getting back into big-mountain skiing. “It’s not perfect, to this day,” he reports. “But I still get rowdy, and I still have a good time.”


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT INJURY SETTLEMENTS AND TAXESFrequently Asked Questions About Bad-Faith Lawsuits Blog By Frank Azar

When you’re involved in a bad car crash, there’s plenty to worry about besides tax issues. It’s usually late in the process, after we have helped our clients to reach a settlement with the insurance company or emerge victorious at trial, that they start asking questions about how their personal injury settlement might affect their tax situation. With tax season around the corner, here are some common questions and straight answers.

DO I HAVE TO PAY TAXES ON MY PERSONAL INJURY SETTLEMENT?

As with most tax issues, the simple answer to that question is, “It depends.” The types of compensation involved in an auto insurance settlement vary; some aspects are not subject to taxation, while others are. The amounts paid to you as a result of physical injuries you’ve suffered or for damage to your vehicle are, in most cases, not taxable. They are reimbursement for losses you have incurred and thus would not be reported as income. According to the relevant federal regulations, this applies to settlement payments for medical bills as well as any award for pain and suffering that you endured as a direct result of physical injury. The exception would be if you already claimed a deduction for your medical expenses on your tax return; if that’s the case, you may be required to report that part of the settlement as income.

WHAT ABOUT LOST INCOME?

If the accident caused you to lose time from work, the settlement may include reimbursement for lost wages. The IRS has consistently held that compensatory damages, including lost wages, received on account of a personal physical injury are excludable from gross income and thus are not taxable.

ARE OTHER FORMS OF COMPENSATION TAXED?

The settlements in most car accident cases tend to revolve around lost income and payments for physical injuries and property damage (not taxable). But other types of compensation may be involved that can create tax liabilities. In rare cases, juries may award punitive damages, intended to punish the defendant for intentional misconduct; those damages are considered taxable. So is any award for “emotional distress” that isn’t a direct result of the physical injuries involved. So is interest paid on the amount of the settlement.

WHAT CAN I DO TO REDUCE MY TAX LIABILITY?

There are deductions you may be able to take to offset some of these taxes — for example, deducting attorneys’ fees and other costs that reduced the amount you ultimately received. The more complex the settlement, the more likely you are to need an experienced tax advisor to help sort through what is taxable and what isn’t, and to address your questions about what to do with that settlement check once it arrives.


WHY TRAFFIC DEATHS IN COLORADO ARE THE HIGHEST IN 40 YEARSWhy Traffic Deaths In Colorado Are The Highest In 40 Years Blog By Frank Azar

Last year 745 people died in Colorado car crashes. That’s the highest number of traffic fatalities in the state since 1981, prompting discussion among public safety agencies about how to improve roadway safety.

Unfortunately, the 2022 figures don’t just reflect a bad year, nor is it merely a symptom of population growth. After decades of significant progress in lowering the casualty rate, the state has seen a steady rise in traffic deaths over the past decade. The 57% increase since 2012 includes a record number of people not inside a vehicle at all. More than a third of those killed on the roads in 2022 were pedestrians, motorcyclists, or bicyclists, all of whom are at greater risk of serious injury or death in a collision than those in a car.

Serious as it is, the fatality rate isn’t the only disturbing trend. For every traffic death, another five people are seriously injured in crashes on Colorado’s roads. CDOT and the Colorado State Patrol are looking at various measures to improve road designs, protect vulnerable roadway users such as motorcyclists, and address “dangerous driving behaviors” that have contributed to the increase. Those behaviors include speeding, aggressive driving, driving under the influence, and distracted driving.

Impaired driving deaths increased to 278 in 2022. That’s up by almost sixty percent from 2019, with more drivers involved in crashes testing above the legal limit for THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) or a combination of drugs and alcohol.

“What we’re seeing across Colorado are the consequences when too many drivers ignore the rules of the road, and it’s unacceptable,” said Col. Matthew C. Packard, chief of the Colorado State Patrol. “Law enforcement alone can’t solve the problem. Drive sober, wear seat belts, obey speed limits and be mindful of pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists—treat your fellow road users with common courtesy, and collectively we will improve safety across our communities.”


 

The Car Accident Lawyers At FDAZAR

For more than thirty years the attorneys at Franklin D. Azar & Associates have helped thousands of injured people obtain complete and timely compensation for their losses. Our proven track record and expertise in serious injury cases have allowed us to grow into the largest personal-injury law firm in Colorado, with offices in Denver, Aurora, Thornton, Fort Collins, Greeley, Grand Junction, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo. If you’ve been injured in a bus, car, truck, or motorcycle accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Please call the car accident attorneys at FDAzar day or night at 800-716-9032, or contact us here for a free consultation and no-obligation evaluation of your case.


 

 

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