Potential avenues for compensation
If it turns out the driver was drunk, then he or she may face criminal penalties. This opens up other issues as well as other potential avenues for compensation. Therefore it is important that you give yourself the best chance of finding the at-fault driver.
For example, when alcohol or drugs are a factor in causing a motor vehicle accident, punitive damages or exemplary damages may be available. Punitive damages may be awarded by Colorado judges and juries for behavior which is willful, wanton or reckless - in other words, for extremely bad behavior. These damages would be payable in addition to any insurance coverage that the driver has. It may also be possible to apply for compensation under county crime victim programs.
However, at the same time, serious criminal violations can make a wrongful death or personal injury claim more difficult. Often an insurance company will attempt to deny coverage under a “criminal acts exclusion" or an "intentional acts exclusion" in an insurance policy. As such, it is important to characterize most claims in terms of negligence or recklessness rather than intentional or criminal acts.
If the at-fault driver in your case cannot be found, or if the driver does not have enough insurance to cover your full damages, it may become necessary to file a claim against your own insurance company. These claims are usually pursued through uninsured motorist coverage.
Once your insurer is involved, it will “take the place” of the at-fault driver. This means it will claim you contributed to the collision and will seek to minimize your injuries, damages, and losses. If you and the insurer cannot agree, arbitration may be available, but in most cases a lawsuit is necessary.