Why Have Car Insurance Rates in Denver Gone Up Faster Than Most Cities in The U.S.?

Depending on who and where you are, and on what you drive and how, you could pay $560 a year or more than $36,900 annually for auto insurance. That is nearly a 6,500 percent difference. If you live in the Denver area, and if your automobile insurance is costing you a lot more these days, you are not alone. Even if you have not had an accident or a ticket, you are probably paying more. Over the past five years, drivers in and around Denver have been hit with the most substantial car insurance premium hikes in the nation, with rates rising as much as 45 percent since 2011. Nationally, car insurance rates rose only 11 percent during the same five years.

The Zebra, an online auto insurance comparison site, analyzes auto insurance premiums and how they are impacted by factors like the state you live in, your age, gender, and financial behaviors, and the vehicles themselves. The site says that statewide, auto insurance in Colorado costs 48 percent more than it cost just five years ago. Violent weather and an increasing number of traffic accidents in Colorado are being cited as the top reasons for the high cost of auto insurance.

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The statistics are clear: Colorado drivers are having more traffic accidents and sustaining more injuries. About 120,000 traffic accidents were reported in the state in 2015, an increase by about 5,000 over 2014. But in 2010, there were fewer than 100,000 traffic accidents statewide. “Weather in Colorado appears to have been a key driver of risk – and consequent car insurance rate hikes – in recent years,” according to Neil Richardson, who is a licensed insurance agent and also an analyst for The Zebra.

DOES WEATHER HAVE AN IMPACT ON AUTO INSURANCE RATES?

“For example,” says Richardson, “the number of hail damage claims in Colorado more than tripled between 2013 and 2014 to nearly 100,000. And even though the number of claims in 2015 was lower than 2014, Colorado residents still filed more than 50,000 hail damage claims last year.” The spring of 2015 was particularly violent in terms of the weather in the state, with tornadoes, flooding, landslides, and mudslides damaging cars and causing accidents and injuries.

Neil Richardson also believes that Denver’s rapid growth and its rising number of drivers are factors impacting the insurance rates. He says, “And not only are there more drivers, but more of them are young. Younger drivers have less experience, statistically get in more accidents, and pose a higher risk. So it’s not technically the age, rather an increase in accidents and claims payouts from younger drivers, which might drive up rates for other drivers.”

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“We’re seeing a huge number of people moving into Colorado,” said Carole Walker, the executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association. “We have more drivers out on the roadways, whether that’s gas prices that are dropping or more drivers on our roads.” All of those factors – weather, new drivers, and rising accident statistics – have combined in recent years to make a Colorado driver’s average annual car insurance premium cost $1,398.

WHICH COLORADO DRIVERS PAY EVEN MORE FOR AUTO INSURANCE?

Drivers in Denver pay more – the average annual premium for the metro area is $1,462. Drivers in Colorado Springs now also pay an average of $1,462, and in Aurora, drivers are paying an average of $1,523 a year for automobile insurance coverage. As you would expect, bad drivers pay even more. A citation for speeding will increase your auto insurance costs by $318 a year. If you are at fault in an accident, you will pay another $580 per year. A reckless driving conviction raises the rate by $722, a DUI conviction raises it by $733, and if you get caught street racing, it will cost you an average of $895 more per year for automobile insurance coverage.

However, apparently there is no auto insurance penalty for Colorado drivers who text or talk on a cell phone while driving or for those driving under the influence of marijuana. In an email, Richardson told the Denver Business Journal, “Just like insurance companies see people under the influence of alcohol (a legal substance) as high-risk because they are involved in more accidents and cause more personal injury and property damage, if marijuana (now legal and presumably more commonly used) is proven to cause similarly high risk, insurance companies will increase penalties.”

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Carole Walker told KUSA that the laws in Colorado make it easier to sue insurance companies, so more claims in Colorado end up in court, and insurers are having a tough time keeping up with payouts. “The companies were just barely breaking even on what they were taking in in premiums to pay out claims,” Ms. Walker said. She added, “In this environment where we’re really seeing car insurance rates rise so dramatically, you really have to be a smart consumer.”

 

HOW CAN YOU BE A “SMART” AUTO INSURANCE CUSTOMER?

Naturally, being a smart consumer means taking the time to look for the best auto insurance, and it also means obeying the rules of the road, driving with caution, and doing what it takes to avoid traffic accidents. Still, anyone who is injured by a negligent driver in Colorado should consider filing a personal injury claim and should speak with an experienced Denver personal injury attorney regarding your legal rights and options after an accident. But even with a lawyer’s assistance, some of the most crucial evidence you will need for a personal injury claim will only be available to you immediately after the accident – before you can consult with an attorney.

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If you become injured because of another driver’s negligence, you’ll have to establish some facts at once. Take photos of the accident scene, damage to the vehicles, and your own visible injuries, or ask someone to take the photos for you. It is imperative to get the other driver’s name, contact information, and insurance information. Make copies of every document pertinent to the accident – the police accident report, test results, medical bills, and any other paperwork. And keep all of your medical appointments, because they will create the medical records that a Denver personal injury attorney will need to win the compensation and justice that an injury victim deserves.

By: Dallas Norton

Dallas Norton, the founding partner of Norton & Bowers, has practiced law with a focus on personal injury since 1992. Mr. Norton has extensive Colorado roots including grade school in Arvada and high school in Denver. He earned his J.D. from Brigham Young University Law School in 1991. When working on behalf of clients, Mr. Norton draws upon his extensive background in psychology and human resources.