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How Is Fault Determined in a Colorado Car Accident?

06/20/2021

At any moment, on any day, your life may change as a result of an auto accident. You may suffer severe injuries, incur significant hospital bills and other medical expenses, and you have to deal with property damage – your wrecked car. In the first moments after a car crash, you wonder whether you will be alright. Next, you are worried about all the unexpected expenses you have to cover. With the help of an experienced personal injury attorney at Firouzbakht Law Firm, you may recover a significant if not the entire amount from the other driver.

It all depends on the proportion of fault of each party involved in the motor vehicle accident. Finding out who bears the larger proportion of fault is the crucial part of proving that the other driver has a legal responsibility to pay for your damages, either through their insurance company or at the end of a personal injury lawsuit.

Understanding the Fault Doctrines in Car Accidents

Two black vehicles involved in an auto accident

Across the US, laws in various states apply three different doctrines when deciding who is responsible for paying for damages after a car accident. These doctrines are:

1.      Pure contributory negligence – under this doctrine, an accident victim is eligible to receive compensation for their economic losses and non-economic losses only if they are 0% responsible for the accident.. This is the strictest negligence rule and is applicable only in five US states plus the District of Columbia;

2.      Pure comparative negligence – this rule stipulates that accident victims may recover damages in proportion to the responsible driver’s degree of fault;

3.      Modified comparative negligence – according to this doctrine, the victim of a car crash may recover damages only if they are less than 50% responsible for the accident.

Colorado is one of the states that apply the modified comparative negligence rule, enshrined in the Colorado Revised Statutes 13-21-11. For this reason, you must hire a skilled auto accident attorney to investigate your case, determine your accurate proportion of fault, and prepare your accident claim.

How Is Fault Determined after a Colorado Car Accident?

Several parties play an important role in establishing fault in motor vehicle accidents in Colorado:

  • You and the way you act immediately after the accident
  • Law enforcement officers who will prepare the accident report
  • Eyewitnesses who will give testimony
  • The insurance adjuster who will reach their own conclusions
  • Your personal injury lawyer will conduct a separate investigation.

Let us look at some of these parties and their role in building up a credible and accurate description of how the car accident happened..

What You Need to Do Right After a Car Accident

According to Colorado Motor Vehicles and Traffic Regulations, 42-4-1606 car accidents have to be reported to the law enforcement authorities within 10 days if they resulted in death, bodily injury, and/or property damage. Depending on the crash circumstances, officers may or may not arrive at the crash scene to investigate and prepare the police report.

For this reason, you should ensure that you collect evidence to be used in proving the other driver’s responsibility. Such evidence involves:

  • Taking photos and videos of your injuries, damage to your car, skid marks, and any other element that may explain how the accident happened.
  • Asking eyewitnesses to give you their name and contact details
  • Getting the other driver’s information: contact details, license number, insurance policy.

What the Insurance Adjuster Will Attempt to Prove

Insurance adjusters have one simple purpose: to reduce the total amount of the settlement amount they have to pay or even find reasons to dismiss personal injury claims. Auto insurance companies hire experienced lawyers to fight claimants, and they have a long list of tactics to succeed in limiting payout amounts, such as:

  • Getting accident victims to accept a quick settlement immediately after the accident
  • Persuading accident victims to talk to the adjuster, unwittingly making claims that will be used against them at a later date
  • Scrutinizing accident victims’ social media profiles to find evidence disproving their claims of severe injuries, physical pain, and mental suffering.

What a Personal Injury Attorney Will Do to Help You Prove Your Case

An experienced auto accident lawyer will conduct their own investigation to establish who the at-fault party in the accident is. The attorney will rely on your own version of how the events took place, the evidence you managed to collect, and on other sources of information:

How Is Fault Determined in a Colorado Car Accident?
  • The police report
  • Witness testimony and the photographs or videos they may have taken
  • Traffic camera recordings
  • Traffic violation citations received by the other driver
  • Cell phone records to establish whether the other driver was using their mobile phone when the accident occurred (distracted driver).

How Difficult Is It to Assign Fault in a Car Accident?

Some car crashes are simple: drunk drivers, rear-end accidents or left-turn car accidents are examples when fault can be definitely assigned to one driver. But there are many instances when things are not so simple. For example:

  • Several cars are involved in a crash.
  • One driver was texting and driving, and the other was running a stoplight
  • One driver was fatigued, and the other was looking at the navigational system.

These examples are purely fictitious, but they are quite likely to occur. In these instances, each of the drivers shares a proportion of fault for the accident. What really matters is: who was more than 51% at fault for the occurrence of the crash? With the assistance of a skilled personal injury attorney, you may get a fair settlement, reduced by your percentage of fault. However, this settlement will cover a large part of your medical care expenses and other costs, helping you financially recover after the accident.

How an Experienced Auto Accident Attorney Can Help You in Uninsured/Underinsured Car Accidents

In some cases, even when you are not responsible for the crash or are less than 50% at fault, other difficulties occur. The responsible party may be an uninsured driver or an underinsured driver. In this case, pursuing a personal injury lawsuit may not always be the best option for you. Although the court will give you an award, it is your responsibility to enforce it.

And the harsh reality is that most uninsured drivers do not afford the cost of an insurance policy. Thus, there may be nothing for you to collect – the responsible driver has no valuable assets and works on minimum wage. However, you should not lose hope. A personal injury attorney can help you get fair compensation from your own insurance company. Also, while investigating the crash, the attorney may discover that the at-fault driver was on the job, making their employer liable for the accident to an extent..

What You Need to Do to Maximize Your Chances of Getting a Fair Settlement

Personal injury attorneys at Firouzbakht Law Firm always strive to win the maximum compensation allowed by law for economic damages and non-economic damages. However, the success of any such endeavor depends on how accident victims act, starting with the first moments after the collision. These are the three most important steps you must take to help your own case:

Seek Medical Attention Immediately

After a car collision, the first thing you need to do is to call 9-1-1 and ask for an ambulance. The initial report prepared by the EMT team will represent strong evidence in your favor when the lawyer starts negotiations with the insurance company.

Do not worry about the costs associated with the ambulance ride and hospitalization; they will all be included in your compensation claim for losses. Actually, if you fail to seek medical attention, the insurance adjuster will use this against you – stating that your injuries are not as serious as you claim or that they occurred at a later date in different circumstances..

All it takes is planting the seed of doubt in the jurors’ mind, and they may consider your claim as a bad faith attempt to cash in on exaggerated injuries.

Do Not Attempt to Negotiate Your Settlement on Your Own

Several factors make you very vulnerable in front of an insurance adjuster: your physical pain and emotional trauma, your lack of experience in determining fault in car accidents, and your lack of knowledge of all the applicable laws..

Moreover, every word you say will be recorded and pitted against the relevant evidence you collected. In the end, many accident victims who try to negotiate on their own with an auto insurance company will get only a fraction of the amount an experienced personal injury attorney could obtain.

Do Not Forget about the Statute of Limitations

In Colorado, personal injury victims have two years to file a lawsuit against the responsible party. It might seem a long time until you realize that you may spend months in hospital if you suffered catastrophic injuries. Therefore, you should retain legal representation as soon as possible. The lawyer can act on your behalf and make sure that all legal proceedings are performed in due time.

Two vehicles crash at an intersection in Denver

Hire an Aggressive Personal Injury Law Firm!

Firouzbakht Law Firm is founded by Eric Firouzbakht, an experienced personal injury attorney who believes that all accident victims deserve fair financial compensation for their economic damages, pain, and suffering.

We are not afraid to fight against big insurance companies and pursue each case until we reach a satisfactory settlement. We work on a contingency basis, so call us now for a free, no-risk consultation: 303-529-1722!

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