How Is Fault Determined in An Accident in Colorado?
It can be frustrating to learn that the at-fault driver’s insurance company is refusing or undervaluing your claim based on fault, but unfortunately, it’s not uncommon. A skilled car accident lawyer can help you appeal the insurance company’s decision and demonstrate that you had little to no responsibility for the crash.
What Are Colorado Accident Fault Laws?
Colorado uses modified comparative negligence statutes in personal injury cases like car accidents. Under these laws, an injured party has the right to collect compensation from a driver who is at least 50 percent responsible for the accident. The injured party must be less than 50 percent at fault to collect.
It’s essential to note that if you have a percentage of fault between 0 and 49, you can recover damages, but your own percentage of fault will be deducted. For instance, if you are 10 percent at fault and have $3,000 in damages, you would ultimately collect $2,700. This becomes even more important when you consider the insurance claims process. If the other driver’s insurance adjuster overestimates your share of fault, it could reduce the insurance company’s costs for paying your claim. Worse, if they overestimate your share of fault to a number over 50 percent, they won’t have to pay you anything!
But Doesn’t the Accident Report Determine Fault?
No. The police report on your accident will be very important in the insurance adjuster’s investigation, but it doesn’t provide the final say in who was at fault. A responding officer will come to the scene and take statements from both drivers, as well as any witnesses. They will also observe any evidence at the scene, such as the damage to both vehicles and any debris lying in or near the road. Additionally, the officer is obligated to collect contact and insurance information from both drivers, and all of this info goes into the police report. There is also a box for the officer to sketch out a picture of how they believe the accident transpired.
While this report undoubtedly influences the insurance adjusters, it isn’t proof of fault on its own. The officer frequently makes their best guess based on limited information and, in some cases, conflicting information. For example, there might be a situation where the first driver claims the accident happened one way, the second driver claims it happened another, and the physical evidence only confirms that the two cars collided, not the exact series of events. In these cases, the margin of error for determining what happened can be considerable.
How Do You Seek Compensation for a Car Accident?
Most cases begin with a claim on the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. If you and the other driver disagree about fault, you might both file a claim on the other’s insurance, but you will also deal with the insurance adjuster if the other driver doesn’t file a claim. Remember that an insurance adjuster’s job is to save their employer money, and they often do this by denying that the insured was at fault.
If the other driver is uninsured or their insurance doesn’t fully cover all your damages (all policies have limits), you can sue the at-fault driver. In some cases, seeking compensation from your insurance carrier may be more advantageous if you have Uninsured/underinsured Motorist, MedPay, or Collision coverage. In a few cases where there simply isn’t enough evidence to prove the other driver’s culpability, MedPay, and Collision coverage can be used for your own damages. Your lawyer will advise you on your options.
How Can You Protect Your Right to Seek Damages After an Accident?
The best thing you can do is get help from a qualified car accident lawyer before you talk to the insurance company. Insurance adjusters often misinterpret comments from injured parties to mean they were actually at fault. They are also deeply knowledgeable about Colorado laws and the details of their company’s policies, so it is extremely hard for a layperson to argue their case to an insurance adjuster.
That’s where your lawyer comes in. They are also very knowledgeable about local laws and insurance policies and can fight for your right to compensation. Additionally, your attorney will compile evidence to show that the other driver was mostly or entirely at fault, so you can receive the settlement you deserve.
How Does Your Lawyer Find More Evidence That Isn’t in the Police Report?
Police departments and other law enforcement agencies are often busy and have finite resources. Most of the time, they are limited to spending an hour or less at the crash scene, taking statements, and observing any nearby evidence. They simply don’t have the time to continue the investigation beyond that.
But your lawyer will have a dedicated investigative team that digs into the circumstances of your accident. These investigators will visit the crash site, knock on doors, and check for witnesses the police investigation might have missed. They will also look for nearby cameras – traffic, security, or doorbell cameras could all be helpful. In some cases, our investigators are able to recover video that shows the accident itself.
Your attorney will also file legal motions seeking access to the black box data from both cars, which provides information about the speed, direction, and actions the driver took at the time of the crash. We can also ask for smartphone data to determine if the other driver was distracted by their phone.
Do I Still Need a Lawyer If the Insurance Company Already Made Me an Offer?
Yes. You should always have a lawyer review any offer from an insurance company before making a decision, and you should be especially concerned if you get an offer quickly. In many cases, we find that these early offers don’t take all of the client’s damages into consideration. Calculating damages is challenging, and most people find it difficult to know what their case is really worth. Your attorney will review all your bills and non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, and help you arrive at a reasonable range of numbers. If the insurance company’s offer doesn’t fit into this range, your lawyer can negotiate for a better deal on your behalf.
What About No-Doubt Liability?
Certain kinds of accidents are usually one party’s fault, sometimes called “no-doubt liability.” For instance, rear-end accidents are generally considered to be the rear driver’s responsibility. The idea is that you should leave enough following distance so that you can stop in time if the driver in front of you has to brake suddenly. If you rear-end someone, then you probably didn’t do so. Other examples include:
- Running a red light. Most of the time, it’s difficult to argue someone else is at fault when a driver blatantly ignores a traffic signal.
- Backing up. In most cases, backing-up crashes are caused by the driver who is backing up failing to look carefully before doing so.
- Left-hand turns. If a driver pulls out in front of someone going in the opposite direction, that’s usually also a case of failing to look before turning.
- Driving under the influence.
Even in these “no-doubt liability” situations, the other driver’s insurance company might try to reduce their liability by claiming you had a small amount of fault. There are also some situations involving doubt about what actually happened. For instance, the driver in front might claim the driver in the back rear-ended them, while the driver in the back says that the front driver backed up into them.
Additionally, it’s possible that the no-doubt action did not actually cause the crash. Driving under the influence is definitely dangerous, and a drunk driver would usually be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances. But if another driver ran a red light and crashed into the drunk driver, they could argue that the accident wasn’t their fault, intoxicated as they were.
In other words, “no-doubt liability” often does involve some doubt. If you’ve been involved in this kind of accident, don’t assume it will be easy to get compensation from the insurance company. Instead, talk to an experienced car accident attorney who can help prove your case.
How to Get Help Proving Fault in Your Car Accident Claim
Going up against the insurance company is never easy, but your chances are much better with a seasoned attorney at your side. If the other driver or their insurance company is trying to pin the blame on you, please contact Olson Law Firm for a free consultation at 720-410-6188. We’ll review the details of your car crash, answer your questions, and explain your options for proving your case.
Attorney Sean Olson has been helping injured people since 2011 when he founded Olson Law Firm. He personally meets with each client to hear their story and learn about their goals. Mr. Olson strongly believes that every personal injury case requires serious legal work, and the entire staff at Olson Law Firm is invested in providing this assistance to every client.