Is Colorado a No-Fault State?

A chest-level shot of a lawyer and a client discussing strategies from behind a desk.

No, not anymore. Previously Colorado was a no-fault state, and drivers were expected to pay for their own damages in a car accident regardless of fault. But in 2003, the laws were changed, and Colorado became an at-fault state for car accidents, with modified comparative negligence statutes. We’ll discuss how modified comparative negligence works a little later in this article.

Does a No-Fault Accident Go on Your Record in Colorado?

First, it’s essential to understand that “no-fault” refers to how civil damages are handled after an accident – essentially, who will pay for any losses incurred from the accident. This has nothing to do with your driving record, which the Colorado DMV maintains. If you are at fault in an accident, there is a good chance the responding officer will issue you a citation, which will go on your driving record. The accident will also show up, but if you are not cited, it probably won’t affect your points score. This means that in a no-fault state like Florida, a car accident could still affect your driving record even if everyone pays their own expenses for the accident.

There are sometimes situations where the police report does not assign fault. This usually happens if the two drivers have different accounts of what happened and the responding officer can’t find evidence to show which driver is correct. For instance, maybe you get into an accident at a four-way stop. You tell the officer that you had the right of way, but the other driver insists they had the right of way because they arrived first. You insist that you arrived first. There are no other witnesses to the accident. In this case, the officer might write down both your statements and decide they don’t have enough evidence to ticket anyone, resulting in an inconclusive police report.

Would this accident affect your driving record? Probably not. It may appear on your record, but the driver’s license points system only adds points if you are convicted of a traffic violation. However, the other driver’s insurance company might use the contents of the report to claim that you caused the accident, and that could affect your ability to collect damages in Colorado. If you have been in an accident where the fault is undetermined by the police report, you should talk with an attorney specializing in car accidents immediately.

How Does This Relate to My Insurance Coverage?

Sometimes, we meet clients who are concerned they can’t get insurance coverage for their damages like medical bills or car repairs because they were deemed at fault, or the police report was inconclusive. In some cases, they may feel that they were not at fault or that their minor infraction did not cause the accident. In other cases, they may want to conclusively prove the other driver was at fault so they can collect from that driver’s liability insurance.

The good news is that in many of these cases, we can find a solution to help the client get their medical bills and other damages paid, or at least get some of them paid. If you have accident-related expenses and are unsure about fault or about proving fault, the best thing you can do is to contact a Colorado car accident lawyer right away.

Can Two People Be At Fault in an At Fault Accident?

In the state of Colorado, yes. Earlier, we talked about modified comparative negligence. This is a legal doctrine affecting torts or personal injury cases. Modified comparative negligence acknowledges that two people can contribute to the same accident or injury and share fault. But then, who pays for the damages?

Under modified comparative negligence, a party found mostly, or more than 50 percent, at fault will be responsible for damages. This person’s car insurance carrier will then be expected to pay the other driver’s damages minus the other driver’s percentage of fault. For instance, if you have $50,000 in damages and are deemed 20 percent at fault, you could expect to receive $40,000.

Can I Still Recover Damages If I Was Cited for the Accident?

If you can show that the other driver was mostly at fault, yes, you may be able to recover. Most likely, you will not be able to recover all your damages, but you might be able to receive some compensation. However, if you were cited and the other driver wasn’t, it may be challenging to make a case that the other driver was less at fault than you.

What If I Think My Citation Was Unfair?

If you believe that you were issued a citation for something you genuinely didn’t do, let your lawyer know right away. You can contest the ticket in court, and if you do so successfully, the citation and any associated points will not go on your driving record. However, arguing with the officer at the scene is unproductive and, in some cases, might make things worse. Instead, take the ticket to your attorney and discuss whether it is worth contesting.

Am I Out of Luck If I Can’t Prove the Other Driver Was Mostly at Fault?

Not necessarily. One of the benefits of consulting a car accident lawyer is that we can look at every possible option for recovering your damages. In some cases, we may be able to recover from your own car insurance company if you have the following coverage options:

  • MedPay. Colorado law requires auto insurers to offer Medical Payments coverage, or MedPay, to all customers, but you can opt out in writing. We don’t recommend opting out because MedPay will come in handy if you ever have an accident that results in substantial medical bills not covered by your health insurance. The best part about MedPay is that it will cover your medical costs up to the policy limit, regardless of who was at fault for the accident.
  • Collision insurance is similar to MedPay but applies to property damage. It will pay up to the limit for car repairs or other damaged property, no matter who caused the accident. Also, like MedPay, it is not required but is a good idea.

Do I Have to Pay the Other Driver’s Damages If I Am Found to Be Mostly At Fault?

Yes, but your liability insurance should cover some or all of it, depending on the policy limits and the amount of damages the other party/parties have. Colorado only requires $25,000 in bodily injury liability and $15,000 for property damage, but these are minimum requirements – you can buy more coverage (this is also highly recommended). If you only have the minimum coverage and the other party has $50,000 in medical bills, you might be responsible for $25,000. But if you had a $100,000 bodily injury liability party, your insurance carrier should cover everything. We say “should” because an individual policy may exclude certain things – your attorney will go over your policy to see if there are any potential issues.

Another benefit to seeking legal counsel right away is that we can work to minimize your damages. For instance, we will look for evidence that the other driver was partly at fault, so the burden on you will be lower if your liability policy doesn’t cover everything.

What If I Wasn’t At Fault, But the Other Driver Is Uninsured or Doesn’t Have Enough Coverage for My Damages?

There is another type of optional car insurance that will come in handy in these situations: Uninsured/underinsured motorist (UI/UM). It is not required in Colorado but is a very good thing to have if an uninsured motorist strikes you. It may also be helpful if the other driver has insurance, but your damages significantly exceed the limits of their policy.

If you have a stacked UI/UM policy, you can collect the limit on the other driver’s liability policy, then the limit on your own policy. To reverse the example from above, if you have $50,000 in damages, and the at-fault driver only has $25,000 in liability insurance, you could get another $25,000 (or more, depending on the policy limit) from your own insurer. In some cases, you can use both MedPay and UI/UM to get more coverage.

Will My Car Insurance Go Up Because of My Accident?

Possibly. Car insurance companies have their own points system, which has nothing to do with the Colorado DMV. That points system determines if you should be allowed to drive – in other words, when you get too many points, the state may revoke your license. The insurance companies use their points system to help determine your premium costs (other factors are also considered).

If you are found to be mostly, or even partly at fault for the accident, there is a good chance your premiums will go up. (Being primarily at fault will usually lead to a sharper increase than being, say, 10 percent at fault.) If you are not found to have any fault in the accident, your rates may or may not go up. If they do, the increase will likely be minimal.

How Do I Get Legal Help with My Car Accident in Colorado?

Attorney Sean Olson founded Olson Personal Injury Lawyers™ to help car accident victims get the compensation they deserve. Please contact Olson Personal Injury Lawyers™ for a free consultation about your case. If there is a way to recover damages for you, we’ll find it and explain your options.