Impaired driving is a prevalent problem in Colorado, contributing to one in three traffic deaths and countless more injuries. Even if you drive safely, an impaired motorist can cause a collision that leaves you in pain, out of work, and wondering how to pay your medical bills and car repair costs.
The impaired driver and their insurance company may be less than helpful, even to the extent of blaming you for the accident in some cases. How can you get justice for your car accident damages?
A Denver Impaired Driver Car Accident Attorney May Be Able to Help
At Olson Law Firm, we don’t think you should have to deal with the consequences of someone else’s decision to drive under the influence. We’ll fight to get you the settlement you deserve, including investigating the accident and gathering evidence to show the impaired driver was at fault.
We believe in keeping our clients updated every step of the way. Add to this the fact that an experienced attorney like founder Sean Olson knows how to value your claim correctly, and You never have to argue with an insurance company or wonder what’s happening.
Aside from blaming the injured party, insurance adjusters often undervalue claims, costing accident victims thousands of dollars (or more). If the insurance company sends you an insufficient offer, we’ll fight to get the compensation you deserve.
What Can Be Done About Impaired Driving Crashes in Colorado?
Impaired driving deaths in Colorado reached a twenty-year high in 2022, with 253 fatalities caused by impaired motorists that year. Denver has the second-highest rate of DUI arrests in the country, following Colorado Springs at number one.
Law enforcement agencies have increased patrols, especially around holidays when DUI arrests tend to rise. CDOT’s “The Heat Is On” campaign aims to reduce impaired driving through sobriety checkpoints, saturation patrols, and more officers on duty.
Because cannabis use is legal in Colorado (with some restrictions), DUI numbers typically include arrests for cannabis impairment. As with alcohol, the state maintains a legal limit for the amount of Delta-9 THC.
Drivers in fatal crashes are tested for alcohol, THC, and a number of other substances, and testing may be performed after other accidents. Drivers can also be charged for driving while ability impaired (DWAI) even if their blood alcohol or THC levels are below the legal limit if an officer sees evidence of impairment.
It’s always helpful to plan for getting home safely before you go out. For example, download a rideshare app and input your payment information so it will be easy to use later.
You can also book a hotel room or arrange to stay at a friend’s home. Remember that you shouldn’t drive after using cannabis in the same way that you shouldn’t drive after drinking.
How Can the Impaired Driver Blame You?
Many people ask this question, and we understand the frustration. You got hit by a drunk driver, and now their insurance company thinks you were at fault?
While this is an upsetting situation, it’s not an unusual one. Insurance adjusters will look for any excuse to deny a claim or reduce how much they pay.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to say the injured party was at fault—at least partially. In Colorado, an injured person can recover damages if they share fault in an accident, so long as their percentage of fault is lower than 50 percent.
There is a caveat, however. This percentage of fault is subtracted from their settlement, so even attributing 10 or 15 percent of the responsibility to you could save the insurance company a considerable amount.
It’s important to understand that the insurance adjuster doesn’t need evidence that you were completely at fault to reduce your final award drastically. They can also deny your claim entirely if they can make a case that you were at least 50 percent at fault.
Unfortunately, it may be hard for the average person to know if the insurance adjuster is correct. Many injured people second-guess themselves or incorrectly assume they are at fault because the insurance company says so; they may accept a reduced settlement or denial without question.
Others know the insurance adjuster is wrong, and they sometimes take action by calling the insurance company to discuss the matter. While we understand how upsetting the situation is, we don’t advise you to talk to the insurance company yourself.
They typically record their calls and then review everything you say. Often, an innocent comment is misconstrued as a sign of the injured person’s culpability in the accident, and even people who choose their words carefully can inadvertently make things worse by talking to the insurance adjuster.
A better solution is to speak with a car accident lawyer. We’ll build a strong case to show that the impaired driver was at fault.
If you did contribute to the crash, we’ll work to ensure the insurance company doesn’t overestimate your portion of responsibility.
What if the Impaired Driver Was Uninsured?
Unfortunately, this is another situation we see frequently, especially when the impaired driver has previous DUI convictions. A DUI can make a driver’s car insurance rates shoot up, and sometimes, the driver can no longer afford the premiums.
This means they simply drop the policy and continue driving without insurance (which is illegal and can result in fines).
There are several options we will consider to recover your damages if the impaired driver was uninsured:
Sue the Driver
Just because someone is uninsured doesn’t mean they are free of responsibility if they cause an accident. You can sue the driver for your damages, and in most situations, you will have a good chance of winning.
The problem is that you may not be able to collect anything from the at-fault motorist. If they have assets we can seize, we may be able to recover some or all of your damages.
If, however, the driver doesn’t have substantial assets, a lawsuit may not be worth your time or stress. To make matters worse, an impaired driver will likely be facing criminal charges stemming from the DUI and accident.
In many of these cases, they use any resources they do have to pay for their criminal defense—leaving nothing to pay the judgment in a potential civil claim.
Sue Under Colorado’s Dram Shop or Social Host Liability Laws
This is not an option in every impaired driving case. Colorado law states that accidents are caused by drinking alcohol, not selling or supplying it, so third parties are usually not liable if their customers become intoxicated and cause injuries to others.
However, there are a few exceptions. If a business with a liquor license—such as a bar or restaurant—knowingly serves a patron who is either underage or already visibly intoxicated, they can be held liable under Colorado’s “dram shop” laws. It will be necessary to show that the server knew or should have known the driver was underage or intoxicated.
There is a related law for “social host” liability. A social host is a person who serves alcohol at a private gathering, usually on their property.
Social hosts are considered to have a lower duty of care than businesses that serve alcohol and are not held liable for overserving someone who is already intoxicated. However, if a social host gives alcohol to someone they know is underage or provides a place for underage drinkers to imbibe, they might be liable for the resulting accident.
Use Your Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Insurance
Colorado does not require uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UI) coverage, but it may be the only way to recover your damages in some impaired driver accidents. This is one of many reasons we strongly encourage everyone to invest in UM/UI insurance.
UM/UI policy limits start at $25,000 for bodily injury and $15,000 for property damage. If your injuries are severe, this minimal policy may not cover everything, but you’ll at least recover some of your damages.
You can buy larger amounts of UM/UI coverage, and we highly recommend doing so if you can manage it. If you don’t have UM/UI and we determine that suing the driver, a dram shop, or a social host is not a viable option, you may be unable to recover anything in your impaired driving accident.
How to Learn More From a Denver Impaired Driver Car Accident Law Firm
Please contact Olson Law Firm for a free consultation about your impaired driver car accident. We’ll review the police report, answer your questions, and advise you of your options for seeking compensation.
If you decide to move forward with our help, there are no upfront fees—you won’t pay us anything until we win or settle your case.
Attorney Sean Olson founded Olson Law Firm in 2012 with the goal of advocating for others. He is dedicated to helping injured people seek justice and obtain the compensation they need to recover.
An experienced litigator, Mr. Olson always prepares as if he is going to trial, and in most cases, this preparation allows him to achieve a fair resolution without going to court. Work with him when you call (720) 730-4325.