Colorado Personal Injury Laws
Reporting a Denver Personal Injury Accident
In Colorado, if a person is involved in a personal injury accident in which someone sustains injuries, they have a duty to contact the police to file an accident report. You may report a Denver personal injury accident by either filling out the state’s accident report, or downloading the state of Colorado accident report. In order to report the accident online, Colorado law states:
- There were no injuries or fatalities in your Denver personal injury accident
- There was no public property damaged
- None of the parties were under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- The Denver injury accident was not a hit and run
- All of the involved parties information can be provided
If an officer comes to the scene to investigate the personal injury accident their report will suffice.
When the police arrive at the scene you should answer their questions. However, stick to the facts and do not admit liability. The police will put their initial assessment of fault on a police report and many times during accidents people are confused and may admit things that they are not liable for. Therefore, it is important to stick only to the facts, as liability will be investigated at a later time.
Obtaining your police report may be helpful to you and your Lamber Goodnow Denver personal injury attorney or co-counsel attorney for many different reasons. Although the police report is generally not admissible in civil court, it is very persuasive and may assist in gaining leverage in informal settlement discussions with an insurance carrier or opposing counsel in your Denver personal injury dispute.
How to Obtain a Police Report
You may retain your Denver personal injury police report by contacting Colorado’s Department of Motor Vehicles, which keeps copies of police reports for seven years. In order to request the report you must send a letter to the DMV that includes the following information:
- Your name
- Date of your accident
- Date of Birth
- Mailing Address
- A check to the DMV for $2.20 or $2.70 if you need a certified police report
A personal injury police report will contain helpful information such as the date, weather conditions, time and location of the personal injury incident. It will also contain the name, telephone numbers and statements of others involved in the accident, or any witnesses to the accident, which may prove invaluable when trying to prove fault.
Additionally, the Denver personal injury report will have the officer’s initial assessment of fault. This will include the officer’s written narrative of the details and causes of the accident, and usually includes a diagram. Causes of the injury may include negligence (carelessness), violation of a vehicle code, or use of drugs or alcohol.
In addition to having to file a personal injury report, Denver personal injury victims must also give notice to their insurance company. Under Colorado law, all policies require that the insured give notice of a claim to the insurer as soon as possible following an accident or lawsuit.1 Certain policies may also have provisions requiring an insured to notify police within 24 hours after a hit-and-run accident.
Additionally, most insurance liability policies contain a requirement that the insured cooperate with the insurer in its investigation, defense, and settlement of the claim.2 If the insured fails to cooperate, they may forfeit the protection of the policy.3
Although it is important to cooperate with your insurance company, it is suggested that you first contact an experienced Denver personal injury attorney that will be able to give you guidance through this process and speak with your insurance company on your behalf.
Common Accidents in the Denver Area
Unfortunately, auto accidents are commonplace. Whether the cause is driver negligence, the Denver weather conditions or something else, Lamber Goodnow Denver injury lawyers and the co-counsel firms we work with are ready to help. Each year thousands of people are seriously injured or killed in car accidents in the United States. In Colorado alone 545 people died in auto accidents, a ten percent increase from 2014.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2014, an average of 82.16 people were killed in an auto accident every day. Additionally, unintentional personal injuries, such as auto accidents, were the leading cause of death of individuals between the ages of 5-24, and the second leading cause of death for individuals 25-65+. Denver auto accident lawyers at The Lamber Goodnow Denver personal injury law team, including our partner firms, have represented a variety of people in some of the following types of car accidents:
- Aggressive Driving
- Texting/Using Cell Phones
- Driver Fatigue
- Distracted Driving
- Head-on Collision
- Intersection Accidents
- Fatal Car Accidents
- Drunk Driving-DUI-DWI
- Hit and Run Accidents
An estimated 2.35 million people are injured or disabled due to road crashes each year. The personal injuries that result may take months, years, or even a lifetime of medical treatment and therapy. These injuries may require significant adjustments within the family and at the workplace. The Lamber Goodnow injury law team lawyers and lawyers at our partner firms have helped obtain just compensation for victims with a variety of injuries including:
- Back and neck injuries
- Facial cuts
- Brain injuries
- Injuries resulting in amputation
Aggressive Driving: one of Denver’s top causes of personal injury
Aggressive, or reckless driving has a significant impact on traffic accidents in Colorado and around the United States. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines aggressive driving as when, “an individual commits a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property.” Regardless of the definition, we have all been on the roadways when we have witnessed a driver weaving through traffic, speeding, tailgating, and generally having no regard for the welfare of others. The Lamber Goodnow injury law team strives to be a go-to law firm for people injured in reckless or aggressive driving accidents in Denver and beyond.
Colorado law on Aggressive or Reckless Driving
Many states have enacted an aggressive driving law, however, Colorado is not one of them. Instead, Colorado has personal injury laws that include aggressive driving, such as reckless or careless driving. According to Colorado state law, reckless driving is described and penalized as:
42-4-1401. Reckless driving - penalty
(1) A person who drives a motor vehicle, bicycle, electrical assisted bicycle, or low-power scooter in such a manner as to indicate either a wanton or a willful disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving. A person convicted of reckless driving of a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle shall not be subject to the provisions of section 42-2-127.
(2) Any person who violates any provision of this section commits a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense. Upon a second or subsequent conviction, such person shall be punished by a fine of not less than fifty dollars nor more than one thousand dollars, or by imprisonment in the county jail for not less than ten days nor more than six months, or by both such fine and imprisonment.
Furthermore, careless driving is described and penalized as:
42-4-1402. Careless driving - penalty
(1) A person who drives a motor vehicle, bicycle, electrical assisted bicycle, or low-power scooter in a careless and imprudent manner, without due regard for the width, grade, curves, corners, traffic, and use of the streets and highways and all other attendant circumstances, is guilty of careless driving. A person convicted of careless driving of a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle shall not be subject to the provisions of section 42-2-127.
(2) (a) Except as otherwise provided in paragraphs (b) and (c) of this subsection (2), any person who violates any provision of this section commits a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense.
(b) If the person's actions are the proximate cause of bodily injury to another, such person commits a class 1 misdemeanor traffic offense.
(c) If the person's actions are the proximate cause of death to another, such person commits a class 1 misdemeanor traffic offense.
Examples of Aggressive Driving
It may be difficult to quantify aggressive driving, as there may be many contributing factors. However, a study by the American Automobile Association (AAA) identified certain factors that were associated with aggressive driving. The most common factor was speeding, however other factors include:
- Following improperly-tailgating
- Improper or erratic changing of lanes
- Illegal driving on road shoulder, ditch, sidewalk or median
- Failing to observe posted signs, or school bus displaying warnings
- Passing on wrong side, passing with insufficient distance or inadequate visibility
- Operating the vehicle in an erratic, reckless, careless, or negligent manner
- Failing to yield right of way
- Failing to obey traffic signs, traffic officers, traffic control devices, or failure to observe safety zone traffic laws
- Failing to observe warnings or instructions on vehicle displaying them
- Failing to signal
- Driving too fast for conditions or in excess of posted speed limit
- Executing an improper turn
The NHTSA estimates that one third of traffic accidents causing injury and two thirds of traffic accidents causing fatality are attributable to behavior associated with aggressive driving. Each of these factors is dangerous by themself, however, if you combine one or more of them your chance to be involved in an accident increase dramatically.
How to Avoid Conflict with Aggressive Drivers
In order to avoid conflict, follow the rules of the road, which include:
- Staying calm while driving
- Being courteous
- Maintaining a safe following distance behind other vehicles
- Using turn signals
- Being considerate in parking lots
- Using your high beams responsibly and only when needed
- Using horn only when appropriate
If you encounter an aggressive driver the Lamber Goodnow Denver law team encourages you may report them to Colorado’s State Patrol (CSP) by calling a special aggressive driver line once you are in a safe location. The number is Star CSP (*277). When you call you should try and have the following information: a description of the vehicle, the location and direction in which the vehicle is travelling, license plate number, a description of the driver and the aggressive behavior being exhibited. The information that is provided will be entered into Colorado’s aggressive driver database and after three complaints against the registered vehicle the registered owner is sent a warning letter. If additional complaints are received a uniformed CSP officer will make contact with the owner and take appropriate enforcement action.
If you are a victim of a reckless driving accident in Colorado, you need a personal injury attorney by your side that understands how dangerous aggressive driving can be. The lawyers on the Lamber Goodnow Denver injury law team and those at our partner firms are highly qualified in identifying the factors that contribute to aggressive driving and can work with you to build a case for your financial compensation. For a free consultation please contact us. We work on a contingency fee basis, which means that we are not paid unless we secure a financial award in your case.
In total, the number of personal injuries and fatalities in Colorado alone expose insurance companies to potentially billions of dollars in claims a year. Therefore, insurance companies have become excellent at negotiating and persuading victims that cooperating with them will be in their best interest. However, insurance companies make their money by taking in as much in premiums as possible and trying to pay minimal amounts in claims. Many will tell victims that if they hire an attorney they will receive less money, however, a study by the Insurance Research Council found that accident victims received 40 percent more money when represented by an attorney. The Lamber Goodnow Denver personal injury law team has aggressively negotiated with hundreds of insurance companies to obtain just compensation for their clients.
Colorado use to be a “no fault” insurance state, which means if you were involved in a personal injury accident your insurance would pay for your medical care, no matter who was responsible. However, in 2003 no fault was repealed and Colorado converted to a tort system. This means that if you are involved in an accident you must prove that you are not at fault in order to collect damages from the at-fault individual’s insurance company.
Under Colorado law all drivers are required to carry liability coverage insurance; however, it is also mandatory that the insurer offer collision, medical-payments, and uninsured-motorist coverage. Renters, homeowners and businesses may also purchase insurance. The lawyers at the Lamber Goodnow personal injury team and those at the co-counsel firms with which we partner understand the intricacies of Denver personal injury insurance and will work to ensure that clients receive the compensation they deserve.
In Colorado, drivers must carry liability coverage of at least $25,000 per person for injury or death, at least $50,000 for injury or death of two or more people, and at least $15,000 for property damage of another, for any one accident. A driver that fails to comply with the minimum coverage requirements faces conviction of a misdemeanor, which requires payment of a fine and community service, as well as suspension of the individual’s driver’s license.
Colorado does not require drivers to carry uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. However, Colorado statutes require insurers to offer the coverage. Additionally, Colorado law states that insurers issue uninsured or underinsured coverage unless the named insured rejects it in writing. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage will help cover injuries to you or your passengers if you are involved in an accident with an uninsured driver, or a driver whose minimums do not cover your personal injury damages.
Speaking with an Insurance Company
All policies in Colorado require that the insured give notice of a claim to the insurer as soon as possible following an accident or lawsuit. Certain policies may also have provisions requiring an insured to notify police within 24 hours after a hit-and-run accident.
Additionally, most insurance liability policies contain a requirement that the insured cooperate with the insurer in its investigation, defense, and settlement of the claim. If the insured fails to cooperate, they may forfeit the protection of the policy.
Although it is important to cooperate with your insurance company, you should also consider contacting an experienced Denver personal injury attorney that will be able to give you guidance through this process and speak with your insurance company on your behalf.
However, you generally have no duty to speak with the at-fault party’s insurance company. If they contact you politely decline speaking with them and give them the name and telephone number of your Denver personal injury attorney.
Auto Accidents: Uninsured/Underinsured
If the at-fault driver does not have insurance, or does not have enough insurance to cover your damages, you must look to your own automobile insurance policy for compensation for your accident related injuries.
Uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance coverage is a separate coverage that provides coverage to you and your passengers if injured in an accident caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver. This coverage takes the place of the at-fault driver and pays you the same kind of damages you could have recovered from the at-fault driver's insurance had the driver been insured.
Under Colorado law, insurance companies selling automobile insurance in Colorado are required to sell uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance as part of every policy sold in Colorado unless the coverage is specifically refused by the named insured in writing.
Additionally, if a uninsured/underinsured driver causes your car accident, under Colorado law, your insurance company cannot raise your insurance rates because you make a claim for uninsured or underinsured motorist benefits in an accident that you did not cause.
Compensation for Personal Injuries
Insurance companies do not make their money by paying out more than they have to; they try and limit the amount of your claim, even if you deserve more. This is why it is so important to contact a Denver personal injury attorney to work with you and your family to obtain accurate compensation for your injuries.
When a plaintiff is injured in a personal injury accident, a variety of losses may have been suffered. These losses may be sustained on the date of the injury, or be realized some day projected into the future. If you are injured in an accident in Colorado you may recover a variety of damages including:
- Past and future earnings and profits
- Loss of earning capacity
- Loss of time (if you are a homemaker)
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Emotional distress (if in the zone of danger)
- Physical impairment
- Past and future medical expenses
- Loss of consortium
When an injury victim sustains a life altering personal injury which causes them to miss work, or even lose their job, they may recover their lost past earnings as well as their lost profits and anticipated future earnings if they are injured and unable to work. A plaintiff may not be able to work because they are recovering in the hospital, or they have to take time away from their job because of physical therapy, problems with mobility, or when a person is significantly injured and cannot return to their current employment.
Written documentation is the most convincing evidence of lost wages, however, the victim’s testimony that includes and explains computations regarding loss of earnings are evidence as well. Additionally, future earnings are often best evidenced by past earnings and projected over the period of time during which the victim’s earnings will be diminished or absent, and will be reduced to present value.
Denver Personal Injury Time Limitations
In civil law there are deadlines in which an injured person must file a civil claim or be forever barred from doing so. These time limits are called statutes of limitations.
In Colorado, a plaintiff must suffer some injury or damage to their property before the statute of limitations will begin to run. As a general rule, a cause of action for personal injuries will arise on the date that a party knows or should have known of the injury and it’s cause.4
Under Col. Rev. Stat. 13-80-101(n), a lawsuit for personal injuries must be filed within three years of the date of the accident or the time to recover damages for the personal injury will have passed. If the injured party is under the age of 18, or is under legal disability at the time of the accident, the statute of limitations is delayed until the person reaches 18 or the disability is removed.5
Under Colorado law, a lawsuit against a government entity or its employees for any personal injury must be filed within two years of the date of the incident. Col. Rev. Stat. 13-80-102(1)(h). However, if the lawsuit is against law enforcement officials the personal injury lawsuit must be filed within one year. Significantly, before a lawsuit can be filed, plaintiffs must prepare a notice of claim within 180 days of the incident; failure to comply with this requirement may result in a claim being lost forever.
Because of all the potential pitfalls in a personal injury case, it is important to consider consulting with an experienced Denver personal injury attorney, like those on our team and those at our partner firms, that will help guide you through your difficult and unique damages recovery situation in order to get you compensation within Denver’s time limitations that will allow you, and your family to move on as best as possible from the incident.
1 Shelter Mutual Insurance Co. v. Selley, 942 P.2d 1370 (Colo. App. 1997).
2 Friedland v. Travelers Indemnity Co., 105 P.3d 639 (Colo. 2005).
3 Farmers Automobile Inter-Insurance Exchange v. Konugres, 202 P.2d 959 (Colo. 1949).
4 Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C.A §§ 2671.
5 Col. Rev. Stat. § 13-80-107.