Comparative negligence is a term used by automobile insurance companies when determining who is at fault for a traffic accident. It means that depending on how the accident occurred, both drivers involved may be assigned some degree of fault for the event.
With comparative negligence, one person involved seeks compensation. That alone distinguishes it from contributory negligence, which does the opposite, preventing the plaintiff from receiving damages.
Colorado is a modified comparative negligence state. When an automobile crash occurs here, the insurance company will review the details to determine the extent to which each driver might have caused the accident. In other words, one driver might not be entirely to blame, so the liability will be shared between both people accordingly.
If you were involved in a traffic accident and are requesting to be reimbursed by your own insurance company, comparative negligence does not apply in this instance. In this case, you can be reimbursed by your insurance company even you are found to be the primary cause of the accident. However, if you seek damages from the other driver(s), then their insurance companies will investigate for comparative negligence before you are eligible to receive any money.
Because of the comparative negligence laws, you should talk to a Colorado car accident attorney about your options following a traffic accident. If you have been in a traffic accident in Colorado, call Bell & Pollock P.C. at (720) 613-6736.
Frequently Asked Questions About Negligence
What is the modified comparative negligence law in Colorado?
Colorado state law uses 50% modified comparative negligence. That means that if a driver is over 50% at fault for an accident, they give up their right to receive compensation for damages. Other states throughout the country have similar regulations in place regarding traffic accidents. However, state laws differ regarding how much fault drivers can have in traffic accidents and still collect damages.
There are no set guidelines in Colorado for concluding which party is at fault for a car collision. Instead, fault is determined on an accident-by-accident basis by a car insurance adjuster. The adjuster must consider many different factors, including local traffic laws and road conditions at the time of the crash.
How is this law enforced?
The modified comparative negligence law calls for insurance companies to make the final decision regarding who is at fault in an accident. There are many reasons that a driver could assume at least some portion of the responsibility, even if the other driver is mainly at fault.
Common reasons for any involved party to be at fault for an accident include failure to follow the rules of the road and using a cell phone or being otherwise distracted while driving. Additionally, if a driver did not cause the accident but could have done something to prevent it, they may be assigned some portion of the liability.
For example, a driver who is granted the right of way at a green traffic light might still be considered at fault to some degree if they were speeding through an intersection and hit a car that was turning. The driver making the turn, though at fault for not yielding to the driver with the right of way, may only be found 75% liable for the accident.
The driver with the right-of-way was speeding and unable to stop in time to prevent the collision. Therefore, that driver is held 25% responsible for the accident. If the driver with the right-of-way were to sue the other driver for damages, they would only receive the full amount awarded in the case, as the driver making the turn is over 50% at fault.
How does the insurance company come to a decision about liability in car accidents?
Insurance company employees will carefully review the details of accidents. A thorough review of an accident will likely include investigating the scene of the accident, collecting statements from witnesses and involved parties, reviewing police reports, noting local traffic laws (including speed limits), and considering whether the condition or layout of the roadway played a role in the collision. Then, the insurance adjusters will determine what percentage of liability—if any—to assign to each driver involved in the crash.
If I am found to be mainly at fault, can I still collect damages from the other driver?
No. If you are primarily at fault in a car accident, you are unable to collect any money from the insurance company of the other driver who was involved in the accident. However, even if you are at fault, you are still able to collect money from your own insurance company to cover the costs of repairing your car. In this instance, comparative negligence does not apply to you.
Can I dispute the determination of the insurance company?
If you feel you have been unfairly named liable in a car accident, it is within your rights to file an internal appeal with the adjuster and insurance company. When you appeal, the insurance company will launch a full investigation that may result in a revised determination of liability if there is enough evidence to prove otherwise. If you feel the other driver is more at fault than you are, schedule a consultation to talk to a Colorado car accident attorney for legal assistance.
What if my appeal is denied?
It can be difficult for a court of law to determine which party should be held liable for a car accident. A final decision will involve determining the accuracy of your statement about the accident and the moments leading up to it, as well as other factors surrounding the accident, including the actions of other drivers. If you feel that you are still unfairly blamed for a traffic accident, you should make an appointment with the County Court Clerk to explore your options.
Even minor car accidents can be stressful for the parties involved. Regardless of whether you are at fault or the other party is to blame, it helps to know you have a competent Colorado car accident attorney to help you understand state laws regarding comparative negligence. Call (720) 613-6736 to talk to one of the experienced car accident attorneys at Bell & Pollock P.C. for the help you need following a car accident in Colorado.