Colorado Law On Negligence and Comparative Negligence
POSTED BY Scott O’Sullivan
May 4, 2023
Bodily injuryCar accidents
In Colorado, if you are found to have caused a car or motorcycle accident due to negligence, then you are held accountable for the victim’s damages, medical bills, and more. But what if both parties are found to be partially negligent for a car or motorcycle crash?
This is when it’s important to understand Colorado’s definition of “comparative negligence.”
What is the Colorado Comparative Negligence Law?
Most often, I see the Colorado Comparative Negligence Law (C.R.S. 13-21-111) applied to crashes involving cars and motorcycles, though it can apply to any accident in which both or all parties are at least partially to blame.
It’s worth mentioning that, if you don’t already understand the nuances of Colorado’s personal injury laws, you should not try to represent yourself in a Colorado car accident case. Even if you are partially at fault, you may be owed more than you understand. Only an experienced personal injury attorney can properly assess the percentage of the blame you should shoulder. (The O’Sullivan Law Firm offers free consultations. Call or text us today: 303-388-5304)
Under Colorado law, a person is considered negligent when they fail to exercise the level of care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise under similar circumstances. In the context of car and motorcycle accidents, this standard involves adhering to traffic laws, being attentive to road conditions and other drivers, and acting responsibly to avoid causing harm to others.
To establish a negligence claim, a plaintiff must prove four elements:
Duty: The defendant owed a legal duty to the plaintiff.
Breach: The defendant breached that duty by failing to act as a reasonably prudent person would under similar circumstances.
Causation: The defendant’s breach of duty was the cause of the plaintiff’s injury.
Damages: The plaintiff suffered actual damages as a result of the defendant’s negligence.
Colorado law states that if a plaintiff’s negligence is found to be a contributing cause of their injury, the plaintiff’s recovery will be reduced by the percentage of their own negligence.
Importantly, if the plaintiff’s negligence is determined to be equal to or greater than the combined negligence of all defendants, the plaintiff is barred from recovering any damages.
In plain speak: if you and the other driver were both at fault in one way or another, you will both shoulder some of the blame. If one of you is found to be more than 50% at fault, that person cannot receive any compensation for his/her damages.
This means that neither of you can sue the other for full damages. You will have to pay some of your own bills.
Two Examples of Comparative Negligence
Photo by Sundry Photography / shutterstock.com
Let’s say you are driving your car south on Colorado Boulevard and sitting in the left-turn lane at 8th Avenue. A motorcycle rider is traveling north at a high speed, significantly exceeding the speed limit. You look to see if it’s safe and fail to see the motorcycle rider.
So, you turn left across the oncoming lanes. As you’re turning, the motorcycle rider collides with your car, and you both are injured.
Now, the motorcycle rider may try to sue you because you pulled out in front of him, and he is probably hurt a lot more than you are. However, because he was riding above the speed limit, he cannot sue you for 100% of the damages he faces. Instead, the court will likely find you both negligent. You, because you didn’t adequately check for oncoming traffic, and the rider for speeding.
Under the Colorado Comparative Negligence Law, the motorcycle rider’s claim would be reduced by the percentage of his own negligence. If he is found to be 50% or more at fault, he would be barred from recovering any damages.
Here’s another example of comparative negligence under Colorado law…
Imagine a scenario where a car driver is driving on I-25 and decides to change lanes. The driver checks her mirrors and blind spots but does not see you coming up behind her on your motorcycle, riding well above the speed limit. As the driver changes lanes, you collide with the car, and you are both injured.
If you sue the car driver for negligence, the court may find that both of you were negligent: the driver for not sufficiently checking for oncoming traffic and you for riding your motorcycle at an excessive speed.
Under the Colorado Comparative Negligence law, your claim would be reduced by the percentage of your own negligence. If you are found to be 50% or more at fault, you would be barred from recovering any damages.
Protect Yourself: Obey the Rules of the Road
This is just another example of why it’s important to obey the rules of the road. Not only will you be safer, but in the tragic event that you are in an accident, you cannot be held accountable if you were following the law. (It’s also important to make sure you have enough insurance because there are a lot of uninsured motorists out there.)
Contact me today if you have any questions about your Colorado car or motorcycle crash.