Car accidents can be overwhelming and distressing events. On top of that, you may be dealing with physical injuries, emotional turmoil, and mounting medical bills. Deciding who’s at fault and getting compensated could add another layer of stress you’re simply not equipped for.
At Bachus & Schanker, we understand the challenges you may be facing, and we’re here to help you navigate the uncertainties of your situation. You can lean on our team of experienced legal professionals to provide you with the knowledge you need.
In this article, we’ll shed some light on the often misunderstood topic of recovering compensation when you were partially at fault in a car accident case. Our goal is to give you the information necessary to make informed decisions and ensure you know your rights.
Can I recover compensation if I was partially at fault in a car accident case?
The laws that govern fault and compensation can be somewhat confusing. Colorado is not a “no-fault” state. Instead, they follow the principle of “comparative negligence.” This rule determines how compensation will be awarded when more than one party is involved in an accident.
In these types of cases, three main negligence standards are used — contributory negligence, pure comparative negligence, and modified comparative negligence.
- Contributory negligence: In these cases, a plaintiff cannot recover compensation if they are found even partially at fault. This can leave you without any recourse. Fortunately, Colorado doesn’t use this rule, so you have more rights, even if you’re partially to blame.
- Pure comparative negligence: Colorado does follow this system. Under this rule, you can still seek compensation even if you are found primarily at fault. However, the amount you receive will likely be reduced according to the percentage of fault. For example, if the courts award you $10,000 in damages, but you’re found to be 30% at fault, your final amount would be $7,000.
- Modified comparative negligence: This is the third and most commonly used negligence standard. With this system, an injured person can only seek compensation if their share of the fault falls below a certain percentage — usually 50%. If you’re found to be equally or more responsible for the accident, you may not be able to recover damages.
Understanding these standards can help you evaluate your options and make informed decisions about your case.
Determining fault in a car accident
Determining who’s at fault in a car accident is one of the most important parts of the claims process. Not only does it determine who is responsible, but it also plays a key role in determining compensation.
This process involves thoroughly investigating and analyzing several factors surrounding the accident. Here are some of the steps involved:
Police report: Law enforcement typically responds to the scene and prepares a report after an accident. This usually contains valuable information, including their assessment of the scene and any citations they might have issued.
Eyewitness accounts: Statements from witnesses who were on the scene can help reconstruct the events leading up to the accident. Eyewitnesses are often used to provide additional details officers may have missed or not been present for.
Physical evidence: Skid marks, vehicle damage, and debris are all used as evidence on a crash scene
Traffic laws: Traffic laws are always considered when determining who is at fault in an accident. Anything that contributed to the accident, such as speeding, running red lights, etc., is taken into account.
Driver statements: Statements from the drivers involved will be included in the police reports. It’s important to note that emotions may be running high during this time, so these statements can sometimes be inaccurate or biased.
Comparative negligence: As stated earlier, comparative negligence will come into play if multiple parties are involved. This is evaluated thoroughly so that compensation can be determined.
Expert analysis: In complex cases, experts may be involved. This could include medical professionals or other specialists that can provide insight into certain causes or injuries.
Determining fault is not always a straightforward process. It can be subject to interpretation. It’s important to seek the counsel of a knowledgeable accident attorney to help you negotiate with insurance companies.
What if I am partially at fault?
In some states, like Colorado, being partially at fault doesn’t automatically mean you can’t recover compensation. However, it does impact the amount you might receive.
The compensation in these cases will be in direct proportion to the percentage of fault you’re determined to have. For example, if you are found 20% responsible, you will typically be able to recover 80% of the total damages you suffered.
Insurance companies often try to minimize the amount of their payouts, so adjusters will try to reduce their settlement offers. They will likely use your partial fault status against you as much as possible, so it’s important that you don’t discuss the accident with them without first consulting with your lawyer.
Does being partially at fault mean I need a car accident attorney?
Facing this situation alone can be daunting. While it’s not legally required, having an experienced attorney on your side can provide you with some significant benefits for protecting your rights.
Since insurance companies are profit-driven, their goal is to minimize their payouts. If you are partially at fault, the insurance adjusters will probably try to use it as leverage. An attorney can advocate for you and even handle all the dealings with the insurance company, so you don’t have to.
Also, if you end up needing to build a strong case, an accident attorney may have access to resources you don’t have. This includes accident reconstruction experts and certain medical professionals who can give insight into your case.
If you have to go to court, you will want an attorney to represent you in a trial. Representing yourself will probably not get the results you need, not to mention the stress a lawyer can take off your shoulders.
How long do I have to file a lawsuit after a car accident?
In general, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims, including car accidents, in Colorado is three years from the date of the accident. This means you have a three-year window to initiate legal proceedings.
If, however, a family member plans to file a wrongful death claim, that deadline is usually two years.
It’s important to understand that this is not a flexible deadline and is strictly enforced by the courts. There are limited exceptions or circumstances that may extend the statute of limitations, but they are rare.
What kind of damage can be recovered?
If you are partially at fault in an accident, you may still be entitled to a percentage of damages. The types of damages are the same in most cases.
Medical expenses: If you obtained injuries in your accident and required medical attention, you will probably be able to recover some of those expenses. This might include ambulance fees, hospitalization, surgeries, medications, and ongoing treatment.
Property damage: If your car accident resulted in damage to your vehicle or other property, you may be able to recover the cost of replacing or repairing it
Lost wages: If you were unable to work due to your injuries and experienced a loss of income, you may be entitled to financial compensation
Pain and suffering: Pain and suffering can include physical pain, emotional trauma, anxiety, depression, and a diminished quality of life
Punitive damages: In some cases, you may be entitled to punitive damages. These are damages sought as punishment to the at-fault party for cases involving recklessness or intentionally harmful behavior.
Let Bachus & Schanker’s car accident attorneys help you get the settlement you deserve
If you’ve been hurt in an accident, you know the physical and emotional impact it can have. At Backus & Schanker, we can help you navigate the complexities of your legal situation. We understand the many challenges you’ll face, and we’re dedicated to helping relieve your stress and protect your rights.
Goguen, David, J.D., Colorado Car Accident Laws.
Kagan, Julia. (2023). Comparative Negligence: Definition, Types, and Examples.