How To Determine Fault in a Denver Car Accident

Determining fault is a critical part of any car accident investigation. Colorado is an at-fault state for car accidents, so knowing who is at fault is a vital part of handling a car accident fairly. But determining who is to blame for the car accident isn’t always so simple. Here’s what you need to know about determining fault from our Denver car accident lawyers.


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How Do You Determine Fault for a Car Accident?

To determine fault for an accident, you figure out why the accident occurred. You look at whose actions resulted in the crash. To be at fault for an accident, a person must be negligent. That means they’re either careless, reckless, or intentionally causing harm. When a person’s negligent actions result in a car accident, that person is at fault.

What Is Fault for a Car Accident?

To determine who is at fault for a car accident, it’s important to know what fault is. Under Colorado accident law, fault has two components to it: a negligent act and causation. Fault isn’t necessarily who is violating a law at the time of the accident. It’s not even a link between a person’s actions and the fact that an accident happened. Instead, legal fault for an accident in Colorado is when an accident wouldn’t have occurred but for someone’s negligent actions.

Negligence and Fault in a Colorado Car Accident

The first part of fault for a car accident is negligence. A person must be acting negligently to be to blame. When it comes to driving, negligence is driving below the ordinary standards of care. It’s the opposite of what’s reasonable and acceptable in any given situation. Careful people follow traffic laws. They don’t speed, drive recklessly, or cut people off. When a person fails to live up to the standards of what an ordinary, reasonable person would do in the same situation, that person is negligent.

But a driver can be negligent without being at fault for an accident. A driver is at fault for an accident only if their actions are the proximate cause of the crash and any car accident injuries. In other words, did the fact that they were driving negligently cause the accident? If so, they’re at fault.

An Example of Negligence and Causation in a Car Accident

Pat and Kelly are drivers in the same direction on a road. Pat is in front. As the two drivers approach an intersection with a traffic light, Pat is speeding. Pat sees the traffic light turn from yellow to red. Pat puts on the brakes and comes to a stop. Kelly, who is behind, is following too closely to Pat’s vehicle. Although Kelly slams on the brakes as quickly as possible, Kelly doesn’t have time to stop. A rear-end collision occurs.

after denver car accident

In this example, both Pat and Kelly are negligent drivers. Pat was speeding, and Kelly was following too closely to Pat’s vehicle. However, in this example, only Kelly is to blame for the accident. The accident didn’t occur because Pat was speeding. Instead, the accident happened because Kelly was driving too closely to Pat’s vehicle. Law enforcement may issue Pat a ticket for speeding, but only Kelly has civil liability for the accident. A person can drive poorly without being at fault for an accident.

Car Accidents and Shared Fault in Colorado

As you evaluate who is at fault for an accident in Colorado, remember that more than one party can be at fault for the accident. Colorado uses a system of comparative fault. The law recognizes that more than one person can do something that causes an accident.

When an injured person has shared fault for a car accident, they may still bring a claim for compensation. However, they’re going to recover less than they would have recovered if they hadn’t been at fault for the accident. In cases where there are questions of shared fault, the jury has to decide how to assign blame among the parties. As the car accident victim, it’s important to present the jury the evidence that they need to see to make the correct decision about shared fault.

Are Criminal Fault and Civil Fault the Same Thing?

No, criminal fault and civil fault are not the same things. A person may have one kind of fault without having the other. For example, a person may receive a ticket for violating a traffic law without the violation being the cause of an accident. Likewise, a person may have civil liability for a crash without receiving a traffic ticket or a criminal conviction.

Although it’s rare to be civilly liable for a traffic accident without getting a ticket, it’s important for accident victims to remember that traffic tickets and civil liability are two very different proceedings. Law enforcement decides who receives a traffic ticket after an accident. An attorney that represents the state decides how to resolve the ticket matter. It’s also up to the state’s attorney to determine whether either party will face criminal charges after a car accident. In the case of someone who acts negligently, causes a crash, and then leaves the scene of the accident, that person would be both criminally and civilly liable.

But when it comes to civil fault, it’s up to you. You make the decisions about whether to file the case. You call the shots on how to resolve it and what to accept as fair compensation for your damages. As you evaluate fault in the case, remember that criminal and civil fault are two different things. You should assess your case only based on the civil negligence laws that apply in your jurisdiction.

Contact Our Denver Accident Attorneys to Determine Fault for a Car Crash

Do you need help determining fault for your car accident? Are you wondering what the law has to say about car accident fault? If you’re thinking about fault and how Colorado law applies to your car accident case, you’re on the right track. We’re experienced Denver car accident attorneys, and we can help.

Our attorneys are friendly and understanding. We are conveniently located at 5 Colorado locations near you in DenverFort CollinsColorado Springs, Aurora, and Englewood. Our attorneys are ready to serve you and fight for the compensation you deserve. Your call to speak with us about your case is always confidential. We can answer your questions and help you determine the best course of action after your car accident. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Written and Legally Reviewed By: Kyle Bachus

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Kyle is a member of the Colorado and Florida Bar associations and has served on the Board of Directors of the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association for more than twenty years in total. Over the years, Kyle has achieved justice for many clients. He has served on numerous committees and repeatedly won recognition from his peers at both the state and national level. He is proud of the role he has played in the passage of state and national legislation to protect consumers and is a frequent speaker and guest lecturer.