Who Is At Fault In Your Denver Car Accident?
You were injured in a Denver car accident. Because Colorado is an at-fault state, the question of who was at fault for the collision just became a very important one for you. The answer is often obvious to the person who was injured, and that can cause it to be dismissed or overlooked when it shouldn’t be. When fault is obvious it may be because one driver broke a law and the other didn’t, and the crash was clearly a direct result of breaking the law. Easy and done, right? If you can prove it, yes. If that’s your case, go read this instead.
If you are reading this post, it’s probably because your case is less straight-forward than those I described above. Did the “at-fault” insurance company surprise you by claiming you are 20% liable? 30%? If you are found by a jury to be 50% liable (or more) in Colorado you will likely recover nothing at all. Maybe you got the worst kind of surprise – the insurance company claiming they aren’t paying anything because they don’t believe their insured caused the car accident at all.
How do you know what to do about that? The best answer is that it’s time to call in expert help. I hope the information provided below is helpful to you, but it could never replace talking to a Denver car accident attorney about your specific facts. You can do that by calling or texting me at (303) 339-8846, or scheduling a free consultation by clicking here.
It’s better not to assume
In my experience as a Denver car accident attorney, I have found that people sometimes incorrectly assume that the question of fault isn’t even a question at all. It doesn’t show up on their radar. When your future is on the line, every issue deserves attention, even if it is to confirm you have the facts and evidence you need. Rear-end collisions are a great example of this because of the assumptions people make about them. The driver who drives into the car in front of them is almost always at fault. Almost. As drivers, we are always responsible for maintaining a safe distance between our own car and the car ahead of us. However, it is possible for actions by the driver ahead to contribute to causation. Brake checking and other road rage behaviors, as well as reversing into a car come to mind as examples of potential exceptions to the general rule.
Fault is more likely to be contested in cases where there is no contact between the parties’ vehicles. Imagine someone improperly merges into your lane and you swerve to avoid a collision. Then you hit a wall instead. It’s still their fault isn’t it? In a fair world you’re certainly not at fault for that. But be ready for the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier to claim you are, at least to some degree. So how do we decide who was at fault?
When you file an insurance claim for compensation after being injured in a car accident, the strength of your claim is based entirely on leveraging your right to file a civil lawsuit. In injury cases, fault is closely tied to the legal concept of negligence, which is what you actually end up trying to prove if the case goes to trial. Was the other driver unreasonable in some way? Did that directly lead to your injuries? If the other driver broke a law that exists to keep people safe, negligence can be presumed. However, in either case, the violation must have caused the accident to establish fault. Once that is established any remaining question of fault is a matter of degree.
It is possible in Colorado for more than one person to have caused a car accident, and more than one party to a personal injury case can be negligent. That is referred to as comparative negligence, and it involves assigning percentages of blame to each person. That’s why an insurance company might argue that the injured person was 20% or 30% liable, as an example. By asserting that, they are hoping to reduce compensation by that amount. You can see sample jury instructions explaining this idea in section 9:22 here.
Don’t ask the insurance company
Insurance companies have good reasons to distort the truth on this subject. The company covering the driver you believe was at-fault will save money if they can convince you and others that the collision was partially your fault. Some seem to do this as a matter of policy. It may have nothing at all to do with what happened to you, what you did, etc. Some insurance companies just assert that the injured person was partially at fault without supporting or defending that assertion at all. Others assert comparative negligence after glancing over a case file. People who attempt to negotiate their injury case directly and without the help of an attorney are far more likely to simply accept these assertions. Don’t look to the at-fault driver or their insurance to clear this up for you.
Police reports can help
If you are trying to evaluate fault, Police reports are a great place to start.
Police reports typically include information about whether a driver was issued a ticket for violation of a traffic law, the direction and speed of the vehicles at the time of the collision, and often these reports include witness statements which can clear up arguments such as who had the right-of-way.
Police reports contain space for the officer to record their opinion regarding the primary cause or contributing factors that led to a car accident. Sometimes they are in code but you can easily decipher those using a key or overlay found here.
A police officer’s opinion should not be considered a final answer if fault is being contested. However, their opinions can provide information about suspected traffic violations, formal charges, and the factors the officer believed contributed to causation.
Questions of fault and liability can be argued at length in some cases without arriving at a clear answer. The issue may become more clear as both sides exchange information during the discovery phase of a case. If no agreement is reached, a jury will likely decide the issue in the end. With that in mind, the question in the minds on both sides of your case should always be: what will a jury do?
Predictions about how a jury will interpret and apply the law are never certain. Jury instructions that define negligence ask jurors to decide whether someone acted unreasonably. That can be very subjective, which means it can be unpredictable. However, experience in front of juries, a full understanding of the law, and an ability to show how the other side’s violation of the law led to your injuries, all come together to make your best case for full and fair compensation in your Denver car accident case. I strongly believe that kind of preparation and presentation is best accomplished by an experienced and committed trial lawyer. That is part of the value I bring to your corner.
If there is any question about who is at fault in your injury case, you can benefit from the advice and guidance of a Denver car accident attorney. The question of who is at fault must be carefully considered and persuasively answered if you are to have any real hope of full compensation for your losses. This issue can be a sleeper and a very unpleasant surprise if everyone on the Plaintiff’s side of a case just assumes it won’t be contested. Get Ready for this and other common defenses that could become problems for your case. Call (303) 339-8846, text, or schedule your free consultation now.