Colorado Car Accident Laws

If you get into a car accident in Colorado, here are the steps you need to take to protect yourself legally and financially.
Written by Meaghan Branham
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
background
If you’re in a car accident in
Colorado
, you’ll need to file a police report as well as an insurance claim. 
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What to do after a crash: Colorado car accident reporting laws

If you’ve gotten into a car accident in Colorado, the first thing you need to do is make sure that everyone involved is safe. Then, make sure your vehicle is in a safe location, and alert law enforcement as soon as possible.
You’ll also need to give your name, address, and
vehicle registration
number, as well as exchange insurance with the other party. You may want to document the crash for your insurance provider, or in case of any future liability lawsuits.
In Colorado, you may report the accident to: 
  • The police
  • The DMV
  • Your insurance company 
How, when, and where these reports are filed will vary based on your circumstances.
MORE: How to file a car accident claim report

When to report an accident to the police

You are legally required to report the accident to the police immediately. They will then file a report if:
  • The accident has resulted in bodily injury or death.
  • The accident has resulted in more than $1,000 in damages.
  • One of the parties does not have car insurance. 

When to report an accident to the DMV

If the police do not come to the scene for some reason, or you are not able to file an immediate report, you will need to file an online report with the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles within 60 days of the accident if it has resulted in:
  • Bodily injury
  • Death
  • Property damage exceeding $1,000
If, however, the police officers at the scene did file a report, you will not be required to file with the Colorado DMV unless otherwise notified. 
To report an accident to the Colorado DMV, you can submit an accident counter report on their
website
. This will require you to report:
  • The name, address, and insurance information of both parties
  • Your driver’s license number 
  • Your vehicle’s make, model, and vehicle identification number (VIN)

Financial responsibility and coverage minimums: Colorado’s insurance laws

Knowing what kind of coverage you are required to carry in Colorado can keep you protected in more ways than one in an accident. For instance, anyone who is not able to show proof of a legal car insurance policy in Colorado can be found guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. That can result in fines of $500 to $1,000 or more, up to a year of jail time, and 40 hours of community service. 
According to
Colorado's car insurance laws
, all drivers must have coverage that meets the state minimum 25/50/15 requirements:
Unfortunately, not every driver in Colorado meets these requirements. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), about 16.3% of Colorado drivers lack car insurance
If you’re involved in an accident with one of these drivers, you’ll be grateful to have
uninsured motorist coverage
. This coverage reimburses you for costs incurred as a result of an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist. 

Claiming damages after an accident: Colorado’s personal injury laws

After an accident, some drivers choose to also file a personal injury lawsuit. In Colorado, you can file a lawsuit to collect damages that fall into the categories of economic and non-economic. 
  • Economic damages: medical bills, lost wages, lost employment or business opportunities, loss of use of property, burial expenses
  • Non-economic damages: pain and suffering, mental suffering, inconvenience, humiliation
Section 13-80-101
of the Colorado Revised Statutes set the statute of limitation on personal injury lawsuits stemming from accidents at three years from the date of the accident
The statute of limitations for wrongful death claims is a bit different: the deadline to file is typically two years, and the "clock" starts on the date of the person's death.

Exceptions to Colorado’s personal injury laws

There are a few exceptions to Colorado’s personal injury lawsuit rules. For instance, if you were a minor at the time of the accident, the statute of limitations may be extended in your favor. 
In addition, the “discovery rule” allows the statute of limitations to be extended, so that the “clock” on the statute of limitations does not start until after the injury is discovered

Who’s to blame: Colorado’s comparative negligence law

Depending on what state you’re in, you may be subject to one of three types of negligence laws.
  • Contributory negligence
  • Pure comparative negligence
  • Modified comparative negligence
Drivers in Colorado must abide by the modified comparative negligence law. This means that, in cases where you are less than 50% at fault in an accident, you qualify for compensation for your costs, minus the percentage that you are at fault. 
So, if you are found to be 20% at fault for an accident where you are seeking $100,000 in compensation, you would qualify for $100,000 minus that 20%, for a total of $80,000.
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