Accidents are often chaotic and confusing, with a lot happening at once. Fault for an accident is not always clear – and, after an investigation, liability does not always go to one party alone. Multiple parties may share financial responsibility for an accident. In some cases, the injured victim is found to be at fault for the injuries. In Colorado, however, an accident victim can still recover financial compensation even if he or she is partially responsible.
If you contributed to the accident that injured you in Colorado, do not assume that this makes you ineligible to make a monetary recovery. Colorado is a comparative negligence state, not a contributory negligence state. A comparative negligence law allows an injured victim to recover at least partial compensation after contributing to an accident. A state that uses a contributory negligence law, on the other hand, bars a plaintiff from recovery entirely if he or she is found at fault for the accident, even by a fraction.
The majority of states in the U.S. use comparative negligence laws to determine liability during a personal injury claim. There are two types of comparative negligence laws: pure and modified. Colorado uses a modified comparative negligence law, meaning that there is a cap on the amount of fault that can be allotted to a plaintiff before he or she is barred from financial compensation. In a pure comparative negligence state, a plaintiff can be assigned any percentage of fault for an accident – even 99 percent – and still recover compensation.
In Colorado, the cap on comparative negligence is 49 percent. If you are found to be 50 percent or more at fault for your accident, you will be ineligible for financial compensation. If, however, your degree of fault falls below 50 percent, you can still recover financially. The courts will reduce your recovery by an amount that is equivalent to your percentage of fault. If you are found to be 10 percent responsible for a car accident, for example, you would still receive $90,000 of a $100,000 reward.
After being injured in an accident, recovering financial compensation from one or more defendants is reliant upon your ability to prove that that party is at fault for your injuries. In a personal injury lawsuit, it is the plaintiff (the filing party) who is responsible for meeting the burden of proof. This burden is a preponderance of the evidence, or clear and convincing evidence that the defendant is more likely to have caused the accident and injuries in question than not.
Most personal injury cases are based on the claim that the defendant was negligent and that this caused the injury. Negligence is a legal doctrine that means that someone failed to act with a proper amount of care. If negligence can be proven in a personal injury case, the plaintiff will be entitled to financial compensation from the negligent party for causing the injury in question. If you are the plaintiff in a Colorado personal injury claim, it is up to you or your lawyer to prove the elements of your case.
The four basic elements of negligence are a duty of care, breach of duty, causation and damages. In essence, you or your lawyer must demonstrate (using evidence) that the defendant had a responsibility to use a certain level of care, failed to fulfill this responsibility, and that this caused your injuries and related damages. Keep in mind, you must also prove that the defendant is more at fault for the accident than you were to recover any financial compensation under Colorado’s comparative negligence rule.
Proving a personal injury case in Colorado often requires assistance from an experienced attorney. To discuss your claim with a lawyer in Lakewood at no charge or obligation, contact James L. Finegan, P.C. for a free consultation.