Colorado Car Accident Compensation Laws

Whether you are carving up rural routes through the Rockies or at a dead stop in downtown Denver, it is a near certainty that, at some point, you will be in a car accident. At that point, Colorado's complicated laws will dictate whether and how much compensation you will recover for your damaged vehicle, medical bills, and other injuries. Read on to learn more about Colorado car accident compensation laws.

'At Fault' Rules Now Apply

Until a change in laws in 2003, Colorado was a "no fault" state when it came to auto insurance claims. Now, under the newer "tort system," fault on the part of one of the drivers must be shown before insurance claims will be paid out.

For drivers injured in an accident, this means they must file claims with the other driver's insurance company. For denied claims, the injured party must prove fault on the other driver's part. Depending on their own levels of coverage, the injured driver may see some relief if they have Uninsured/Underinsured (UM/UIM) coverage, but an aggressive, experienced attorney is essential in presenting new claims and arguing against unfair denials.

The chart below breaks down key aspects of Colorado's car accident compensation laws.

Statute of Limitations

Three Years (C.R.S.§ 13-80-101(n))

Non-Economic Damage Cap

$250,000, adjusted for inflation, currently over $400,000 (C.R.S. § 13-21-102.5 and § 13-21-203.7)

Wrongful Death Damage Cap

Same Limit as Non-Economic Damages Cap (C.R.S. § 13-21-203(1))

Punitive Damages Cap

'One-to-one' limit against actual damages (C.R.S. § 13-21-102)

Other Limits

None

Types of Damages

The obvious claim is for damages to your car. But the impact of a car accident does not stop there. Additional types of damages that result from car accidents include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Medical Expenses
  • Rental cars
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of affection or companionship

Damages that result from car accidents are often categorized as economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages include past and future medical expenses, lost income, and other out-of-pocket expenses. Non-economic damages cover things like pain, emotional distress, and disability or disfigurement.

Limits on Damages

The first limit that an attorney will consider in any car accident case is the time limit (Statute of Limitations) for filing your case, which in Colorado is three years for auto accidents. The other major limits on damages are found in Colorado's various caps on recovery in personal injury cases. These caps mostly affect non-economic damages and punitive damages, as opposed to directly provable damages to your vehicle or medical bills.

The general cap for injuries associated with pain, suffering, and emotional distress is adjusted for inflation and currently exceeds $400,000. However, the cap does not apply when the injured party can prove permanent physical impairment -- a key factor for attorneys to argue in court.

In wrongful death actions, there is a similar cap. And the permanent physical impairment loophole does not apply here since wrongful death claims are technically brought by the surviving family. However, there is another exception that may apply: the felonious killings exception, which includes manslaughter -- often the conviction applicable to a deadly drunk driving accident.

Finally, punitive damages are limited to "one for one" against the actual damages. This means the jury's award, no matter how egregious the conduct of the at-fault driver, will be limited to the same amount as the provable actual damages, such as the cost of a replacement vehicle and hospital bills.

Get a Free Claim Evaluation from a Colorado Attorney

With the change to "at-fault" claim laws, which pit victims against insurance companies that save money by denying claims, it is more important than ever to discuss your claim and how the damage caps may affect you with an attorney. Get a free claim evaluation to learn more about the strength of your claim and the amount of compensation that may be available.

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