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What to do After a Car Accident in Boulder

Last updated: October 13, 2016

Your boyfriend just bought a brand new, dangerously fast car. You've never understood why he wastes his money on cars, but it's his "toy" and you want to be supportive. He's cruising along Broadway near the Pearl Street Mall. There are pedestrians and bikes everywhere, but he doesn't seem to notice. "Speed racer" is weaving in and out of traffic. You ask him to slow down, but he won't listen. As you approach a yellow light at the intersection of Boulder Canyon Road he steps on the gas and plows right into a bus.

What's next? Here's some information to help explain what to do after a car accident in Boulder.

Stop at the Scene

You are required to stop at the scene. Don't even think of driving away. Make sure everyone is safe. It doesn't matter if the accident involves a pedestrian, a moving car, a parked car, or someone's property. Colorado law requires all drivers in a crash to stop, stay at the scene,to exchange information, and render reasonable assistance to the injured.If you leave, you could be charged with hit-and-run and face severe penalties (criminal!).

Do I have to report the accident to DMV?

Absolutely. Colorado law requires you to inform the Department of Motor Vehicles about your accident. You can report the accident online or in person.

Do I have to get the cops involved?

Call the cops -- even if it's a minor accident. This is especially, and probably obviously,true if the other driver appears impaired by drugs or alcohol. Call the Colorado State Patrol or 911 as soon as possible. A police officer will respond to your location and take a report. If the police take a report, you may not have to report the accident to the DMV.

What information should I gather at the scene?

Be prepared to exchange information with the other driver-your name, address and driver's license number; the registration number of the car you were driving; and the name your insurance company. You may wish to collect contact information for:

  • Other car's owner(s);
  • Any passengers in the other car;
  • Any witnesses to the accident.

Consider making note of traffic and weather conditions. Draw a simple diagram of the collision scene and/or take photographs, if you are able.

It's important not to volunteer any information about who was to blame for the accident. Generally, you should not agree to pay for damages or sign any documents except a traffic ticket. Most important tip: always cooperate with the police officer investigating the case.

Minimum Car Insurance Level Requirements

Boulder drivers, this is important. You are required to carry a minimum amount of car insurance:

  • Bodily Injury coverage covers you if you cause an accident in which someone else is hurt or killed. Insurance experts recommend carrying at least $100,000 per person and $300,000 per occurrence -- commonly expressed as "100/300." Consider what assets you have to protect and what you can afford when deciding how much to purchase. Colorado's minimum is $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident for bodily injury-known as "25/50."
  • Property Damage coverage covers you when you damage someone else's property. Usually it's someone else's car, but it could apply to buildings, utility poles, garage doors, and other physical property. Colorado requires a limit of $15,000 per occurrence.

If you don't maintain this coverage on the vehicle you own -- that is, if you do not keep your vehicle insured up to, or above, the minimum levels set by the state of Colorado -- it is considered a misdemeanor. Failure to provide proof of insurance comes with a minimum fine of $500 and four points on your driving record, along with a possible license suspension. The second offense results in a $1000 fine and a four-month suspension, while the third is the same minimum $1000 fine, with the addition of community service and an eight-month suspension.

After the Crash: Dealing with Insurance Companies

As soon as you can, report the crash to your insurance company. Your carrier will open an investigation. Be honest with the adjuster, but remember thatyou don't have to automatically accept their estimate or appraisal. Here's a list of do's and don'ts when speaking with insurance adjusters.

Liability: Tort Replaces "No Fault" Insurance

Determining who is at fault can be complicated. Car accidents are caused by a variety of factors, including driver negligence, defective vehicle components, poorly maintained roads, or lots of snow.

In 2003, Colorado replaced its "no-fault insurance" law with a more traditional tort system. This means that proving fault in an accident is more important than ever. To prove fault, you must prove which party was negligent.

Colorado follows a modified comparative negligence, or 50%, rule. What this means is that you can be found partially at fault for the accident, but your fault cannot exceed 50%. Otherwise, you will not be entitled to seek any damages. Therefore, you can be 49% at fault, and still collect compensation for your damages. The less fault that is placed on you, the more damages you can recover in your injury claim.

What Damages Are Available?

If you have suffered harm from the accident, you can seek monetary damages for your loss. These damages may include lost wages, pain and suffering, property damage and more.

Going to Court

If you do decide to sue, your attorney will provide details about where and when to appear in court. Here's a list of courthouses in Boulder County. If you aren't sure what to do after a car accident in Boulder, a trained legal professional may be able to help. Many lawyers take auto accident cases on a contingency fee basis. Basically, what this means is that you do not pay the lawyer his or her attorney fees or costs if you lose the case. If you win, you pay the lawyer a percentage of the money you recover. A settlement is considered a "win."

Get a Free Case Assessment

Every situation is made up of different circumstances and figuring out what to do after a car accident in Boulder depends on an examination of the particular facts of your case. A lawyer can help you identify possible claims, seek settlement, or file a claim. Schedule a free consultation with a local attorney to discuss your options.