If you have recently been involved in a car accident in Colorado, you are not alone. The Colorado Department of Transportation reported over 79,000 accidents in 2022 alone, over 2,000 resulting in serious injuries or fatalities.
If you are considering a lawsuit after your accident, it can be helpful to arm yourself with some knowledge of Colorado’s automotive laws and regulations. Here you will find a breakdown of several of these laws, including traffic violations, insurance requirements, statutes of limitations, and resources to assist you.
Colorado Chain Law
Colorado’s Chain Law requires all commercial vehicles driving on I-70 to carry chains from September through May. Chains help improve a vehicle’s traction in icy and snowy conditions, and a truck that is not correctly outfitted with chains is more likely to flip, jackknife, or otherwise lose control. The Department of Transportation sometimes requires passenger vehicles to be equipped with chains during blizzards, freezes, and other potentially hazardous weather patterns.
A commercial driver who does not carry chains during the colder months can face a $500 fine. If their non-compliance results in the closure of at least one lane of traffic, that fine can be increased to $1,000.
Colorado Passenger Vehicle Traction Law
The Passenger Vehicle Traction Law states that passenger vehicles must have all-wheel drive or snow tires to ensure adequate traction in poor weather conditions. This law is in effect from September-May across I-70.
Violating the Traction Law could lead to a fine of at least $130. If failure to adhere to the Traction Law leads to a lane being obstructed, that fine could increase to at least $650. Violating the Traction Law is a secondary offense, and the Colorado State Patrol only enforces the law in the case of an accident or blockage.
Colorado Texting and Driving Law
Drivers above the age of 18 in Colorado are permitted to talk on a cell phone while operating their vehicle. However, manual entry, such as texting, is considered distracted driving and is prohibited. Exceptions to this law include texting to report an emergency, such as a road hazard or reckless driver. However, if possible, it is always safer to report by calling.
Texting and driving will initially result in a fine of $300 or $50 if the offender is a minor. A subsequent violation is a class 1 misdemeanor and can lead to a $1,000 fine and up to a year in prison.
Texting and driving is a primary offense, which means drivers can be pulled over for manually operating a cell phone even if it does not lead to an accident.
Colorado Passenger Laws for Minor Drivers
In Colorado, drivers under the age of 18 are not permitted to drive anyone under the age of 21 unless the passenger is an immediate family member of the driver. Exceptions to this law are when the driver is accompanied by an adult guardian and in the case of a medical emergency.
Violation of the Passenger Law is a primary offense. If a minor is caught illegally driving a passenger, they could be charged with community service, a fine of up to $50, and points on their license. The penalty could increase to $150 with a second offense.
Colorado Seat Belt Law
In Colorado, all drivers, passengers in the front seat of a vehicle, and children under the age of 15 are required to wear seat belts. Drivers and front-seat passengers are exempt from this rule if the vehicle in question does not have to have seat belts or if the passenger has a medical condition that makes wearing a seat belt painful or stressful. These conditions include breathing problems, mobility issues, and phobias of being constrained.
If drivers are not violating any other traffic laws, they cannot be ticketed for failing to wear a seat belt. However, it can lead to a $65 fine if that driver is being pulled over for any other reason.
Colorado High Occupancy Vehicle and Toll Express Lane Laws
Colorado highways have many lanes that are classified as High-Occupancy Vehicle or High-Occupancy Toll. These lanes are free for vehicles transporting at least three people, including the driver. Drivers traveling in an express lane with fewer than two passengers must pay a toll.
Using an HOV/HOT lane under the minimum occupancy and without paying the proper tolls is a class A traffic infraction and can result in a fine of up to $100. However, merging into or out of an HOV/HOT lane across double white lines rather than dotted lines is a more serious offense and could result in a fine of up to $1,000.
Colorado Driving Under the Influence Laws
Colorado classifies driving with a BAC of above .08 as Driving Under the Influence while driving with a BAC of between .05 and .08 can lead to a charge of Driving While Ability Impaired. A driver can also be charged with DUI or DWAI with a BAC above .00 but below .05 if the arresting officer believes that their level of intoxication significantly impaired their ability to operate a vehicle safely.
A first-time DUI charge can lead to fines from $600-$1,000 and up to a year in jail. A first-time DWAI charge can cost anywhere from $200-$500 in fines and up to 180 days in jail.
In addition to fines and possible jail time, a first-time DUI violation will lead to a nine-month license suspension and 12 points on the driver’s license. That suspension will increase to 12 months for a second offense and 24 for a third. A first-time DWAI will result in eight points on the driver’s license with no suspension; however, a second DWAI will be treated the same as a second DUI. Both DUI and DWAI charges count as prior offenses.
After multiple violations or one instance of driving with a BAC above .15, the state might designate a motorist as a “persistent drunk driver,” leading to increased penalties.
Colorado Speeding Laws
The penalty for speeding in Colorado varies based on speed and where the speeding occurred.
Driving at one to 24 miles per hour above the speed limit is a class B traffic infraction while exceeding the speed limit by 25 miles per hour or more is a class A infraction. Both class A and class B traffic infractions can result in a fine from $15-$100, but a class A infraction will also add points to the offender’s license.
These penalties increase when speeding occurs in a construction zone. Traveling at one to 24 miles above the speed limit in a construction zone is a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense while going any faster is a class 1 misdemeanor. Class 2 misdemeanors can lead to a fine of up to $150 and up to 90 days in jail, while a class 1 offense can mean up to $300 in fines and a year in jail.
Drivers can report dangerous speeding to the Colorado State Patrol by calling (*227).
Colorado Reckless Driving Law
Drivers who intentionally endanger other motorists and pedestrians are in violation of Colorado’s laws against reckless driving. Behaviors such as swerving, drag racing, and driving on the sidewalk are all examples of reckless driving.
Reckless drivers can be charged with a class 2 misdemeanor for their first offense. For their second offense, they will be responsible for a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to six months in jail.
As with speeding, you can report a reckless driver to the Colorado State Patrol at (*227).
Colorado Auto Insurance Requirements
Drivers in Colorado are required to have liability insurance, which covers the cost of injury and vehicular damage in instances where the policyholder is at fault. Specifically, drivers must have coverage for both bodily injury and property damage. Colorado mandates that a driver’s insurance plan must cover, at minimum, $15,000 for property damage per accident and $25,000 for bodily injury per person injured in an accident, totaling up to $50,000.
If a driver is caught operating their vehicle without insurance, they can face serious penalties. On their first offense, they will be fined at least $500, and their license will be suspended until they can provide proof of their insurance. That fine will increase after subsequent offenses, and the driver may have to perform community service.
Someone moving from another state can register a vehicle in Colorado with their out-of-state insurance. However, they cannot renew their registration until they subscribe to in-state insurance.
A motorist who was hit by an uninsured driver may have a difficult time receiving compensation for their accident. Subscribing to uninsured motorist coverage can offer some extra protection.
How Much Can Someone Sue For a Car Accident in Colorado?
Colorado does not place a limit on the amount of economic damages that a victim of a car accident can receive. If their claim is successful, a victim can be compensated for the total financial impact of their accident, including damage to their vehicle and medical expenses. However, Colorado limits the amount of payment a claimant can receive for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, at $642,180.
The Statute of Limitations in Colorado
Colorado places a statute of limitations of three years on vehicular injury lawsuits. In most cases, you will have three years from the date of your accident to file a lawsuit. The statute of limitations for vehicular manslaughter is two years. A person intending to recover damages for a death resulting from their accident will not have as much time as someone seeking a settlement for their own injuries.
However, it is wise to begin your legal process as soon as you can. A lawsuit is usually a last resort. Most personal injury attorneys will advise that you first pursue a settlement out-of-court and only sue if that process is unsuccessful. Additionally, gathering evidence and forming a compelling case will take a significant amount of time. If your claim does lead to a lawsuit, you will want to ensure that you have not already passed the statute of limitations. If you have, you will have no options for recovering damages. There are no exceptions to the statute of limitations in Colorado.
Is Colorado a no-fault state?
Colorado is not a no-fault state. Anyone who has suffered from personal injury and/or property damage after an accident has the right to seek damages from the at-fault party. Colorado considers comparative negligence in car accidents, meaning both parties can be partially at fault.
Legal Resources for Colorado Car Accident Victims
After a car accident, it can be challenging to know where to turn. The following websites will help you understand Colorado car accident laws, ensure that your accident is documented, and research attorneys to help you pursue a settlement.
Colorado Motor Vehicle Law Book
The Colorado General Assembly maintains a list of statewide automotive laws and regulations. Each item is explained in easy-to-understand language and includes information about penalties and exceptions. This index also contains information about taxes, insurance, and other relevant topics for Colorado motorists.
Colorado Department of Transportation
The Colorado Department of Transportation website contains valuable information for drivers and vehicle owners in Colorado, including explanations of laws, up-to-date news on road conditions, and safety tips.
The DoT’s website is updated regularly and can help inform you on what seasonal laws and regulations are currently in place. It also provides alerts for road closures and nearby construction zones.
Colorado State Patrol
The Colorado State Patrol keeps Colorado’s highways free of illegal and hazardous driving behavior. Their website allows users to file a crash report, a necessary first step for anyone who intends to pursue civil action after an accident.
You can also use the CSP’s website to report an aggressive driver, schedule a VIN inspection, and pay a ticket. Like the DoT’s website, it contains news about highway conditions, advice for driving safely, and accident statistics.
Colorado Bar Association
The Colorado Bar Association maintains a search engine for lawyers certified at the state level. Their website allows users to search for lawyers by practice area, fee type, experience, and the size of their firm and to contact lawyers directly.
The CBA will let you research a lawyer’s disciplinary history and ensure they are in good standing with the state. They also provide general information and FAQs about the legal process.
Avvo is another resource to help users find lawyers. Their search engine lets you see how long each lawyer has practiced, their areas of specialty, their contingent fees, and what kinds of consultations they offer. You can also read about recent cases that they’ve handled and settlements that they’ve won.
Avvo allows users to leave reviews, letting you research other people’s experiences with an attorney before hiring them yourself.
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