Whether you live in Colorado or visit to take in the gorgeous views, a car crash can injure you. From the often questionable road conditions on I-70 to rush hour traffic in Denver, you risk a collision every time you are on the road.
Traumatic and life-altering car accidents leave victims with severe or life-threatening physical injuries, emotional distress, and financial burdens. After a car accident, you may need to seek legal recourse to recover compensation for your damages.
However, the statute of limitations in Colorado sets a strict time limit for filing a car accident claim. When you hire an experienced Denver car accident attorney, they can explain the statute of limitations for car accidents, its importance, exceptions, and the steps you should take after a car accident.
Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents in Colorado
Why Must You Adhere to the Statute of Limitations?
Colorado’s car accident statute of limitations protects the rights of both the accident victims and defendants:
- Protecting your rights – Filing a lawsuit within the statute of limitations protects your legal rights. If you miss the deadline, you, unfortunately, lose the opportunity to pursue a claim and seek compensation.
- Preserving evidence – Over time, evidence relevant to your car accident case may become less reliable, damaged, or even lost. Additionally, memories can fade, and witnesses may become harder to locate. Filing a lawsuit promptly ensures that you can preserve valuable evidence, making it easier for your Colorado car accident lawyer to build a strong case on your behalf.
- Negotiation leverage – Having the option to pursue a lawsuit can provide you with greater leverage during settlement negotiations with insurance companies. Demonstrating your willingness to take legal action can prompt insurers to offer a fair settlement.
- Legal finality – The statute of limitations creates legal finality for the injured and at-fault parties. Once the statute of limitations expires, so does the right to pursue legal action. This finality provides certainty to all parties involved and prevents prolonged uncertainty and potential for litigation years after the accident.
- Protecting defendants – The statute of limitations also protects defendants from lawsuits years or even decades after the accident. This limits their exposure to legal liability for a reasonable period after the accident.
- Encouraging prompt resolution – A statute of limitations encourages parties to resolve disputes more efficiently. A time limit to initiate legal action can prompt defendants and their insurance companies to negotiate a settlement, potentially avoiding the need for lengthy and costly litigation.
- Promoting fairness – Setting a statute of limitations promotes fairness in the legal system. It ensures that you begin the claims while evidence is fresh and that you hold the appropriate parties accountable within a reasonable time.
- Judicial efficiency – Statutes of limitations help manage court dockets and judicial resources. By encouraging timely resolution, the courts can focus on recent and active cases while avoiding the burden of handling old, stale claims.
Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations
Under some circumstances, exceptions to the two-year statute of limitations may apply. These exceptions can affect your ability to seek compensation beyond the standard time limit. Several notable exceptions in Colorado are:
The Discovery Rule
Suppose the injuries resulting from the car accident weren’t immediately apparent. In that case, the statute of limitations may start when a victim discovered their injuries or should have discovered them through reasonable diligence. This exception applies to not immediately apparent injuries, such as specific latent or internal injuries.
If the accident victim is a minor (under 18 years old) at the time of the accident, the statute of limitations may toll, or pause, until they reach the age of majority. The statute of limitations in Colorado may begin when the minor turns 18. So, for example, if your child suffered an injury in a car accident when they were 16, the statute of limitations clock will not start ticking until their 18th birthday. As such, they would have until they turn 20 to file a car accident lawsuit if one became necessary.
Insanity or Mental Incapacity
Suppose the injured party is mentally incapacitated or deemed legally insane at the time of the accident or injury. In that case, the statute of limitations may toll until they regain mental capacity. This exception to the personal injury statute of limitations ensures that those with cognitive impairments have a fair opportunity to seek compensation when they can do so.
Different rules apply when the government or a government entity is responsible for the injury. In Colorado, if a government employee or agency causes the injury, a claimant must meet strict notice requirements before filing a claim.
The injured party must file a special notice to bring claims against a governmental body and must do so within 180 days of the date on which they discovered their injury. This allows the governmental entity time to investigate the facts and cure any dangerous condition. Failure to comply with these requirements can affect the statute of limitations.
Fraud or Concealment
If the defendant has engaged in fraudulent conduct or concealed information relevant to the case, the statute of limitations may toll until the injured party learns of the fraud or concealment.
Note that exceptions to the statute of limitations aren’t automatic. The injured party or their attorney’s responsible for asserting these exceptions in court if applicable to their case. Additionally, each case is unique, and specific circumstances can affect the application of exceptions to the statute of limitations.
If you have a car accident claim in Colorado, consult a skilled lawyer as soon as possible. They can assess your case, determine the appropriate statute of limitations, protect your rights, and seek the compensation you deserve.
Causes of Colorado Car Accidents
Colorado car accidents mainly stem from the negligence of another party, usually another driver.
One of the leading culprits of car accidents in Colorado is distracted driving. Tasks such as texting or talking on the phone, using an app on a smartphone, eating, adjusting the radio, or using navigation systems steal the driver’s attention from the road. Even a momentary lapse in focus can lead to devastating consequences while behind the wheel.
Exceeding the speed limit or driving too fast for road conditions is a significant problem on Colorado roads. Speeding reduces the driver’s ability to react to unexpected situations, increases the stopping distance required, and magnifies the severity of collisions. On icy or snowy Colorado roads, drivers need to drive below the speed limit or they may drive too fast for the conditions.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
Operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or some types of prescription medications impairs a driver’s judgment, coordination, and reaction time. Law enforcement agencies and advocacy groups work hard to combat this dangerous behavior.
Aggressive driving behaviors, such as tailgating, weaving through traffic, and disregarding traffic signals, contribute to a higher frequency of accidents. Road rage incidents and aggressive maneuvers can escalate tensions and create hazardous situations.
Colorado gets heavy snow and ice in the mountains and sudden rain storms on the plains. These weather events can create challenging and dangerous driving conditions, increasing the risk of accidents.
The state’s vast and varying terrain and seasonal temperature fluctuations can result in poorly maintained roads and infrastructure. Construction zones, uneven surfaces, and potholes can catch drivers off guard and increase the likelihood of accidents.
Failing to Obey Traffic Laws
Disregarding traffic signs, running red lights, and other traffic law violations cause many car accidents in Colorado. Ignoring traffic regulations jeopardizes the safety of all road users.
Fatigued or drowsy drivers pose a significant risk on Colorado’s roads. Long commutes, irregular work hours, and insufficient rest can lead to reduced attention, slower reaction times, and impaired decision-making skills.
Colorado’s growing population means an increasing number of new and inexperienced drivers. Inexperience can lead to poor judgment and a lack of situational awareness, making these drivers more susceptible to causing accidents.
Colorado’s rural areas contain diverse wildlife. Collisions with deer, elk, or even smaller creatures can total a vehicle and injure its occupants.
What Are Your Legal Rights After a Colorado Car Accident?
Even though the person who caused your accident, their insurance company, and the insurance company’s attorney want to convince you that you don’t have any rights after a car accident in Colorado, you must certainly do.
You have the right to:
- Seek medical attention – If you suffered an injury in a car accident, you have the right to seek medical attention and treatment for your injuries. Your health and well-being should be a top priority, so get proper medical care, even if you believe your injuries are minor.
- File an insurance claim – You have the right to file an insurance claim with your insurance company or the at-fault party’s insurance company to seek compensation for damages to your vehicle and personal injuries, depending on your coverage and the circumstances of the accident.
- Seek compensation – If someone else’s negligence caused the accident, you have the right to seek compensation for medical expenses, property damage, lost income, pain and suffering, and other damages through a personal injury lawsuit or a settlement with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
- Legal representation – You can consult an attorney who practices personal injury law and handles car accident cases. A lawyer can help protect your rights, navigate the legal process, and negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf, maximizing the compensation you receive.
Involved in a Colorado Car Accident? Seek Legal Help Today to Preserve Your Rights
After a car accident, you must comply with the statute of limitations to protect your right to seek compensation for injuries and damages. It also preserves evidence, allows you to negotiate from a position of strength, and pursue a fair resolution to your case.
The specific rights and legal remedies available can vary depending on the accident and Colorado’s applicable personal injury laws—so after a car accident, seek legal advice promptly to understand your rights and protect your interests. Your personal injury lawyer can assess your options and advise you of the possible timeline of your case.