Imagine that you are driving down the road, talking to your friend on your cell phone (you’ve refrained from texting), and you stop at the stop sign. After stopping, you proceed to enter the intersection when out of nowhere you are hit by a car that ran the stop sign. The driver who hit you appears to be completely at fault, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the accident is only their fault. Colorado follows comparative negligence rules. What does that mean? Well, under Colorado statute, if another caused your injury, but you were also “contributory negligent,” that is, your own negligent actions also contributed to your injury, that negligence does not keep you from recovering damages. Historically, if the injured had been negligent too, then he or she could not recover any damages. However, existing Colorado law may allow for recovery, but only if your own negligent actions were not greater than the negligent actions of the other person from whom you seek recovery.
Comparative Negligence in Action
So, you were talking on your phone, but you didn’t cause the accident. It’s been determined that the driver that hit you did not yield to the stop sign. But we all know that the use of cellphones causes distracted driving.
Comparative negligence works like this: If you’re driving distracted, talking on the phone, and that contributed to the accident less than 50%, then you are not barred from recovery. However, if that action contributed to the accident by 50% or more, then you are barred from recovery. In court, this breakdown of percentage of negligence would be decided by a judge or jury, depending on the type of trial.
Let’s say that your negligent action is determined to be 15% of the cause of the car accident and it’s also determined that you are entitled to $10,000 worth of damages for injuries received. You would only receive $8,500. This is because comparative negligence rules diminish the amount of damages you will receive by the percentage your negligent actions were responsible for your injury. Now, let’s say that you were not on your phone, and were obeying all traffic laws. It is also determined that the other driver is 100% at fault. Then you would receive the entire $10,000 in damages. (These numbers are of course just for illustrative purposes and don’t include other awards that may be associated with a case.)
However, very importantly, if you are partially at fault for the accident—don’t assume you were 50% responsible. It is important to contact a lawyer to get an assessment as you still may be entitled to recover for the injuries and damages you sustained.
What Should You Do
First, you should always drive distracted free, as safe driving is extremely important, not just for you, but for the community at large.
Second, check out our What Kind of Driver are You Quiz for fun, and see if you are a distracted driver.