Who’s at fault? Colorado Comparative Negligence Law

The Colorado mountain communities are home to many unique civil lawsuits. Maybe it’s a ski accident personal injury case, a snow and ice caused car accident, or a mountainous construction injury.

It’s common knowledge, that “fault”, or liability, is a big deal when deciding lawsuits. Fault is not always clear.

Comparative Negligence Explained

Insurance companies in Colorado commonly use the concept of comparative negligence to fight claims or to contest lawsuits. The Colorado law states that liability doesn’t need to be 100% on one party or the other. There can be some type of proportion of liability that the parties share, called comparative.

Comparative negligence can come up in many different forms. Maybe a pedestrian j-walks across a road and a car hits them. A jury might find that the driver of the car was liable, or at “fault,” but the pedestrian was also 25% comparatively at “fault” for j-walking. If the amount awarded at trial to the pedestrian for damages is $100,000, the law of comparative negligence would reduce the pedestrian’s award by 25% and that person would get $75,000.

If a jury finds the defendant to not be at least 51% liable, they will owe nothing. So, if a jury finds the pedestrian and the driver were both 50% at fault for the accident, the pedestrian wouldn’t be able to recover anything.

Colorado Revised Statutes

The Colorado Revised Statutes § 13-21-111 details the law for Comparative Negligence:

(1) Contributory negligence shall not bar recovery in any action by any person or his legal representative to recover damages for negligence resulting in death or in injury to person or property, if such negligence was not as great as the negligence of the person against whom recovery is sought, but any damages allowed shall be diminished in proportion to the amount of negligence attributable to the person for whose injury, damage, or death recovery is made.

(2) In any action to which subsection (1) of this section applies, the court, in a nonjury trial, shall make findings of fact or, in a jury trial, the jury shall return a special verdict which shall state:

(a) The amount of the damages which would have been recoverable if there had been no contributory negligence; and

(b) The degree of negligence of each party, expressed as a percentage.

(3) Upon the making of the finding of fact or the return of a special verdict, as is required by subsection (2) of this section, the court shall reduce the amount of the verdict in proportion to the amount of negligence attributable to the person for whose injury, damage, or death recovery is made; but, if the said proportion is equal to or greater than the negligence of the person against whom recovery is sought, then, in such event, the court shall enter a judgment for the defendant.

Kalamaya | Goscha is a Colorado law firm founded by Ryan Kalamaya and Amy Goscha. The boutique mountain law practice specializes in personal injury. Kalamaya | Goscha has law offices in Edwards, Aspen, and Glenwood Springs. To speak to an attorney call (970) 315-2365.

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