Car accidents are often messy and complicated. It’s not always as easy as determining which party is completely at fault and having them compensate the non-responsible party for their medical bills, car repair costs and any other damage suffered. Sometimes both parties had some level of negligence that, taken together, resulted in the crash. Who is responsible for paying damage costs in these cases?
What the law says
Different states in this country have different laws concerning how courts apportion liability when both parties are somewhat to blame. The standard that Colorado law uses is called contributory negligence.
If you, as the plaintiff, sue a defendant for negligence involving a car crash, the court will begin by determining the exact percentages of the total injury that each party is responsible for. How much you can recover depends upon how the court breaks down liability.
There is a complete bar to recovery for plaintiffs that are more at fault than the defendant. This means that, even if the court decides that you are 51% to blame and the other driver was 49% to blame, you can recover nothing in your suit.
Even if you have less than 50% of liability, you still might not receive a full recovery. The next step of the court’s analysis is to subtract the plaintiff’s percentage of liability from any possible recovery.
In other words, if you are 20% at fault and the other driver is 80% at fault, your 20% will be subtracted from the total recovery that the court might order the other driver to pay you.
Determining liability for negligence can be a complex process. If you were even a little bit at fault, you can rest assured that in Colorado your slight negligence doesn’t bar you completely from recovery like it does in some other states.