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Understanding Comparative Negligence in Colorado

by  on  Personal Injury

If you have been involved in an accident, whether it was an auto accidentconstruction accidentmotorcycle crashslip and fallski accident, or truck accident, you may be entitled to recovery of damages, even if you were partially at fault. As Denver personal injury lawyers, we are experienced in assisting our clients in maximizing their recovery, even if they are not without fault. Colorado’s law on comparative negligence provides that as long plaintiff’s negligence “was not as great as the negligence of the person against whom recovery is sought,” plaintiff’s “contributory negligence” shall not bar recovery of damages for negligence resulting in death or injury to a person or property. However, any damages allowed will be diminished in proportion to the amount of negligence attributable to the person for whose injury, damage, or death recovery is made. 

What this means is that if a plaintiff is found to be 49% responsible for an accident and the defendant 51%, and the jury awards $100,000, the plaintiff will be able to recover $51,000.  However, if the jury finds plaintiff to be 51% responsible and the defendant only 49%, plaintiff’s recovery will be 0.

The Jury or Judge Decides the Degree of Negligence of Each Party

If the case is a jury trial, and the jury finds the defendant negligent, it will be instructed to return a special verdict that includes both the amount of damages recoverable if there had been no contributory negligence, as well as the degree of negligence of each party, expressed as a percentage. It will then be up to the court to reduce the damages by the amount of plaintiff’s negligence. If the case did not have a jury and was tried in front of a judge (a “bench trial”), it will be up to the judge to determine the amount of damages and degree of negligence of each party.

What if There are Multiple Defendants?

In many personal injury cases, there is more than one named defendant.  Importantly, the 50% rule still applies.  For example, if a plaintiff is found to be 20% responsible, defendant A 10% responsible, and defendant B 70% responsible, the plaintiff can still recover, even though his or her liability is greater than that of one of the defendants.  The plaintiff’s liability is measured against all of the defendants, not each one individually.

Let a Skilled Denver Auto Accident Lawyer Assist You

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident for which you may be only partially at fault, we welcome you to contact us, by email or phone at (303) 502-5968 to schedule a free consultation