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How Is Liability Determined in a Head-On Collision in Colorado?

If you get into a head-on collision, the odds are high that you will suffer extensive injuries, such as broken bones or head trauma. These are incredibly serious car accidents that can leave victims permanently disabled – if they survive. Understanding who is liable, or financially responsible, for a head-on collision in Colorado can help you pursue the financial compensation that you or your family deserves for a life-changing accident.

What Is a Head-On Collision?

A head-on collision is when the front ends of two vehicles strike each other directly, with each vehicle facing the other. A head-on collision is so destructive because it occurs at the combined speeds of both vehicles. This means if one vehicle was traveling at 50 miles per hour (mph) and the other was traveling at 70 mph, the speed of the accident would be 120 mph. This, combined with the fact that the drivers sit closest to the point of impact, means that these accidents are often catastrophic and fatal.

Who Pays for Car Accidents in Colorado? (Fault vs. No-Fault States)

Determining liability for a motor vehicle accident first requires understanding how the car insurance system works in your state. Most states use either a fault or no-fault law. Colorado is a fault-based state. With this insurance rule, all parties involved in a car accident seek financial compensation from the insurance provider of the driver or person who caused the crash. Proof of negligence or fault is required to collect benefits. In a no-fault state, on the other hand, all parties file claims with their own insurance providers, regardless of who caused the crash.

Determining Liability for a Head-On Collision

After a head-on collision in Colorado, an in-depth investigation is required to determine who or what caused the crash. Investigators will arrive at the scene of the accident shortly after it occurs, before the police have the chance to clear anything away. Investigators may include police officers, a response team sent by a company involved in the crash, insurance representatives or private investigators working for a law firm.

Investigators will look for signs or evidence of negligence. Negligence describes driver actions that fall short of the required duties of care, such as speeding, drunk driving, distracted driving, wrong-way driving and driving while fatigued. Evidence such as vehicle pieces or debris at the scene, markings on the road, eyewitness accounts, pictures, and video footage can help investigators reconstruct what happened and why the crash occurred.

The driver or party most at fault for causing the head-on collision will be liable. This is typically the driver who broke a roadway rule or traffic law right before the collision, such as the driver who illegally crossed into the opposite lane and collided with an oncoming vehicle head-on. If a driver was behaving recklessly at the time of the crash, such as by driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol or street racing, this can also place liability on that driver.

What Is Comparative Negligence?

Some head-on collisions involve shared fault by both drivers. Both drivers may have ignored a traffic sign or failed to yield the right-of-way, for example, or one driver might not have been paying attention while another driver violated a traffic law. No matter what the situation, if both drivers share fault for the accident, the party most at fault will be barred from collecting financial compensation under Colorado’s comparative negligence rule.

The modified comparative negligence law in Colorado states that as long as a claimant’s fault for an accident is less than the combined fault of the other party/ies, he or she can still recover financial damages. The amount awarded will be diminished in proportion to the individual’s percentage of fault. If one driver is found to be 50 percent or more at fault for the head-on collision, however, he or she will be barred from making a financial recovery from the other driver’s insurance policy entirely.

For more information about the complicated question of liability for a head-on collision in Colorado, contact Dormer Harpring for a free consultation.