Every year there are many, many car accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were over 5.4 million crashes reported to the police in 2010. A number of these accidents result in the injury or death of motorists, passengers, and pedestrians every year. In 2015, the NHTSA estimated that 32,500 people died on the roads and highways of America. While some accidents are serious and can have significant consequences, other accidents are not nearly as devastating. Many car accidents that occur during the year are relatively minor and result in minimal damage and little to no injury. This article will discuss minor accidents and fender benders.
After A Minor Accident Or Fender Bender
Minor accidents and fender benders can happen in any number of different ways and in any number of different places. For example, at a stoplight, a driver could accidentally rear-end the car in front of her because she accelerated to quickly after the light turned green. At such a slow speed damage and injury would likely be minimal. Or a driver could be backing out of parking spot, misjudge how much room he has, and hit a car parked across the aisle. In this case, again, there would likely be minimal damage and injury.
However, this is not always this case. The damages or injuries in an accident could seem trivial at first, but then later end up being more serious. A person may feel fine after a car accident but a few days later start having neck pains. Or a car could seem to have no damage or minimal damage like a dent and then end up needing bigger repairs because the accident caused damage that was not visible from the outside of the car.
In a minor accident, it may be tempting to not report the accident and work out a cash payment with the other driver. However, doing this could end up hurting you down the road. Even for a minor accident, it is still a good idea to document everything, take pictures, exchange insurance information with the other driver, call the police, and look for witnesses. If you do not exchange contact information and insurance information and you later find that you have more serious injuries or are in need of more car repairs than you initially thought, you may have no way contact that driver or collect compensation. Also, calling the police can be helpful because the police will usually write a report of what happened and diagram the accident scene. If the person who injured you in the accident later contests their liability, having this documentation can be valuable in proving how the accident occurred. In addition, the other driver may later report having injuries or vehicle damage that was worse than what you witnessed after the accident. By calling the police, documenting the scene, and finding witnesses you are protecting yourself from paying for damage you did not cause.
Finally, the law of the state may require that you report an accident under certain circumstances. For example, under Colorado law, even drivers in a minor accident must take certain actions if there is an injury involved in the accident. This includes exchanging the "driver's name, the driver's address, and the registration number" and providing assistance to the injured person or persons. C.R.S. 42-4-1603 (2016). In addition, if a person has been injured in an accident driver's are required to report it to the police. C.R.S. 42-4-1606 (2016).
There are other instances where a driver may be required to report an accident. You can learn more in the Colorado Revised Statutes, 42-4-16, Accidents and Accident Reports.
The Theory Of Negligence
The theory of liability that most personal injury cases proceed on is negligence. In order to prove negligence in Colorado, a plaintiff "must establish (1) the existence of a duty owed by the defendant to the plaintiff, (2) breach of that duty, (3) which proximately caused (4) damage to the plaintiff." Largo v. Crespin, 727 P.2d 1098, 1102 (Colo. 1986)Largo v. Crespin, 727 P.2d 1098, 1102 (Colo. 1986). If a plaintiff is able to prove all these elements by a preponderance of the evidence, then the plaintiff may be able to recover damages from the negligent party.
If Both Parties Are To Blame: Comparative Negligence
Sometimes both parties can be partially to blame for an accident. If that is the case, there are different defenses that can be raised including comparative negligence. Under comparative negligence, if the plaintiff is partially to blame for their injuries, then any damages that they are awarded by the jury is reduced by the percentage of their fault.
For example, let's say Max is driving down the road behind Lauren. Lauren is looking around trying to figure out what street to turn down in order to get to her friend's house. Max is only half paying attention as he is trying to find a country radio station to listen to. Lauren sees the right street but has to slam on her brakes in order to make the turn. Max realizes this a bit too late. He isn't able to stop in time and hits her car. At trial, the jury finds that Lauren is partially at fault for the accident for slamming on her brakes The jury finds that Lauren is 30% at fault for the accident and Max is 70%. If the jury awards Lauren $10,000 in damages, her award would be reduced by 30%. Thus, she would collect just $7,000.
In Colorado, in order to recover, the plaintiff's negligence must be less than the defendant's negligence. C.R.S. 13-21-111 (2016). If it is greater than the defendant's the plaintiff may not be able to recover any compensation.
Contact A Denver Personal Injury Attorney
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, you want an experienced and knowledgeable attorney to represent you. Jeremy Rosenthal has been practicing law in Colorado for over a decade and his firm works exclusively with personal injury cases. Contact his office today for a free consultation. You can call the office at (303) 825-2223, or you can click here to fill out the online form.