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What Is Comparative Fault in Colorado?

Fault is not always black and white in a personal injury claim. Sometimes, it falls in a gray area. More than one party can be found at fault for an accident in Colorado. This includes the victim, or plaintiff, being held partially responsible for his or her own injuries. In this situation, Colorado uses a modified comparative fault law to determine damages, or financial compensation.

What Does Comparative Fault Mean in Colorado?

Comparative fault, also referred to as comparative negligence, is a defense tactic that may be asserted by a defendant (allegedly at-fault party) in a personal injury claim. This defense argues that the plaintiff caused or directly contributed to the accident or injury in question, which should therefore reduce the defendant’s liability. If the comparative fault defense is used, a jury will need to determine the amount of fault allocated to each party involved in the plaintiff’s injury.

Colorado’s comparative fault law is found in the state’s Revised Statute 13-21-111. This law states that contributory negligence does not bar financial recovery in any action as long as the plaintiff’s negligence is not as great as that of the defendant. This is the modified part of Colorado’s law – rather than allowing a plaintiff to recover with up to 99 percent of fault (as is the case in pure comparative negligence states), Colorado requires the plaintiff’s percentage of fault to be less than that of the defendant.

Can Multiple People Be Responsible for an Injury in Colorado?

Yes. Colorado’s comparative negligence law allows a jury to find both the plaintiff and defendant responsible for an injury. Both parties can share fault and will be allocated a certain percentage of the blame by the jury each. In addition, a personal injury claim can have more than one defendant.

A joint and several liability law is often used to allocate fault to multiple defendants. However, in Colorado, the joint and several liability law was abolished by Revised Statute 13-21-111.5. This is a pro rata liability law that states that no defendant shall be liable for an amount greater than his or her percentage of fault. 

Under Colorado law, each defendant will be assigned a percentage of fault or responsibility for an accident. The plaintiff could also receive a percentage of fault. Then, each party will only be responsible for paying an amount equivalent to his or her degree of fault. This prevents a defendant from having to pay more than his or her share of an accident.

How Does Comparative Fault Impact Damage Awards?

Comparative fault could reduce or even eliminate a plaintiff’s financial recovery in an injury claim in Colorado. If a plaintiff is found to be 50 percent or more at fault for the accident, Colorado law bars him or her from recovery entirely. Even if the percentage of fault allocated to the plaintiff is less than the majority share of fault, this can still diminish his or her financial recovery.

For example, if a plaintiff is given 10 percent of fault for an accident, this will reduce his or her compensatory award by an equivalent amount. In this example, a $100,000 judgment award granted by a jury would be reduced by 10 percent ($10,000) to $90,000. If there are multiple defendants, they would split the remaining $90,000 payment among them based on each party’s percentage of fault.

How Can an Attorney Help?

If you are concerned about the possibility of the comparative negligence defense arising in your injury claim, contact a personal injury lawyer for assistance. A lawyer can review your case and let you know if this defense is likely. If so, your lawyer can help you combat this defense and gather evidence proving the fault of one or more defendants to protect your right to recover. It is important to hire an attorney if you believe you contributed to your accident, as more than 50 percent of fault will prevent you from collecting any financial compensation at all.