Colorado Laws Regarding Truck Accidents
In Colorado, you have three years to file a claim for accidents involving cars, trucks (also called 18-wheelers and tractor trailers), or other large vehicles. This statute of limitations is subject to a couple of factors that may extend its length.
First, though the three years start ticking at the date and time of the accident, a legal concept known as the “discovery rule” can affect the start date. If an accident victim doesn’t discover an injury until later on, say a month or two after the collision, then the clock doesn’t start ticking until the discovery of the injury.
Second, the statute can be tolled, or delayed, by a variety of circumstances. For instance, the victim, due to injuries, may not be mentally sound enough initially to file suit, the defendant may have declared bankruptcy, and in all cases, if the injured party is under 18 years of age at the time of the accident.
Colorado law requires that accidents must be reported if they result in personal injury, death, or any property damage. Calling 911 will not necessarily result in the police coming to the scene and investigating. For that to happen, there has to be an injury, death, or property damage of $1,000 or more. If the police do show up, try to get a copy of their accident report. For minor fender-benders, accidents can be reported online.
On the personal front, you need to document the accident as thoroughly as possible. Take photos with your cell phone and collect witness contact information, if anyone saw the accident. As soon as possible, jot down everything you remember while it’s still fresh. Keep in mind, your first responsibility is always to take care of the injured party by calling 911 for medical assistance.
Liability for the Accident
Under the principle of vicarious liability, a truck driver who causes an accident due to negligence can subject the trucking company to liability as well. The trucking company will likely have deeper pockets, so this is a route to greater compensation in many cases. The parent company, however, can argue that the driver was an independent contractor — not an employee — or that the driver was not conducting official business at the time.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), drivers of large trucks are ten times more likely to be the cause of the crash than other factors, such as weather, road conditions, or a faulty vehicle. Of all the factors leading to a truck driver causing an accident, fatigue is the largest contributor at 31%, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Nonetheless, other persons and entities can contribute to a truck accident and be held vicariously liable, including the truck manufacturer, personnel who loaded the cargo, and maintenance personnel. Tire defects, for instance, are the second-leading cause of truck accidents at 30%.
Steps to Take Following the Accident
Your first responsibility is to help anyone who was injured and ensure the safety of all, so seeking medical assistance is your utmost priority. Any injury in an accident also has to be reported to the police to be investigated on-site. If you’re not the victim, then you should begin collecting as much evidence as possible by yourself, as mentioned above.
After you’ve collected all of the available accident information, including your own photos and notes along with any witness information or police report, report the accident to your insurance company. The insurance adjusters will try to low ball your settlement since their bottom line is to save the parent company money. Contact an experienced and knowledgeable personal injury law firm to take over the negotiations and advise you on any further legal actions needed, such as a lawsuit.
If you’re a relative of someone who has been injured in a trucking accident — or worse, has died — you should seek professional legal help immediately.