After declining for several years, traffic fatalities are now increasing in the state of Colorado. It’s more important than ever to be a vigilant and careful driver to protect yourself and loved ones from injury or worse.
It’s also important to understand the steps you must take immediately following an auto accident in Colorado. If you or a passenger in your vehicle are injured in a motor vehicle crash, your compliance with Colorado law can help your case immensely.
Make Certain an Accident Report Is Filed
Under Colorado statutes, any driver involved in a motor vehicle accident has a duty to report the accident immediately. Notification of the crash must be given to the agency with jurisdiction in the area where the crash occurred.
In more populated areas and under normal conditions, local law enforcement will be alerted to wrecks that happen on public roads. On the interstates or busy state highways, officers with the Colorado State Patrol will normally be alerted when other drivers call dispatch to report your wreck. In both of these cases, as long as a law enforcement officer makes a report on the accident, you will have no further responsibility to report it.
If your crash is merely a fender bender that happens on an isolated road or private property, you may make your report online with the state’s web-based crash reporting system. The Colorado Department of Revenue receives a copy of each online report. However, no law enforcement agency will investigate a crash report submitted online.
Summon Help When There Is Injury or Property Damage
You have a duty to report your accident immediately, but there are some times when law enforcement can’t get to the scene due to an emergency or weather-related travel issue. In the latter scenario, an “accident alert” condition may exist in the affected geographical regions.
During accident-alert conditions, weather conditions are so severe that state troopers and local law enforcement can’t respond to every crash. However, if someone in any of the involved vehicles requires medical attention or is fatally injured, drivers must wait for law enforcement to make a report.
During accident alerts, troopers and police must still be summoned to the scene of a crash when there is:
- A hit-and-run accident
- A disabled vehicle
- Drug or alcohol impairment
- Public property damage
If no law enforcement officer can respond to a less serious accident, you and the other drivers should exchange names, contact information, and insurance information. Make your accident report online or go to the closest law enforcement station to make your report in person.
Seek Immediate Medical Attention
Whether you’ve been involved in a serious crash due to another’s negligence or unavoidable road conditions, you should always accept medical assistance on scene.
If you don’t have the most serious injuries resulting from the wreck and don’t want to wait for an ambulance ride, it’s acceptable to have someone drive you to the nearest emergency room or your physician’s office, if it’s open. However, if you suspect spinal, head, or other acute injuries, wait for proper medical attention on scene.
Having immediate documentation of your physical condition is important following a crash. If areas of your body later bruise, swell, or show further injury, the physician has a baseline to show how the crash harmed you after the event. You may feel fine immediately after your wreck, owing to shock or a delayed onset of physical reactions, but your body may be seriously wounded. Get things checked out as soon as possible after the crash.
If your children are involved in a crash, you have an extra duty to make certain everyone involved is okay. Take the kids to the emergency room or your pediatrician’s office for a thorough post-accident check-up.
Remember: in Colorado, if you’re found to be more than 50 percent at fault for your injuries, you may not recover any damages for injuries sustained due to another’s negligence. Your failure to seek medical attention for yourself or your children could lead to injuries becoming more severe, and not taking your children in for medical attention may be viewed by a judge or jury as severe negligence on your part.
Notify Your Insurance Company or Fill Out Financial Forms
Depending on the terms of your policy, you have a duty to report your accident involving a covered vehicle to the insuring company. Each vehicle insurance policy is different, so consult yours now—before anything happens—so you know how long you have to inform your insurance company without penalty.
In many cases, your insurance company will perform their own investigation, so the sooner they know about your claim, the faster they can begin to gather evidence.
Also, your insurance company should be notified of any child-restraint seats that were present in the vehicle during the wreck. Many insurance companies will replace the child safety seats to protect children from any problems with crash-compromised restraints.
If you were driving without insurance coverage when the accident occurred, you’ll need to provide one of several forms to avoid having your license suspended. These forms comply with Colorado’s Financial Responsibility Act. You may need to post a cash bond to keep your license in good standing before a determination of fault is made for your accident.
After making sure everyone is okay, you can take pictures of the crash scene. You should also try to retrieve any dash cams or other video surveillance from your vehicle before it’s towed away.
If serious injury or death results from a vehicle crash, you should also contact an experienced Colorado personal injury attorney. D Chadwick Calvert is ready to take on your case and fight for the compensation you deserve. Contact Mr. Calvert today to file your vehicle accident case as soon as possible.