How To File a Car Accident Lawsuit in Colorado
Learn what to do and how the legal process works
If another driver caused your car accident in Colorado, you might decide that the best way to obtain the financial compensation you deserve for your accident claim is to file a lawsuit. But how does the process work? Who can you sue? How much time do you have to take legal action in Colorado after a bad car accident?
These are just some of the questions you might have after your crash. That’s why it’s important to fully understand how the legal process works in Colorado. Otherwise, your lawsuit could be dismissed for not being filed correctly or for some other reason.
We know what to do at The Longo Firm, LLC in Colorado Springs. That’s because attorney Stephen A. Longo has years of experience taking legal action on behalf of accident victims and their families. Below, you will learn more about this process and how we can help you with your legal matter. Your best interests come first here.
Who can file a lawsuit after an accident?
Depending on the circumstances of your accident, only certain people can often file a lawsuit in pursuit of financial compensation for a crash in Colorado. This is partly due to the state’s fault-based insurance system governing motor vehicle accidents. Under this system, the driver or party found to be more than 50 percent at fault must pay for the accident-related expenses for anyone injured in the collision.
This means only the following people can often file a lawsuit in response to a car accident caused by another driver in Colorado:
- The driver injured in the accident who is not at fault.
- Any vehicle passengers injured in the crash.
- Any pedestrian injured in the accident.
- Any bicyclist injured in the collision.
- In the case of a car accident fatality, surviving family members can often file a wrongful death lawsuit in pursuit of the money they deserve.
If you are not sure whether you have the right to take legal action after a car accident in Colorado, simply talk to a lawyer familiar with this area of the law. Otherwise, you could miss out on your opportunity to obtain the compensation you deserve for your accident-related expenses.
Who can I sue after my crash?
If someone else was at fault for your accident, you can take legal action against them in Colorado. This often means you can file a lawsuit against one or more of the following parties:
- The at-fault driver who caused your accident.
- The liquor store that sold alcohol to the at-fault driver if the driver was intoxicated when they bought more alcohol, then caused your accident.
The circumstances for every accident can be unique. As a result, you might be able to take legal action against additional parties depending on the details for your particular crash. This is why it’s important to consult with a lawyer as soon as possible to learn more about your legal options.
Is there a deadline to file a lawsuit in Colorado?
In many cases, you only have three years from the date of your car accident to file a lawsuit or take other legal action in Colorado. This deadline is known as the statute of limitations. If you miss this deadline, you could miss out on your only opportunity to demand full compensation for all your accident-related expenses.
What some people might not realize is you cannot go back and ask for additional money if your accident-related expenses increase dramatically in the future. Once you agree to accept a settlement offer or a verdict has been awarded in response to a car accident lawsuit, you often cannot request additional money in the future. This is why it’s critical that you have an experienced lawyer handling your legal matter right away after your crash.
What steps do I need to take?
Each accident is different. However, there are often many similar steps that need to be taken if you decide to file a lawsuit seeking damages (a legal term for financial compensation) for your accident-related expenses in Colorado. Such steps often include:
- Determine which court in Colorado has jurisdiction over your legal matter – One factor to consider is how much your claim could potentially be worth. If you believe you accident claim is worth less than $7,500, you will likely file your lawsuit in Small Claims Court. If you believe your claim is worth less than $25,000, you can file a lawsuit in a County Court. If you believe your case could be worth more, you can file a lawsuit in District Court, which does not have any limits on how much money can be awarded to injury victims in Colorado.
- Choose your jurisdiction – When considering which court to file your lawsuit in, keep in mind you can often choose which jurisdiction to file your case in based on geographic factors. In general, you can often file your lawsuit in one of the following places in Colorado:
- The court located in the jurisdiction where you live.
- The court located in the jurisdiction where the at-fault driver lives.
- The court located in the jurisdiction where your accident took place.
- Gather evidence in support of your claim – This is a very important and sometimes overlooked step in what is often referred to as the “pre-file stage.” The more evidence you have in support of your accident claim, the stronger your legal case will likely be in the eyes of the court.
- Send a formal demand letter – This letter is sent to at-fault party. In your letter, you should clearly state the facts of your case, as well as how much money you believe you should be paid to settle your accident claim. Your demand letter should also include a deadline for the at-fault party to pay your requested financial demand. This is one of the most important steps. As a result, we strongly advise injury victims to consult with a lawyer who can help them write an effective demand letter.
- File a formal complaint – This document is filed with the appropriate court. This step formally starts the legal process for your lawsuit. In the letter, you must state who the plaintiff is (the person filing the lawsuit, which is you) and who the defendant is (the person or business you are filing a lawsuit against). Like the demand letter, your complaint letter must outline the details of your case and how much money you believe you should be financially compensated.
- Serve your formal complaint to the defendant – This step involves formally notifying the defendant that you are taking legal action against them. Serving a complaint simply means you are having the formal written complaint delivered to the defendant. Often, someone known as a process server delivers the formal complaint to the defendant.
- Defendant responds to the complaint – The next step often involves the defendant or their lawyer formally responding to your complaint. Common responses include filing a motion to dismiss (a request to have your lawsuit thrown out of court), filing a motion for more information (formally known as a motion for a more definitive statement), filing a counter lawsuit or (on rare occasions) no response at all, in which case you can request a default judgment from the judge presiding over your case.
- Discovery stage – If your lawsuit is not resolved after the defendant receives your formal complaint, the next step often involves the discovery stage. This is when the lawyers for the defendant and the plaintiff share information with each other that could come up at trial.
- Set trial date – Once your case goes to trial, there will often be many steps involved. The first step often involves the presiding judge setting a trial date.
- Select a jury – If a jury is involved, the attorneys for the plaintiff and the defendant will be involved in the jury selection process.
- Make opening statements – This step involves the lawyers for both sides making a brief opening statement in court outlining the arguments in support of their legal case.
- Plaintiff presents evidence – This is your opportunity for your lawyer to present evidence in court in support of your lawsuit.
- Defendant cross examines – After your lawyer presents evidence in support of your lawsuit, the attorney for the defendant has the opportunity to question anyone who presented evidence in support of your claim.
- Defendant presents evidence – This is the at-fault party’s opportunity to present evidence in support of their legal case.
- Plaintiff cross examines – This is your lawyer’s opportunity to question anyone who presented evidence in support of the defendant’s case.
- Make closing statements – Similar to the opening statements, the lawyers for both sides make a brief statement explaining why they believe the judge or jury should rule in their favor.
- Judge or jury deliberates – This simply means the judge or jury takes time (sometimes a few minutes or several hours or days) to reach a decision.
- A verdict is reached – Once the judge or jury decides who to rule in favor of, they issue a verdict, either in favor of the plaintiff or the defendant.
- Damages awarded – If the judge or jury rules in favor of the plaintiff in a car accident lawsuit, they often award damages (financial compensation) to the plaintiff, which must be paid by the defendant.
- Damages paid or case appealed – If damages have been awarded to the plaintiff, the defendant has two choices – pay the damages to the plaintiff or appeal the case to a higher court.
At any time throughout this entire process, another option also exists for the defendant. They can offer to settle the case with you, the plaintiff, in exchange for dropping your lawsuit. The defendant’s settlement offer often involves offering to pay you a certain amount of money to drop your lawsuit and not take any legal action against the defendant in the future. Make sure you carefully consider any settlement offer you receive from the defendant. Once you accept such an offer, you often cannot ask for any additional money in the future, even if you have significant, future accident-related expenses.
Get the law firm that knows how the system works in Colorado
Don’t underestimate the complexity or the seriousness of your car accident lawsuit in Colorado. Make sure you fully understand the options available to you and how the system works. Contact our law firm and schedule your free case evaluation with attorney Longo. He will personally answer your call and advise you on what you should do next.
Remember, you didn’t do anything wrong. You shouldn’t have to pay for another driver’s reckless behavior. Put the power of The Longo Firm, LLC to work for you. Schedule an appointment right away at our Colorado Springs office.