Colorado is a comparative fault state which generally means a driver whose negligence causes an automobile crash will be responsible for the damages sustained by other drivers and passengers. If more than one driver is negligent, each driver pays for their portion of the damages based on their percentage of the fault.
However, under Colorado law, an injured party is barred from recovering damages from the other parties if the injured party was at least 50% at fault for causing the crash. This can lead to a harsh outcome for plaintiffs asserting claims in cases where liability is hotly disputed.
Example: Assume a truck driver runs a red light and causes a three-car collision in which two other drivers are injured. Police investigate the matter and determine that the truck driver's negligence was the sole cause of the accident. The case later goes to trial and a jury agrees that the truck driver is 100% responsible. The truck driver will be responsible for all damages caused by the collision including medical bills and property damage. If the total damages of the other two drivers added up to $25,000, the truck driver would be liable for the entire $25,000.
Example: Assume the same truck driver was driving too fast for conditions in icy weather and slid through an intersection right after the traffic signal turned red. Another car travelling in the opposite direction attempts to turn left in front of the truck just after the light turned red. The left-turn driver failed to make sure there was no traffic coming through the intersection before he made his left turn. The truck T-boned the left-turning vehicle on the passenger side of the vehicle and pushed the car into a third vehicle causing injuries, damages and losses to the driver of the third vehicle. After a trial, the jury determines the truck driver was 70% at-fault and the left-turning driver was 30% at fault for causing the wreck. If the total damages to the third driver totaled $100,000, the truck driver would be liable for $70,000 and the left-turn driver would be liable for $30,000.
Example: Assume the left-turn driver from the example above makes the same left turn in front of a truck that is sliding through an intersection right after the traffic signal has turned red. Like the example above, the left-turn driver failed to make sure there was no traffic coming through the intersection before he made his left turn. The truck T-boned the left-turning vehicle on the passenger side of the vehicle causing injuries to the left-turn driver. The left-turn driver sues the truck driver to recover compensation for injuries, damages and losses. The case goes to trial and a jury decides the left-turn driver is 50% at fault and the truck driver is 50% at fault. Because Colorado is a comparative fault state, the left-turn driver will not be able to recover damages from the truck driver because the left-turn driver is at least 50% at fault. Similarly, the truck driver would be barred from recovering damages from the left-turn driver for the same reason.