Car accidents happen every day of the year in Colorado, ranging from minor ones that result in simple bumps and scratches to far more serious ones that lead to severe injuries and even death.

Legally speaking, in accordance with Colorado law, in most cases—bar those truly minor ones when no injury or damage is caused—you will need to report them to the police and call them to the scene.

Each police department has the discretion to decide whether to respond to minor accident scenes where nobody appears to have been hurt. Even so, the safest advice is to make this call and leave it up to the police department to decide whether they will attend the scene or not.

As the only way to ensure that your accident will be investigated properly and that a police report will be filed is to do so, the short and uncontroversial answer to the question “Should you call the police to the scene of an accident?” is a resounding YES!

The Legal Framework in Colorado

Following §42-4-1606 of the 2021 Colorado Code [1]:

The driver of a vehicle involved in a traffic accident resulting in injury to, serious bodily injury to, or death of any person or any property damage shall (…) give immediate notice of the location of such accident and such other information (…) to the nearest office of the duly authorized police authority and, if so directed by the police authority, shall immediately return to and remain at the scene of the accident until said police have arrived at the scene and completed their investigation thereat.

In other words, Colorado law stipulates that any car accident resulting in injury, death, or property damage must be reported to the police. As in most cases, in cases of doubt, it is best to err on the side of caution.

Furthermore, it is important to bear in mind that Colorado is a fault state. This means that you may be able to file a claim or lawsuit against any responsible party in a car accident if you have been hurt or have suffered property damage due to their negligence, whether you were in the position of a driver, passenger, or bystander. In fact, you may be able to do so even in cases where you have not suffered serious or permanent injuries, provided you correctly identify the party (or parties) who were at fault and are able to prove the damages you have incurred.

At the same time, Colorado’s comparative negligence means that there may be more than one defendant in a personal injury claim. Accordingly, a jury may find both the plaintiff and defendant(s) responsible for an injury. In such cases, the parties found to be liable for the accident will share fault and be allocated a certain percentage of the blame by the jury.

Car accidents, especially those leading to injuries, are often shocking events for victims. Dealing with their aftermath is often a long-term and challenging task, with many factors to consider and formalities that need to be met.

This is precisely why getting professional assistance from a personal injury attorney who has experience in such matters and can guide you through the process can be invaluable in terms of receiving the compensation that you deserve and allowing you to look after your number one priority, which should be your healing.

Benefits of Calling the Police to the Scene of Your Accident

It doesn’t matter if you were in a ridesharing car accident, were a passenger, or were driving yourself. It is always highly advisable that you call the police at the accident scene as soon as possible, especially if you find that you have been physically injured or have suffered damage to your vehicle or property.

This may be particularly useful if you end up filing an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit: doing so without having called the police and having an accident report will be inevitably more difficult, for various reasons.

Having an Official Record

Calling the police at the scene will let you describe to them how you viewed the events that led to the accident. Your account of the incident—which may differ from that of other parties—will be documented right away.

The accident report itself will then stand as an official record of what happened. This, in itself, will be crucial if you decide to file a claim or a lawsuit and an invaluable tool for your lawyer. Moreover, both insurance companies and courts may take claims more seriously if the police have been at the scene and an official document is in place to which they can refer for an account of what transpired.

Even though it is up to the attending police officers to decide whether they will actually file an accident report when they are called to an accident scene, this should not discourage you from calling the police. Once they are at the scene and have the opportunity to speak to you and other parties involved in the accident, you can always request that they file a report, even if this will ultimately be their decision to make.

Generally speaking, the police are likely to file a report if there is significant damage to either vehicle (generally $1,000 or more) or if anyone is injured. They will normally refrain from doing so in cases where the damage is minor and everyone involved can simply exchange information to resolve the matter.

Establishing Liability

In cases of most accidents leading to injury, the two main things that need to be proved are liability and damages. When police are called to an accident scene, they will investigate the matter, speak with all parties involved—including any bystanders that may have seen what happened—and move on to determine who has responsibility for the accident.

Consequently, a police report can be key in terms of establishing who was at fault for the accident. Colorado is a fault state that also applies comparative negligence, so a police report may be crucial if you end up having a dispute regarding which party (or parties) was actually at fault, and is thus liable for paying compensation.

The Importance of Witnesses

The attending police officers will be instrumental in gathering vital information regarding the accident. One of the things they will be doing, in addition to inspecting the scene and speaking to the drivers involved, is identify any potential witnesses.

When it comes to filing a claim for compensation or a lawsuit, these witnesses may be highly valuable in terms of supporting your case. Unfortunately, they may not necessarily offer to do so voluntarily. Therefore, having a police report that will include their names and contact details will let the investigation proceed more smoothly since they can be requested to come forward with what they saw.

Additional Considerations

Car accidents are unexpected events that often lead to property damage and physical injuries, so tempers often run high and it is not possible to know how different people will react under such stressful circumstances.

The attribution of fault can often be a controversial matter. The presence of police at a car accident scene offers some additional protection, helping keep everyone calm and making sure that the situation does not get out of hand, should there be rising tension.

Another thing you should be wary of is being asked not to call the police by the other party (or parties) involved, especially in cases of more serious accidents. If someone insists you should not call the police, there is often a reason for it and it would be best if you consider this a red flag. In such cases, agreeing not to call the police may be a very serious mistake on your part.

Although it is impossible to pinpoint the precise reason why one would urge you not to call the police, there are a few guesses you can make—all of them suggesting that there must be something they are trying to hide. For instance, the other driver may be uninsured or even not have a license. Or perhaps the vehicle they were driving was stolen. There are all sorts of other scenarios that might be at play, such as, for example, that they were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or that they were somehow breaking the law at the time of the accident.

In any event, it is almost certain that none of the reasons behind such a suggestion will be good: hence, tempting as it may be not to involve the police and (seemingly) handle the situation quickly and privately, this is something you would be best advised not to do.

The Way Forward

Even though you may be involved in an accident that does not appear to be serious at first,  the best way to maintain your damages claim is to call the police after your car accident. This can protect you on many levels. For example, it may help protect you against common insurance adjuster tactics that can hurt your claim. It will also facilitate your lawyer’s job if you need to file a claim or a lawsuit.

Being in a car accident is often a very difficult situation and we are well aware of the stresses and challenges it involves. If you find yourself involved in a car accident and are not sure what to do, contact us at Legal Help in Colorado today for a free consultation by calling (720) 664-9435.

Ross Ziev and his team have the skills and experience to offer you the kind of support called for in such situations, and are here for you if you wish to discuss your case in absolute confidence.

References

[1] https://law.justia.com/codes/colorado/2021/title-42/article-4/part-16/section-42-4-1606/