Hit and Run Accidents in Colorado

Practice

Hit-and-run accidents are a devastating, everyday reality across the United States, including Colorado. In accordance with Colorado law, hit and run is defined as leaving the scene of an accident without providing information and assistance to the other party involved. As one can imagine, such accidents can have severe legal consequences. These may involve criminal charges and civil lawsuits, depending on the particular circumstances of each case. Hit-and-run victims may suffer damage to their vehicles, injuries, medical expenses, and/or psychological trauma, and be unsure where to turn for help. 

Hit-and-run accidents are still happening all too frequently. As National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics have shown, the number of hit-and-run accidents resulting in fatalities has reached over 2,500 cases in a single year, indicating a surge of 26% compared to the preceding year. The same statistics also reveal that hit-and-run accidents account for approximately 7% of the overall fatalities recorded in our nation. Those that didn’t lead to death were often responsible for causing numerous non-fatal injuries and significant property damage.

Regrettably, many drivers responsible for car accidents resulting in injuries, property damage, and even fatalities choose to flee the scene. Presumably, they do so to evade accountability rather than adhere to ethical and legal obligations and face the consequences of their actions. Whatever the reason, the tragic outcome is that victims are left in a state of uncertainty, grappling with the question of who will assume the financial burdens arising from their accident when the identity of the at-fault driver remains unknown.

What is Considered a “Hit & Run”?

Hit-and-run accidents account for approximately 7% of all fatalities recorded in the United States

A hit-and-run accident is defined under applicable state law in Colorado (CRS § 42-4-1601) as a situation where a driver involved in an accident fails to stop at the scene of the accident or fails to provide their name, address, and registration number of their vehicle to the other parties involved in the accident.

More specifically, in the event of a traffic accident resulting in vehicle or personal damage, the law requires any motorist involved to halt and remain at the scene of the accident immediately. They must then proceed to exchange essential details with all parties involved, as well as contact the police to report the incident and request their presence at the scene.

This last part is crucial as the law requires that drivers in Colorado report to the police any car accident that causes injury, death, or property damage. Police departments can determine their response to minor accidents where no apparent injuries occur. Even so, you should contact them regardless. It is even more important to do so in cases where a driver flees the scene, as involving law enforcement is the primary means to ensure that officers investigate the accident and file an official police report.

In addition, drivers must provide reasonable assistance to anyone who was injured in the accident, including calling emergency services if necessary. Depending on the circumstances, this may involve rendering aid by transporting or making necessary preparations to ensure that such individuals receive medical or surgical treatment from a physician, surgeon, or hospital.

Damage to the front of a hood of a dark sedan.

Hit-and-run accidents can span a variety of accident and injury types, including:

 

  • Attended Vehicle – The driver hit your car while you’re driving
  • Unattended Vehicle – The driver hit your car while parked
  • Property Damage – The driver damaged your fence, mailbox, structure, or other personal property

Consequences for Drivers Fleeing a Car Accident

​Failing to fulfill the above-mentioned obligations can result in criminal charges and civil liability, with moderate to severe consequences for the hit-and-run driver. These vary according to the gravity of the accident and whether anyone was injured or killed.

In general, hit-and-run charges are classified as either misdemeanors or felonies, with the severity of the charge depending on the extent of the damage and injuries. Therefore, a hit-and-run offense is classified as a misdemeanor traffic offense if the accident caused only minor property damage and no injuries and is punishable by fines, jail time, and the suspension of the driver’s license. For a first-time offender, a misdemeanor hit-and-run offense can result in a fine of up to $1,000 and up to one year in jail. For subsequent offenses, the penalties can be even more severe, including higher fines and longer jail sentences.

In contrast, a hit-and-run offense is classified as a felony if the accident has caused severe bodily injury or death. Such an offense is punishable by fines, lengthy prison sentences, and the revocation of the driver’s license. If a hit-and-run accident causes serious bodily injury, the penalties can include a fine of up to $500,000 and up to six years in prison. If the accident results in a death, the penalties can be even more severe, including a fine of up to $750,000 and up to 12 years in prison.

Terms to Understand

The respective definitions for “injury” and “serious bodily injury” under Title 42 of the Colorado Revised Statute are the following:

  • “Injury” means physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical or mental condition.

  • “Serious bodily injury” means injury that involves, either at the time of the actual injury or at a later time, a substantial risk of death or serious permanent disfigurement. It also involves a substantial risk of protracted loss or impairment of the function of any part or organ of the body, as well as breaks, fractures, and burns of the second or third degree.

What is set out above pertains to criminal law and hinges on the police investigation to identify the driver who fled the scene. On the other hand, seeking compensation for your injuries is a civil law issue rather than a criminal one. Hence, be aware of your respective rights and seek appropriate legal guidance that will let you understand your available options and allow you to make informed decisions.

Types of Compensation You May Be Entitled to

Hit-and-run accidents are not limited to legal penalties. They can cause physical and emotional trauma to the victims involved and can have long-lasting effects on their lives. Therefore, all drivers should be aware of the laws and act responsibly on the road.

In view of this reality, car accident laws, including those involving hit-and-run cases, are designed to protect victims of accidents and ensure that responsible parties are held accountable for their actions. In Colorado, if you are the victim of a hit-and-run accident and you sustain personal injuries or property damage, you may be able to seek compensation for a range of damages, including economic and non-economic ones.

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Examples of Hit-and-Run Damages

  • Medical expenses:

This includes any medical bills you incur as a result of your injuries, such as hospital bills, doctor’s fees, prescription medications, and rehabilitation expenses.

  • Lost wages:

If you are unable to work as a result of your injuries, you may be able to seek compensation for any lost income or earning potential.

  • Property damage:

If your vehicle or other property is damaged in the accident, you may be able to seek compensation for the cost of repairs or replacement.

  • Pain and suffering:

You may be able to seek compensation for the physical pain and emotional distress caused by the accident and your injuries.

  • Punitive damages:

In some cases, a court may award punitive damages to punish the driver who caused the hit-and-run and deter others from engaging in similar behavior. Regarding hit-and-run accidents, it may be possible to seek punitive damages in our state if you can show that the defendant acted out of fraud or malice or with reckless disregard for the consequences.

In this context, the specific damages you may be able to recover depend on the circumstances of your case, as well as the insurance coverage and legal options available to you. Additionally, you will need to prove that the damages you suffered were caused by the accident and that the driver who caused the accident was at fault.

Where To Get Started

 

If you or someone close to you has been hurt in a hit-and-run accident, remember that you still have legal rights in cases of hit-and-run accidents. There may be avenues to pursue compensation for the losses you have suffered. To explore your options thoroughly, the best course of action would be to seek the guidance of a skilled car accident attorney with a proven track record in handling injury claims involving hit-and-run incidents within our state to help you throughout a challenging process.

 

Contact Legal Help in Colorado

Ross Ziev and his team at Legal Help in Colorado are regarded as one of Denver’s leading car crash attorneys and experienced lawyers for hit-and-run incidents. We specialize in representing personal injury victims, handling negotiations with insurance companies, and providing representation in court. We operate on a contingency fee basis, relieving you of concerns about payment until you receive your rightful compensation.

Need help understanding your rights?

We’re here to help. Reach out to us using our Contact page or visit our FAQ page to learn more. You can also book your free case consultation by filling out our Contact form or by calling us. Remember, you don’t pay until we receive a settlement! 

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