Every state is concerned about the increase in gun violence and the easy access to guns for Americans. Colorado is no exception.
While mass shootings make dramatic headlines, most of us thankfully won’t experience such tragedy. The real danger many of us face is the danger of accidental shootings. These can come in many forms, such as:
A child or teenager picking up a gun and accidentally discharging the weapon
People shooting guns in the air in celebration unaware of the falling bullets
Another person drops a handgun and it misfires into a building or group of people
Someone decides to clean their gun but doesn’t check whether it is loaded, and it goes through a wall into someone’s house
Hunting accidents happen even with the most careful of gun owners
An intentional crime was not committed, but you or a loved one may have suffered property damage or even physical injury as a result of a negligent discharge. Guns rarely create small injuries and damages. Permanent disability or even death can occur from an accidental shooting.
When accidents like these happen, what do you? Do you have any recourse when there was no criminal intent? Are you stuck with the damages and injuries caused by firearm accidents?
What if you are the shooter? Is there any protection for you? What if someone discharged a weapon you owned and hurt themselves? Are you liable?
All the questions are important and usually don’t have a simple black and white answer. That is why we created this guide to help you understand Negligent Discharge of Firearms in Colorado, including laws, what steps to take next, working with an attorney, seeking compensation, and more.
What is considered a negligent discharge or an accidental shooting in Colorado?
Negligence is defined legally as, "a departure from the ordinary standard of care." Basically, this means that the person at fault did not take normal or proper precautions that are required by law or regulations, which led to the accident.
Criminal negligence is "through gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would exercise, he fails to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that a result will occur or that a circumstance exists." This essentially means extensive negligence, usually resulting in more damage or harm than regular negligence, and showing much more ignorance and carelessness for the law.
Colorado Law defines an illegal discharge of a firearm as;
"Any person who knowingly or recklessly discharges a firearm into any dwelling or any other building or occupied structure, or into any motor vehicle occupied by any person, commits the offense of illegal discharge of a firearm."
It is important to remember that damage do not have to occur for someone to be convicted of illegally discharging a firearm. Negligence falls under the definition of "recklessly" in this statute.
Another law often used in accidental shooting cases is CRS, 18-12-106 or Prohibited Use of Weapons. This particular statute is considered a Class 2 Misdemeanor. The difference between this law is that for negligent discharges, an actual discharge of the gun needs to happen to be charged. Under prohibited use of weapons, a person may act threatening with a weapon and can be charged.
There are three potential consequences that can occur as a result of the negligent discharge of a firearm in Colorado.
Class 5 Felony
Felonies in the US are categorized by severity. A Class 1 is the most severe and Class 6 is the least severe. Felonies in general are severe penalties regardless of the class and come with social consequences as well as potential jail time and fines. Gun rights and voting rights may disappear. Employment opportunities are limited if there is a felony on your record.
A Class 5 Felony comes with a sentence of one to three years in prison and fines of $1,000 to $100,000 (C.R.S. § 18-1.3-401). Other examples of a Class 5 Felony are theft of property from another person. Because of the destructive nature of a firearm discharge to persons and property, it is categorized within the same penalties as theft.
Often times, accidental shootings can be sentenced as reckless endangerment. Reckless endangerment is similar to negligence. The difference is that recklessness is active behavior that has the potential to create hazards to people or property. The punishment for this category is less severe and considered a Class 3 Misdemeanor under Colorado Law. Punishment involves fines up to $750 and up to 6 months in jail.
If you accidentally discharge a weapon and damage property or people, you may not be convicted of the above behavior. However, this does not mean you are free from consequences. In fact, the consequences may be just as great because they could involve high amounts of restitution.
Especially if you accidentally injured someone with a firearm, you may be liable for damages to the individual. These damages could reach far beyond medical bills or rehabilitation. You may owe damages related to loss of income, emotional damage, and loss of consortium.
If you have been affected by or injured by an accidental discharge of a weapon in Colorado, you are entitled to compensation for your pain, suffering, injuries, and more. Working with a Colorado Negligent Shooting Attorney is the best way to ensure you maximize compensation and get the restitution you deserve.
It depends if you are the victim of negligent discharge or the perpetrator. Each side comes with its unique challenges, and you need to be prepared for either situation.
Seek medical help. Before you worry about anything else, seek medical attention. Gunshot wounds can be fatal and cause lifelong injuries.
Create a detailed recreation of the incident. It helps to actually write this down or dictate it to someone else as close to the event as possible. Memory fades and becomes less reliable over time. Creating a written record is a concrete way to document facts as accurately as possible.
Contact the police. Make sure a police report is filed. This will help establish a beginning legal framework to determine liability and fault.
Gather witnesses and their testimony. If you can not get full statements from witnesses, gathering their contact information is important.
Speak to the gun owner. This may be uncomfortable, but it could help understand the situation and speed up a resolution.
Get reliable legal advice. There may be compensation available not only through the gun owner but an insurance company or even a gun manufacturer. An experienced lawyer will understand the necessary steps needed to bring the incident to full resolution.
There may be reasonable and legitimate reason why your firearm misfired. You have rights as the shooter as well, and there are steps to take so that your side of the story is heard as well.
Offer immediate help and aid. If the person shot is injured, do everything you can to help them medically. You may need to transport them to a hospital or call 911 for EMS to arrive. Neglecting this duty will hurt your case.
Understand and document the incident. There may have been no negligence on your part. It may have been purely accidental. There may have been manufacturing defects or other reasons that the gun was fired that don’t point to negligence.
Seek legal help. The best course of action you can take is to speak with competent legal professionals. You may be completely innocent without negligence, but you need representation to help you defend any unfounded accusations against you. If you are charged liable, the attorney defend you.
There are many reasons that can cause accidental shootings. It is important to understand the particular reasons, because you can avoid many tragic situations when you understand the potential for risk. It also will help you to understand the level of negligence and the amount of compensation you may be able to seek if you are injured, or the penalties you may be facing as the shooter.
Hunting Accidents: Many accidents happen during hunting because people are often walking with loaded weapons. They may not have the safety on the gun and a small trip or drop of the gun can cause a misfire and injure another person. Often an aggressive hunter may mistake a person for the game they are hunting. Identifying the target is crucial to avoiding this mistake. Also wearing blaze orange is required, and will protect you from being identified as a target.
Poor Maintenance: If a firearm owner does not properly clean his gun, the debris buildup can create dangerous situations included ruptures and misfires.
Wrong Ammunition: Using the wrong ammo in a gun or poorly constructed ammo can cause misfires and accidental shootings.
Intoxication: Unfortunately this is a large cause of accidental shootings. Alcohol and firearms do not mix. Firearms should be handled with care. Alcohol lowers the ability to properly handle a gun and often creates reckless and aggressive behavior. This is a dangerous combination.
Improper Training: If you own a firearm, you should take gun safety courses. The knowledge will help you stay safe and protect the people around you. You should also be aware of the training received by other gun owners. You may want to avoid those who handle carelessly and have not taken serious training on the use of firearms.
No Supervision: Children and teens are commonly causes of accidental shootings. Parents with guns should secure them away from small children. Teens should be trained and taught to handle weapons responsibly.
Poor Firearm Handling: Tossing guns around or spinning them like a wild west shooter is a recipe for disaster. Not paying attention to safety and locks is another cause for misfires and accidental shootings.
Gun Range Management:Accidents happen on gun ranges. Make sure if you frequent a range that safety is a key component of the range policies. If range operates seem careless find another place to patronize.
Manufacturer Defects: While rare, manufacturers may sell defective guns. Quality control is paramount for manufacturers but there are cases where they can be careless as well. The manufacturer may be liable if the gun is poorly constructed or has defective parts.
Gun Cleaning: Accidents happen while cleaning guns. Make sure the gun is unloaded and there are no bullets in the chamber. Keep the safety on while cleaning as well to create a further barrier against accidents.
Yes. Guns laws can be confusing. Determining liability in a case is also difficult if you are the injured party, trying to attain restitution for your injuries while you recover. If you are dealing with a tragic situation like a death, you may not have the emotional energy to fight a case on your own.
Finding an attorney with experience and knowledge of gun laws and liability secures you a partner to help you through a traumatic situation. These cases can take years to see through, and can take a serious amount of time and legal knowledge in order to get the compensation or protection you deserve.
If you are charged with negligent discharge or injuring another person, you need someone to defend you. The ramifications can be steep to you own personal life if you are not given a fair hearing. Accidents can happen even by the most careful gun owners. Having the right attorney can help you have a fair and just resolution to your situation.
If you have been involved in an accidental discharge of a firearm in Colorado, it is essential that you seek legal representation immediately. Failing to do so can result in the loss of potential compensation for your injuries and trauma, or the dismissal of your case entirely if you are unaware of the proper legal course of action to take.
You need an experienced Colorado Negligent Discharge Lawyer who has the resources and the background to help you navigate the complex legal landscape around gun laws, and who has the compassion and empathy to understand the pain and suffering your incident has caused you.
At Anderson Hemmat, we have worked with hundreds of victims of negligent discharges to seek the compensation they deserve for over 25+ years. We know how serious your case is, and the emotional distress you are going through. Our experienced attorneys take the time to understand your case, what you are going through, and how it has affected you in order to represent you properly and maximize your compensation.
You have gone through enough already, and deserve nothing but justice for what you have gone through. Don’t go through the legal process alone and leave your compensation up to chance. Instead, work with experienced attorneys with a proven track record of Colorado Negligent Discharge cases.
Contact us today or fill out the form below for a free case evaluation, where one of our attorneys will personally guide you through the next steps, answer all of your questions, and help you get the ball rolling towards seeking the compensation you deserve for your tragic experience.
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