If you’ve been in a minor car accident in Colorado that seems to be no big deal, maybe just some minor cosmetic damage and the questions start popping in your head:
What do I do?
Should I report it or just let it go?
Can I get in trouble for not reporting this?
This is a hard decision to make. You may feel like the paperwork and hassle isn’t worth it. The conflict you might create between you and the other party is stressful to think about.
That’s a normal reaction. Small situations have a tendency to become larger when we avoid them. Even small accidents often cause hidden damage to your vehicle and potentially to your body. You may feel physically fine as well, but the adrenaline of the accident could be masking symptoms or injury.
Then comes the importance of knowing the laws for your given state. What are the laws for minor car accidents?
All of this uncertainty needs some definitive answers. At Anderson Hemmat, we have been helping car accident victims get compensation for their injuries and damages for over 25+ years - so we know a thing or two about car accidents in Colorado.
We created this guide to help you understand what to do if you have been involved in a minor car accident in Colorado. That way, if you are ever in this situation, you know exactly what to do.
Confusion exists when describing the difference between a major and minor car accident. We've seen minor fender-benders cause serious injury to the victim. And we've seen cars completely destroyed but the passengers and driver could walk away unscathed. It can be difficult to tell based on outward appearances and damage to the car alone. But, that’s why statutes and laws exist.
In Colorado, an accident is considered to be "minor" if there are no injuries to the drivers involved, and there is less than $1,000 of damage to the vehicle that was hit. In the event of a minor car accident such as this, drivers still have their duties to:
Identify themselves with the others involved in the accident
Report the accident immediately to the police
Exchange insurance information with the other parties
Seek to help the other party if they are injured or in danger
But, often, the police will not file a formal police report for an accident that has less than $1,000 in damages with no injuries to either party. However, the police must make a formal report if one of the parties cannot show proof of insurance. This is why you should always still report a minor car accident in Colorado. Otherwise, you may have problems when it comes time to seek compensation for damages, report damages to your insurance company, or seek compensation for injuries.
This can depend on a few factors. A reportable accident is one that causes any sort of injury, and/or any sort of property damage. This means, even if the damage is almost unnoticeable, the accident needs to be reported.
It is against Colorado law to not report an accident as long as it meets one or more of these criteria:
People are injured or killed
Property damage occurs (this doesn't necessarily mean another vehicle)
The other party cannot report, or no authorities are immediately present
These laws are designed to protect drivers. Even with minor incidents, it is always better to play it safe since some legal action could come your way if you neglect reporting even the smallest little bump.
In Colorado, you are obligated to report an accident. Your duty to report requires several different actions on your part.
The laws governing your duty to report are found in three main Colorado statutes:
Motor Vehicles § 42-4-1606 - Duty to report accidents
Motor Vehicles § 42-4-1603 - Duty to give notice
Motor Vehicles § 42-4-1610 - Confidentiality of accident reports
Basically, these laws state:
"Duty to report accidents"describes the conditions needed for a report to be required. If there is property damage or injury, a report must be filed. Always report, because you may not always see or feel the injury immediately.
"Duty to give notice" details the information required to collect in an accident. You must provide the “driver's name, the driver's address, and the registration number of the vehicle he or she is driving and shall upon request exhibit his or her driver's license”. You must also provide care and aid to the other party.
"Confidentiality of accident reports" states that reporting an accident does not admit liability. Determining of liability will be established later.
While this may seem complex, the solution is simple: report any and all motor vehicle accidents in Colorado, no matter how minor. As long as you make this the rule of thumb, you will never have to worry about whether you violated a law or are liable for the damages done to someone else’s property.
Following this policy also makes working on your case a lot easier down the line. Things like getting compensated from your insurance company and seeking damages from the person who hit your vehicle is a lot easier with a formal police report and the right documentation from a doctor. Without documentation, seeking compensation can be nearly impossible, even in the case of a hit and run accident.
In case you need more reason to report a minor car accident in Colorado, here are the major reasons you should always contact the authorities:
Injuries can emerge down the line. Even if you walk away fine, symptoms could be delayed due to adrenaline or other conditions. It may take some time for you or the other driver to realize they were injured in the accident. If the accident wasn't reported, these injuries may not be covered by insurance.
You can file an insurance claim to have your damage covered. Without a formal police report, an insurance company is not going to be able to give you compensation.
You could be compensated for the damages in the accident. Even in the case of a hit and run, if you are found to not be at fault, you are entitled to compensation for damages associated with your accident.
The other party could accuse you of being at fault. Without a formal police report, or if you leave the scene of the accident because everything seemed fine, the other party can accuse you of being at fault, sue you, and you could even face jail time and fines as a result of violating state accident reporting laws. That's much more of a headache than spending an hour or two at the scene of a minor accident to get things documented.
Police reports document the accident for insurance purposes. This provides a neutral third party’s interpretation of the facts. This is important not only for potential suits that might arise, but also helpful for insurance companies to determine damages.
You could be charged with a misdemeanor for not reporting the accident. This could give you up to 90 days in jail or a $300 fine - even if there are no noticeable damages or injuries to the other party.
Put simply, it's not worth the risk to avoid reporting a minor car accident in Colorado. While it may seem like a hassle at the time—take the time to do things by the book and save yourself a lot of trouble later on.
This is pretty much left to rare and special cases. If you were to get into an accident with a trusted family member or friend, especially if it is on your property, you may be able to settle this between the two of you. This is up to you and the victim though. Remember, if the other parties claim damage at some point in the future and you failed to file a report, you can be in violation of the law. Nothing is more personally damaging than the loss of a friendship over something as silly as a small accident - and we see it all the time.
You could also choose to not report an accident if there is no damage whatsoever and no one has been injured. This is very rare, since almost all accidents will cause at least a little bit of damage. This could all depend on the make, model, and year your car was manufactured as some react to little bumps differently. Keep in mind though, you are gambling with the potential for future problems by not reporting.
If you have been involved in a minor car accident in Colorado, there are a few steps you should take in order to report everything legally:
Call 911. This is important for a multitude of reasons. They can assess the situation and check for injuries that you may not notice. If the accident is really minor, police officers might not be needed, but that should be left to the discretion of the 911 operator, not you.
Assess the injuries of yourself and passengers, then make sure the other driver is ok. It is unlikely there will be any injuries from a minor accident, but there is a chance for concussions and whiplash. Injuries will affect how you file an accident report.
Observe and record. Make a note of the make, model, color, and license plate number of the other car. If they are at fault there is a chance they could leave the scene, so this is for your own safety and benefit. Take pictures if possible.
Move out of the roadway. This will keep you and the other driver affected safe in assessing the situation and reporting the accident.
Exchange information. Get information from the other driver. This will help during the reporting process since you’ll have all the information you need to accurately report the accident.
Inform your insurance company. Most insurance companies will require that you let them know of any incidents. This will help in the accident claim process so that you can get the proper compensation for the damages sustained during the incident.
File an accident report. As long as you meet the criteria listed above, you are required by law to report. We will go into how to make this process easier in just a bit.
See a doctor immediately.It may sound unnecessary but seeing a doctor after an accident is extremely important, even in the case of minor accidents. Adrenaline is pumping hard during accidents, making pain and discomfort hard to detect. On top of that, some injuries from car accidents involve deep tissue, and can take months or even years to really rear their head. Having an official document from your physician after an accident is a way to have things on record in case you need to seek damages for any pain, discomfort, injuries, or long-term conditions that arise from your accident.
Contact a car accident attorney. Most attorneys offer free case evaluations. It is worth it to give them a call and learn more about your case, compensation and damages you may be entitled to, things you may want to worry about, and what steps to take next. In more severe accidents, they can help you get compensation for accidents involving uninsured motorists, hit and runs, injuries, and vehicle damage.
Always be sure to follow these steps, even in the most minor of accidents. They will keep you and the other driver safe and within the law and will also help you to have everything properly documented in order to proceed forward with seeking compensation if you need to do so.
If a police officer arrived on the scene, you will not need to report the incident. The officer will handle that with a formal police report. Occasionally, the police will not attend the scene of the accident depending on the location and severity of the incident. Other times, the police may show up and deem the accident too minor to be reported (if no one is injured and the cumulative damages are under $1,000). If this is the case, you will need to report the accident yourself.
If an officer was not on the scene of the accident, you can report the accident online. You can find the form on the Colorado DMV site. The information you will need is:
The date and time in which the accident occurred
Where it happened
If it happened on private property
If the damages are estimated to be up to or over $1000
If there was a second location
If you are overwhelmed by the process or worried about not-reporting or even under-reporting, a Denver Car Accident Attorney can help you process this information. Our experienced attorneys can make sure the information is reported correctly so that you are protected, as well as give you professional insight into your case and what to do next. We may also be able to help you receive the compensation you did not know you deserved.
There are plenty of reasons to work with an attorney when filing a report. Even if the accident is minor, there could be implications if the form isn’t filled out correctly or within the 60-day window given by the state.
A Denver Car Accident Attorney can also confirm that the authorities at the scene of the accident filled out all the paperwork correctly. This protects you by having another set of eyes examining documents that could impact your future.
If your report is inaccurate, you could receive no compensation for damages. Incorrect reporting increases the likelihood that your insurance company will not pay accurately. It can also result in fines or jail time.
Accidents create anxiety. It is helpful to have someone on your side supporting you through the process. We can alleviate this stress by making sure your report is accurate and timely. We will make sure that you receive proper compensation, avoid any unnecessary legal trouble, and have no issues with your insurance company.
Have you recently been involved in a minor car accident in Colorado? If so, it is essential to make sure that you take the right steps in order to keep yourself safe from legal trouble, and to ensure you get the compensation you deserve.
At Anderson Hemmat, we have over 25+ years helping people in Colorado through their car accidents - minor and major. We know that accidents make for a stressful time, and that you have dozens of questions you need answered. We are here to help.
That is why we provide free case evaluations for people involved in minor car accidents to help them understand:
What to do next
What they are entitled to
How to file insurance claims properly
If you have been involved in a minor car accident in Colorado, don’t let it become major. Give us a call for a free case evaluation, and get all of the information you need, along with professional advice from a world class team of attorneys. Learn what the best approach is for your case and begin your journey towards closure and compensation.
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