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Denver Personal Injury Law Blog

Punitive damages in Colorado car accident cases, P.1

In our last post, we began speaking about hit-and-run accidents and the types of damages available in such cases. As we noted, one type of damages that may potentially be available in such cases is punitive damages. Punitive damages, unlike the other types of damages we have discussed, are not awarded for the compensation of the victim but to punish the defendant for particularly bad behavior.

Under Colorado statute, punitive or “exemplary” damages may be available in civil cases where the plaintiff’s injuries are accompanied by “fraud, malice or willful and wanton conduct.” Exemplary damages must be reasonable, though, and the award may not be more than the amount of compensatory damages.  

Seeking recovery after a hit-and-run accident

While it would be wonderful if every driver who ever caused an accident stuck around and claimed responsibility, this just doesn’t always happen. There are various reasons drivers leave the scene of an accident. Usually it has to do with some fear. In some cases, it may be that the driver has no insurance and is afraid of the costs they will face if they are held responsible. Or, the driver might be afraid of facing criminal charges.

Hit-and-run accidents are particularly unfortunate when the victim dies, as the family doesn’t even have the initial satisfaction of knowing who caused the accident. Late last month, a 20-year-old Glenwood Springs man died in a hit and run accident on Interstate 70 after stepping out of his vehicle. He had apparently gone off the road and struck a guardrail prior to exiting his vehicle. As of earlier this month, authorities had not been able to locate the driver responsible for the accident

Court case applies new legal rule to test drive accident cases, P.2

In our last post, we began speaking about a recent court case that applied the so-called “joint venture” rule to cases involving auto accidents which occur during test drives through a dealership. In that case, as we noted, the accident occurred while a dealership employee was riding in the vehicle. The court ended up applying the joint venture rule because both occupants of the vehicle had the right to control the car and a “common interest in conducting the test drive.”

Joint venture liability, in general, refers to the fact that sometimes it makes sense to hold another party besides the driver liable for an accident that driver causes. One such scenario is when the driver and a passenger or passenger(s) are engaged in a commercial venture together. In such cases, courts consider that the passenger(s) and the driver had an equal right of control in the venture, and so are jointly responsible for any liabilities arising from the venture. 

Court case applies new legal rule to test drive accident cases, P.1

When an individual is harmed in an automobile accident, it is important that they work with an experienced attorney to ensure they receive the advocacy they deserve. Part of thorough advocacy is to ensure that a defendant is able to identify all parties who were responsible for contributing to the accident and bring them into the litigation to ensure they are held accountable.

In many car accident cases, there are only two parties involved and these cases are relatively straightforward in terms of naming defendants. In other cases, things get more complicated. The plaintiff may name multiple defendants or a defendant may file a cross claim against another party. In some cases, issues can come up as to whether a defendant can rightly be held liable. Identifying who should be held accountable is therefore not always straightforward.

In our previous post, we mentioned recent National Safety Council report which showed that distracte

In our previous post, we mentioned recent National Safety Council report which showed that distracted driving increased in the first four months of 2015, despite the efforts of states to counteract the problem of distracted driving. Colorado, like other states, has restricted the use of texting and cell phones by drivers, though it isn’t clear how helpful these laws are.

Even if distracted driving laws are effective at discouraging drivers from engaging in the target behavior—and it isn’t clear how effective they really are—these laws do not necessarily help drivers to exercise discretion with respect to other potentially distracting behavior. Here in Colorado, drivers are allowed to talk on a handheld device or through an earpiece, but that doesn’t mean doing so is safe. 

National Safety Council: distracted driving increased in 2015

Distracted driving is, as most readers are well aware, a serious issue wherever you go, no matter what state you are in. With the proliferation of cell phone use and many drivers being unwilling to put their phones down while driving, the risk remain high.

According to a recent report by the National Safety Council, the number of traffic fatalities in the first four months of 2015 significantly increased from the same period last year, with highway fatalities increasing every month for six consecutive months this year. According to the council, a major reason for the increase is that the economy has improved, which has lead to more driving. In terms of specific causes of the increase in highway fatalities, distracted driving is said to be the biggest contributor.

Ride-sharing drivers: are you covered in the event of a car accident?

Most of our readers have, by now, heard the term ride-sharing and become familiar with the concept. As the popularity of ride-sharing increases in the United States, there is a growing concern that consumers of ride-sharing services may not fully understand how their insurance policy will cover them in the event of an accident. This is an important issue, because insurance companies may or may not cover a policyholder who is hurt in a ride-sharing accident.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, most people who get in an accident while using their vehicle for ride-sharing services are not covered by their own policy. In the average auto insurance policy, coverage stops as soon as the car owner enters a ride-sharing app to look for a customer, and coverage starts back up when the transaction is completed. 

Civil liability for deliberate car crashes, P.2

In our previous post, we began looking at the issue of civil liability as it might apply to car accidents in which the party that caused the accidents acted intentionally. As we noted, car accidents are more often than not a matter of negligence, but what about cases where it is more than negligence?

Such cases are admittedly rarer than cases involving negligence, but they do occur. Intentional car accidents have been known to occur, for example, in connection with auto insurance fraud schemes. Certainly, cases of road rage can sometimes lead to intentional crashes. Whatever the specific circumstances might be, intentional car crashes raise unique issues. 

Civil liability for deliberate car crashes, P.1

Hit-and-run accidents can and do occur, and when they do, it is important for victims to work with local police to help investigate the incident and, if possible, pursue criminal charges against hit-and-run drivers, but also to put themselves in a position to hold the individual liability for their own injuries and losses.

Many hit and run cases, of course, happen by accident. In many cases, the hit-and-run driver flees from the scene simply out of shock and fear for what they’ve done or because they aren’t insured sufficiently or at all. In some cases, hit-and-run accidents are more intentional. That may have been the case with an accident that took place last month in Colorado Springs. The accident occurred when a Jeep Grand Cherokee struck a bicyclist. 

Holding employers accountable for employees’ stoned driving

Here in Colorado, one of the big issues since the legalization of marijuana has been to address the potential ramifications of marijuana use by drivers. This issue includes the problem of drugged driving as well as personal injury liability when a drugged driver causes an accident. The risk of marijuana-induced accidents has always been around, of course, but the concern is that the change in legal status could make the problem more prominent.

For employers, the issue is an important one, since they can open themselves up to liability if they hire employees who use marijuana on the job, not to mention increased insurance rates and potentially decreased productivity from workers, at least according to some. Exactly how this issue plays out in the future remains to be seen.