Colorado Car Accident Guide
Denver Car Accidents
Being involved in a car accident can be a traumatic experience. At the very least, it is a stressful, frustrating experience and that is if there are no serious injuries involved. When serious injuries or fatalities are involved, a Denver car accident can change lives forever. 24/7 Wall Street looked at the 2016 data for motor vehicle crashes in each state to see which state had the highest car accident fatalities as well as the most dangerous roads.
The state of Colorado ranked 31st in the nation for the deadliest roadways, with 11 car accident deaths per 100,000 people in the state. The total number of car accident fatalities in 2016 in the state of Colorado came to 608, giving it a ranking of 22nd in the nation. Drivers in Colorado are more likely than drivers in many other states to use a seat belt (84 percent compliance). Across Colorado, Labor Day was the deadliest holiday for those in car accidents in 2016, with 14 fatal crashes. Rural roads in Colorado were responsible for their fair share of fatal crashes at 44 percent.
In this same study, the states with the highest crash death rates were concentrated in the South, with the safest states in the Northeast and Midwest. Mississippi was by far the worst for fatal car crashes with a rate of 23.1 deaths per 100,000 people, and Colorado’s neighboring state to the South, New Mexico, ranked as the 4th most dangerous state for drivers. This same body of data found that more Americans age 54 and younger die in car crashes each year than from anything else—and, that despite the increase in car safety features, the national crash death rate in 2016 was the highest in a decade at 11.6 per 100,000 people.
If you have been involved in a Colorado car accident, it is likely you could use an advocate in your corner to help you get back to your “normal” life. You may be unable to return to work for several weeks, months, or even much longer, making it difficult to pay your normal monthly expenses. You may be unable to pay for the medical treatments you need for you Denver car accident injuries. The Law Offices of Dianne Sawaya want to take care of all the legal details of your Denver car accident, allowing you the time to heal.
Denver Accident Statistics
According to the Colorado DOT, there were 57 people killed in car accidents in the city of Denver in 2018. A June 2018 Westword article headlined “Denver Traffic Deaths on Pace for One of the Highest Totals This Century.” At that time, the article predicted a total of 58 traffic fatalities for 2018—a number which was almost exactly the actual number—and detailed information on the new Denver Accident Map which puts out a significant amount of data regarding traffic accidents in the city. The Denver Accident Map found there were 55 car accidents involving DUI during the month of May in 2018, and that Wednesdays in Denver during that same month appeared to be the most dangerous day for a car accident.
Where Do Most Denver Accidents Occur?
Another 2018 Westword article looked at data to determine the areas in Denver where the most car accidents occurred. The top ten on that list included:
- West Alameda Avenue and South Santa Fe Drive
- South Quebec Street at Leetsdale Drive
- South Monaco Street at East Alameda (tied for 4th place)
- West 6th Avenue at North Kalamath Street (tied for 4th place)
- North Speer Blvd. at Auraria Parkway
- The intersections with the longest traffic signal in the city—North Speer at Wewatta Street—made the top ten for the first time this year.
- West Evans Avenue at South Federal Blvd.
- West Mississippi Avenue at South Santa Fe Drive
- Broadway and 20th Street
- North Tower Road at East 56th Avenue
Where Do Most Car Accidents Occur In General?
Many people have heard that car accidents tend to happen close to home, and Esurance backs that up, saying that driving in familiar places tends to make us relax, relying more on “muscle memory” than on our actual driving skills. The repetition of driving to and from our homes simply renders most of us much less vigilant, thus more likely to be involved in an auto accident. People are also less likely to buckle up when they are driving to a destination close to their home, leading to more serious injuries when a collision occurs.
Overall, Esurance found that a significant number of car accidents take place within 25 miles of our homes, and that late afternoons and evenings when many people are going home from work is, by far, the most dangerous time to drive. In 2013, as many as 36 percent of all fatal car accidents occurred between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., with 31 percent of fatal car accidents occurring between 6 p.m. and midnight. While city driving may stress us out, more fatal car accidents actually occur on rural roads than on busy city streets. Intersections are high on the list of where auto accidents occur, particularly if only a stop or yield sign regulates the flow of traffic.
While stoplights do control the flow of traffic, rear-end collisions are common at stoplights, often because people are tailgating, or because they are looking down at their phone, failing to realize they are rolling forward. Busy two-lane roads tend to have the highest number of head-on collisions, as drivers may drift over the center line, or pass on a double yellow line.
What Are The Main Causes of Denver Car Accidents?
There are many different factors in car accidents, with the majority of collisions being the result of human error. While it is important to take car safety seriously, just because you are careful does not mean all the other drivers on the road will also drive safely. The most common causes of Denver car accidents—and car accidents across the nation—include the following:
- Distracted Driving—Injury Facts reports that in 2016, 3,450 people died in distraction-related accidents. In our increasingly busy lives, we have become a nation of multi-taskers. We talk on our cell phones, text, post to social media, fiddle with the controls on our vehicles, eat entire meals, turn around to see what the children are doing in the back seat, change radio stations and even put on makeup while driving. A statistic which some might find surprising—and others will not—is that having children in your car is reported by Parents Magazine to be four times as distracting as driving with only adults in the car and having an infant in the car is eight times as distracting. Our commutes to work have increased steadily in time and distance, therefore many of us consider our car an “office on wheels” While we love our children and our pets, they can be dangerous distractions. Mothers, in particular, tend to turn around while driving to hand a child a bottle or juice box or pick up a dropped toy. With multiple children in the vehicle, the noise level can be distracting, and if you add an unsecured pet to the mix, the distractions can reach a truly dangerous level. Although most of us are aware that texting while driving or talking on a cell phone while driving is dangerous, unfortunately, many of us continue to do so. End Distracted Driving found that drivers are just as impaired when they drive and talk on a cell phone as they are when they drive with a BAC of 0.08 percent—the legal limit. Cell phone users are 5.36 times more likely to be involved in a car accident than an undistracted driver, and text messaging increases the risk of a crash or near-crash by a staggering 23 times.
- Excessive Speed—The National Transportation Safety Board says there’s one primary reason for the increase in traffic accident fatalities, noting, “Speed is what’s killing Americans.” Looking at passenger vehicle collisions in the United States between 2005 and 2014, the NTSB determined that speeding was the main factor in about 31 percent of all traffic fatalities. A driver who is exceeding the speed limit has nearly the same likelihood of being involved in a car accident with serious or fatal injuries as a driver who is driving under the influence. Because of this, the NTSB wants to change the consequences for speeding to match those of DWIs because currently there are few negative social consequences associated with exceeding the speed limit.
- Reckless Driving–Today, drivers may fear a reckless or aggressive driver as much as they fear the driver who is driving while under the influence as in some cases, reckless driving behaviors can lead to road rage incidents. The aggressive driver and the reckless driver show an overall disregard for the rules of the road. Both types of drivers may change lanes in an unsafe manner, drive at speeds which are unsafe for the road conditions and generally put others who share the road at risk. The most common forms of reckless driving include: exhibiting improper turns, changing lanes suddenly, without signaling, braking suddenly, running stop lights or stop signs, exceeding the speed limit, driving without headlights and tailgating other drivers. Reckless driving is a major cause of auto accidents in the U.S.
- Running Red Lights—The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that running red lights causes hundreds of deaths and tens of thousands of injuries every year. In fact, in 2016, 811 people were killed in crashes which involved running a red light. The IIHS conducted a study over several months at five busy intersections in Fairfax, VA, finding that, on average, motorists ran a red light every 20 minutes at each intersection. During peak travel times, drivers were even more likely to run red lights. While 93 percent of drivers agree it is unacceptable to go through a red light, 36 percent said they had done so over the past 30 days.
- Running Stop Signs—The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also had plenty to say about drivers who run stop signs—a full third of all intersection crashes in the U.S., and more than 40 percent of fatal intersection crashes occur at intersections controlled by stop signs. This equals more than 700,000 stop sign crashes each year. All too often, a driver initially stopped, but simply did not see another driver or failed to properly yield to another driver. Nearly 12 percent of the stop sign crashes involved one car rear-ending another at a stop sign. Both older drivers (over 65) as well as teen drivers were disproportionately at fault in stop sign collisions. For the elderly, this could be due to visual impairments and loss of flexibility, and for teen drivers, distractions or inexperience.
- Driving While Impaired—The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has determined that every single day in the United States, as many as 30 people die as the result of a drunk driver—in 2017, one person every 48 minutes. Although drunk driving deaths have decreased over the past three decades, the numbers remain high. Alcohol reduces brain function and impairs muscle coordination, reasoning and thinking—all abilities which are essential to the safe operation of a vehicle. Although ride-sharing services have helped decrease the number of impaired drivers on the roadways, there are still far too many drunk drivers and drugged drivers on the roadways.
- Poor Weather Conditions—Adverse weather conditions can cause not only poor visibility, but loss of traction as well. When drivers are unable to see properly, and their car is not getting the kind of traction it should, the roads can become a very dangerous place. Each type of adverse weather comes with its own challenges:
- Rain—Rain causes slippery roads, for a variety of reasons. The layer of water on the roadway can reduce tire traction because oil from vehicles builds up, then the rain loosens those oils, causing a slick driving surface. Heavy rains or water splashing up can prevent drivers from seeing the cars in front of them clearly, or even from seeing the road clearly. Unfortunately, many drivers fail to slow down when rain is falling, and a speed which would be perfectly safe on a dry road, quickly becomes a serious hazard.
- Snow—Short-term bursts of localized heavy snow are known as snow squalls and are notorious for causing large winter traffic pileups. These brief but intense snowfalls cut visibility significantly, slicken roads, and catch drivers off guard. As with rain, drivers often fail to slow down enough to lessen the dangers. Drivers who have been driving in a snowstorm for a significant length of time could find their eyes becoming extremely tired from trying to see the road and other drivers, plus many drivers have not driven in snow enough to know how to react when their car slides.
- Ice—Ice may be one of the most dangerous adverse weather conditions for drivers, particularly “black” ice which is difficult, if not impossible to see until the vehicle hits the ice and begins to slide. Even small amounts of ice can be dangerous, posing a major threat to drivers. Light, freezing drizzle may not be severe enough to convince drivers to slow down and drive in a safer manner yet can cause hundreds of ice-related car accidents.
- Fog—Fog is produced by the suspension of fine droplets of moisture in the air. When light hits these droplets, it scatters, resulting in loss of contrast, and the inability of drivers to see very far ahead. Fog can vastly increase the number of car accidents, particularly when drivers fail to slow down, due to distorted perception and a reduction in visibility. Fog can give drivers a distorted perception of speed—they may think another car is traveling slower than it really is. Drivers also have a difficult time distinguishing between stationary objects and moving objects during the fog, making a car accident much more likely.
- Falling Asleep at the Wheel—A significant number of car accidents across the nation are caused by drowsy drivers, and probably even more truck accidents are the result of fatigue. The NHTSA believes that more than a hundred thousand crashes are directly attributable to sleepy drivers, however it is likely the numbers are much higher because few drivers want to admit they fell asleep at the wheel following an accident. Sleep deprivation is all-too-common in the U.S.; the CDC says that one out of every three adults fail to get enough sleep on a regular basis. Even those who do not actually fall asleep behind the wheel can be so fatigued their reaction time is significantly slowed, leading to an accident. Those who are tired are less aware of their surroundings, less aware of the cars and drivers around them, and less cognizant of hazardous road conditions. Drowsiness also impairs judgment, leading those who are fatigued to believe they can make it through a yellow/red light—something they would not attempt if they were awake and alert.
- Driving at Night—Driving is a complex task which is conducted in a changing environment and the changing environment of nighttime can be one of the most dangerous as it relates to car accidents. Even though the number of miles driven decreases significantly at night, drivers’ ability to avoid collisions is extremely hampered under dim lighting conditions. This causes the number of car accident fatalities to rise sharply after dark. Older drivers are much more likely to have trouble seeing at night than younger drivers, which can lead to an upswing in auto accidents. Those who have difficulty seeing at night should do their best to do their driving during the daylight hours, and other drivers should exercise extra caution when driving at night.
What Are Common Types of Car Accidents?
Auto accidents can result in injuries, vehicle damage and even death, and can happen in a variety of situations. Sometimes it is not possible to avoid an auto accident, however those who are aware of the most common types of auto accidents could have an advantage in similar situations. The most common types of car accidents include:
- Rollover Accident–Any vehicle which has a higher center of gravity is much more vulnerable to a rollover when involved in a one-vehicle crash. To some extent, the type of vehicle comes into play, and SUV’s and pickup trucks often ride higher off the ground than passenger cars. Rollovers involve a complex interaction of the specific behaviors of the driver, the road conditions at the time, and other environmental factors. Vehicle type, as mentioned, is also a factor as the higher, narrower vehicles will be much more likely to roll over when involved in a one-car accident. Rural areas are more often the landscape of rollover accidents, as rural roads are more likely to have lanes which are not divided and have no barriers. Although negotiating curves is certainly a factor in rollovers, driver distraction, inattentiveness or excessive speeds are also contributors.
- Single-Car Accident–Many automobile accidents involve only one vehicle such as when a driver hits a deer which runs across the road or when the driver slides off an icy winter road into a tree. There are many varieties of single-car accidents; however, a large percentage of these types of accidents involve clear driver error. Single-car accidents caused by roadway hazards must be documented through photographs of the scene and surrounding areas along with an accident diagram and reconstruction which will show how and why the accident occurred. Single-car accidents frequently have another element added if the driver was intoxicated at the time of the accident and was subsequently arrested. Other single-car accidents may involve striking a pedestrian or bicyclist.
- Rear-End Collision–When your car is struck from the rear it is known as a rear end collision and is the type of auto accident which happens more often than any other. These types of accidents are also called “whiplash” accidents because the nature of the crash can lead to neck injuries for the occupants of the car which has been struck. Many rear-end collisions are the result of simple driver distraction. When the front area of the car in the rear crashes into the rear end of the front car, it usually results in an unexpected and quite powerful jolt, even at relatively low speeds. Rear-end collisions are almost always the fault of the driver in the back, although there are certainly exceptions. If both vehicles are roughly the same size, the level of damage may be about equal, however if one vehicle is substantially larger than the other, the smaller vehicle—and driver—will definitely bear the brunt of the collision.
- Side-Impact Collision–According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, side-impact collisions can be extremely deadly, accounting for about 25 percent of all car accident deaths in the United States. A side-impact collision occurs when the front of an oncoming vehicle strikes the side of another vehicle. How serious this type of collision will ultimately be depends on the speed and weight of the oncoming vehicle as well as where the oncoming vehicle strikes the other vehicle. Should the oncoming vehicle strike the other car squarely in the middle, across the front and back doors, there will likely be more serious injuries than if the car is struck in the rear, closer to the tire. Intersections are the primary place that side-impact collisions occur, usually caused by drivers who fail to stop at a stop sign or red light.
- Head-On Collision—org finds that although only about 2 percent of car accidents are head-on collisions, this type of car crash accounts for well over 10 percent of car accident fatalities. When the fronts of two cars collide, there will likely be significant levels of injury, no matter what speed the automobiles were traveling. Just as with any auto accident, there can be many reasons for a head-on automobile collision. The most common reasons include texting while driving or talking on a cell phone, although weather conditions such as ice, snow or rain can also be a factor. Additional reasons for head-on collisions include passing in an unsafe manner, losing control of the vehicle, driving while impaired, and nodding off at the wheel due to fatigue. The most common place head-on collisions occur are on two lane roads when one vehicle attempts to pass unsafely into oncoming traffic.
- Intersection Accidents–Unfortunately, intersection accidents are among the most common—and the most-deadly—type of automobile accidents in the United States. People tend to believe that a yellow light simply means they should speed up rather than stop, meaning they could end up in the intersection on a solid red light then are hit by a car who rightfully believes they have the right-of-way. Intersection accidents occur when drivers go through yellow and red lights as well as when drivers anticipate the green light starting through the intersection before the light has completely changed to green. Other causes of intersection accidents include driver distraction and excessive speed.
What Are Common Injuries Associated with Car Accidents?
Of course, every person’s car accident-related injuries are different. Moreover, time is a major factor when it comes to healing. The type and severity of your car accident injuries will depend largely on the type of accident you were involved in. High speed car accidents tend to cause much more serious injuries and fatalities than those at lower speeds. Whiplash is one of the most common types of car accident injuries. Even in a low speed crash, passengers can still end up with severe whiplash, which can impact daily life for weeks, months, or even years to come. Whiplash can cause one or more of the following symptoms:
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Worsening of pain with neck movement
- Insomnia or sleep disturbances
- Muscle spasms
- Blurred vision
- Loss of range of motion in the neck
- Tenderness or pain in shoulder, upper back, or arms
- Tingling or numbness in the arms
- Ringing in the ears
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory problems
As you can see, the effects of whiplash can greatly diminish your quality of life. Traumatic brain injuries are also relatively common following a serious car accident. Traumatic brain injuries can cause one or more of the following symptoms:
- Headache or “pressure” in head
- Balance problems or dizziness, or double or blurry vision
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sensitivity to light
- Just not “feeling right” or “feeling down”
- Increased time asleep
- Slurred speech
- Feeling sluggish, hazy, or groggy
- Confusion, or concentration or memory problems
- Changes in personality
Other common types of car accident injuries include cuts and scrapes, bruises and broken bones. The healing time for these injuries is largely dependent on the location and severity of the injury. Serious cuts can require stitches, or even plastic surgery. Those who suffer facial lacerations can also suffer adverse psychological effects. Other car accident injuries include internal injuries, spinal cord injuries and even amputation of limbs. No two car accident injuries are exactly alike; therefore, having an experienced Denver personal injury attorney by your side is crucial.
Death and Car Accidents
When the negligence of a person or entity causes the death of another, the surviving family members may be able to file a wrongful death claim. While a settlement in a wrongful death claim will certainly not bring your loved one back, it can make life easier for those left behind. Wrongful deaths could be the result of an auto, truck or motorcycle accident, a death caused by a defective medical device or dangerous prescription drug, medical negligence, nursing home neglect or abuse, construction site deaths, defective product deaths, and even deaths from violent acts.
The Emotional Side Effects of an Accident
Although we often focus on the physical effects of car accident injuries, there are psychological and emotional “injuries” resulting from car accidents as well. In fact, some national estimates conclude that nearly ten percent of those who survive a serious car accident will eventually develop post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Additionally, those who have experienced a serious car accident may also experience depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, nightmares, feelings of loneliness or being overwhelmed, chronic fatigue or exhaustion and social withdrawal. The level of physical injury, a death or serious injury of a loved one from the accident, a low rate of recovery following an accident and any pre-existing medical conditions can affect the emotional toll a Denver car accident can take on an individual.
Accidents Involving Pedestrians
According to the NHTSA, there were 4,735 pedestrians killed and another 66,000 injured in car accidents in 2013—on average, one pedestrian is killed every 2 hours, and injured every 8 minutes in car accidents in the United States. When a 4,000 pound-plus vehicle strikes a pedestrian, the resulting injuries are very likely to be severe or fatal. Pedestrians are among the most vulnerable travelers on the nation’s roadways. Far too many drivers allow themselves to be distracted while driving, making it more likely they will fail to see a pedestrian. Excessive speed can also be a factor in auto-pedestrian accidents, as the driver may simply be unable to stop in time to avoid injuring a pedestrian. Denver pedestrians injured in a car accident can benefit greatly from having an experienced Colorado personal injury attorney looking out for their rights and their future.
Accidents Involving Bicycles
There are more than five hundred bicycle fatalities and 50,000 injuries resulting from collisions between a bicycle and an automobile each year. In fact, the fear of colliding with an automobile is perhaps the single greatest barrier to getting more people riding bicycles. Many bicycle victims are children who may not have yet learned the appropriate safety rules before sharing the road with automobiles. There may be negligence on the part of the driver who was distracted or reckless in many Denver pedestrian accidents. Should the driver be deemed to be negligent, the bicyclist has the legal right to be compensated for injuries and damages.
Accidents in an Uber, Lyft or Other Ride-Share Services
If you have ever found yourself with white knuckles while riding in an Uber, Lyft or other ride-share service, you may wonder just how many of these drivers are involved in car accidents. Unfortunately, there is little data regarding ride-share accidents, and because ride-sharing is relatively new, there is no “checkbox” on the police report to indicate your accident occurred in an Uber or Lyft vehicle. Uber drivers must carry insurance in the amount required by their individual state; however, there are complex laws regarding coverage by these companies. Rather than simply hoping for the best following a ride-share accident, the very best thing you can do is to contact an experienced Denver car accident attorney as quickly as possible.
Car Accidents and Insurance
Car insurance is mandatory in all states in the U.S., except New Jersey, however this is no guarantee that drivers will actually have auto insurance. While we want to believe auto insurance companies are the friendly souls portrayed on television commercials, who only have our best interests at heart, this is rarely the case. Insurance companies are interested in their financial bottom line therefore the goal is to get every claimant to settle for the least amount possible. Unfortunately, this amount may not be sufficient to fully cover your injuries and damages. If you are hit by a Colorado driver with no insurance, your uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance (if you have it) should kick in to cover your medical expenses and damage to your vehicle.
Proving fault may be key to collecting compensation following your Colorado car accident. Sometimes fault is obvious, other times it may not be. Colorado is considered an “at-fault” car insurance state, changing from a “no-fault” state in 2003. Under at-fault rules, drivers are allowed to file a claim against the responsible party. Thus, in the state of Colorado you can file a claim with your own insurance company if the negligent driver is uninsured or underinsured, you can file a claim against the negligent driver’s insurance, or you can file a Colorado personal injury lawsuit against the negligent driver.
What Do I Do After a Car Accident?
Following a car accident, you may be physically injured and/or emotionally shaken up. The adrenaline rush experienced at the time of a Denver car accident can leave you weak and shaky afterwards, however knowing ahead of time what steps to take following your car accident can help you significantly in the aftermath of your accident. These are the steps you should take following your Denver car accident:
- Call 911—never accept the other driver’s suggestion to forego calling the police, even when it appears the accident is relatively minor.
- Make sure all injuries are properly taken care of.
- Whenever possible, take photographs of the scene of the accident, including the damages to the vehicle, license plates and surrounding areas.
- If there are witnesses to your car accident, take down their contact information—witness statements can be an invaluable resource later on.
- Contact your insurance company but stick to the basic facts of the accident.
- Never admit guilt.
- Keep a comprehensive file of everything related to your car accident, including all medical expenses related to your injuries, and notes on every detail you can remember about the accident.
- Contact a Denver auto accident attorney as soon as possible—the sooner you reach out to an experienced Colorado car accident injury attorney the better he or she will be able to help you receive an equitable settlement.
How Can I Be A Defensive Driver and Avoid Accidents?
While not all Denver car accidents can be avoided, there are steps you can take to minimize your chances of being involved in a car accident such as:
- Be a defensive driver—this means being aware of blind spots, pulling into traffic cautiously, always looking both directions and always being alert.
- Watch out for other drivers running red lights.
- Be especially aware of the blind spots in large commercial trucks.
- Always be extra-careful in residential neighborhoods and school zones, watching out for children.
- Scan ahead—concentrate on the area you will be driving in 10-12 seconds.
- Never tailgate.
- Always physically look backwards when backing out—do not depend entirely on your mirrors.
- Practice courtesy and respect to other drivers.
- Follow speed limits and other rules of the road.
- Avoid distractions when driving, especially cell phone use—when you are behind the wheel, concentrate only on your driving.
How A Car Accident Attorney Can Help You
When you have been injured as a result of another driver’s negligence, you may be uncertain what to do or where to turn. When your financial security is at risk, and your future uncertain, it can be difficult to know how to find balance and normalcy in your life once more. You probably have so many questions—questions about your medical treatments, lost wages, insurance companies—the list goes on and on. Who can you trust to help you during this difficult time? The Law Offices of Dianne Sawaya have highly experienced Denver personal injury attorneys who can answer your questions and guide you through the complexities of a Denver car accident. Dianne Sawaya knows that Denver car accidents can be life-altering and wants to help you receive the compensation and assistance you and your family deserves. Contact the Law Offices of Dianne Sawaya today for a Denver car accident consultation.