Colorado Car Insurance Laws and Requirements

Colorado's minimum car insurance coverage requirements, penalties for driving without car insurance in Colorado, and more.

By , J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law

Colorado, like most states, requires vehicle owners to maintain certain minimum amounts of car insurance coverage in order to operate a vehicle legally on the state's roads and highways. Here's what to know about car insurance in Colorado, including how it impacts a traffic accident in the state:

  • Colorado's car insurance system is typically based on liability, or who was at fault for the underlying accident.
  • Colorado requires liability car insurance coverage, and vehicle owners can opt out of uninsured motorist and medical payments coverage.
  • Being out of compliance with Colorado's car insurance rules can result in a variety of penalties.

Colorado Is a "Fault" Car Accident State

Colorado follows a traditional "fault"-based system when it comes to financial responsibility for losses stemming from a car accident: injuries, lost income, vehicle damage, and so on.

So, the person who was at fault for causing the car accident is also financially responsible for any resulting harm. Of course, from a practical standpoint, the at-fault driver's liability insurance carrier will pay these losses, up to the driver's liability policy limits.

What Are My Claim Options After a Colorado Car Accident?

After a car accident in Colorado, if you've suffered any kind of injury or damage, you can usually proceed in one of three ways:

  • file a claim with your own car insurance company, regardless of who caused the accident, if you didn't opt out of medical payments coverage (for injuries) or if you've got collision coverage (for vehicle damage) in Colorado
  • file a "third party" claim with the other driver's insurance carrier and negotiate a settlement that covers your losses (usually the best option if the other driver's insurer accepts fault), or
  • file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver in court (their insurance coverage would still come into play here, and your lawsuit could settle out of court at any point).

Note: Colorado was a no-fault car insurance state until 2003. Under no-fault, a claimant doesn't usually have this same range of options listed above. After a car accident in a no-fault state, you must turn to the personal injury protection coverage of your own car insurance policy for payment of medical bills and other out-of-pocket losses, regardless of who caused the crash. Only if your injuries reach a certain threshold can you step outside of no-fault and make a claim directly against the at-fault driver. But Colorado drivers no longer need to worry about no-fault after an in-state accident.

Minimum Liability Car Insurance in Colorado

Colorado requires that each motor vehicle in operation on the state's roads be covered by liability insurance. The required minimum amounts of liability car insurance coverage in Colorado are:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury or death of one person in an accident caused by the driver of the insured vehicle
  • $50,000 for total bodily injury or death liability in an accident caused by the driver of the insured vehicle, and
  • $15,000 for property damage per accident caused by the driver of the insured vehicle.

This basic coverage pays the medical bills, property damage bills, and other costs of drivers, passengers, and pedestrians who are injured or have their vehicle damaged in a car accident you cause, up to coverage limits. You can (and in some situations should) carry more coverage to protect you in case a serious crash results in significant car accident injuries and vehicle damage. Remember, once policy limits are exhausted, you are personally on the financial hook, so higher insurance limits can help protect your personal assets in the event of a serious crash.

Your liability coverage will kick in if any family member is driving your vehicle, or if you've given someone else permission to use it. It will likely also cover you if you get into an accident in a rental car.

Remember that the liability coverage we discussed here doesn't apply to your own injuries or vehicle damage after a Colorado car accident. You'll need different (additional) coverage for that if you're involved in a car accident and no one else's coverage applies to your losses. For example, collision coverage (optional in Colorado) can pay for repairs to (or replacement of) your damaged vehicle after a car accident.

The MedPay Option in Colorado

Since 2009, Colorado has required auto insurers to offer drivers $5,000 in medical payment, or "med pay," coverage. Drivers can opt out, but if they take no action, the med pay coverage—and the additional premium—is added to the driver's policy automatically. MedPay coverage can be used to get quick compensation for your car accident injuries, regardless of who caused the accident.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage in Colorado

While uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) is not required in Colorado, all insurers in the state must provide this kind of coverage, in an amount equal to the policyholder's chosen liability coverage for bodily injury, unless UIM coverage is waived in writing by the policyholder.

Driving Without Insurance In Colorado

According to Colorado Revised Statute 42-4-1409, violation of Colorado's mandatory car insurance laws amounts to a "class 1 misdemeanor traffic offense," and offenders:

  • will be ordered to pay a fine of at least $500
  • could face suspension of their driver's license, and
  • may be required to perform 40 hours of community service.

Subsequent violations of Colorado's mandatory insurance laws will bring harsher penalties than the ones listed above, And on top of these penalties, you'll face serious financial jeopardy if you cause a car accident and you don't have car insurance.

Does Colorado Accept Digital Proof of Car Insurance?

Yes. If you're asked to show proof of car insurance in Colorado (during a traffic stop, for example), you can pull up official documentation from your car insurance company (such as a digital version of your insurance card) on your phone or other device. You can even store a digital copy of your insurance card on the state's official myColorado app. And of course, handing over a physical copy of your insurance card is still perfectly acceptable.

More Help After a Colorado Car Accident

Get more information on car insurance in Colorado, straight from the state:

In addition to understanding how car insurance works, you might want to learn more about Colorado laws that could come into play after a car accident.

If you need help with the injury claim process, it may make sense to discuss your situation (and your options) with a legal professional. Get more information on when you might need a car accident lawyer, and what to expect from your first meeting with a car accident attorney. You can also use the features right on this page to connect with a Colorado car accident lawyer in your area.

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