What is the Car Accident Statute of Limitations in Colorado?
First, for those who need to brush up on their legalese, a “statute of limitations” is simply a specific kind of state law that puts a time limit on your right to go to court and file a lawsuit over some type of harm, loss, or conflict. The deadline differs depending on what kind of case you want to file, but the time limit is almost always expressed in years.
In most states, the statute of limitations that applies to a car accident lawsuit is usually the same as the larger one that applies to any personal injury case where one person’s negligence is said to have caused injury to another. (Learn more about Car Accidents Caused by Negligence.)
But in Colorado, lawmakers have passed a different deadline that applies to lawsuits over car accidents, whether for personal injury, damage to a vehicle, or both. Specifically, Colorado Revised Statutes section 13-80-101 says that "All tort actions for bodily injury or property damage arising out of the use or operation of a motor vehicle" must be "commenced within three years after the cause of action accrues." In plain English, that means an injury claim arising from any kind of vehicle accident -- whether by a driver, passenger, motorcycle rider, bicyclist, or pedestrian -- must be filed within three years, and the “clock” starts running on the date of the accident. The same deadline applies to a lawsuit for vehicle damage caused by a car accident.
If someone dies as a result of the accident, and their family wants to file a wrongful death claim, the statute of limitations deadline is two years, and the “clock” starts on the date of the person’s death (which might be different from the date of the accident).
What can you expect if you try to file your car accident lawsuit after Colorado’s three-year time limit has passed? In that situation, you can count on the defendant filing a motion to dismiss the case as time-barred under the statute of limitations, and the court is almost certain to grant the motion. So it’s crucial to understand how the filing deadline applies to your case. You don’t want to lose your right to a civil remedy for your injuries over a procedural mistake.
Even if you are pretty certain that your case will reach a quick settlement, you want to leave yourself plenty of time to file a lawsuit in case you need to -- if for no other reason than that you’ll have more leverage during settlement talks. If you think you might be running up against the three-year deadline, it may be time to contact an experienced Colorado car accident attorney.
by: David Goguen, J.D.