Most of us cross a street every day without thinking twice. However, pedestrian accidents have skyrocketed in recent years. Being involved in a Colorado pedestrian accident can lead to devastating physical injuries and serious financial setbacks. This article provides an overview of Colorado pedestrian laws and how Colorado courts determine negligence.
Table of Contents
- Have You Been Injured in a Colorado Pedestrian Accident?
- Colorado Pedestrian Accident Statistics
- Colorado Pedestrian Laws: Who Has the Right of Way?
- What if You Were Jaywalking?
- Determining Liability
- What Damages Can I Recover in a Pedestrian Accident?
- How Long Do I Have to File a Claim?
- Speak with a Colorado Personal Injury Attorney Today
Have You Been Injured in a Colorado Pedestrian Accident?
If you have been injured in a Colorado pedestrian accident, you will likely need medical treatment and compensation for your injuries. If you can prove the driver who hit you was negligent, a court may order him or her to pay for your medical expenses and loss of income. However, getting compensation is rarely easy, particularly without the help of a Colorado pedestrian accident attorney. The R&H Personal Injury Team will fight to get you on a path to recovery. Call 303-688-0944 today to begin your free case assessment, o lláme al 720-359-2442 para hablar con alguien en español.
Colorado Pedestrian Accident Statistics
According to analysis from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and AAA Colorado, pedestrian deaths rose a startling 89 percent in the Centennial State from 2009 to 2018.
In 2019 alone, 76 pedestrians died on Colorado roads — representing 13 percent of all Colorado roadway deaths, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.
Most crashes in Colorado occur at non-intersections, according to CDOT. Time of day is also a factor in pedestrian crashes, with nighttime posing a significantly higher risk.
Colorado Pedestrian Laws: Who Has the Right of Way?
Pedestrian right-of-way laws will play a significant role in determining liability in a Colorado pedestrian accident. Let’s take a closer look.
When Pedestrians Must Yield to Drivers
Pedestrians must yield the right-of-way to drivers that are legally occupying and moving through traffic lanes. Specifically, this means:
A pedestrian shall not suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and ride a bicycle, electrical assisted bicycle, or electric scooter, or walk or run into the path of a moving vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. Colo. Revised Statutes § 42-4-802
Pedestrian Right-of-Way in Crosswalks
Drivers must yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian entering the roadway within a crosswalk that does not have dedicated traffic signals.
Drivers may enter the crosswalk if the pedestrian is on the opposite side, but not if “the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger.” C.R.S. § 42-4-802
Additionally, drivers cannot attempt to pass a vehicle that is stopped at a crosswalk at an intersection to allow a pedestrian to cross the street.
Pedestrian Right-of-Way and Traffic Signals
Drivers and pedestrians alike must abide by “Walk” and “Don’t Walk” traffic signals. Drivers must yield the right of way to pedestrians with a solid “Walk” signal and to those who are already in the crosswalk when the “Don’t Walk” signal begins flashing.
Consequently, pedestrians must not enter a crosswalk when the “Don’t Walk” signal is solid or flashing.
If traffic is stopped in all directions: Pedestrians may cross from the corner of an intersection to any other corner while the “Walk” indication is exhibited. C.R.S. § 42-4-802
Crossing Places Other than Crosswalks
If you are crossing the street anywhere at a point other than a marked crosswalk or an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, you must yield the right-of-way to all vehicles on the road. The same applies if you are crossing at a pedestrian tunnel or overhead pedestrian crossing.
If you are between adjacent intersections with operational traffic signals, you may not cross anywhere other than a marked crosswalk. C.R.S. § 42-4-803
What if You Were Jaywalking?
Jaywalking refers to a pedestrian crossing in the middle of a road between two intersections. It is against the law in Colorado for a pedestrian to cross the street anywhere other than crosswalks, marked intersections, or unmarked intersections.
Let’s read about a Colorado pedestrian accident that involved jaywalking.
Colorado Jaywalking Case
Background: Dennis v. Johnson
Oscar Johnson had been in a Denver tavern for about an hour and later admitted to drinking four beers. He walked out into the dark, drizzly night and proceeded diagonally across West Colfax Avenue — a wide, four-lane highway with a safety island in the center.
Johnson had an opportunity to safely cross at a signal light on the next corner. However, he later testified that he never once looked to his right while crossing Colfax. Instead, he walked through the safety island without stopping to check for traffic coming from his right.
Glendene Dennis was traveling west on Colfax in the outside lane at roughly 35 mph — 10 miles slower than the posted speed limit. Dennis immediately applied his brakes when his low-beam headlights illuminated Johnson.
The car skidded in a straight line on the wet pavement, traveling 72 feet before stopping. Police believe the vehicle struck Johnson about 25 feet before it reached a complete stop.
The Lawsuit and Subsequent Appeal
Johnson sued Dennis in a Jefferson County district court, which ruled in his favor. Dennis appealed the decision all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court.
Highest Court Rules in Driver’s Favor
The Colorado Supreme Court determined that Dennis had not been driving negligently or carelessly on the night of the accident. By contrast, “Johnson was not walking in a careful or prudent manner:”
He was crossing one of the busiest highways in the state and was thoroughly familiar with it and with the traffic it carried… But, arriving at the safety island, where he could and should make observation of the westbound traffic, and where he could safely stay until all traffic had cleared, he nevertheless, without heed to what was coming, continued to walk across the highway and into the path of the oncoming Dennis car. Dennis v. Johnson, 136 Colo. 357, 360, 317 P.2d 890, 892 (1957)
The court found that Johnson not only showed a negligent disregard of the situation at hand but also violated the Colorado law requiring pedestrians who are “jaywalking” to yield the right-of-way to automobiles.
Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s decision, vacating the original judgment and dismissing Johnson’s lawsuit.
If you have been hurt in a Colorado pedestrian accident, you must prove that the driver was negligent and therefore liable for your injuries.
Let’s take a look at how Colorado courts determine negligence in pedestrian accidents.
Contributory Negligence vs. Comparative Negligence
In this article, we will talk about two kinds of negligence in Colorado pedestrian accident cases: contributory negligence and comparative negligence.
Contributory negligence prevents an injured party from collecting any damages after a Colorado pedestrian accident if the collision was partially caused by their own carelessness.
If you are hit by a vehicle while crossing the road outside a designated crosswalk, you may be considered contributorily negligent. This means you cannot recover damages from the driver.
Meanwhile, comparative negligence allows more than one party to share the blame in a Colorado pedestrian accident. The court will then award damages based on each individual’s share of the fault:
Contributory negligence shall not bar recovery in any action by any person or his legal representative to recover damages for negligence resulting in death or in injury to person or property, if such negligence was not as great as the negligence of the person against whom recovery is sought, but any damages allowed shall be diminished in proportion to the amount of negligence attributable to the person for whose injury, damage, or death recovery is made. C.R.S. § 13-21-111
Comparative negligence is considered an affirmative defense in Colorado pedestrian accident cases. Affirmative defenses are meant to excuse or justify the behavior on which the lawsuit is based.
When Comparative Negligence Applies
This statute applies in a Colorado pedestrian accident when:
- the comparative negligence of the plaintiff has been raised as a defense
- there is evidence that both the plaintiff and the defendant were negligent, and
- such negligence caused the plaintiff’s injuries. McCall v. Meyers, 94 P.3d 1271, 1272 (Colo. App. 2004)
Colorado Comparative Negligence Case
In April 2019, Angela Lucero was crossing South Potomac Street in Aurora, 160 feet of the designated crosswalk at the intersection of South Potomac and East Mississippi Avenue, just after 8 p.m.
At the same time, Kyle England was driving his Toyota Tacoma northbound on South Potomac in the right lane, intending to turn right at the intersection of Mississippi and Potomac.
England’s Tacoma struck Lucero, who spent a week in the hospital and had to undergo surgery on her right leg. Lucero’s medical bills totaled more than $200,000.
Pedestrian Sues Driver
Lucero sued England in an Arapahoe County district court the following year. Based on the evidence, the court found that both parties were negligent.
A judge concluded that Lucero should not have crossed the street without using the available crosswalk. Additionally, based on witness testimony, she should have been able to see oncoming traffic prior to walking out in front of England’s car:
A reasonable person would have used the crosswalk that she knew was there and would not have crossed a busy street in the dark, wearing dark clothing, without using the crosswalk. A reasonable person would not have darted out in front of oncoming traffic. Lucero v. Eng., 2020 Colo. Dist. LEXIS 2071, *10-11
However, using that same logic, the court found that England also should have been able to see Lucero in the median prior to her running out in front of his car.
Therefore, the court concluded that both Lucero and England had met their burden in proving the other party’s negligence.
The court found that Lucero was 51 percent negligent in this incident. Consequently, England was found to be 49 percent negligent.
What Damages Can I Recover in a Pedestrian Accident?
A settlement or jury verdict for a personal injury claim can cover several categories of damages. These categories include primarily three types of compensatory damages:
- Economic losses. This can include medical bills, lost wages, and other items such as loss of future wage earning capacity or costs of future medical treatment. Your economic damages should be covered by your personal injury settlement or jury verdict as long as they have been documented and can be demonstrated to be related to the incident in which you were injured. Additionally, under Colorado law the entire billed amount of your medical bills must generally be considered an economic loss, even if your health insurer was able to pay reduced amounts in satisfaction of the bills (see C.R.S. § 13-21-111.6).
- Noneconomic losses. The dollar amount of these losses cannot be directly documented. Examples include pain and suffering, as well as loss of enjoyment of life. Additionally, noneconomic losses in Colorado are subject to a limit on compensatory damages. (See C.R.S. § 13-21-102.5).
- Physical impairment. This covers temporary or permanent and full or partial loss of use of a body part. (See C.R.S. § 13-21-102.5(5)). Unlike noneconomic losses, physical impairment damages are not subject to the compensatory damages cap.
You May Also Seek Punitive Damages
Punitive damages are not based on the losses you have suffered. Instead, they serve to punish the at-fault party for particularly egregious conduct.
A jury award for punitive damages may not exceed the corresponding monetary award for compensatory damages. Many times insurance policies will not cover punative damages. That means the defendant, rather than his or her insurance company, may be left paying the punitive damages award.
How Long Do I Have to File a Claim?
In Colorado, an injury claim arising from any kind of vehicle-related accident must be filed within three years. In legal terms, that time limit is called the statute of limitations. The clock, so to speak, begins to tick on the date of the accident.
Speak with a Colorado Personal Injury Attorney Today
If you have been injured in a Colorado pedestrian accident, you absolutely need an experienced personal injury attorney on your side. The personal injury attorneys at Robinson & Henry can help protect your rights and maximize any potential recovery. Call 303-688-0944 today to begin your free case assessment. Si gustarÍa hablar con nosotros en español, por favor llámenos al 720-359-2442.