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Car Accident Settlement Timeline in Colorado

Car Accident Settlement Timeline in Colorado

After a car accident in Colorado, you will likely start the process of pursuing compensation by negotiating with an insurance company. The goal is to reach a settlement that fully compensates you for your damages

However, if you’re unfamiliar with this process, you may be wondering about the timeline and what to expect. Working with an experienced personal injury lawyer will drastically improve your chance of securing a favorable outcome. 

Background: Car Accidents in Colorado

Colorado sees several hundred deaths a year from nearly 100,000 car accidents statewide. Truck, bus, motorcycle, and pedestrian accidents are also common.

At-Fault vs. No-Fault Insurance

Some states have “no-fault” auto insurance systems. In these jurisdictions, it doesn’t matter who caused the accident—people must first turn to their no-fault insurance for coverage. 

Such is not the case in Colorado. In Colorado, you can immediately sue the at-fault driver, or you can make a third-party claim against their liability insurance policy.

The Elements of Negligence in a Colorado Car Accident Claim

In Colorado, most car accident claims are based on negligence

To win compensation in a negligence claim, you must prove: 

  • The at-fault driver owed you a duty of care. This is expected on a public road.
  • The driver breached their duty of care to you. This could be something they did (run a red light) or something they didn’t do (use their turn signal).  
  • Damages: You must have suffered physical harm and/or property damage.
  • Causation: The defendant’s breach of duty must have caused the injury you suffered.

Keep in mind that it’s a lot easier to prove a civil car accident claim than to prove a criminal charge.

Comparative Fault

Colorado courts apply a modified comparative negligence rule to the distribution of damages when more than one party is responsible for an accident. 

Any party whose fault for the accident is 50% or more is disqualified from compensation no matter what harm they suffered. Any party from 1% to 49% at fault will see that exact percentage deducted from any awarded compensation. 

What’s the Difference Between a Verdict and a Settlement?

A verdict is a decision of a jury after a courtroom trial concerning a defendant’s liability. A jury might demand that the defendant pay the accident victim, or it might refuse to award any compensation. 

A settlement, by contrast, is a private agreement between two or more parties. The parties sign a settlement agreement, and either party can enforce it as a contract.

The Benefits of Settlement

In most disputes, there is only one issue that both parties can agree on—settlements are better than going to court. Most of the time, neither party wants to take their dispute all the way

to trial. 

Settlements offer the following benefits: 

  • Quicker resolution
  • Reduced costs
  • Certainty of outcome (vs. the unpredictability of a jury decision)
  • Privacy (since trials are public)
  • Flexibility in negotiating terms
  • Lower stress
  • Guaranteed compensation without the risk of losing at trial

However, settlement might be a bad idea if one party is much more powerful than the other.

A Word About the Timeline of a Settlement

No lawyer can give you an ironclad guarantee of the timing of your settlement. You shouldn’t even consider hiring a lawyer who presumes to do so. What you can do is learn which factors affect timing so that you can apply them to the facts of your case and come up with a ballpark estimate. Most auto accident claims are resolved within a few months, but some take much longer.

What Are the Stages of a Car Accident Settlement?

Not all settlements proceed in the same way. Below is a sample settlement timeline that captures every stage that you are likely to participate in. It omits certain possible activities, such as arbitration.

The Preliminary Investigation

If you can, gather evidence at the scene of the accident—photographs, contact and insurance details of the other driver, eyewitness contact details, etc. The positions of the cars on the road and skid marks are particularly important. Your lawyer will also conduct an investigation by interviewing witnesses, obtaining your medical records, etc.

The Demand Letter

You’ll probably need to send a formal demand letter to the insurance company to kickstart negotiations. The letter should be professionally drafted, it should include a deadline for a response, and it should include supporting documentation.


The insurance company might ignore your demand, or it might flatly reject it. If so, your case may proceed to litigation. If, on the other hand, the company issues a settlement offer, the negotiation process has begun. 

Expect the settlement offer to be pitifully low–this is normal. It’s your job, or your lawyer’s job, to issue a more realistic counteroffer. From there it’s typically a game of ping-pong: offer/counteroffer, etc.

Litigation: Filing a Lawsuit

Filing a personal injury lawsuit is a great way to:

  • Get the other side’s attention
  • Beat the statute of limitations deadline
  • Gain access to the pretrial discovery process

Filing a lawsuit doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll go to trial. In fact, you probably won’t. If the defendant issues an acceptable settlement offer, you can always drop your lawsuit. 

Pretrial Discovery

Pretrial discovery is a court-supervised evidence-gathering process that is available to parties to a lawsuit. 

It consists of three main legal weapons:

  • Depositions: Out-of-court, under-oath cross-examination
  • Interrogatories: Written questions that the recipient must answer under oath
  • Demands for the production of documents and physical evidence (for example, a waiver of liability or DNA evidence)

A court can sanction any party who refuses to cooperate with the discovery process. You can even demand evidence from third parties, such as banks.


Pretrial discovery typically yields enough evidence to allow a resolution to the case. A mediator is a third party trained in finding compromise solutions. Mediated solutions, however, are always based on the mutual consent of the parties.

The Settlement Agreement

Don’t try to settle your dispute on a handshake. A lawyer should carefully draft the agreement because every word matters. Once both parties sign it, it becomes a binding contract, enforceable in court.

Disbursement of Funds

The settlement funds will go to your lawyer, who will deduct fees and costs. It might take a few weeks to get your money, especially if a large insurance company is paying your claim.

Contact an Experienced Colorado Car Accident Lawyer For Help With the Settlement Process

Don’t try to represent yourself if your claim is worth a substantial amount of money. But remember, you might have no idea how much your claim is worth until you contact a lawyer in the first place. Don’t worry; an initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer is free of charge, and it comes with no obligation to hire the lawyer.

Where We Are

We are located across the street from Union Station in downtown Denver and offer validated parking for all our clients. We also have offices in Boulder and Colorado Springs.