Comparative Negligence in Colorado

Posted by: Sep 02, 2015By Brian Stutheit

Negligence is the failure of a defendant to act as a reasonable person would act under the same or similar circumstances.  A plaintiff/claimant must prove the defendant was negligent, and the negligence caused damages.

Comparative negligence is a claim by a defendant that the plaintiff was also negligent, and the plaintiff’s negligence caused or contributed to the plaintiff’s damages.  If Mr. Halt stops his car abruptly in the middle of a road to read an address and Ms. Ohno rear ends him, Ms. Ohno may be negligent for following too close.  But Mr. Halt may also be negligent.  When Halt sues Ohno, she will plead comparative negligence by Halt.

Comparative negligence is an “affirmative defense.”  This means Ms. Ohno has the burden of proving Halt was comparatively negligent.  An affirmative defense is an assertion the defendant must prove.  Ms. Ohno can deny she was negligent at all.  Mr. Halt must prove his assertion that she was negligent.

If a jury finds the plaintiff/claimant was comparatively negligent, the jury assigns a percentage of fault to the plaintiff, and the damages are reduced accordingly.  If Mr. Halt sustains $100 in damages, but the jury says he was 40% at fault, his damages from Ms. Ohno will be reduced to $60.  If the jury says Mr. Halt was 50% or more at fault for the accident, he will get nothing.

This law of comparative negligence is created by the Colorado legislature, and can be found at section 13-21-111 of the Colorado Revised Statutes.  That section says”

“(1)     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.”