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Written by: J. Todd Tenge

Colorado Drunk Driving Victims Deserve Justice

| Read Time: 3 minutes

Responsibility is a heady thing. You’re given the freedom to make choices, but if you choose wrong, you must accept the consequences. We wish that every person who has been slapped with a DUI immediately realized what they were doing was dangerous and made a change. But many don’t, and for some people, the very first time they choose to drive while “buzzed” is the last time for someone else.

Impaired drivers are more likely to speed, drive the wrong way, make baffling maneuvers, and think it’s a good idea to “squeeze one by” this red light. Their ability to hit the brakes isn’t as strong; their judgment is poor and takes a few extra seconds to clunk into place. That’s time a pedestrian in a crosswalk does not have.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving reports that 27% of all traffic fatalities in Colorado are related to drunk driving. On average, that’s 161 people killed each year, and thousands more impacted by what happened.

If a drunk driver crashes into you in Denver, or takes your loved one away from you, should you sue? Decidedly. And we’ll help.

The Letter of the Law in Colorado

The State of Colorado distinguishes two level of alcohol-related driving offenses:

  • Driving under the influence (DUI): A per se DUI is committed if the driver has a blood alcohol level above .08%. He or she is considered substantially incapably of operating a vehicle safety.
  • Driving while ability impaired (DWAI): Usually ranging around .05% BAC, someone who is driving with ability impaired is less able than an ordinary, functioning adult to safely operate a vehicle.

There is also DUID – driving under the influence of drugs. It is considered much the same way, and police officers in Colorado now have separate tests to check for narcotics influence. Marijuana and psilocybin are two common offenders. The penalties for all of the above may include jail time, fines, license revocation, and community service.

In addition, since a few years ago, Colorado has required an ignition interlock device for all convicted drunk drivers. Though the driver’s license suspension is automatic after an arrest for DUI, the time period is shortened if the driver agrees to install the ignition interlock. In Colorado, a suspected drunk driver cannot refuse chemical tests, like blood, breath, or urine tests; but may refuse to take a field sobriety test.

We also want to point out that criminal charges are separate from a civil claim – even if a driver is found guilty of driving while intoxicated, he is not required to pay the victim. But if a crash occurred and one driver was breaking the law, he is presumed negligent in a civil lawsuit, with or without a conviction. So, you need to file one.

Were You Hit by a Drunk Driver?

There is another factor you should know about drunk driving accident claims in Colorado. The state offers punitive or exemplary damages in certain lawsuits, which are designed to punish a wrongdoer for “willful or wanton” conduct. Driving while under the influence of alcohol – or drugs – or both – certainly would qualify.

One of our clients was riding her scooter near the University of Colorado Boulder when she was rear-ended by a drunk driver. She suffered a mild traumatic brain injury and post-concussive syndrome. Guess what the driver’s insurance company said? That our client’s symptoms went away after a few months, so they didn’t really warrant more than $65,000. They did not, and we refused to settle. We filed a lawsuit and got very close to a trial, before the insurance company backed down and offered her the full policy limits available: $250,000. That paid for our client’s medical treatment completely, and then some.

Another lawsuit we handled took nearly a year of litigation, facing off against two difference insurance companies and their lawyers. Our client, a chiropractor, was struck by a drunk driver, injuring his lower back and inflicting a concussion. He was out of work for a time, but luckily, his injuries did not require surgery. Before we took them to court, the uninsured motorist carrier offered $26,400. After they saw we were serious, they settled for $260,000.

DUI victims in Boulder, you are not alone. The Tenge Law Firm, LLC, knows exactly what to do after some idiot tears a hole in your life. We take care of everything associated with your lawsuit, and do not charge a dime until after we’ve settled the case or dragged them to trial and won a jury verdict.

Call our office at (303) 665-2929 to schedule a free consultation today. We have offices in Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins.

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