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Understanding Colorado Chain Laws and Truck Liability

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November 20, 2023 Personal Injury, Truck Accidents

Colorado’s picturesque landscapes are a sight to behold, especially during the winter months when snow blankets the state in pristine white. However, this stunning winter wonderland comes with its own set of challenges, especially for those navigating the roads.

To ensure safety and order on these wintry highways, Colorado chain laws dictate when and where passenger and commercial vehicles require tire chains. Understanding and adhering to these chain laws is not just a matter of compliance. It safeguards lives.

When drivers of passenger vehicles fail to comply with chain laws, the risk of dangerous accidents increases. The danger compounds when heavy trucks like 18-wheelers do not follow the laws.

A semi-truck or tractor-trailer typically weighs significantly more than a passenger vehicle. While the weight can vary depending on the specific make and model of the truck and its cargo, an 18-wheeler can weigh up to 80,000 pounds (about 40 tons) when fully loaded.

In contrast, a typical passenger vehicle, such as a sedan or SUV, usually weighs between 3,000 and 5,000 pounds. This means that an 18-wheeler can outweigh a passenger vehicle by 16 to 27 times.

The substantial weight difference underscores the importance of safe driving practices and caution when sharing the road with these much larger commercial vehicles.

If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, particularly while in violation of chain laws, it’s crucial to promptly seek the support of an experienced truck accident attorney in Denver.

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Colorado Chain Laws

Understanding Colorado Chain Laws and Truck Liability

In snow and ice, tire chains significantly enhance a vehicle’s traction. This added grip helps reduce the likelihood of slipping and sliding, allowing for better vehicle control. Chains also stabilize the vehicle by minimizing skidding, swaying, and fishtailing. This increased stability prevents accidents, particularly when navigating steep or winding mountain roads.

According to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), Colorado’s chain law, initially enacted in 1996, applies to all state, federal, and interstate highways. Chain and traction law codes apply to commercial vehicles and passenger vehicles.

Commercial Vehicle Chain Law

Commercial vehicles and trucks must have chains.

Under Colorado’s chain law, commercial vehicles transport passengers or property and fit into one of the following categories:

  • Gross combination weight rating of 16,001 or more pounds, inclusive of a towed unit, which has a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds;
  • Gross vehicle weight rating of 16,001 or more pounds;
  • Designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver.

Vehicles without chains can often lose traction, causing traffic delays and sometimes road closures. For the safety of the traveling public, vehicles must comply with Colorado’s chain law.

Passenger Vehicle Traction Law

Motorists must either drive an all-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicle or (for two-wheel drive vehicles) snow tires or all-weather tires with a mud/snow designation. The law requires a tread depth on all tires of at least 3/16″ regardless of vehicle type. Vehicles that do not meet these criteria must carry chain devices or alternative traction devices. Drivers may not proceed on a closed or restricted state highway without the required traction equipment.

Passenger Vehicle Chain Law

Passenger vehicles weighing less than 16,001 pounds gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) must install tire chains or alternate traction devices (ATD) on two or more drive tires.

Drivers who fail to follow the chain and traction laws may receive a citation and a fine. If they crash, failure to follow these regulations also presents issues of liability.

Truck Liability in Chain Law Violation Accidents

If a truck is in an accident while violating chain laws, the truck driver and their employer may face increased liability. Violating chain laws can serve as evidence of negligence or recklessness, resulting in legal consequences if the accident causes injuries, fatalities, or property damage.

Truck drivers and trucking companies must take chain laws seriously, not only to avoid these consequences but, more importantly, to ensure the safety of everyone, especially during adverse weather in Colorado.

Factors Contributing to Accidents Involving Chain Law Violations

Accidents involving chain law violations in Colorado can result from a combination of factors, often made worse by bad weather.

Here are some key factors:

  • Poor Traction: Tire chains improve traction on snow or ice. When a truck doesn’t use chains as required, it can struggle to maintain traction, leading to skidding and loss of control.
  • Slippery Roads: Adverse weather in Colorado, including heavy snowfall and freezing rain, creates slippery roads. Without chains, trucks may slide on these surfaces, especially on inclines or declines.
  • Stopping Distances: Snow and ice reduce visibility, making it difficult for drivers to see obstacles, other vehicles, and road signs. This limited visibility can contribute to accidents, particularly when drivers travel at high speeds. Trucks require longer stopping distances, especially in poor weather. Without proper traction, a truck may not stop in time to avoid a collision, especially when following too closely.
  • Inadequate Braking: Inadequate traction can affect a truck’s braking capabilities. Without chains, the driver may not stop in time to avoid rear-end collisions or T-bone crashes at intersections.
  • Loss of Control: Chain law violations can result in trucks losing control, which may lead to rollovers, jackknives, or veering off the road. Loss of control causes many accidents involving trucks.
  • Brake Fade: Continuous braking on slippery roads can lead to brake fade, reducing a truck’s ability to slow down or stop.
  • Equipment Failures: In some cases, equipment failures, such as malfunctioning brakes or worn tires, can contribute to accidents, especially with a lack of chains.

Compliance with chain laws, proper training for truck drivers, and an understanding of the unique challenges posed by Colorado’s winter conditions can maintain safety on the state’s roads. These factors, combined with responsible driving practices, can significantly reduce the risk of accidents involving chain law violations.

Determining Liability

Determining Liability

Courts will assess liability in traffic crashes involving Colorado chain law violations using a combination of legal principles, evidence, and investigation. A skilled Colorado truck accident attorney can navigate these often-complicated cases.

Here’s an overview of how courts typically determine liability in such cases:

  • Chain Law Violation as Evidence: The fact that a truck violated chain laws can help prove liability. It indicates non-compliance with state regulations, which you can use to establish negligence or fault on the part of the truck driver and, potentially, their employer.
  • Standard of Care: Liability often hinges on whether the truck driver and their employer exercised a reasonable standard of care. Violating chain laws may fail to meet this standard, as it suggests that the driver didn’t take appropriate precautions given the road conditions.
  • Causation: You must establish that the violation of chain laws directly contributed to the accident. This might involve examining the sequence of events and the role of the violation in causing or exacerbating the collision.
  • Witness Statements: Eyewitness accounts of the accident can provide valuable information about the actions of the truck driver and the conditions at the time of the crash. These statements can help determine liability.
  • Expert Analysis: Accident reconstruction experts and weather experts may provide professional analysis of the accident. They can establish the role of chain law violations in the crash and assess liability.
  • Maintenance Records: If equipment failures or lack of maintenance contributed to the accident, the trucking company may incur liability.
  • Truck Driver’s Actions: The court will scrutinize the actions of the truck driver leading up to and during the accident. This includes their speed, following distance, braking, and overall response to the road conditions.
  • Comparative Fault: Colorado follows a modified comparative fault system. If both the truck driver and the other party involved in the accident share fault, the court may distribute liability proportionally.
  • Insurance Coverage: Insurance policies and coverage limits for both the truck driver and their employer play a role in liability. Insufficient coverage may reduce the ability to compensate accident victims.
  • Legal Process: Determining liability may involve legal proceedings, such as a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. In these cases, a judge or jury may assess liability based on the evidence presented during the trial.

Ultimately, liability in traffic crashes involving chain law violations involves complex legal factors, including compliance with regulations, actions of the parties involved, and the circumstances of the accident.

A truck accident lawyer must thoroughly investigate to establish liability and seek appropriate compensation for those affected by the crash. A personal injury lawyer with experience handling truck accident claims can secure the best compensation and justice after a serious accident.

Legal Consequences for Truck Drivers and Their Employers

When an accident involving chain law violations in Colorado results in injuries or fatalities, both the truck driver and their employer can face significant legal consequences.

Injured parties or the families of those who lost their lives may file civil lawsuits against the truck driver and their employer. These lawsuits seek compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost income, and other damages. If found liable, the driver and the trucking company may need to pay substantial settlements or judgments.

In cases of severe negligence or recklessness leading to injury or death, the truck driver and their employer may face criminal charges for reckless driving, vehicular manslaughter, or other relevant offenses. If convicted, the driver or the company could face fines, probation, or even imprisonment.

In addition to legal consequences, the trucking company may face penalties from regulatory authorities, such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). These penalties can include fines, mandatory safety improvements, or even the suspension of the company’s operating authority.

Contact Fuicelli & Lee Injury Lawyers Today

After a serious crash with a heavy truck injures you or takes the life of someone you love, you may file a personal injury claim or wrongful death case.

John Lee

John Lee, Truck Accident Lawyer in Denver

An experienced Denver truck accident lawyer at Fuicelli & Lee Injury Lawyers can work to secure compensation and justice for your losses. Our legal team is well-versed in state and federal regulations that govern the trucking industry. We will investigate to determine liability, including factoring in the possible violation of Colorado chain laws. Our Denver personal injury lawyer can fight for justice on your behalf, ensuring you receive the compensation you deserve for your injuries and suffering.

Contact Fuicelli & Lee Injury Lawyers today for your Denver truck accident claim. Call us at (303) 444-4444 for your free consultation, or fill out the contact form on this website.

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