Colorado’s personal injury statutes of limitations vary depending on the claim. In cases involving car accidents in Colorado, the time limit to sue is three years after the crash. But if an accident does not involve a motor vehicle (such as slip and falls), the statute of limitations is two years.
Statutes of limitations usually begin running at the time of the accident. But in some Colorado personal injury cases, the statute of limitations starts running only after the victim discovers they are injured – which can be well after the accident. And if the victim is a minor, the statute of limitation pauses (“tolls”) until they reach age 18.
Once a case’s statute of limitation runs, the victims can no longer sue and recover damages from the at-fault parties. Therefore, accident victims are advised to consult an attorney as soon as possible to start working on a lawsuit.
In this article, our Colorado personal injury attorneys answer the following frequently-asked-questions:
- 1. What is the statute of limitations in Colorado personal injury cases?
- 2. When does the clock start running?
- 3. What if the victim is a child?
- 4. What is the reason for statutes of limitations?
- 5. What about in criminal cases?
1. What is the statute of limitations in Colorado personal injury cases?
The majority of Colorado’s personal injury claims have a two-year statute of limitations, though motor vehicle accidents cases have a three-year time limit to sue.
The following table lists the statute of limitations in Colorado personal injury cases:
|Colorado civil claim||Statute of limitations|
2. When does the clock start running?
The statute of limitations in Colorado personal injury cases usually begins running right after the accident (“tort”) occurred. But in some cases, injuries do not manifest themselves until weeks, months, or longer after the victim was initially harmed.
Therefore, Colorado’s “discovery rule” may cause the statute of limitations to pause (“toll”) until the victim learns of – or reasonably should have learned of – their injuries or losses. The discovery rule frequently applies in cases involving medical malpractice, toxic torts (such as asbestos exposure), and fraud.7
Note that the statute of limitations in Colorado personal injury cases can also toll in cases where the victim is mentally incompetent or hospitalized. And if the person who caused an accident is bankrupt, the statute of limitations can toll until if and when the at-fault party becomes solvent again and is worth suing.8
3. What if the victim is a child?
When a minor under 18 years old is injured in an accident in Colorado, the applicable statute of limitations does not begin running until they reach 18 years old (the “age of majority”).
So if a child is injured in a car wreck, the child would have until their 21st birthday to sue the at-fault parties (18 years old plus the 3-year statute of limitations for car accidents).9
4. What is the reason for statutes of limitations?
Colorado law imposes statutes of limitations in personal injury cases to encourage the swift resolution of legal claims. And practically speaking, it makes more sense to litigate a lawsuit when evidence is available and memories are still fresh.
Note that there is no longer a statute of limitations to sue for sexual assault in Colorado. This is because some victims understandably take years or longer to report their rape.
However, the more time goes by, the harder it may be to win a sexual assault lawsuit due to disappearing evidence and fading memories. Therefore, victims are still encouraged to seek legal counsel as soon as possible after their sexual assault.10
5. What about in criminal cases?
Prosecutors also have a time limit bring most criminal charges:
|Colorado criminal case||Statute of limitations|
|Petty offenses and civil infractions||6 months|
|Traffic misdemeanors||1 year|
|Most misdemeanors||18 months|
|Most felonies||3 years|
The “discovery rule” applies in criminal theft cases since the victim might not discover they have been stolen from until well after the theft.
The statute of limitations is also extended in certain sex crime cases. And there is no statute of limitations at all to bring charges for child sex crimes, murder, kidnapping or felony forgery.11
- CRS 24-10-109.
- CRS 13–80–103. CRS 44-3-801.
- CRS 13–80–102. CRS 13–80–102.5. CRS 13–80–104. CRS 13–80–106. CRS 13-21-124. C.R.S. 8-43-103.
- CRS 13–80–101.
- CRS 13–80–103.5.
- CRS 13-80-103.7. SB 21-073. Note that a six-year statute of limitations still applies to sexual assaults that occurred prior to January 1, 2016.
- See, for example, Wood Bros. Homes, Inc. v. Howard (1993) . See also re. statute of repose: CRS 13–80–102.5, CRS 13–80–104, CRS 13–80–107, and CRS 13–21–403.
- See, for example: Thurman v. Tafoya (, 1993) 878 P.2d 7
- See, for example, Sandoval v. Archdiocese of Denver (. , 2000)
- See note 6. See also Statute of Limitations, Staff Publications, Colorado General Assembly.
- CRS 16-5-401.