After the Crash
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - Traffic deaths surged across Colorado in 2021 hitting the highest in 20 years, many of which resulting in crime scenes. Colorado is one of only four states in the country that has an established unit geared specifically for for victims of traffic crimes.
“When a person is fatally shot or a loved one is assaulted, people instantly recognize these as violent and horrible crimes,” explains Dolores Poeppel, Director of Victim Services Unit at the Colorado State Patrol. “Yet when someone says their loved was killed in a crash, far too often people don’t recognize it the same way, viewing it as an ‘accident’. The truth is that when someone drives over 100mph and kills someone, it is a crime.”
The Constitution of the State of Colorado and the Victim’s Rights Act of the state guarantee specific rights to the victims of crimes like vehicular homicide, menacing, vehicular assault, careless driving which results in the death of another person, failure to stop at the scene of an accident and more.
For thirty-three years, the Colorado State Patrol has provided crisis intervention, resource and direct services to victims of criminal crash scenes including, but not limited to:
- Assistance at the scene and locating their towed vehicle.
- Assistance getting a copy of the crash report and filing an insurance report.
- Information about all critical stages of the criminal justice process
- Information about the eligibility for victim compensation and assistance in completing the forms when applicable.
“Our team currently consists of seven victim advocates that serve residents and visitors across Colorado when the need arises,” stated Director Poeppel. “From the moment the crash occurs through the conclusion of their legal process, we’re there as a resource and we are incredibly honored that people allow us to assist them during one of the most difficult times of their lives.”
The Victim’s Services Unit works collaboratively with the on-scene Colorado State Trooper, hospital emergency room staff, coroners and other law enforcement partners.
“Crashes have a ripple effect,” explains Director. Poeppel. “When a tragic, violent crash occurs, it instantly impacts the family, then it spreads to the neighborhood, maybe the victim’s church or school and touches the community. Crashes should never be minimized.”
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