What Colorado Laws Apply to Personal Injury Cases?
Murphy’s Law goes something like this: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
Fortunately, there are several Colorado laws that govern a personal injury lawsuit, including rules about timeframes, fault and liability, insurance, and damage caps that will help keep your case on track.
Statute of Limitations for Colorado Injury Lawsuits
Like other states, Colorado has deadlines, known as a statute of limitations, for filing injury-related cases in court. In Colorado, victims have two years to file a lawsuit after an injury, and if they don’t file the case within that time period, they may be unable to bring it to court at all.
In most instances, the two-year time limit begins on the date of the accident or whatever caused the injury. There are some cases in which the injured person might not be able to tell immediately that hardship was suffered. In those cases, the two-year statute of limitations must begin to run from the date the injury was discovered, not the date the injury occurred.
Colorado’s Comparative Fault Rules
Sometimes in injury cases, an injured person may seek compensation for damages, only to have the individual or company responsible for the injury blame him for the accident by alleging partial or even total fault. Under Colorado law, a comparative fault rule applies, requiring that an injured person share some amount of legal fault for an accident, if applicable.
Colorado uses a modified comparative fault rule, meaning that an injured plaintiff’s damages award will be reduced by the amount of his relative fault, and as long as his fault is less than 50 percent, the injured person will be able to collect a reduced damages award. But if his fault is calculated at 50 percent or more, the injury victim will be barred from collecting anything from the at-fault party. Colorado courts are required by law to apply this modified comparative fault rule in negligence cases.
Colorado Insurance Law and Personal Injury Cases
Since 2003, Colorado has been a fault insurance state, and those injured in a car accident in the state have several options:
• Filing a claim with an insurance company
• Filing a lawsuit in court
• Negotiating an insurance settlement
Regarding dog bite cases, Colorado has a specific statute that makes dog owners strictly liable for an injury, meaning that regardless of the animal’s past behavior, the owner is responsible for a personal injury cased by his dog. This differs from some states where dog owners are protected to some degree from injury liability the first time an animal injures someone, provided the owner had no reason to believe it was dangerous. This is known as the one-bite rule.
Colorado Damage Caps in Injury Cases
Damage caps in personal injury cases are meant to limit the amount of compensation that an injured person can receive. A few states use damage caps to limit non-economic damages, including pain and suffering. Colorado limits non-economic damages in injury cases at $250,000 or $500,000 if there is clear and convincing evidence that justifies a larger award. The damage cap law, passed in 1986, also allows for adjustments for inflation.
There is a $300,000 damage cap on non-economic damages for medical malpractice actions in Colorado, plus an overall cap of $1 million for total damages in a medical malpractice case.
While these laws may seem complex, an experienced Colorado personal injury attorney will be able to wade through the complicated terms and explain what they mean for your personal injury case.
Image by Cezar Santiago Molina.