What You Need in Order to Prove Your Claim and Recover Damages in Colorado
To be awarded damages in a personal injury case in Colorado, you must prove that a “preponderance of the evidence” indicates that another party is liable for the injuries you sustained. Two kinds of evidence are typically relevant.
As defined by West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, direct evidence is evidence that “if believed, proves existence of the fact in issue without inference or presumption. That means of proof which tends to show the existence of a fact in question, without the intervention of the proof of any other fact.” Examples that may be presented in a personal injury case include:
- Eyewitness testimony from someone with personal knowledge of the facts related to the case.
- Documents such as official accident reports and copies of medical records, medical billing, prescriptions, laboratory test results, wage reports, repair estimates, and insurance policies.
- Photographs of the scene of the accident, the post-collision position of the vehicles involved, and the location and extent of the damages.
- Video footage showing how the accident unfolded over time, sometimes even capturing the moment of collision.
Although powerful, direct evidence is not the only evidence that can be presented to determine liability in a personal injury case.
In the absence of a witness or other direct evidence, circumstantial evidence is often used to prove an accident case. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that circumstantial evidence is “intrinsically no different” from testimonial evidence. In both instances, a jury is asked to weigh the chances that the evidence correctly points to guilt against the possibility of inaccuracy or ambiguous inference.”
Circumstantial evidence requires that one or more inferences be made from the evidence presented to reach a logical conclusion. Scientists who specialize in accident reconstruction can use several pieces of circumstantial evidence to draw conclusions about how a collision happened, the speeds and positions of the vehicles, and even who may have been at fault.
If a party offers expert testimony, he must first “lay a foundation” regarding his qualifications as an expert, the evidentiary basis for his conclusions, and the reliability of his method of analysis. Expert opinions should be presented in an easily understandable way, including when a witness who reconstructs an accident offers an expert opinion as evidence in a personal injury case.
Res Ipsa Loquitur
In some instances, a personal injury plaintiff may rely on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur (Latin for “the thing speaks for itself”). According to this doctrine, one may conclude that a defendant was negligent even without proof of wrongdoing. The doctrine is applicable if the plaintiff can prove that the event in question usually does not happen without negligence, the defendant had sole control over the instrument that caused the injury, and the plaintiff did not contribute to the cause.
Although accident cases rarely rely on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, sometimes they do. For example, it may be invoked if someone stops his car in the middle of the highway for no apparent reason and causes a pileup, or if a parked car starts moving for no reason and hits another vehicle.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident caused by another person’s negligence, contact Colorado personal injury attorney Dan Rosen at (303) 454-8000 or (800) ROSEN-911 to schedule your free initial consultation.