How Colorado Laws Affect the Damages You Can Be Awarded
Colorado personal injury cases proceed in accordance with a number of laws.
Statute of Limitations
All states have deadlines for filing personal injury claims in court. In Colorado, a person injured in a motor vehicle accident has three years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. If the victim does not immediately know that he has been injured, the statute of limitations runs from the date that he discovers the injury, not the date that he actually sustains it.
Most personal injury cases are based on negligence, which Merriam-Webster defines as “failure to exercise the care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in like circumstances.” Negligence must be proven before a person or entity can be held responsible for another person’s injury.
To establish negligence in Colorado, four elements must be proven:
- Under the principle of duty of care, the victim must show that the responsible party had a duty to act in a safe manner so as not to cause injury.
- Under the principle of breach of duty, the victim must show that the responsible party violated his duty of care.
- Under the principle of proximate cause, the victim must show that his injuries were caused by the negligent person’s breach of duty.
- Finally, the victim must show that he sustained the damages that he says he sustained.
If the plaintiff in a personal injury case can prove each of these elements, he can establish the right to be compensated for his damages.
Negligence Per Se
If it can be proven that the negligent person violated a law, statute, or regulation, the injured person may be eligible to file a negligence per se case. To recover under Colorado negligence per se law, the victim must prove that:
- The defendant violated a law the purpose of which is to prevent the type of injury sustained by the plaintiff.
- The victim is a member of the class of people the law is intended to protect.
- The defendant’s violation of the law caused the victim’s damages.
Negligence per se claims cannot necessarily be made every time a law is broken. They usually pertain to traffic and speed-limit laws.
In Colorado, damage caps apply in certain situations:
- Damages for pain and suffering are limited to $250,000 (plus inflation) or to $500,000 if clear and convincing evidence shows that the increase is justified.
- Persons who file medical malpractice cases are barred from receiving more than $300,000 for noneconomic damages like pain and suffering, emotional distress, and inconvenience. In most cases, victims are not allowed to recover more than $1 million in economic damages.
- In wrongful death cases, plaintiffs are limited to $250,000 (or $500,000 if clear and convincing evidence exists to justify the larger cap), or $300,000 if the wrongful death was caused by medical negligence.
- Punitive damages cannot exceed the actual damages awarded in personal injury cases — with the exception of wrongful death, in which case an award for damages can be increased to three times the actual damages if certain criteria are met.
In April 2019, Colorado passed a law increasing the state’s damage caps for the first time in over a decade.
Contact an Experienced Colorado Personal Injury Attorney
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, contact the Law Offices of Daniel R. Rosen online or call 303-454-8000 or 800-ROSEN-911 to schedule your free initial consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney today.