A personal injury case first begins with establishing negligence, then requires establishment of the damages. An injured party can potentially recover compensation for damages suffered as a result of the wrongdoer’s conduct, including both economic and noneconomic damages, which are detailed below.
Economic damages are damages intended to compensate the victim for actual financial losses, such as wage loss from missed work, hospital expenses, the cost of future medical care and future lost earnings.
Noneconomic damages are designed to compensate the plaintiff for intangible harm, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress and the negative impact that the injuries have on his/her life. Additionally, the spouse of an injured loved one may also be able to recover for the loss of love, companionship and household services of the injured spouse.
In Colorado, the state imposed inflation-adjusted statutory caps on noneconomic damage awards. The Legislature imposes a general cap for damages related to pain, suffering and emotional trauma for accidents occurring after January 1, 2008. This cap currently stands at $468,101; however, the cap may be raised to $936,030 at the discretion of the court. The court’s discretion may be exercised if clear and convincing evidence in support of the increase is presented and is persuasive enough to merit enhanced non-economic damages. Because these limits are adjusted often and are not necessarily applicable in every type of personal injury claim, it is important to enlist the assistance of an experienced attorney who can help explain the impact of such caps.
It is often the case that non-economic damages that resulted in impairment and/or disfigurement will not be subject to a cap. Because Colorado currently has no prevailing legal definition of permanent impairment, attorneys have significant leeway in making their case for significant damage awards in this area.
Link to Colorado Code:
13-21-102.5. Limitations on damages for noneconomic loss or injury
Punitive damages are defined as damages exceeding simple compensation and awarded to punish the defendant. Punitive damages are normally only awarded in extreme cases involving severe misconduct by the at-fault party.
The Colorado statute defines Punitive Damages as follows:
(1) (a) In all civil actions in which damages are assessed by a jury for a wrong done to the person or to personal or real property, and the injury complained of is attended by circumstances of fraud, malice, or willful and wanton conduct, the jury, in addition to the actual damages sustained by such party, may award him reasonable exemplary damages. The amount of such reasonable exemplary damages shall not exceed an amount which is equal to the amount of the actual damages awarded to the injured party.
(b) As used in this section, “willful and wanton conduct” means conduct purposefully committed which the actor must have realized as dangerous, done heedlessly and recklessly, without regard to consequences, or of the rights and safety of others, particularly the plaintiff.
Link to Colorado Code:
It is helpful to speak with an attorney as soon as possible after your accident even if it is just for a free consultation. A knowledgeable attorney will be able to review your case and go over your options.
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