Colorado Personal Injury Law Basics
Being injured in an accident is a scary, painful, and confusing experience.
Navigating the legal process of a personal injury case can be overwhelming when you are in recovery.
At the Law Office of Steve Roberts, we empathize with our clients suffering from a personal injury accident. Additionally, we advocate on their behalf so they can get compensated by those at fault.
Below is an outline of the personal injury law basics in Colorado that may help answer questions you have following an accident.
Common Types of Personal Injury Accidents
An accident can happen almost anywhere, at any time.
However, certain situations result in personal injury accidents more than others.
We see the following personal injury accident occur most often:
- Car accidents
- Trucking accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- DUI accidents
- Dog bites
- Slip and falls
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Wrongful death
These are not the only types of personal injury accidents, and injuries can range from something minor to life-altering severe. In the worst situations, our loved ones die as a result of a personal injury accident.
Colorado Personal Injury Law Basics
Personal injury cases fall under the doctrine of negligence, where a person’s careless or reckless acts harmed another.
In order to prove negligence in a Colorado personal injury case, the accident victim must prove the following elements:
- Duty: The defendant owed a duty to the victim of the accident
- Breach: That the duty was breached by the careless or reckless acts of the defendant
- Causation: But for the defendant’s actions, the victim’s injuries would not have occurred
- Damages: As a result, the victim suffered actual damages
An example of the elements of negligence in action during a personal injury case would be a car running a red light and striking another vehicle that had the green light, causing injuries. The driver of the car that ran the red light had a duty to the victim to drive responsibly on the road. The driver breached that duty when he carelessly or recklessly ran the red light. But for running the red light, the victim would not have been injured by the driver, and as a result of the driver’s negligent actions, the victims suffered harm.
There are several exceptions to personal injury law in Colorado. For example, slip and falls are also regulated by the Premises Liability Act and dog bites are covered under the Dog Bite Statute. In dog bite cases, Colorado law states that the owner of the animal is held strictly liable for all injuries. This is regardless of whether the dog has a history of aggressive behavior or bitten a person in the past.
The Personal Injury Lawsuit Process
The first step in the personal injury lawsuit process is making sure that your case is still within the statute of limitations.
In Colorado, the statute of limitations for a personal injury case is two years from the date of the accident or the date that the injury from the accident was discovered.
If the accident involves a claim against a Colorado city, county, or state entity, the victim is also required to file a formal complaint within 180 days of the accident. If the required paperwork is not filed in this time, the court is allowed to throw out the lawsuit.
The second step in the lawsuit process is an investigation into the claims of the case as well as negotiation with insurers and other parties at fault for the accident. During this time, your lawyer will try to negotiate a full and fair settlement for your injuries based on the documentation and other evidence of the accident. If a settlement can be reached, the case ends here.
However, if a fair settlement cannot be negotiated, the case moves to court–the third step.
Personal injury cases are subject to the same full trial process as other type of case. This includes a lengthy discovery period with depositions, interrogatories, and other evidence gathering, pretrial motions, trial preparation, and the full court case. After hearing both sides, a judge or jury will determine fault in the accident and the amount of compensation that should be awarded.
Compensation for Personal Injury in Colorado
Victims of personal injury accidents may be entitled to economic and non-economic damages for their injuries.
Economic damages refer to out-of-pocket costs like current and future medical bills, lost wages, loss of future earning capacity, and property damage.
Non-economic damages may be collected for physical and mental pain and suffering, inconvenience, emotional stress, impairment of the quality of life.
Additionally, any physical impairment or disfigurement that will affect you in the future can be accounted for in a settlement.
Families of victims that die in personal injury accidents may also collect damages for wrongful death, which includes funeral costs and compensation for the loss of love, security, companionship, and consortium.
It is important to note that Colorado utilizes a modified comparative fault rule when determining the final amount of compensation a victim receives after a personal injury accident. Once a person has been awarded compensation for their injuries, the court determines the degree of fault they had in the accident and reduces their total award by that percentage. For example, if a personal injury victim received $100,000 in damages and was found ten percent at fault, the total award would be $90,000.
This applies to damages for all personal injury victims found less than 49 percent at fault for the accident. However, under the modified rule, if a party involved in the accident is found fifty percent or more responsible they are completely barred from collecting compensation.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney Now
If you or a loved one has been injured in a personal injury accident in the Denver area or has any questions about personal injury law in Colorado, our office is here to help.