The major law to understand is C.R.S. 13-21-102.5 which sets a cap for non-economic damages. This is a general cap for non-economic personal injury damages related to:
- Emotional upset
This Colorado statute states:
(3) (a) In any civil action other than medical malpractice actions in which damages for noneconomic loss or injury may be awarded, the total of such damages shall not exceed the sum of two hundred fifty thousand dollars, unless the court finds justification by clear and convincing evidence therefor. In no case shall the amount of noneconomic loss or injury damages exceed five hundred thousand dollars. The damages for noneconomic loss or injury in a medical malpractice action shall not exceed the limitations on noneconomic loss or injury specified in section 13-64-302.
In 2007 the caps were adjusted for inflation. Now the maximum recovery for these non-economic damages is – in most cases - $468,010.
The cap may be increased by the court to $936,030, IF it is convinced that there is a strong reason to do so. Clear and convincing evidence must be provided in court for the cap to be increased.
Unfortunately, there currently is no case on record we could find where a court in Colorado took such action. Therefore, Colorado personal injury attorneys assume that if a jury awards $500,000 for pain and suffering, the court will decrease that award to $468,010.
Exceptions in Colorado law
There are limited but significant exceptions to the non-economic damages cap:
- Permanent physical impairment: If you have suffered a ‘permanent physical impairment’ due to your personal injury, the cap can be lifted.However, you and your personal injury attorney must convince the judge or jury that you have been so impaired. There is no exact standard in Colorado law that defines ‘permanent physical impairment.’ But we can assume that the bar is set high and difficult to clear.
- Medical negligence: The cap for non-economic damages for medical malpractice cases is different.The cap in these cases is $300,000 (increased in 2003 from $250,000), as stated in R.S. 13-64-302
The statutes also say:
The limitations of this section are not applicable to a health care professional who is a public employee under the "Colorado Governmental Immunity Act" and are not applicable to a certified health care institution which is a public entity under the "Colorado Governmental Immunity Act".
You also may not make the permanent physical impairment argument in medical malpractice cases (the cap specifically includes the value of permanent physical impairment already).
- Wrongful death: The cap for non-economic damages associated with a wrongful death lawsuit is $436,070, adjusted for inflation from the amount stated in R.S. 13-21-203.
See more details in the complete Enjuris guide to personal injury damage caps in Colorado.