How Colorado state laws limit the amount of damages you can sue for in your personal injury case
As you are considering your next legal steps for your personal injury case in Colorado, it’s time to crunch the numbers to determine exactly what your injuries are worth.
What’s included in injury calculations?
In Colorado, there are two basic types of damages that are available to you:
- Economic (special) damages
- Non-economic (general) damages
Economic or special damages are your personal injury losses that are easy to add up on your calculator:
- Medical bills
- Lost income due to missing work
- Loss of property or property damage
- Any other out of pocket expenses you incurred due to injury
Clearly, these types of damages are the easiest to add up.
You need to save all of your medical bills and receipts so that you can be compensated for all of those expenses.
However, you also need to keep in mind any future medical costs you may incur. If you have not yet fully recovered from your injuries, you may have to calculate how much those additional medical bills and doctor visits will cost.
Typical Factors Used to Determine Injury Claim Value of an Accident
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Lost wages also may need to be projected out into the future. Don’t worry: Assuming that you have retained a personal injury attorney or plan to, he or she can easily help you add all of these up.
General damages, like pain and suffering
General damages refer to any inexact damages that cannot be easily calculated:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional pain, anxiety and stress
Obviously, pain and suffering damages are the most difficult to calculate in a personal injury lawsuit or settlement. There are two major ways that insurance companies use to calculate general damages.
The multiplier approach
The first is to use a ‘multiplier.’ This means that the insurance company will add up all of your special damages that are simple to calculate and multiply it by a number between 1.5 and 4 or 5, on the higher end.
How high will the multiplier be? It depends upon many things:
- How serious the injuries are
- How quickly you are likely to recover
- How your injuries affect your daily affairs
- How clearly your injuries were observed and documented by a medical professional
- Diagnosis came mostly from MDs and hospitals
- Doctors clearly state that you will suffer a permanent consequence, such as pain, immobility or discomfort
- How clear the other party was at fault
The multiplier is the method that is used by insurance companies most often to calculate non-economic damages. The major sticking point in most settlements or lawsuits will always be how high that multiplier is going to be.
Daily rate or per diem
The other way that pain and suffering can be calculated in Colorado is through using a daily rate, or ‘per diem.’ The concept here is to demand a dollar amount for every day that you had to live with your injuries.
The difficult part with the per diem method is to legally justify the daily rate you use. A smart way to ensure that the per diem is ‘reasonable’ in the eyes of a judge or jury: use your daily pay rate. Your argument is that having to deal with the pain and suffering of your injuries each day is worth at least what you make at work.
However, the per diem method will not work with longer term injuries, or permanent ones.
If you are dealing with injuries that serious, you definitely will want to retain the services of a Colorado personal injury attorney. He or she will be able to calculate a fair and just range of settlement based upon similar verdicts and settlements in your area.
How about punitive damages?
It may not seem fair – imagine for example if a person loses a limb or is blinded due to the recklessness of another party – but Colorado law is that punitive damages can only be as high as the actual damages awarded to the victim.
This cap means that the largest portion of personal injury compensation is usually the economic portion. What this means in the real world: The lives of lower wage earners in Colorado are often deemed to be worth less than people who earn a high salary.
Remember the Colorado statute of limitations
CRS section 13-80-102 states that ‘tort actions’ that include ‘actions for negligence’ have to be begun two years after the date of the accident. One exception is when an automobile is involved. See details on Colorado statutes of limitation here.
This statute of limitations is especially critical for loved ones who lost a loved one due to the negligent actions of another party. In such a tragic case, the last thing you may want to think about is a lawsuit. However, you still have just two years from the date of the accident to file a wrongful death lawsuit (see CRS 13-21-201).
Even if you are confident that your personal injury or wrongful death suit is clear cut, you are wise to leave yourself plenty of time. You should consult with an experienced Colorado personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after the accident.
In most cases, consulting with an attorney in a personal injury case is free, so you really don’t have anything to lose. See our Friend of Enjuris lawyer for Colorado.