Colorado Damages Cap: What You Need to Know
When a person conjures up an image of a successful Denver personal injury lawsuit, they may envision a scene such as this: the case takes place in a large courtroom with ornate wood furnishings and décor. The solemn judge sits looking out upon a courtroom packed with spectators. Between the spectators and the judge sit the litigants, one at each table. At the injury victim’s table one can see a victim in a wheelchair and bandaged from head to toe seated with their personal injury attorney. The other litigant and their accident attorney are seated at the other table. During the trial, the victim testifies about his expensive medical bills and all the pain, suffering, and anguish he has had to endure because of the injury. The jury sympathizes with the injury victim and awards damages for their medical expenses along with millions of dollars to compensate for their pain and suffering.
Is this how a personal injury lawsuit works? Not really, at least not in Denver, Colorado.
What is a Damages Cap and How Does It Work?
In an effort to reign in the costs of lawsuits and keep the amount of damages a victim receives reasonable (in light of the severity and extent of the injuries), Colorado enacted a “damages cap” about 30 years ago. A “damages cap” is a law that indicates the maximum amount of non-economic damage that an injured plaintiff may receive. An injured plaintiff may still try to prove they suffered non-economic damages and seek compensation. However, a jury verdict that awards an amount of non-economic damages in excess of the cap will be reduced to the amount of the cap.
In Colorado, the non-economic damages cap was initially set at $250,000. If clear and convincing evidence exists that this amount is not sufficient to compensate the victim, it could increase up to $500,000. However, these amounts are adjusted for inflation every 10 years. As of 2008, the adjusted non-economic damages cap is 468,010 or up to $936,030 with clear evidence.
Economic vs. Non-economic Damages
The damages cap only applies to non-economic damages. An injured plaintiff can recover an unlimited amount of economic damages provided that they can prove that they did in fact suffer those economic losses. What is the difference, though, between economic and non-economic damages?
Economic damages are those expenses and losses that are objective and easily quantifiable: medical expenses, costs of continuing care, lost wages, and similar losses and expenses. Essentially, economic damages include any loss or expense for which a receipt, bill, or invoice could be created. Non-economic damages include those non-quantifiable but equally-devastating losses such as mental pain and anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and other mental or psychological harm suffered by the injury plaintiff.
Why a Denver Injury Attorney’s Assistance Is Invaluable
In a Denver injury case, an essential step is to use evidence to prove not only that you were injured but also the extent of your injury. While it may be easy to document the expenses you incurred, it can be more difficult to objectively establish a dollar value for your pain and suffering. An experienced Denver personal injury attorney can help you do this by identifying and presenting compelling testimony and tangible evidence that clearly demonstrates the extent of your suffering. This is the way whereby you can obtain the maximum amount of non-economic damages possible.
Zinda Law Group is a Denver personal injury law firm assisting clients in putting their lives back together after a personal injury accident. Contact our office today at 303-800-1501 to get a free consultation and discuss your case with a member of our knowledgeable and compassionate team.