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Colorado Negligence Law: FAQ

If you are injured because someone else was careless, the legal term for that is negligence. Negligence is a broad term and has come to mean many things, but it has a precise meaning in the law. You will be able to recover for your injuries only if your accident satisfies all the elements of the legal definition of negligence.

Even if you do satisfy the legal elements of negligence, there may still be limits on your ability to receive monies for your injuries. Like many states, Colorado has caps on the amount that can be recovered for negligence claims. Below are answers to ten of the most common questions to help you understand Colorado personal injury laws and the limits on recovery.

1. Legally Speaking, What Is Negligence?

Negligence is the failure of a reasonable person to exercise care toward others to prevent harm. Common situations where negligence can occur include:

2. What Are the Elements of a Negligence Cause of Action?

A negligence cause of action is founded on a duty that is recognized by law. It has four distinct elements that must be satisfied before it can be successful in a court of law. These elements are:

  • Duty
  • Breach of Duty
  • Causation
  • Damages

Below is the definition of each one of these terms.

3. What Is a Duty?

A legal duty is the obligation to provide a certain standard of care designed to protect others from unreasonable harm. In Colorado, the courts determine whether a duty exists.

4. How Do I Know if Someone Owes Me a Duty?

In most cases, a duty of reasonable care can be assumed. However, there are certain legal areas where Colorado has decided no duty is owed. Some examples include:

  • Ski area operators do not owe a duty to a skier for injury from the inherent dangers and risks of skiing. CSR section 33.44.112.
  • People who, in good faith, renders emergency aid are not liable for any civil damages CSR section 13-21-108

5. What Is a "Breach" of Duty?

Even if someone owes you a duty of care, you may not be able to recover compensation for your injuries unless you can show that the person breached their duty. An example of this is the duty that landowners owe to individuals on their property.

In Colorado, someone who is invited onto the property or has a legal right to be there may recover damages only if the landowner failed to exercise reasonable care. More stringently, a trespasser cannot recover damages unless the landowner acted willfully or deliberately. CSR section 13-21-115.

6. What Is Causation?

The term causation refers to the legal cause of the injury. There must be a close connection between the conduct and the resulting injury. For instance, if you were startled by a barking dog and ran into the street to avoid the dog, the dog owner is not liable for the injuries sustained if a car hits you. There is no causal connection between being frightened by the dog and the injuries from being struck by the car.

7. What Damages Can I Recover in a Colorado Negligence Case?

Damages in a negligence case are the injuries that you suffered as a result of someone's negligence. The term "damages" is broken down into two distinct areas:

  • Economic: All out of pocket expenses, such as medical bills and loss of income.
  • Non-Economic: Monies paid for the pain or inconvenience caused by someone's negligent action. This can include damages for pain and suffering, emotional distress, or loss of consortium.

8. What if I Was Partly at Fault for the Accident?

Colorado comparative negligence laws allow recovery for damages even if you were partly responsible for your accident (CSR section 13-21-111). However, you will not be able to recover the full amount for your injuries and you recover nothing if you were 50% or more responsible for the accident.

9. Are There Limitations on the Amount I Can Recover?

Colorado limits the amount that can be recovered for certain types of claims and actions. These damage caps are often adjusted for inflation. Below are some of the areas where there is a limit to the amount you may recover. Check with the Colorado Secretary of State Office for the latest inflation-adjusted limits.

Noneconomic Damages

$250,000 cap adjusted for inflation (CSR section 13-21-102.5)

Ski Area Operator

Total damages not to exceed one million dollars, with a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages, adjusted for inflation (CSR section 33-44-113)

Medical Malpractice

Total damages not to exceed one million dollars, with a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages, adjusted for inflation (CSR section 13-64-302)

Wrongful Death:

$250,000 cap for noneconomic loss or injury, unless the wrongful act constitutes a felonious killing (CSR section 13-21-203)

Punitive Damages:

Amount of reasonable punitive damages not to exceed an amount equal to actual damages (CSR section 13-21-102)

10. What Is the Deadline for Filing a Negligence Suit?

The deadlines for filing a negligence suit are as follows:

Need Help With Your Negligence Claim?

You were injured in an accident that was someone else's fault. You think you have a negligence claim, but you are not sure. You need help in deciding whether you have a case. A Colorado personal injury attorney can help you make the decision. If you do have a case, they will help you collect and preserve evidence. Do not wait too long. Delay in a negligence case is not your friend.

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