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Laws » What is the duty of care standard under Colorado law?
In Colorado personal injury law, people have the duty to behave as a reasonable person would under the same circumstances. People who breach this “duty of care” are vulnerable to negligence lawsuits in Colorado.
“Duty of care” is the key element in Colorado “negligence” lawsuits. In order to prevail in a negligence lawsuit against someone, the plaintiff would need to prove the following four elements:
If and when a duty exists depends on the situation of the case and the relationship between the plaintiff and defendant. Just some examples of common “duties of care” include:
Specifically, a jury would consider the following factors when determining whether a duty of care exists:
Ultimately, a jury would decide whether a defendant breached his or duty of care by considering whether a reasonable person of ordinary prudence would have acted in the same way as the plaintiff in the same circumstances. This way, the defendant is not held to impossible standards requiring 20/20 hindsight. Rather, the defendant is judged the same way as any ordinary person would in the same situation.
Plaintiffs in negligence cases have the burden to show “by a preponderance of the evidence” that the defendant committed negligence. This means that it is more likely than not that the defendant was negligent. This burden of proof is far lower than the criminal standard, which is “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The best evidence to prove that a defendant’s breach of duty of care caused injuries turns on the circumstances of the case. Common evidence in negligence cases include:
When proving its case, the plaintiff would need to show the jury that his or her injuries would not have occurred “but for” the defendant’s breach of duty of care. Even if there were other causes that contributed to the plaintiff’s injury, the defendant can still be liable as long as the defendant’s actions were a “substantial factor” in causing the injury. (Learn more about modified comparative negligence in Colorado.)
HealthONE v. Rodriguez, 50 P.3d 879 (2002).(“In order to establish a prima facie case for negligence, a plaintiff must show a legal duty of care on the defendant’s part, breach of that duty, injury to the plaintiff, and causation, i.e., that the defendant’s breach caused the plaintiff’s injury…A negligence claim will fail if it is predicated on circumstances for which the law imposes no duty of care upon the defendant. Thus, the initial question in any negligence action is whether the defendant owed a legal duty to protect the plaintiff against injury.”)
C.R.S. 13-21-111 (Negligence cases–comparative negligence as measure of damages).
Michael Becker has over a quarter-century's worth of experience as an attorney and more than 100 trials under his belt. He is a sought-after legal commentator and is licensed to practice law in Colorado, Nevada, California, and Florida.
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