Compensatory damages compensate an injured person for losses suffered in a Colorado personal injury case.
Economic (pecuniary) damages include:
These damages are more easily identifiable through documentary evidence, and usually have a defined value.
Non-economic damages are those which are not typical “out-of-pocket” expenses. These losses are more subjective, and include:
- pain and suffering;
- emotional distress;
- emotional distress;
- loss of enjoyment of life; and
- loss of consortium.
While these damages are less easily defined, they are no less valuable to the victim of an accident. They can be proven alongside economic damages to ensure compensation for all aspects of an injury.
Non-economic damages are subject to certain limitations, or “caps,” in Colorado. These are discussed in further detail below.
Below, our Colorado personal injury attorneys address frequently asked questions about compensatory damages in personal injury lawsuits and the injuries you may have suffered.
- 1. What are compensatory damages in a Colorado personal injury case?
- 2. What are economic damages?
- 2.3 Can I recover damages for the time I was not able to work?
- 3. What are non-economic damages in a Colorado personal injury case?
- 4. Are there caps on damages in Colorado personal injury cases?
1. What are compensatory damages in a Colorado personal injury case?
Compensatory damages are designed to compensate an injured person for the harm they suffered due to some type of accident, such as:
- an auto accident;
- a slip and fall; or
- a boating accident.1
These are different than punitive damages, which are designed to punish the person who caused the accident due to some extreme indifference or wrongful conduct.
2. What are economic damages?
“Economic damages” are the type to which a dollar amount can more easily be attached. These are designed to cover:
- out-of-pocket expenses the victim of the accident spent; or
- future expenses the victim will likely need to spend.
2.1 Can I get my medical bills paid for in a Colorado personal injury case?
One of the primary costs of an accident is the medical bills caused by a person’s injuries. When another person is responsible for the accident, he or she should also be responsible for the medical bills the victim suffered as a result.
This includes not only the costs already incurred at the time of the trial but also the expected future costs of medical bills for the years to come.
2.2 Can I recover money for damage to my property, such as my car?
In an auto accident, the motor vehicles involved were likely damaged, often totaled.
The cost to repair these vehicles as well as associated costs including a rental car can be recovered from the person responsible for the accident.
2.3 Can I recover damages for the time I was not able to work?
Yes. When a person is unable to work as the result of a Colorado accident, he or she can recover any lost wages that resulted from the accident.3
This is also true of any “lost earning capacity,” meaning the change in how much a person can earn as a result of his or her injuries.
3. What are non-economic damages in a Colorado personal injury case?
Non-economic damages are those that are not “out-of-pocket” but instead represent more subjective losses.
3.1 What can I recover for my pain and suffering?
Pain and suffering can be part of a personal injury claim or lawsuit that results in a financial award for a person’s:
- psychological damage, and
- mental suffering.4
Physical injury is not always required for pain and suffering damages to occur, but a person can be compensated for:
- the stress a person went through;
- the shock caused by the accident;
- the toll of recovering from the accident.
3.2 What is loss of consortium?
- moral support,
- sexual relations, or
from a spouse.
This type of claim occurs after a person has been injured and is suing the responsible party in a personal injury lawsuit.5
4. Are there caps on damages in Colorado personal injury cases?
A “damage cap” is a limitation on the amount of certain kinds of damages a person can receive in the State of Colorado. The purpose of a damage cap is to prevent verdicts from:
- getting out of control; and
- becoming a burden on the economy.
4.1 Are there caps on economic damages?
There are no caps on economic damages for most cases. The exception to this rule is for medical malpractice cases, which are capped at $1,000,000 except in extreme cases.6
4.2 Are there caps on non-economic damages?
There are a significant number of different limitations or “caps” placed on non-economic damages in Colorado.
- Medical Malpractice: $1,000,000 total damages of which no more than $300,000 may be for pain and suffering.
- Pain and Suffering: $250,000 plus inflation unless clear and convincing evidence, then it is up to $500,000 (plus inflation) or unless there is permanent physical impairment, in which case there is no cap.
- Dram Shop: $150,000 total recovery against tavern or bar per person injured.
- Wrongful Death: Pain and suffering limited to $250,000 or $500,000, plus inflation, unless by medical negligence, then it is $300,000. No cap if the death was the result of a felonious killing.
- Punitive Damages: Punitive awards may not exceed the actual damages awarded unless the court determines certain criteria are met, then it is not to exceed three times the actual damages awarded.
Call us for help…
For questions about compensatory damages in Colorado or to confidentially discuss your case with one of our skilled Colorado criminal defense attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us. (For cases in California or Nevada, please visit our pages on compensatory damages in California injury cases and compensatory damages in Nevada injury cases).
We represent clients in and around Denver, Colorado Springs, Aurora, Fort Collins, Lakewood, and several nearby cities.
- 16 COPRAC 16:32 (Compensatory Damages).
- 17 COPRAC 5.13 (Payment of Medical Bills).
- Bondi v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 757 P.2d 1101 (Ct. App. Div. I 1988) (plaintiff seeking claim for lost wages due to an automobile accident).
- Goodson v. American Standard Ins. Co. of Wisconsin, 89 P.3d 409 (Sup. Ct. of Colorado 2004) (Non-economic losses recognized under the rubric of compensatory damages include emotional distress; pain and suffering; inconvenience; fear and anxiety; and impairment of the quality of life.) See also CRS 13-21-102.5.
- 8 COPRAC 38:18 Consortium Damages.
- CRS 13-64-302 (Limitation of liability–interest on damages).