Medical Malpractice Laws in Colorado

Medical malpractice laws in Colorado set forth the rules that control lawsuits against healthcare professionals for professional negligence.

To prove a case of medical malpractice, an injured party (the plaintiff) must show:

  • a legal duty of care on the part of the physician;
  • a breach of that duty of care;
  • an injury to the plaintiff; and
  • that the physician's breach of the duty of care caused the plaintiff's injury.

Who Can Be Sued?

Almost any healthcare provider – not just doctors – can be sued for medical malpractice, including:

  • chiropractors
  • podiatrists
  • nurses
  • anesthesiologists
  • psychologists
  • physical therapists
  • pharmacists
  • hospitals
  • clinics, and
  • laboratories.

Damages

A person can sue for compensatory damages, including:

Damage Caps

In medical malpractice cases, there is a cap on economic damages of $1 million in most cases. This is the "total" that a person is allowed to receive, including any non-economic damage amounts for things like pain and suffering.

A plaintiff may be able to get past the $1 million cap if there is good cause for doing so, and the court finds that the use of the cap would be unfair under the specific facts of the case.

A damage cap for non-economic damages is placed at $300,000 for these types of cases. This includes compensation for things like:

  • pain and suffering
  • fear and anxiety
  • loss of consortium
  • scarring
  • disfigurement, and
  • loss of enjoyment of life.

"Certificate of Review"

In Colorado, a plaintiff who files a medical malpractice action against a healthcare professional must file a "certificate of review" within 60 days of filing the lawsuit.

The certificate is intended to prevent the filing of "frivolous" lawsuits with no medical basis in fact. The certificate of review must state that:

  • the plaintiff has consulted a medical expert with experience in the area of medicine at issue; and
  • the expert has reviewed the plaintiff's specific case and medical records and found that the lawsuit "does not lack substantial justification."

Failure to provide a certificate of review within the 60-day period can result in dismissal of the lawsuit.

Statute of Limitations

There is a time limit in which to file a medical malpractice case in Colorado. The statute of limitations period for medical malpractice cases is:

  • two years from the date the harm was inflicted on the plaintiff; or
  • the date the issue was discovered (or the person could reasonably have been expected to discover it).

Colorado's statute of repose limits cases filed past three years after the harm occurred, unless:

  • there was fraud or concealment on the part of the healthcare professional which prevented discovery;
  • the case involved leaving an unauthorized object in the patient's body (in which case 2 years after discovery or should have discovered foreign object);
  • the injury could not have been discovered even "by the exercise of reasonable diligence;" or
  • if a child under six years old was injured, then before his or her eighth birthday.

Below, our Colorado personal injury attorneys address frequently asked questions about medical malpractice in personal injury lawsuits and the injuries you may have suffered:

1. What is medical malpractice?

Medical malpractice laws in Colorado set forth the rules that control lawsuits against healthcare professionals for professional negligence.

To prove a case of medical malpractice, an injured party (the plaintiff) must show:

  • a legal duty of care on the part of the physician;
  • a breach of that duty of care;
  • an injury to the plaintiff; and
  • that the physician's breach of the duty of care caused the plaintiff's injury.1

1.1 Is this type of case a negligence action?

A case of medical malpractice is a negligence action.

To prove negligence occurred, a person who is injured (the plaintiff) must prove:

  • that the person being sued (the defendant) owed a duty of care to the plaintiff;
  • that the defendant breached that duty of care;
  • that the defendant's breach was the cause of the injury; and
  • that the plaintiff sustained injuries that can be quantified in monetary damages.

In determining whether a person breached a duty of care, the jury will consider:

  • whether a reasonable person
  • of ordinary prudence
  • would have acted in the same way
  • in the same circumstances.2

2. Who can I sue for medical malpractice?

Almost any healthcare provider can be sued for medical malpractice, not just doctors, including:

  • chiropractors
  • podiatrists
  • nurses
  • anesthesiologists
  • psychologists
  • physical therapists
  • pharmacists
  • hospitals
  • clinics, and
  • laboratories.

When a healthcare professional causes you injury due to his or her negligence, you deserve to have your rights protected and to file a lawsuit to protect those rights.

3. What types of damages can I receive for my lawsuit?

A person can sue for compensatory damages, including:

  • medical bills
  • future medical bills
  • physical therapy bills
  • lost wages
  • lost earning capacity
  • loss of consortium, and
  • pain and suffering.

4. Are there caps on the amount of damages I can receive after I win my lawsuit?

In medical malpractice cases, there is a cap on economic damages of $1 million in most cases. This is the "total" that a person is allowed to receive, including any non-economic damage amounts for things like pain and suffering.3

A plaintiff may be able to get past the $1 million cap if there is good cause for doing so, and the court finds that the use of the cap would be unfair under the specific facts of the case.

4.1 Are there limits to the amount of non-economic damages I can receive?

A damage cap for non-economic damages is placed at $300,000 for these types of cases. This includes compensation for things such as:

  • pain and suffering
  • fear and anxiety
  • loss of consortium
  • scarring
  • disfigurement, and
  • loss of enjoyment of life.4

5. What is a "certificate of review" and do I have to file one?

In Colorado, a plaintiff who files a medical malpractice action against a healthcare professional must file a "certificate of review" within 60 days of filing the lawsuit.

The certificate is intended to prevent the filing of "frivolous" lawsuits with no medical basis in fact. The certificate of review must state that:

  • the plaintiff has consulted a medical expert with experience in the area of medicine at issue; and
  • the expert has reviewed the plaintiff's specific case and medical records and found that the lawsuit "does not lack substantial justification."5

5.1 Can my case be dismissed if I don't file the certificate of review?

Failure to provide a certificate of review within the 60-day period can result in dismissal of the lawsuit.

This can be avoided easily by hiring an experienced attorney who knows the law and can ensure everything is filed timely and correctly.

6. Is there a statute of limitations in medical malpractice cases?

There is a time limit in which to file a medical malpractice case in Colorado. The statute of limitations period of medical malpractice cases is:

  • two years from the date the harm was inflicted on the plaintiff; or
  • the date the issue was discovered (or the person could reasonably have been expected to discover it).6

6.1 What is the Colorado statute of repose limitation?

Colorado's statute of repose limits cases filed past three years after the harm occurred, unless:

  • there was fraud or concealment on the part of the healthcare professional that prevented discovery;
  • the case involved leaving an unauthorized object in the patient's body (in which case 2 years after discovery or should have discovered foreign object);
  • the injury could not have been discovered even "by the exercise of reasonable diligence;" and
  • if a child under six years old was injured, then before his or her eighth birthday.7

 

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Call us for help...

For questions about medical malpractice cases or to confidentially discuss your case with one of our skilled Colorado personal injury attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us. For cases in California or Nevada, please see our pages on California medical malpractice laws and Nevada medical malpractice laws.

We represent clients in and around Denver, Colorado Springs, Aurora, Fort Collins, Lakewood, and several nearby cities.


Legal References:

  1. Day v. Johnson, 255 P.3d 1064 (2011).
  2. Lopez v. Trujillo, 399 P.3d 750 (Ct. App. Div. 1 2016). (To prove a prima facie negligence claim, the plaintiff must prove: (1) the defendant owed a legal duty of care; (2) the defendant breached that duty; (3) the plaintiff was injured; and (4) the defendant's breach caused that injury. citing Vigil v. Franklin, 103 P.3d 322, 325 (Colo.2004). Of these elements, duty is the threshold element.)
  3. CRS 13-21-102.5(2)(b).
  4. Same as 3.
  5. CRS 13-20-602 (Actions against licensed professionals and acupuncturists--certificate of review required).
  6. CRS 13-80-102.5(1).
  7. CRS 13-80-102.5(3).

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