Colorado Personal Injury Laws & Statutory Rules
Learn about personal injury fault and liability rules, damage caps, the statute of limitations, and more in Colorado.
Several different Colorado laws apply to personal injury cases, and
in this article we'll look at some of them. If you're involved in a
lawsuit or are in the midst of an injury-related insurance settlement,
these rules may apply to your case, so read on.
Deadlines for Colorado Injury Lawsuits
Colorado has its own deadlines for filing an injury-related case in
court. In Colorado, you have two years to file a lawsuit after an
injury. If you don’t file your case within two years, you may be barred
from bringing it to court at all. This deadline is known as a statute of limitations, since it's based on a state law or "statute."
In most injury cases, this two-year time limit starts running on the date of the accident or whatever caused your injury. In a few cases, however, the injured person may not be able to tell right away that harm was actually suffered. In these cases, the two-year time limit may run from the “discovery date” of the injury, instead of the accident date.
Time Limits to File a Claim Against a City, County, or Colorado State Government
One hundred eighty days to file a formal claim. Two years to file a lawsuit. See: Injury Claims Against The Government
Colorado’s Comparative Fault Rules
In many injury cases, an injured person may seek compensation, only
to have the individual or company responsible turn around and blame the
injured person for the accident (alleging partial or total fault).
Colorado has a comparative fault rule that applies when an injured person is does in fact share some amount of legal fault for an accident.
Colorado uses a “modified” comparative fault rule, which works like this: suppose that you are shopping in a grocery store one day. You’re not watching where you’re going, so you trip on a broken floor tile before you notice it’s there. Eventually, it is determined that your percentage of the fault is 10 percent, and the store’s is 90 percent.
In this situation, Colorado’s modified comparative fault rule reduces your damages award by 10 percent. So, if your total damages are $1,000 for the slip and fall accident, you would receive $900, or $1,000 minus $100 that represents the 10 percent of fault assigned to you. As long as your fault is under 50 percent, you can collect a reduced damages amount; if your fault is calculated at 50 percent or more, however, you will be barred from collecting anything from any other at-fault party.
Colorado courts are required to apply Colorado’s modified comparative fault rule in negligence cases. Don’t be surprised, however, if an insurance adjuster also mentions the possibility of shared fault during settlement negotiations.
Colorado Car Insurance Laws
Since 2003, Colorado has been a “fault” insurance state. If you’re injured in a car accident in Colorado, you have several options if you want to seek compensation. These include filing a claim with an insurance company and/or filing a lawsuit in court. Colorado’s insurance and injury laws have some built-in flexibility that you can use while negotiating for an insurance settlement.
"Strict" Liability for Dog Bite/Attack Cases
In many states, dog owners are protected (to some degree) from injury liability the first time their dog injures someone if they had no reason to believe the dog was dangerous. This is often called a "one bite" rule. In Colorado however, a specific statute (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-21-124) makes the owner "strictly liable", meaning regardless of the animal's past behavior, the dog owner is responsible for a personal injury caused by his/her dog.
Damage Caps in Colorado Injury Cases
Damage caps in injury cases serve to limit the amount of compensation that an injured person can receive. A few states use damage caps to limit non-economic damages, which includes compensation for “pain and suffering” and other difficult-to-quantify negative effects of an injury. By law, Colorado caps non-economic damages in injury cases at $250,000, or $500,000 if there is “clear and convincing evidence” that justifies an increase. This law was passed in 1986, and it allows adjustments for inflation. So, taking inflation into account, as of 2014, the base non-economic damages cap was close to $540,000, and the "clear and convincing evidence" level was around $1,080,000. You'll find this law at Colorado Statutes section 13-21-102.5.
Note: For medical malpractice injuries in Colorado, there is a $300,000 cap on non-economic damages (plus an overall cap of $1 million for total damages in a medical malpractice case).
More Information on Colorado Personal Injury Laws
Colorado’s Rules of Civil Procedure provide details on how civil cases (including injury claims) work.