What New Legislation on Damage Caps Means For You
You probably already know that there’s a limit on how long you can wait before filing a personal injury claim — the statute of limitations on any claim means that cases that occurred more than a certain number of years ago can no longer be pursued. What you might not know is that there’s also a cap on the amount of compensation that you can receive.
The idea behind damage caps is to keep rampant litigation and extravagant verdicts from negatively affecting the economy. If someone sues their doctor for malpractice and is awarded tens of millions in damages, the doctor’s malpractice insurance will rise, hospital costs will go up, and people will be less able to afford healthcare.
Prior Damage Caps
Colorado had not raised the damage caps on noneconomic damages, derivative noneconomic damages, wrongful death, solatium, and dram shop/social host statutes since 2008, which meant that the spending power of the damages awarded had dropped significantly. Until the new law took effect on January 1, 2020, the limits were as follows:
- Noneconomic damages: $468,010, which can be increased by the court in the case of “clear and convincing evidence” to $936,030.
- Derivative noneconomic damages (damages to someone other than the person suffering the primary injury or loss): $468,010
- Wrongful death: $436,070, including “grief, loss of companionship, impairment of the quality of life, inconvenience, pain and suffering, and emotional stress.”
- Solatium (emotional distress and suffering, as opposed to physical injury): $87,210
- Dram Shop Act: $280,810. The Dram Shop Act allows a plaintiff to file suit against a liquor licensee if it’s proven that the holder of the license “willfully and knowingly sold or served any alcohol beverage to the person who was under the age of twenty-one years or who was visibly intoxicated,” as long as the case is filed within a year.
These amounts can be cumulative. If a bar patron was overserved, then drove drunk and caused a fatal accident, all five categories of damages might be brought to bear. Sorting out which of these categories applies to your specific case is the work of a qualified, experienced attorney, so if you or a loved one has been injured, contact Mintz Law Firm for a free consultation on your case.
New Damage Caps
As of January 1, 2020, new caps were put in place. The value on the new caps is tied to consumer price indexes in Colorado, so they should rise on pace with inflation and the economy in general. As of 2020, the new values are as follows:
- Noneconomic damages: increased from $468,010 (or $936,030 with “clear and convincing evidence”) to $613,760 (or $1,227,530 with “clear and convincing evidence”).
- Derivative noneconomic damages: increased from $468,010 to $613,760
- Wrongful death: increased from $436,070 to $571,870
- Solatium: increased from $87,210 to $114,370
- Dram Shop Act: increased from $280,810 to $368,260
The values will be re-adjusted to reflect the consumer price index every two years on January 1, with the new values announced by the Secretary of State near the beginning of each year in which values change.
Get Help From the Experts
If you’ve been injured, the damages might include property damage, physical injury, emotional distress, lost wages, and other problems that continue to affect your life long after the incident — and insurance won’t always cover everything. Talk to Mintz Law Firm for a free consultation on your case. We’ll tell you what your prospects are, which steps to pursue next, and what kind of compensation you might be entitled to.