- Personal Injury
We would never wish anyone that they suffer a personal injury that forces them to seek a remedy via the courts, but the reality is that many are harmed through the negligence of others. If that happens, you are entitled to monetary compensation—often called "damages"—from the negligent party. Depending on the nature of your case, you may be entitled to different types of personal injury compensation, which can greatly affect the outcome.
Economic damages are the most straightforward type of personal injury compensation because they are focused on harm to which it is relatively easy to assign a dollar value. For example, imagine being injured in a car accident and suffering a broken leg. Because of this injury, you had to go to the hospital, make multiple visits to a physical therapist, and miss several weeks of work. All these things are quantifiable; medical bills can be tallied up, and your loss of earnings is easy to calculate. If someone else was responsible for the accident you were injured in, they are liable for these economic damages.
Non-economic damages are still directly tied to the injuries you suffered but are meant to compensate for injuries that are more difficult to calculate. They are commonly referred to as "pain and suffering" damages. Taking the car crash example above, imagine that instead of a broken leg, one of your legs was amputated due to the accident. Of course, there would still be economic damages—medical bills, loss of earnings, etc.—but it hardly seems fair to limit compensation to these cold calculations. This injury will severely affect your quality of life, and you will likely experience significant ongoing emotional distress.
Non-economic damages address these kinds of injuries by determining their financial value. Money cannot erase the harm you've suffered, but it's the best solution the legal system can offer.
Punitive damages, known in Colorado as "exemplary damages," are a different type of personal injury compensation altogether. Rather than compensate the victim for the harm they've suffered, punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant's bad conduct. For this reason, punitive damages are much less common than compensatory damages.
Perhaps the most famous example of punitive damages in recent memory is the 1994 case in which a woman was awarded $2.7 million in punitive damages after being burned by a hot cup of McDonald's coffee (the total amount was later reduced). Besides compensating the victim for her injuries—which were quite serious, involving third-degree burns and skin grafting—the jury decided McDonald's should be punished for its bad behavior. In that case, McDonald's had already been aware of hundreds of injuries linked to their exceptionally hot coffee but chose not to do anything about it.
To seek punitive damages in Colorado, the plaintiff must demonstrate that at least one of the following characteristics applies to the defendant's behavior:
- Malice – They intended to harm the victim
- Fraud – They intentionally deceived or cheated the victim
- Willful or wanton conduct – They knew their conduct was dangerous, and proceeded anyway with disregard for the consequences
The amount of punitive damages is usually limited to an amount equal to the actual damages but may be increased to three times that amount in egregious cases.
Colorado’s Personal Injury Experts
The most common mistake people make concerning personal injury compensation is to settle their case before knowing what it is worth. Sitting down with one of our experienced attorneys will help you understand what kind of compensation you may be owed and dramatically increase the chances of collecting the appropriate compensation. Contact us to schedule an appointment today.