When someone sustains a serious injury due to the actions of someone else, Colorado personal injury law gives them the legal means to address the wrong through compensation for damages.
The word “damages” in a personal injury claim refers to all of the consequences of an injury caused by another individual or business entity’s negligence, reckless actions, or intentional wrongdoing.
Common personal injury claims stem from car accidents, slip-and-fall injuries, and injuries from defective products. When an injury victim makes a claim for damages, it’s typically for compensation for economic damages like medical expenses and lost income, as well as non-economic damages like pain and suffering and emotional injury.
However, in less common cases, Colorado personal injury courts may award another type of damages that doesn’t serve the purpose of compensating a victim, but instead, acts as a punishment and behavioral deterrent for the wrongdoer who caused the injury.
What Are Punitive Damages in Colorado?
Not all Colorado personal injury cases result in awards for punitive damages, especially when they’re based on simple negligence. We all owe a general duty of care to take reasonable measures to prevent causing injury to others in our orbit.
If someone breaches this duty of care and the result is an injury to someone else, they’re responsible for compensating the injury victim’s damages—typically through the appropriate insurance policy, like auto insurance for a car accident or commercial property liability insurance for a slip-and-fall injury.
But what if the injury doesn’t result from careless negligence but instead from something more egregious?
When a serious injury results from another person’s extreme recklessness without regard for the consequences, or from intentional wrongdoing, the court could award the victim punitive damages. Common causes for punitive damages awards include injuries resulting from the following:
- Acts of malice
- Willful misconduct
- Drinking and driving accidents
- Road rage
Punitive damages are not meant as reimbursement for the victim’s financial losses, but can substantially increase their monetary award in order to punish the wrongdoer and deter a repeat of the egregious behavior that led to the injury.
Injury victims cannot make a claim for punitive damages when they initially file a claim for compensation for their injury, but when a case results in a lawsuit in court, the judge may instruct the jury about the availability of punitive damages.
Does Colorado Limit Punitive Damages?
Not only does Colorado limit the cases in which punitive damages are available, but the state also limits the amount a jury can award for punitive damages. In most cases, the amount awarded for punitive damages in Colorado cannot exceed the total amount of compensation awarded to the victim. In many cases of egregious actions that result in harm to someone else, an award for punitive damages doubles the amount of money awarded to the victim.
If the defendant in a personal injury claim continues to act recklessly, attempts to intimidate the victim, or causes further injury during the course of the injury claim, the state may remove the cap on the amount of punitive damages awarded. In these cases, the jury can award up to 300% of the victim’s compensation amount.
If you or a close family member suffered a serious injury due to someone else’s egregious behavior or wrongdoing, speak to your Westminster personal injury lawyer about the availability of punitive damages in your case.