What are Non-Economic Damages?
Injury victims who have been harmed by the negligence of others have an opportunity to pursue compensation for economic and non-economic losses, whether through settlement negotiation or as part of the litigation process. While economic damages designed to reimburse the injured for directly traceable monetary losses resulting from an accident can sometimes be easier to accurately value, non-economic damages meant to compensate plaintiffs for pain, suffering, emotional distress and other types of losses are often just as essential to recovery. In providing aggressive advocacy for victims in Colorado, Denver personal injury attorney Jeremy Rosenthal works to obtain maximum payment for each and every category of harm sustained due to actionable negligence.
Basic Facts About Non-Economic Losses in Colorado Personal Injury Claims
The devastation caused by a serious injury event can be far-reaching, impacting almost every aspect of a victim’s life. The fact of the matter is that some of the most profound losses stemming from an accident are often those that fall into the non-economic category. Though concrete economic losses can certainly be severe, the reduction in mobility, future inability to fully enjoy life as it was prior to the event, physical agony and other effects are often what plaintiffs grieve the most. When lives are permanently and negatively altered in this manner, it is critical that victims are able to pursue full and fair payment for what has been destroyed or taken away, often for good.
Common Types of Non-Economic Losses
Significantly subjective in nature, non-economic or general damages are determined by judges or juries and can be challenging to properly assess. Some of the most typical categories of non-economic damages claimed by personal injury plaintiffs involve:
- the actual injury in question
- pain and physical suffering experienced
- emotional trauma and distress
- permanent disfigurement
- loss of companionship/marital relationship
- reputational harm
- loss of ability to enjoy life
- exacerbation of existing injuries
Factors Considered in Valuing Non-Economic Damages
Making a calculation of what should be paid in non-economic damages can be a confusing and difficult task. Numerous factors tend to go into these determinations, including the age of the plaintiff or victim, his or her particular family circumstance, his or her health history, educational background, employment record and the like. Each jury is likely to interpret evidence in a different way, and damage awards can vary significantly from case to case. Because there is no concrete evidence pointing to a clear dollar value in losses sustained, decisions are necessarily quite subjective.
Non-Economic Damage Caps in Colorado
Any prospective injury plaintiff in Colorado needs to be aware of the fact that the state has imposed inflation-adjusted statutory caps on non-economic damage awards. Because these limits are adjusted often and are not necessarily applicable in every type of personal injury case, it is important to enlist the assistance of an experienced attorney who can help explain the impact such caps may have on a given matter. In a general sense, the legislature has seen fit to impose a general cap for damages related to pain, suffering as well as emotional trauma which, for accidents occurring after January 1, 2008, stands at $468,101, which can be raised to $936,030 upon court discretion, if clear and convincing evidence in support of the increase is presented.
Many plaintiffs can take heart, however, because is often the case that non-economic damages for resulting impairment and disfigurement will not be subject to a cap. Because Colorado currently has no prevailing legal definition of permanent impairment, attorneys enjoy significant leeway in making their case for significant damage awards in this realm. It should be noted, however, that the cap applicable to non-economic damages stemming from a medical malpractice claim, which currently stands at $300,000, cannot be overcome by going the permanent physical impairment route. The limit is firm when it comes to claims against doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers, and is in addition to an overall $1,000,000 cap in such cases which applies to all plaintiffs unless the court decides that good causes exists that application of the limit would be manifestly unfair.
Another Colorado cap on non-economic losses relates to wrongful death claims filed after the death of a close relative. Set at $436,070, this cap is applicable unless the death at issue was caused by a felonious killing. This means that it must be shown that the responsible party acted in a manner more serious than mere negligence. If such a demonstration can be successfully made, the non-economic damage caps that would otherwise apply can be sidestepped. It is also necessary to note that in wrongful death cases in which the deceased party’s heirs were shown to have a non-existent, strained or distant relationship with the claimant, it is possible to make a so-called “solatium” claim which eliminates the need to prove grief or other sorts of non-economic loss due to the death in exchange for a recovery that is capped at $87,210.
Punitive Awards and Damage Caps in Colorado
Broadly speaking, Colorado permits juries to include punitive damage awards in a plaintiff’s overall recovery. However, if the amount assessed in punitive damages exceeds the total amount granted for economic and non-economic losses, it will be reduced to match the amount of actual damages provided for by the jury.
Pursuing Maximum Damage Awards for Victims in Colorado
There can be no doubt that for many victims, it is the loss of life as they knew it prior to the accident event that is most devastating and worthy of compensation. While medical bills and other easily calculable losses can cause untold damage to a family’s finances, it is the resulting inability to engage in hobbies, lifestyles and other pursuits that produces the greatest anguish. Denver accident attorney Jeremy Rosenthal wholeheartedly believes that those who experience such loss because of another party’s negligence are entitled to justice, monetary recovery and a sense of accountability from those responsible. As a result, he is committed to skillfully navigating Colorado’s damage caps and framing each client’s case in such a way as to maximize available awards.
If you or someone you love has been seriously injured due to negligence and are ready to align with a tireless advocate for your rights, we invite you to contact the Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal by calling 303.825.2223.