Most everyone who watches television or even drives along area freeways has been bombarded with advertisements promising substantial financial recovery to those who file personal injury lawsuits. However, those who have had little, if any prior contact with the legal system may not be entirely certain what constitutes a personal injury action and whether the harm they have suffered is in fact actionable. It is, therefore useful for all Coloradans to familiarize themselves with the fundamental purposes of personal injury claims, how they can help victims and what sorts of incidents tend to form the basis of this type of case. Attorney Jeremy Rosenthal is committed to helping Colorado personal injury victims understand their rights following a serious accident event and advocating for every available dollar of monetary compensation.
Personal Injuries as Tort Claims
Simply speaking, a personal injury case necessarily implies that a particular type of harm has been done to an individual and is the result of another party's negligent acts or omissions or perhaps even their willful conduct. A victim of an injury has the ability to bring a “tort” action in civil court against the party or parties they believe are responsible for their losses so that they can receive financial compensation. Tort law stands in contrast to criminal law, in that such actions are not pursued or prosecuted by the government, but rather involve private individuals who wish to receive compensation for the damages suffered.
Circumstances Commonly Forming the Basis of Personal Injury Actions
It is important to note that the types of incidents and events that can give rise to tort claims are innumerable, and virtually any type of injury to a person can form the basis of such actions. Personal injury cases can stem from scenarios encompassing:
- auto accidents
- slip and fallslip and fall/premises liabilitypremises liabilityslip and fall/premises liability
- dangerous drugs
- defective consumer products
- dog bites
- assault and battery
- wrongful death
- other intentional acts jeopardizing the safety of others
Negligence and Personal Injury Actions
In large part, personal injury actions proceed on theories of negligence, and as such, it is necessary for claimants to establish a series of things in order to demonstrate liability on the part of the defendant. Generally speaking, everyone has a duty to conduct themselves in a responsible way which does not place others at risk of harm. Of course, there are situations in which accidental injury is essentially unavoidable and cannot be blamed on negligence. Thus, for a claimant to show liability on the part of another, it is necessary to prove that a reasonable individual in the same or similar circumstances to the defendant would have made different decisions, thus causing no harm.
If it is established that a duty of care was breached, that the breach was directly connected to the harm sustained and that the injuries and losses experienced can be calculated in a reasonably accurate way, the negligent party will be responsible for compensating the victim. Depending on the nature and severity of the injuries involved, damage awards can range from relatively low to extremely significant.
Other Types of Tort Actions and Defenses Raised
While it is true that negligence forms the basis of a large number of personal injury actions, there are in fact other causes of action which can fall under the umbrella of this area of the law. Intentional torts such as trespass, theft, assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and false imprisonment often serve as the foundation for personal injury cases.
Injuries caused by defective or dangerous products can also be the subject of a solid personal injury case, under the theory that a manufacturer was negligent in the design, manufacture or marketing of a product ultimately found to pose unreasonable risk of injury to those using it. When large number of plaintiffs suffer similar harm after using a particular product, settlement awards and jury verdicts may rise to extremely significant levels.
There are also scenarios in which liability in personal injury action can attach to defendants even if they took steps to prevent the risk of harm to others. This is known as strict liability and can apply when the defendant is involved in an inherently dangerous activity which ultimately results in injury to someone else.
Defendants in personal injury actions may make a number of different defense arguments in an attempt to disclaim liability or limit the availability of monetary damages. For instance, they may argue that the injured party assumed the risk of sustaining injury by engaging in an inherently dangerous activity. Alternatively, it may be asserted that the plaintiff's own lack of care rendered him or her partially responsible for the harm suffered. Under Colorado's doctrine of comparative negligence, successful use of this line of argument can, in fact, serve to reduce a final award of compensation by the percentage of fault assigned to the plaintiff.
Categories of Compensation in Tort Actions
Damages awarded to plaintiffs in personal injury claims tend to be classified as economic and non-economic, with occasional cases also involving punitive damages. Economic damages are designed to reimburse victims for expenses that would not have been incurred absent the defendant's negligence or intentional act. These amounts can include payment for medical bills, rehabilitation and therapy costs, lost earnings, damage to personal property, reduced future earning capacity, household care expenses and the like.
Non-economic damages are more difficult to quantify but are meant to provide compensation for things such as physical pain and suffering, emotional and mental trauma, loss of familial or marital relationships and similar categories of damages. Punitive damages may sometimes be awarded in a case where the defendant's conduct was considered to be particularly egregious or offensive and therefore deserving of punishment and deterrence.
In wrongful death actions brought by the families of individuals who died as a result of another party's conduct, damage awards can include:
- burial expenses
- medical expenses incurred prior to death
- emotional grief and trauma of survivors
- loss of financial contribution and support of decedent
- loss of emotional support and marital relationship
- loss of services decedent would have rendered to family
Resolving Personal Injury Cases Through Negotiation
To those suffering serious personal injuries due to the negligent acts or omissions of another, the specter of protracted litigation can be extremely undesirable and daunting. Fortunately, the lion's share of personal injury claims reaches settlement long before a trial becomes necessary, often through intense negotiation between the victim's legal representative and the defendant and his or her insurance carrier.
These discussions will almost always involve analysis of the injuries claimed, the type of medical treatment already received and likely to be required in the future, the facts of the accident itself and other critical facts. Because insurance adjusters will do everything in their power to minimize or deny claims, an aggressive attorney can be an accident victim's most important ally.
When Litigation Proves Necessary
Though most personal injury claims reach a mutually agreeable resolution through the negotiation process, there are times in which it is necessary to proceed to formal litigation and ultimately trial in order for justice to truly be done. When this is the case, a lengthy pretrial discovery or fact-finding period will commence, motions will be heard, and further attempts at settlement will be made.
If trial appears inevitable, a skilled personal injury attorney will bring significant advocacy skills to the table at each stage of the process, including jury selection, presentation of effective opening statements, examination of witnesses, making of closing statements and presentation of jury instructions. Ideally, the end result is an award of compensation for the victim, but if the outcome is unfavorable, the possibility of an appeal may then be explored.
Zealous, Knowledgeable Personal Injury Advocacy in Colorado
Considering the countless ways in which serious personal injuries can occur, it should come as no surprise that the range of emotions experienced by victims is similarly varied. From fear to frustration to outright anger, the reactions of those harmed by the negligence of others must never be allowed to prevent such individuals from taking swift action to protect their interests and those of their entire families. Though the law does provide injury victims with the opportunity to pursue appropriate compensation for losses sustained, the time period in which to do so is not unlimited.
Operating under the firm conviction that those harmed by the negligent acts of others are entitled to justice, accountability and fair financial recovery, attorney Jeremy Rosenthal is proud to fight for victims' rights in Colorado. Whether engaging in aggressive negotiations with insurance carriers or taking a matter all the way through to trial, he pledges to offer clients open communication, essential insights and concrete legal advice born of extensive personal injury claims experience.
If you or someone you love have suffered serious harm and believe that another party's negligent actions were the cause, now is the time to assert your rights and seek the compensation so vital to recovery. For a no-cost initial consultation to discuss your case, contact us at 303.825.2223.