As is true of all jurisdictions, Colorado has imposed strict time limitations for filing a personal injury action. The justification for this is that evidence and eyewitness recollections are only verifiable for so long and also that justice requires defendants to have a fair opportunity to defend themselves within a reasonable time after the event in question. Though the aftermath of a serious injury accident can be extremely overwhelming, and the prospect of filing suit may be the last thing on a victim's mind, the truth is that in order to stand the best chance of securing compensation, swift action is essential. The sooner a personal injury attorney is consulted, the more quickly key facts and persuasive arguments can be marshaled on a client's behalf. Jeremy Rosenthal will work to ensure that the applicable statute of limitations is observed in your case, your complaint is timely filed and your right to pursue monetary recovery is preserved.
Key Categories of Injuries and Their Applicable Time Limits in Colorado
It is important to note that in Colorado, not all types of injuries are subject to the same time limitations for filing suit. For instance, general personal injury claims must be filed within two years of the accident event that caused the harm sustained. Situations to which this limitations period will apply include things such as dog bites, slip and fall cases, product liability matters, medical malpractice and other sorts of negligence. Though, cases in which evidence of medical malpractice was deliberately concealed will be afforded an additional year in which a claim may be filed. If the negligent acts or omissions forming the basis of a complaint lead to a claim of wrongful death, a different limitations period will apply, and a complaint will need to be filed within two years of the victim's actual date of death, which may differ from the date of the injury that ultimately caused it.
In cases of injuries resulting from negligence connected to the operation of a motor vehicle, victims are given three years in which to file suit. The time period begins to run on the actual date of the crash or the discovery of the injuries at issue. If injuries are not in fact discovered until after the accident event, the three-year period will begin to run from the date upon which the harm reasonably should have been detected by the victim. This is commonly referred to as the “discovery rule.” Claims lodged directly against uninsured motorists in Colorado also must be initiated within three years of the accident date itself.
Limitations on Colorado Wrongful Death Claims
With regard to wrongful death claims, it is important to recognize that in the year immediately following the victim's demise, his or her surviving spouse will be given the exclusive opportunity to file suit. However, if the victim was unmarried at the time of death, direct heirs or dependents or designated beneficiaries will be the only parties permitted to seek recovery. In the second year of the limitations period, the spouse, as well as surviving children, will be allowed to bring suit. If no living spouse, children or defined beneficiaries exist, the decedent's parents can proceed with a legal claim at any point in time following the acts responsible for the death.
Colorado Tolling Provisions
Those who have been injured in accidents involving another party's negligence should also be aware of the fact that there are certain types of situations in which the applicable statute of limitations can be “tolled” or essentially delayed from running until a particular circumstance or factual scenario comes to pass. One such scenario is when the potential defendant has filed for bankruptcy protection and thus enjoys the automatic stay from civil litigation and collections efforts. Once the bankruptcy stay is lifted, the time clock on a personal injury claim will begin to run once more, and a victim will be free to commence legal action.
Other reasons why the statute of limitations may be tolled in a personal injury matter include mental incompetence or minority of the victim. If an individual is suffering from a mental handicap following an injury, the statute of limitations will not run until that disability is deemed no longer present. Similarly, a victim who is a minor at the time of the injury event will generally not be subject to the limitations period until he or she reaches the age of 18. It must be noted, however, that in cases of alleged medical malpractice involving children under age six, claims are required to be filed before the victim turns eight.
Importance of Time Limitations on Injury Claims
While the existence of the time limits described above may initially seem rather onerous to someone who has suffered substantial losses due to the negligence of others, they do in fact serve a valuable purpose. Filing a lawsuit as soon as possible after it becomes apparent that voluntary settlement is impossible provides victims with the greatest hope of securing the resources they need and deserve. This is because the evidence is much likelier to still be available, witness recollections will not yet have faded and the suffering experienced will be that much more vivid to judges and juries.
It is certainly understandable for injured parties to feel daunted by the specter of litigation, particularly when they are still struggling to recuperate from the accident itself, but the truth is that knowledgeable legal representation can go a long way toward alleviating those anxieties. An experienced personal injury attorney can undertake the heavy lifting, assemble critical documentation, arrange for all-important expert opinions and do whatever it takes to provide truly effective advocacy.
Steadfastly Fighting for the Injured in Colorado
Having dedicated his legal career to pursuing justice on behalf of the injured, attorney Jeremy Rosenthal is acutely aware of the worries and concerns facing those whose lives have been turned upside down by acts of negligence. While it is certainly true that time to file a lawsuit in your injury case is not unlimited, help in ensuring prompt compliance with Colorado's rules is easily within your grasp. To discuss the facts underlying your personal injury matter and to begin the process of asserting your right to fairness and full accountability, contact us at 303.825.2223.