A person who injures another through his negligence must pay monetary compensation
to the injured person in the total dollar amount of the injured persons’
damages. The injured person can claim damages for:
- “Non-economic” losses or injuries caused by the negligence
- “Economic” losses or injuries caused by the negligence
- Physical impairment or disfigurement caused by the negligence
Non-economic losses include physical and mental pain and suffering, inconvenience,
emotional stress and impairment of the quality of life of the injured
person. When an injury case is decided in a jury trial, the jury will
hear evidence from the injured person and those close to him as to how
the physical injury affected his life: the tasks of daily life that must
now be performed in pain; the hobbies or recreational activities that
no longer can be enjoyed by the injured person because of the injury;
the impairment of personal and family relationships because of the injury.
Although many a juror would like to have some kind of chart or spreadsheet
that helps to quantify these damages, no such chart exists. Jurors are
told to use their own life experience to value these damages and losses.
Sometimes attorneys will suggest a way to calculate these damages, such
as considering a dollar amount for each day the injured person suffered—and
will continue to suffer for the rest of his life.
But these “non-economic” damages are not without limits. They
are capped by Colorado statute. Regardless of the jury award, the most
that an injured person can recover in Colorado for “non-economic”
damages by law is $366,250 unless the court specifically finds by “clear
and convincing evidence” that evidence of these damages to the injured
person exceed this amount, in which case the court can authorize a jury
award of up to $732,500.
Economic losses or injuries include loss of earnings in the past or damage
to the injured person’s ability to earn money in the future, medical
expenses related to the injury (past and future) and any other “hard”
losses that can be easily quantified. Damages may be awarded for loss
of future earning capacity resulting from the injury even if they cannot
be proved with certainty. Often expert witnesses, such as economists,
will be called to testify at trial to show the jury how to calculate these
losses for the injured person depending on such facts as his education,
family duties and responsibilities and the projected future and growth
of his career, profession or occupation.
The jury will also be directed to consider an appropriate monetary award
for any physical impairment or disfigurement caused to the injured person.
These damages are not subject to any limit, but are left to the complete
discretion and judgment of the jury. In the case of a catastrophically
injured person, the physical impairment or disfigurement may be obvious:
impairment to mobility as a result of being confined to a wheelchair or
the need to use prosthetic limbs or physical disfigurement in the case
of severe burns. But this category of damages is not limited only to those
with catastrophic injuries. An injured person may have needed neck or
back surgery that, although successful, still does not return the injured
person to the same condition of physical function that he had before the accident.
These categories of damages for injuries caused by the negligence of another
are the same categories of damages that insurance companies consider when
evaluating an injury claim for settlement. Experienced personal injury
attorneys prepare an injury claim for settlement to the same extent as
if the case were going to be decided by a jury at trial. Evidence of all
categories of damages is assembled and coordinated to convince the insurance
company that it should pay a fair amount for the claim on behalf of the
Presenting a complex case for injury damages to an insurance company requires
the same attention to legal proof as it would if it were presented to
a jury. This is not a “do-it-yourself” project. Consider retaining
the services of an experienced personal injury attorney, such as those
at Clawson & Clawson LLP, to correctly evaluate the injury claim and
to gather all the relevant evidence to ensure that the claim is properly
presented and considered by the insurance company for the best settlement
award. If no adequate settlement is proposed by the insurance company,
Clawson & Clawson injury attorneys then stand ready and prepared to
take the case to court so that a jury can use that evidence to enter the
appropriate award of money damages.