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 negligent party.
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.