If you think you may need to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in Colorado, first of all, good for you. If you aren’t responsible for your injuries, it is wrong for you to have to pay for them. Just by considering filing a medical malpractice suit, you are taking the first step in righting this wrong.
Civil liability for medical malpractice works similarly to other forms of civil liability like car accidents and premises liability. However, don’t let the similarities fool you. While the legal doctrines are similar, there are several important differences that you should know about. Furthermore, different states have different laws on these matters. So, if you are thinking about filing a Colorado medical malpractice lawsuit, read through this guide prepared by the medical malpractice team at Gerash Steiner Blanton, P.C.
Medical Malpractice Lawsuits in Colorado: General Overview
The first thing that you should think about regarding your case is whether or not you have a legitimate claim for damages. This is, typically, the first assessment that any prospective lawyer will make in your initial consultation. If you don’t have a chance of success, most attorneys won’t take your case. Thus, it helps to understand what makes a legitimate medical malpractice claim before you go into your initial consultation.
Requirements for a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in Colorado
The general requirements for medical malpractice liability operate similarly to other forms of negligence liability. That’s because medical malpractice is a specific type of negligence liability with its own unique quirks and challenges. Here are the four basic requirements for negligence liability:
- The existence of a duty of care;
- A breach of that duty of care;
- Real damages; and
- A causal relationship between the breach of duty and subsequent damages.
These are the same basic elements that apply to medical malpractice cases. It’s easy to establish that a duty of care exists in a doctor-patient relationship. Similarly, it is not hard to establish that real damages occurred. After all, an injury is an injury.
There is, however, a twist. The twist lies in the breach of a duty of care and the causal relationship between the breach and the damages. If someone hits your car and the accident is clearly their fault, there’s really no question that they breached their duty of care and caused damage. However, when it comes to medical professionals breaching their duty of care, things are not so simple.
Establishing a Breach of Duty of Care and Causation in Colorado Medical Malpractice Claims
Healthcare is a highly-specialized field. First, most medical professionals have to go through years of school and internships to work as medical professionals in the first place. Second, there are so many specific, specialized fields within medicine that every medical professional has unique education and experience.
What does this mean for establishing a breach of a duty of care? It means that it is far more difficult to do so in medical malpractice cases than in other cases of civil liability. Why? Because as attorneys, injured persons, and even judges, we simply don’t know enough about medicine to prove that a medical professional made a medical mistake that rises to the level of triggering liability. Furthermore, we typically don’t have the requisite expertise to prove that the error in question caused the damages in question.
Thankfully, we have a way of rising to these challenges: medical malpractice expert witnesses.
The Importance of Medical Malpractice Expert Witnesses
Medical malpractice expert witnesses play a pivotal role in most medical malpractice cases. Their testimony can make or break a case. Medical malpractice witnesses are typically medical professionals themselves. They may work as a doctor, an orthopedist, or even a surgeon most of the time. Similarly, they may have retired from the field.
As lawyers, we hire medical malpractice expert witnesses to help establish both medical errors and causation. The specific field of expertise should relate as directly as possible to the injury. Defending parties will also typically use medical malpractice expert witnesses to try to disprove a claim. Thus, it is crucial to find the right medical malpractice expert witness, or witnesses, for your case. The more of a consensus that your team of expert witnesses can reach, the stronger your claim.
Colorado Medical Malpractice Lawsuits: Other Important Rules
There is a lot more that one could write on medical malpractice lawsuits in Colorado, but we will stick to two of the most important issues: damage caps and the relevant statute of limitations. On the one hand, damage caps do exactly what the name suggests — they place a cap on the amount of damages you can recover in a given claim. On the other hand, statutes of limitations limit the time you have to file a lawsuit after an injury occurs. If the statute of limitations expires, courts will reject your case.
Colorado Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations
The general statute of limitations for medical malpractice in Colorado is two years from the date of the injury. As is typical, however, there are exceptions. One exception is known as “the discovery rule.” The discovery rule holds that a statute of limitations does not begin to run until the injured party discovers or should reasonably have known about the injury. However, regardless of when the injury is discovered, Colorado law states that the statute of limitations cannot extend beyond three years. This is not a hard limit, however. There are special circumstances where the statute can extend beyond three years:
- If the defendant intentionally concealed their negligence;
- If the injured party is under the age of 18 or is legally incapacitated;
- If there is no reasonable way to know about the relevant injury and its causation; or
- If the malpractice in question involved a medical professional leaving a foreign object in one’s body.
If you think any of these exceptions apply to your case, notify your legal practitioner as soon as possible. It’s important to follow the proper procedures if an exception like this applies to your case.
Colorado Medical Malpractice Damage Caps
Colorado law caps the amount of damages you can claim in a medical malpractice case by separating damages into two distinct categories: economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages are those tangible damages with an objective financial value. This includes things like medical bills, lost wages, and physical rehabilitation costs. Non-economic damages are just as real, but they are less tangible and lack a specific monetary value. Non-economic damages include things like physical and emotional pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of one’s life.
Colorado does not place a cap on economic damages. Instead, they cap both non-economic damages and total damages. Colorado caps non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases at $300,000. Colorado law also caps total damages at $1 million in a given claim. There is, of course, an exception to the $1 million cap. If a court finds that the $1 million cap is not enough to cover the entirety of your past, present, and future damages, the court can award economic damages beyond the $1 million limit.
Ready to File Your Colorado Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
Now that you mastered the basics, it’s time to take action. If you think you have a valid medical malpractice claim or are still unsure, get started today with a consultation from Gerash Steiner Blanton, P.C. Our medical malpractice team is on standby to help you recover from your injuries and get you the compensation you deserve. As a focus area of our firm, we have established connections with medical malpractice expert witnesses throughout Colorado and beyond. It doesn’t matter what field of expertise you need from your expert witness; we can find them. Consultations are always free, so don’t worry about hidden fees and hourly consultation rates. Contact us today , and we’ll let you know how we can help.