Accidents happen. But did you know that if you were in an accident because of the negligence of another, you may be able to initiate legal action and seek damages? Accidents like slips and falls caused by a spill on the grocery floor, trips because of an obstruction on a pathway, car accidents at the fault of another driver, etc. can be valid grounds for a negligence claim.
If you or anyone you know has been injured because of the carelessness, recklessness, or lack of foresight of another person, you may potentially be able to seek compensation and damages from the at-fault party. Contact our lawyers today to explore your options and determine if you have a valid negligence claim.
What is Negligence?
Negligence is defined as a person’s failure to exercise the standard of care expected from them in a given situation. This standard of care would differ according to unique circumstances. Doctors, for example, are expected to exercise the medical standard of care expected from a reasonably competent and skilled professional.
While each situation has different expected standards of care, each one of us has a duty to act in a way that a reasonably careful person would so as to prevent bringing harm to others. When we breach this duty, we can be considered negligent by the intent of the law and hence, may be liable to pay the victim damages.
Elements of Negligence Claims
Negligence is a tort or civil wrong, which means that whoever was negligent and caused injury or loss to another person can be sued for damages. But in order for there to be a valid claim, the following elements of negligence should be present and proved:
- Duty of care
- Breach of the duty of care
Duty of Care
Every person has a duty to exercise reasonable care in their actions to prevent harm to the body or property of another. Because this duty is recognized by law, it is considered a legal responsibility of every person or organization to avoid behaviors that cause harm and loss to another.
The standard of care would also differ depending on unique situations. Average people are expected to exercise reasonable care while doctors have their own medical standard of care they must abide by. Manufacturers, for example, also have a duty of care to take all measures that are necessary to ensure the safety of their products when used for their intended purpose.
Breach of Duty
Once a person’s duty of care is established, it must now be proved that they indeed breached that duty through a culpable act or omission. The breach can be intentional, where the defendant knowingly and intentionally acted in a way that was harmful to others, or due to the defendant’s lack of foresight that their conduct will result in harm or loss to another person’s body or property.
In cases of gross negligence, it must be proved that there was intention or malice on the part of the defendant. However, a breach of duty can also be because of the failure to act. In these instances, it must be proved that the defendant had a duty to act to avoid harming the victim and did not take the necessary actions to prevent the injury or loss.
It’s not enough that a person had a duty of care and breached it. It must be proven that the injury or loss alleged by the victim was indeed caused by the defendant’s breach of duty. In other words, there must be a legally sufficient connection between the breach of duty and the injuries sustained.
Causation can either be factual or legal. Factual causation requires that the breach of duty was the actual cause of the loss or damage sustained by the victim. For it to be the actual cause, it must be proven that the injury or loss would never have happened if not for the act or omission of the defendant. If the injury or loss can still be attributed to other causes, then it cannot be said that the defendant’s negligence was the actual cause of the damages sustained.
Despite that, the defendant’s negligence can still be a proximate cause of the injury or loss. Proximate cause, also known as legal causation, determines how remote the acts of the defendant were to the damages sustained. For negligence to be a proximate cause of the injury or loss to the victim, it should be related to the chain of events that lead to the injury.
For example, Driver A runs a red light, causing danger to Driver B. Driver B swerves to avoid being hit and hits another vehicle, injuring himself and Driver C in the collision. Driver A can be said to be a proximate cause of the injury to Driver B and Driver C.
Lastly, to win a negligence case, the victim must show that he or she in fact sustained some form of injury or loss because of the acts or omissions of another. The injury element must be either bodily harm or harm to property (whether personal injury or real property).
Pure economic losses cannot satisfy the element of injury. However, there are cases when emotional distress or harm can be considered as bodily harm even without physical injuries. It’s best to speak to a lawyer to determine if your case meets the elements of injury and can be a potential negligence claim.
Negligence Claims Under Colorado Law
For a negligence claim to be successful, the four elements of negligence mentioned above need to be sufficiently proved and established. The burden of proof is on the plaintiff, who must show by a preponderance of evidence that the acts or omissions of the defendant do in fact constitute negligence. Other important things to note when filing a negligence claim are the following:
Statute of Limitations
Under the Colorado Statute of Limitations, a victim only has two years from the date of the incident to file a claim for their injuries caused by another person’s negligence. If the at-fault party was driving a motor vehicle at the time of the incident, the statute of limitations extends to three years. Once this time limit expires, the victim is barred from initiating a negligence lawsuit.
Comparative Fault Rule
Colorado follows the modified comparative fault rule to determine how damages should be awarded to the plaintiff. The value of the damages can be adjusted if the plaintiff is found to be partially at fault for their own injuries. The adjustment is made according to the degree of comparative fault.
For example, a plaintiff who is 20% at fault will be awarded a 20% decrease in damages by virtue of the doctrine of comparative fault. However, if the plaintiff is found to be 50% or more at fault, they are not entitled to recover damages for negligence.
Common Types of Negligence Claims in Denver
Injuries caused by the acts or omissions of another person can make a valid negligence claim, as long as the four elements of the civil wrong are present. In Denver, Colorado, negligence claims often arise from the following:
- Dangerous drugs
- Dog bites and animal attacks
- Driving under the influence (DUI) accidents
- Premises liability
- Product liability
- Slip and fall
- Wrongful death cases
- And more
Types of Negligence Damages
Plaintiffs in a negligence claim can seek and be awarded several types of compensation. The damages can either be economic, such as for medical bills and out-of-pocket expenses, or non-economic, such as damages for pain and suffering or impaired quality of life.
Economic damages encompass all financial losses incurred due to the incident. This can include:
- Past and future medical bills
- Rehabilitation expenses
- Loss of income
- Diminished earning capacity
- Other out-of-pocket expenses
Noneconomic damages serve as compensation for losses and damages caused by the incident, such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Emotional stress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Impaired lifestyle
In Colorado, an award for noneconomic damages is capped at $500,000. The court cannot grant an amount higher than the State limit.
If the damages sustained by the victim were caused by the negligent party’s actions that involve fraud, malice, or willful and wanton conduct, the court can grant exemplary damages. These intend to serve as a punishment for the negligent party.
Physical Impairment/ Disfigurement
If the injuries of the victim result in physical impairment or disfigurement, the court can award more compensation in the form of physical impairment damages.
Contact A Denver Negligence Attorney at Burnham Law
If you or anyone you know has been injured or suffered loss or harm due to the acts or omissions of another, you may have a potential negligence claim. Contact a Burnham Law negligence lawyer in Denver to help you determine your options, build your case, and receive the compensation that you deserve.
Our lawyers are equipped with the knowledge, expertise, and experience to help you win your case and receive the damages you are entitled to. Remember, time is of the essence when it comes to your negligence claim. Speak to our negligence lawyers today.