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What are Punitive Damages and How to Get Them Awarded in Colorado?

Punitive damages (also known as exemplary damages) are monetary awards intended to (1) punish an at-fault party for shocking behavior and/or (2) deter others in the future from committing the same or similar conduct. Punitive damages can be awarded in limited circumstances and are in addition to any other damage an injured party receives.

Punitive damages can only be awarded in limited cases. In order to receive punitive damages, the plaintiff (i.e., the injured party) must prove that the at-fault party acted with fraud, malice, or willful and wanton conduct.

In most cases, the amount of a punitive damage award is limited to only the amount of compensatory damages awarded to the injured party. However, in a jury trial, the judge is allowed to increase the juries’ punitive damage award. The judge can increase punitive damages up to three (3) times the compensatory damages, if it finds:

  • During the time the case is pending, the at-fault party continues the wrong behavior in a willful and wanton manner, either against the plaintiff or another person; OR
  • During the time the case is pending, the at-fault party continues to act in a willful and wanton manner that further damages the plaintiff when the at-fault party knew or should have known such action would result in damages.

On the other hand, Colorado law also allows a judge to reduce the amount of punitive damage award given by a jury. The judge can reduce the award in situations where:

  • The future deterrent effect has been accomplished without the punitive damages; OR
  • The conduct by the at-fault party that caused the damages has stopped; OR
  •  The purpose of the punitive damages has otherwise been served.

The procedure for seeking punitive damages is specific and unlike most other damage requests. The procedure for seeking punitive damages is laid out in Colorado Revised Statute §13-21-102. The law does not allow punitive damages to be sought in the first complaint filed against the at-fault party.

Instead, to ask for punitive damages, the injured party must file a request with the court after initial disclosures have been exchanged. To allow the request for punitive damages, the court must be convinced that the injured party has established a prima facie case of a triable issue.

Punitive damages can result in some of the largest jury verdicts in Colorado. The personal injury lawyers at Burnham Law are experienced in handling claims for punitive damages. If you have been injured by the fault of another person or business, contact Burnham Law today to have an experienced, compassionate, and knowledgeable legal team fighting for you.

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