Two key terms in any personal injury case are liability and damages. If you’ve filed a personal injury claim for a negligent act, whether intentional or accidental, your lawyer will likely use these two words to frame your case. In order to hold the other party responsible for your injuries and loss, you and your personal injury attorney will need to do two things: prove that the other party is liable for your damages and establish the nature and extent of the damages you’ve sustained.
Determining who is responsible for an accident or incident in a personal injury case is critical to making the case, but it’s not always easy to do. Even in so-called “cut-and-dry” car accidents where one person runs a red light and hits another vehicle, the issue of liability is strictly determined by tort law and is not always assigned automatically. Tort law states that people can be liable in a personal injury claim for the following three specific types of acts:
- Intentional acts – These are acts committed by a person who means to cause an accident or injure another party. Under tort law, the person who commits an intentional act must be fully aware that his or her actions will result in another person’s injuries. This eliminates careless and reckless behavior, and limits liability to truly intentional actions, such as character defamation or a planned car accident.
- Unintentional or negligent acts – These acts are not intended to cause injury or harm to another person, but do anyway. Negligence is typically the main factor in these cases. A driver who fails to obey traffic signals or speeds and strikes a car or pedestrian may not necessarily have intended to harm his victim, but his reckless actions caused that harm. Had the driver exercised the proper care, he or she could have avoided causing an accident or injury.
- Strict liability or absolute liability – This type of liability is typically assigned to product manufacturers. In the case of a defective product, the manufacturer can be held responsible so long as the injured party can prove that he or she was harmed by the product defect. Warning labels are ways to protect a manufacturer from these claims.
In Colorado, a personal injury plaintiff can seek compensation for damages that includes reimbursement for any related and necessary medical expenses (ambulance ride, hospitalization, surgery, rehabilitation, medication, etc.), compensation for lost wages or a diminished earning capability, and reimbursements for damaged property or goods. The state has certain caps on these damages, depending on the circumstances of your claim.
Plaintiffs can also seek compensation for non-economic damages, including emotional distress and pain and suffering. Colorado law limits non-economic damages to $250,000 in most personal injury claims; if the plaintiff can prove extraordinary distress or damage, an award cap of $500,000 may be sought.
Liability assessments confirm who can be held responsible for your injuries and damages can determine how the responsible party will make restitution. For more information on your case, contact an attorney at Levine Law, a Denver personal injury law firm, today.