In Colorado medical malpractice lawyers are well-versed in the state laws related to medical negligence and liability and are able to help patients who were victims of medical mistakes get justice and compensation. The laws in the state place caps on how much victims can get in damages, but the lawyers fight hard to get as much as these victims deserve for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and more.
Colorado falls in the top half of states for the number of malpractice cases. In 2015 there were 24.4 medical malpractice cases per 100,000 residents. These amounted to $43.9 million in total payouts that year, a decrease from the previous year. Caps on damages help to reduce payouts, but for some victims of negligence the awards are not enough. If you have been the victim of medical mistakes, make sure you work with the best malpractice lawyers in the state who can maximize the compensation you get.
Malpractice Lawyers Experts in Colorado Medical Laws
Laws governing malpractice cases vary by state, so Colorado medical malpractice lawyers must have special knowledge of the laws in their state. These can be complicated and patients who were victims of negligence can rely on their attorneys to have a good understanding of the laws. However, it is also important that patients know some of the basics so they can fight for what they deserve.
For example, if patients do not understand the statute of limitations they can miss out on the opportunity to get justice for medical errors. In Colorado patients have only two years from the time of the incident, or when it could have been reasonably discovered, to file a lawsuit. But, regardless of when the mistake occurred or was discovered, the total time limit is three years. Exceptions to this include cases in which the defendant committed fraud or surgical materials are left inside a patient.
Also important for patients to understand is that state law puts a cap on damages that can be awarded in lawsuits. The law places a $1 million umbrella cap. This means that regardless of the type of damages—economic or non-economic—a victim can be awarded no more than $1 million. There can be exceptions if the court finds that it would be unfair to deny the victim more compensation.
In addition to the umbrella cap, there is a $300,000 cap on non-economic damages. This includes compensation for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, disfigurement, and similar factors that cannot be monetized. Public entities, like public hospitals, are generally immune from liability, but there are exceptions. When they can be found liable, there are caps on how much victims can recover.
Colorado’s Malpractice Damages Cap Challenged
The caps that Colorado law has put on non-economic damages have been challenged and found to be constitutional. However, they are still controversial, especially when there are extreme cases in which patients are severely harmed and malpractice lawyers want to win more to help compensate their clients for pain and suffering, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment, and other non-tangible consequences of negligence.
One such case began in 2005 when a woman gave birth at Memorial Hospital. She was admitted to induce labor because the gestational size of the baby was large and she was small. In spite of her small pelvis, the doctor delivering the baby did not order a Cesarean section. After failing to deliver, the staff continued to give her stronger doses of induction drugs, even going above the hospital’s limit. Over a period of 12 hours the baby was not getting enough oxygen and was born with brain damage.
The child, Alex, lives with significant mental impairment and will likely never be able to work or live independently. After several years the family’s medical malpractice suit finally went to trial and resulted in a jury award of $4 million to help care for Alex’s ongoing needs. The doctor found liable in the case argued that it should be reduced to the state’s cap of $1 million, but a judge upheld $3.5 million of the award. He stated that to reduce it would be manifestly unfair.
This was a successful challenge of the cap, which according to state law, can be topped by a judge’s decision in special circumstances. But the judge did reduce the non-economic damages award the jury decided on, from $355,000 to $300,000 to comply with the state cap. The judge also significantly cut the award for future medical expenses from $435,000 to just $44,000. The family’s malpractice lawyer is planning to appeal the decision, which would take the case to the Colorado Supreme Court.
Medical Malpractice Cases in Colorado
Even with caps in place, Colorado medical malpractice lawyers have been able to win settlements and jury awards for their clients in several cases in the state. Some of these have been for record-setting amounts, as was the case in a 2015 suit that resulted in a jury verdict of negligence and $15 million for the victim of a terrible medical mistake. In 2012 it was the largest medical malpractice verdict in Colorado.
The case involved a plaintiff, Jason Walters, a 36-year-old man who was left paralyzed after being misdiagnosed and discharged from a hospital. He went to the hospital complaining of numbness in arms and legs and pain in his neck. He was diagnosed with neck strain and sent home. Evidence used in trial, however, showed that he actually had a herniated disk. This was compressing nerves in his spine, slowly causing damage that would leave him paralyzed just a few hours after being sent home from the hospital.
The jury found both the hospital and the emergency room physician were liable. Because of the state damages cap, though, $10 million of the jury award was reduced to $300,000. That $10 million was awarded for pain and suffering, but the cap on non-economic damages is $300,000.
In 2017 another case of a patient being left paralyzed went to trial and resulted in the state’s second-largest jury award for medical negligence, $14.9 million. The woman, 57, was given an epidural steroid injection at a surgery center. The drug was clearly labeled as not for epidural use, though, and the woman was left paralyzed. Her husband as also awarded damages for loss of consortium.
Working with a Colorado Medical Malpractice Lawyer
The laws regarding medical malpractice can be very complicated, so victims of medical errors need to find and work with Colorado medical malpractice lawyers. These are legal professionals who have studied malpractice law and who are experienced with related cases. If you are looking for a lawyer for a malpractice case in the state, look for law firms and individuals who specialize only in medical malpractice.
When hiring a lawyer or team, take time to ask questions so that you feel comfortable working with someone who you know will be fighting for you. Ask about specific experiences with malpractice cases and find out how much they have won for previous clients. With laws that often benefit the defendants, you need the best lawyers to fight for your rights in cases of medical negligence.