A personal injury claim is a claim for monetary damages from a party who is responsible for injuries you sustained in an accident such as a car crash or a slip and fall accident. Colorado recognizes three types of personal injury damages: economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages. Economic damages represent tangible, easy-to-count losses.
Given the prevalence of car accidents among personal injury claims, car repair (or car replacement) is one of the most common claims arising from an accident. Although strictly speaking, it is not a personal injury claim, parties typically resolve property damage claims together with personal injury claims.
Colorado requires drivers with cars registered in Colorado to purchase at least $15,000 in property damage liability insurance. This will take care of your automobile damage up to $15,000 if an insured driver damages your car in an accident that was their fault.
Your medical expenses might include:
- Hospital bills;
- Surgery expenses;
- Doctor’s visits;
- Rehabilitation expenses;
- Prescription and OTC medication;
- Lab work;
- Deductibles and copays;
- Medical equipment (such as a wheelchair);
- At-home nursing care; and
- Physical therapy.
Other types of medical expenses might also qualify you for economic damages.
The “Necessary and Reasonable” Requirement
One rule for calculating medical expenses is that your expenses must be “necessary and reasonable” to qualify for compensation. This restriction eliminates extravagant or needless medical expenditures.
It is also likely to exclude “alternative” treatments such as acupuncture or homeopathy. It might even exclude chiropractic services. In any case, you can be certain that an insurance company will do its best to avoid as many medical expenses as it can.
Estimated Future Medical Expenses
If possible, wait until you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI) before you file a personal injury claim. You reach MMI when your doctor certifies that your medical condition has improved as much as it is ever going to. A full recovery always means you have reached MMI.
Unfortunately, so does permanent disability. Either way, only after you reach MMI will medical treatment stop. Consequently, only then will you know the amount of your medical expenses.
It might be impossible for you to wait for MMI. For example, MMI might arrive after the statute of limitations deadline for filing a lawsuit has already passed. In that case, you need to file a pre-MMI claim for medical expenses that includes two components:
- Medical expenses already incurred; and
- Estimated future medical expenses.
It is dangerous to rely on an estimate because if you underestimate your needs, you could run out of money years from now. Nonetheless, sometimes there’s just no other rational way to proceed.
How much time did you lose from work due to your injury? You can claim compensation for these losses as well. You can claim reimbursement even if you took sick leave and vacation leave to cover your absence. After all, taking sick leave and vacation leave depletes resources you might need later.
Diminished Earning Capacity
The diminished earning capacity component of your economic damages claim represents the amount by which you estimate that your injury will reduce your lifetime earnings. If you are young, you were a high earner before your accident, and your injuries forced you to retire, your diminished earning capacity claim might be immense.
Even if you are expected to lose 50% of your work hours over the next year or so, your diminished earning capacity could be significant.
If your doctor expects you to suffer long-term disability, calculating your diminished earning capacity is an activity that you must get right the first time. As is the case with estimated future medical expenses, if you underestimate your needs, you could end up in trouble many years from now with nowhere to turn.
You might need to spend a lot of money out of your own pocket because of your injuries. Typical out-of-pocket expenses include:
- Transportation expenses: You might need to rent a car, for example, or take public transportation (for work or for out-of-town medical treatment).
- Childcare expenses: You qualify for reimbursement if you had to hire a babysitter due to your injuries.
- Household services: This damages may be awarded if you had to hire someone to handle household chores that you performed yourself before the accident.
- Personal care: You might qualify for reimbursement if your injuries forced you to hire someone to help you with bathing, dressing, and other daily activities.
The foregoing represents only examples, as out-of-pocket expenses is a general catch-all term that can apply to many types of financial losses.
Funeral and Burial Expenses
If you die from your injuries and your relatives file a wrongful death claim, they can recover compensation for funeral and burial expenses to the extent that they paid them. If your probate estate paid these expenses, a court will reimburse your probate estate for eventual distribution to your beneficiaries.
A Denver Personal Injury Lawyer Won’t Cost You a Dime Upfront
Under the contingency fee system that almost all personal injury lawyers use, you only pay if you win (a settlement or verdict). Even then, your legal fees will add up to a pre-agreed percentage of your income, typically between 30% and 40%.
An experienced Denver personal injury attorney can help you in all kinds of unexpected ways, like finding a second defendant or arranging a medical lien to cover your medical expenses until your personal injury compensation arrives.