What Does It Mean When a Jury is Advised that a Defendant Accepts Liability?

Despite the frequency with which jury trials are portrayed on television and in movies, when a person ends up called to serve on a jury, that individual is likely to encounter a number of seemingly foreign concepts. For example, in some situations a judge may advise a jury at the start of a personal injury trial that the defendant in the case “has accepted liability.”

When a jury is told that a defendant in a personal injury case accepts liability, which means that the jurors no longer need to determine whether or not the defendant in the case is at fault for causing the accident. Rather, the jury is left with the task of determining the extent of damages or injuries the plaintiff sustained as the result of that defendant’s admitted negligence.

A juror may ponder why a defendant in a personal injury lawsuit is willing to concede that he or she was at fault in a particular situation. In most cases, it is because the defendant’s attorney does not want the jury to hear about the specific circumstances surrounding the accident. When a defendant accepts fault in a personal injury case, the facts and circumstances surrounding the accident in question generally are no longer relevant. A judge will not permit the presentation to the jury of evidence relating to the circumstances of the accident itself.

Examples of cases in which a defendant takes this position include situations in which the defendant was intoxicated at the time that he or she caused a car accident, which resulted in another person sustaining injuries. A defendant may use this tactic if he or she was involved in the commission of a crime at the time of the accident (for example, eluding police in an automobile).

If you have suffered injuries as the result of an accident, through no fault of your own, please call Harding & Associates to get a better picture of your rights. We can be reached at 800-878-7888 or 303-762-9500. There is never a charge for an initial consultation with a skilled, experienced personal injury attorney who can evaluate your case and assist in developing a strategy to fight to obtain the compensation to which you are entitled.

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What are punitive damages?

When someone is hurt in an accident, the non-negligent party is likely owed compensation from the intentionally harmful or negligent party. In the State of Colorado, if the negligent party acted with malicious intent or was unreasonably reckless in their conduct that caused the injury, the plaintiff may be owed Exemplary Damages. Often times, these types of damages are referred to as punitive, but under Colorado Revised Statute 13-21-102, the name of the statute is titled: Exemplary Damages. Punitive damages are meant to punish the negligent party because they either caused the injury intentionally or acted with an excessive degree of recklessness.

Exemplary, or punitive damages, are capped, which means plaintiffs will be limited in how much they can collect for these types of damages. In most personal injury cases, there are two types of damages: punitive and compensatory. Compensatory damages are meant to handle the medical expenses or lost wages. Compensatory damages focus specifically on the actual damages suffered by the plaintiff as a result of the accident, such as medical bills or loss of property.

It is important to know that there are a few restrictions that the law places on the courts when awarding exemplary damages. First, exemplary damages can never be awarded in excess of the actual damages awarded to the injured party. Meaning, if you have $100,000 in medical expenses, the exemplary damages cannot exceed $100,000. Second, the court also restricts exemplary damages by not allowing the courts to award more than three times the amount of the actual damages and less than $250,000 (there are some exceptions to this rule if there has been a death).

To further the example, if compensatory (or actual) damages are $100,000, the most a plaintiff could receive in exemplary damages is $250,000 (Three times $100,000 is $300,000, but the total must be less than $250,000; with capped ceiling). However, in order for a plaintiff to receive an amount beyond the compensatory damages, the statute requires the plaintiff to show that the defendant acted repeatedly reckless in a willful and wanton manner, or knowingly aggravated the action that caused the injury.

It is important to remember these limitations when you are suffering a catastrophic loss to ensure you make an effective, long-term plan for you and your family. If you have questions about a personal injury or other legal matter, contact Harding & Associates at 800-878-7888 or 303-762-9500.

Citations: CRS 13-21-102, CRS 13-21-203

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Car Accidents and the Statute of Limitations

Overview

The aftermath of a car accident represents what oftentimes is best described as a life altering experience. If you find yourself in such a position, you likely face physical injuries, pain and suffering and perhaps even permanent physical damage. You also may find yourself juggling medical bills and not being able to work.

On top of all of these significant problems, concerns and issues, you face tremendous legal challenges as well. The reality is that even pursuing what seems like a very obvious claim for damages and injuries can seem like (and actually turn in to ) an insurmountable task.

As a Colorado resident, if you find yourself pursuing a claim for injuries and damages with an insurance company, you must understand a provision in Colorado law known as the statute of limitations.

What is the Statute of Limitations?

At its essence, the statute of limitations is law that establishes a specific time period in which you must file a lawsuit to recover compensation for damages and injuries you sustained as the result of the negligence of another motorist. This type of lawsuit typically is referred to as a personal injury case.

Pursuant to the terms of the Colorado statute of limitations, a personal injury lawsuit to recover compensation for injuries sustained in a car accident generally must be filed within three years of the accident. If you fail to file a lawsuit within this three year time period, you more than likely will be forever precluded from obtaining compensation for your losses, even if your injuries are very serious. (Other types of personal injury cases must be filed within two years.)

Legal Representation

When all is said and done, the best course of action for you to take to ensure that you fully protect your rights and interests is retaining a capable, experienced Colorado personal injury lawyer. A Colorado personal injury attorney understands the elements of the law, including how to comply with the requirements of the statute of limitations.

The law firm of Harding & Associates focuses its practice on assisting clients in personal injury cases. This includes providing representation to people injured in auto accidents because of the negligence of careless drivers.

The attorneys at Harding & Associates do not charge for an initial consultation. You can schedule an appointment with us by calling 303-762-9500 or 800-878-7888, or emailing us at info@hlaw.org, to schedule an appointment.

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Understanding Caps on Damage Awards: Limits Paid to Victims of Negligence

Over the course of the past couple of decades, an inordinate amount of media attention has focused on so-called “high awards” or “high jury verdicts” in lawsuits involving an injured person or medical negligence. A prime example of a case that received a great deal of attention a number of years ago, and that remains in the minds of many people when lawsuits are discussed, is the woman injured by a spilt cup of coffee from McDonalds.

In that particular case, the woman ended up suing and receiving a jury verdict awarding her $3 million for her injuries. The jury verdict made headlines not only in the United States, but around the world. What did not garner much media attention was the fact that the injured woman simply did not actually receive $3 million as a result of the jury’s verdict in her case.

State laws, including those in Colorado, place caps on what are called punitive damages. Punitive damages represent a dollar amount above and beyond what a jury awards for actual damages. Punitive damages are added to a jury’s award as a means of “punishing” a negligent party who causes injuries because of particularly egregious or reckless conduct.

A jury might find that an injured person is entitled to compensation in the amount of $100,000 for actual damages (medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and so forth). If the person who caused the injury was extremely reckless, a jury might add another $1 million to the award in the form of punitive damages. Even though this is the decision of the jury, state law limits the total amount a person can receive in the form of punitive damages to a dollar amount well below the $1 million awarded by the jurors in a particular case.

If you or a loved one has been injured because of the negligence of someone else, contact the experienced accident attorneys at Harding & Associates. We will schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with you to discuss your case. An appointment can be scheduled at your convenience by calling us at 800-878-7888 or 303-762-9500. Our legal team can answer any questions you may have about punitive damages and other issues associated with your claim.

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What is Contributory Negligence?

If you are injured in an auto-accident or if you have been the victim of an intentional or negligent incident, one common defense that will be used against you will be the defense of contributory negligence.

Contributory negligence allows the defendant to show that the plaintiff was also responsible for the injury or damages. Contributory negligence is measured as a percentage of fault, meaning that both parties will be assigned a percentage of the fault for causing the incident.

For example, a defendant would argue that the plaintiff was at least 51% responsible for the damages under C.R.S. 13-21-111, which states states: “Contributory negligence shall not bar recovery in any action by any person or his legal representative to recover damages for negligence resulting in death or in injury to person or property, if such negligence was not as great as the negligence of the person against whom recovery is sought[.]

The statute further states: “[…] but any damages allowed shall be diminished in proportion to the amount of negligence attributable to the person for whose injury, damage, or death recovery is made.” Here, that statute allows the court to reduce the judgement against a defendant by the percentage of fault caused by the plaintiff. For example, if total damages were $100,000 and the court ruled the plaintiff was 49% at fault, the plaintiff’s judgement would be reduced to $51,000 ($100,000 – $49,000) to account of the part the plaintiff played in causing the damages.

When approaching litigation as a plaintiff, it is important to remember that defendants have several legal defenses, such as contributory negligence, that can be used to avoid liability, or reduce the overall judgement. The attorneys on our legal team at Harding & Associates stand ready to schedule an initial consultation with you. You can schedule a no-obligation, no-cost initial consultation by calling our offices at 800-878-7888 or 303-762-9500.

Under C.R.S. 13-21-111

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Calculating Lost Wages in a Personal Injury Case

Injured parties can’t work and it can be devastating for families. For most individuals suffering from a major injury, many sleepless nights are spent worrying about your immediate and future financial needs.

If plaintiffs are engaged in multiple levels of employment, they may have a more difficult time proving their lost wages. For instance, many individuals have part time jobs by taking care of a neighbor’s yard or bartending on the weekends. Non-traditional jobs add a lot of value to many people’s lives, but non-traditional jobs cannot necessarily be easily included when calculating lost wages.

Lost wages are included in the compensatory damages owed to a plaintiff and the court requires documentation that shows the losses the plaintiff has suffered. Courts can be skeptical of what plaintiffs may claim as lost wages if there is no formal tax document provided, such as a W-2 or a 1090 Form to accompany the claim of loss.

Here, plaintiffs must consider what their overall income is and from what sources. After considering all sources of income, plaintiffs and attorneys identify which ones can be readily identified with formal tax documentation or other reasonable ways to show income.

Plaintiffs must also remember how much income may be lost in the future due to the injury. Key factors in determining loss of future income include the plaintiff’s current income, what was the expected income in the future, and how much time the plaintiff needs to recover. Here, plaintiffs will need to show documentation of current income and a calculation of future income based on the time needed to recover from the injury. Further, plaintiffs will often times need a formal medical recommendation of how much time may be needed to fully heal.

The emphasis here is that plaintiffs will need reliable documentation to show the current income and a reasonable explanation of future income, multiplied by the time needed to recover. Further, plaintiffs must ensure this documentation is available and entered into the record to show the court to ensure the most appropriate judgement is awarded.

The attorneys on our legal team at Harding & Associates stand ready to schedule an initial consultation with you. You can schedule a no-obligation, no-cost initial consultation by calling our offices at 800-878-7888 or 303-762-9500.

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Protecting Your Interests After a Car Accident: Understanding a Lien Agreement

In the aftermath of a car accident, you will need to make contact with a variety of different types of entities. These include insurance companies, but also health care providers of different types. Not only do you need to be cautious of documents you sign related to insurance claims you must also take care when it comes to paperwork provided by a healthcare provider.

When you seek medical treatment following an accident, you need to understand that some healthcare providers will provide you with what is called a “Lien Agreement.” The Lien Agreement is likely to be part of the packet of initial intake forms provided to you by a healthcare provider.

If you are like the vast majority of people, you sign whatever is handed to you by a healthcare provider. This is particularly the case when you are injured and not feeling your best. The reality is that there is a great deal of truth in the long-used adage that you must – must – read and understand what you sign.

In addition to reading and understanding what you actually sign, when it comes to documents provided to you following an accident, there are certain agreements that you must not sign. The Lien Agreement is one of them.

A Lien Agreement from a healthcare provider is designed to give the doctor or hospital the ability to bypass your health insurance company and engage a lien company to pay for the services provided to you. Signing this agreement will lower the amount of recovery you personally receive when your claim is settled or when you get a judgment in a lawsuit.

The challenges of navigating the paperwork you face following an accident underscores the need for capable and experienced legal assistance in the aftermath of an accident. The attorneys on our legal team at Harding & Associates stand ready to schedule an initial consultation with you. You can schedule a no-obligation, no-cost initial consultation by calling our offices at 800-878-7888 or 303-762-9500.

During an initial consultation, we have the opportunity to begin to evaluate your case. We can also explain to you the full range of legal services we can provide to you in the aftermath of an accident.

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Two Common Mistakes an Injured Party Makes After a Car Accident

In the aftermath of a car accident, it is very easy for an injured person to make a misstep when dealing with an insurance company. In other words, following an accident, the other driver’s insurance company will make contact with the injured person. The insurance company may appear to be make reasonable, logical and necessary requests of the injured party. However, in the final analysis, an injured person oftentimes makes significant mistakes when dealing with an insurance company following a car accident.
Requests for Medical Records, Including Medical Bills
If you are injured in a car accident, the other driver’s insurance company will approach you to sign a release for medical records. The insurance company will tell you that these records are necessary in order to fully consider the claim you have filed for compensation.

Although there is some truth to this, and medical records are necessary, the insurance company also wants to get its hands on billing statements. The reality is that an insurance company is not legally entitled to see everything on a billing statement. You have the right to have some elements of the billing statement redacted. What that means is that there are elements of a billing statement that do not have to be provided to an insurance company. This is one area in which a significant mistake can be made when dealing with an insurance company.

By way of example, assume that you were billed $50,000 for medical treatment. However, the hospital discounted that amount to $10,000. This is a process that commonly happens with health care providers of all types.
The insurance company will see the discount and realize that you were only obligated to pay $10,000. If you end up reaching a settlement, this lower amount is what the insurance company will pay. As mentioned previously, you were not obligated to provide the insurance company with any information from a billing statement that showed the amount discounted by the hospital or other health care provider.

By retaining a lawyer promptly after an accident, you best protect yourself from this type of scenario. You put yourself in the best possible position to maximize your compensation. The legal team at Harding & Associates stands ready to schedule an initial consultation with you. You can schedule a no-obligation, no-cost initial consultation by calling our offices at 800-878-7888 or 303-762-9500.

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Preparing for an Initial Consultation with a Colorado Car Accident Attorney

A Colorado car accident attorney, like those on the experienced legal team at Harding & Associates, will schedule what is called an initial consultation with a person who has been injured as the result of an automobile accident caused because of another driver’s negligence. There is no cost to a car accident victim for an initial consultation.

At an initial consultation, an experienced Colorado car accident attorney has the chance to consider and evaluate the facts and circumstances surrounding a particular automobile accident. In addition, an experienced lawyer (again, like one at Harding & Associates) will provide a potential client an overview of what strategies are available to obtain an appropriate settlement with an insurance company or judgment in a personal injury lawsuit.

Because an initial consultation provides an injured person an opportunity to find out more about pursuing a claim for compensation and, if necessary, a lawsuit, it is important that he or she prepare for the meeting for a Colorado car accident lawyer. There are a number of tips to bear in mind when preparing for an initial consultation.

Make a list of questions. Although a person may think he or she has all necessary questions in mind, the reality is that it is very easy to forget even a key query in the midst of an initial consultation with a Colorado car accident attorney. By having a simple list of important questions prepared in advance, nothing will fall through the cracks.

Be prepared to explain your injuries and losses in general terms. A person need not bring an itemized list of damages and injuries to an initial consultation. Nonetheless, an individual needs to be able to share with a personal injury attorney the basics of what has happened as result of the car accident.

Bring photos or videos, if they are available. A Colorado car accident lawyer may be interested in taking a look at any videos or photos that have been created as a result of the car accident. In advance of a session with an attorney, inquire as to whether or not he or she would like to view this information during the initial consultation.

A person dealing with the aftermath of a an automobile accident can schedule an initial consultation with a Colorado car accident attorney at Harding & Associates by calling 800-878-7888 or 303-762-9500.

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Personal Injury Claims and Cases: Understanding the Colorado Collateral Source Rule

If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of some other person’s negligence, you likely find yourself in a position of pursuing a claim against an insurance company or contemplating a lawsuit. With this in mind, you need to familiarize yourself with some of the basic elements of Colorado Personal Injury law.

An important principle in the realm of personal injury law is something called the collateral source doctrine (also known as the collateral source rule). Pursuant to the collateral source doctrine, evidence that an injured person received compensation from some other source beyond the damages sought from the negligent party is not admissible in court.

By way of an example, if an injured person received payment on certain medical bills by his or her own insurance company, information about such a payment is not admissible. One theory behind the collateral source doctrine is that a negligent person should not benefit from the fact that the injured party was responsible and maintained insurance.

In Colorado, an insurance company has the right to obtain certain medical records involving the injuries at issue. An insurance company will seek to have an injured person sign a broad medical release when a claim is filed – which will result in the release of information associated with payments being made by another source, like through a health insurance policy. In addition, the records provided will also include information regarding the amount a hospital, doctor or other health care provider discounted a bill for treatment or services because of the existence of insurance coverage. An insurance company presented with a claim will reduce any payment made accordingly if it is provided this financial data. An injured person needs to avoid this release of financial information.

If you find yourself pursuing a claim for compensation for injuries, promptly retaining an experienced Colorado personal injury attorney best ensures that collateral payment information is not inappropriately released to an insurance company. Indeed, the personal injury lawyers at Harding & Associates have a great deal of experience addressing issues like the collateral source doctrine and other Colorado laws and rules of procedure associated with personal injury cases. We can schedule a no-cost initial consultation with you at your convenience by calling 800-878-7888 or 303-762-9500.

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