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Medical Malpractice

Colorado Governor Raises Med Mal Compensation Limits

— June 14, 2024

New Colorado law addresses payouts for wrongful death and medical malpractice cases.

Colorado residents who have been impacted by medical malpractice will soon have the opportunity to seek greater compensation from both their insurance companies and healthcare providers thanks to a new law signed by Governor Jared Polis (Democratic party). House Bill 1472, designed to raise various caps on civil damages, will introduce significant changes to medical malpractice claims in the near future.

Governor Polis’ new bill brings with it several key changes. For civil actions filed on or after January 1st of next year, the cap on damages for noneconomic loss or injury will increase significantly from its current threshold at $250,000 to $1.5 million, with adjustments for inflation every two years starting January 1, 2028. The cap on noneconomic damages will see a phased increase from the current $300,000 to $875,000 over five years, beginning on the same date. Following this period, the cap will be adjusted biennially for inflation. These damages typically cover pain and suffering, loss of functioning including permanent disability, reduced quality of life, and more. Courts assess these based on the severity and permanence of the injury and the nature of the action causing it.

The legislation also raises the damages that can be sought for wrongful death claims, specifically, to $2.125 million, and those pertaining to medical malpractice set at $1.575 million, incrementally increasing over five years. Moreover, siblings of those who’ve lost their life can now file these claims on behalf of their loved one in certain circumstances.

Colorado Governor Raises Med Mal Compensation Limits
Photo by Jonathan Borba from Pexels

Rep. Kyle Brown, a Democrat from Louisville and a sponsor of the bill, highlighted the collaborative nature of the legislative process, stating, “I’m really proud that we’ve been able to come up with a solution that is workable for the business community, for the healthcare community — and we’ll make sure that victims can be appropriately compensated, or more appropriately than they are today.”

The bill is the result of intense negotiations between the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association (CTLA) and the medical and insurance industries, with business groups also playing a significant role. The primary purpose of the CTLA is to support and advocate for the rights of individuals who have been harmed by providing its members with education, resources, and networking opportunities to help them improve their trial skills and stay updated on current issues. The organization also plays a role in new field developments in the state. The trial lawyers had threatened to introduce a ballot measure to eliminate some caps entirely. In response, the insurance industry supported the legislation to increase thresholds instead.

In addition to Governor Polis’ signing, key figures in the bipartisan effort included Sen. Bob Gardner, a Republican, and House Minority Leader Rose Pugliese, who helped bridge the divide between the opposing groups. This cooperation highlights the importance of bipartisan collaboration in addressing complex legislative issues.

Supporters of the bill hope that the new law will have a lasting impact, reducing the need for future debates over caps. “The way this bill is structured, we made sure that caps are going to go up, and then they’re going to go up using inflation over the next many, many years,” Brown said, adding, “So, I’m hopeful that we never have to do this again.”

Governor Polis’ commitment to Coloradoans impacted by medical malpractice represents a significant shift in state’s approach to compensating victims. By raising the caps on noneconomic damages and including inflation adjustments, the state aims to provide fairer compensation for those affected by medical errors and wrongful deaths. As Colorado implements these changes, the goal is to achieve more equitable outcomes for victims while balancing the interests of all parties involved.


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