Do I Have a Case?
In order to have a claim for a personal injury in Colorado,
you must establish three things:
Under Colorado law, liability is established by showing that a negligent party had a duty to you and he breached that duty. A breach of duty is known as negligence. You must also establish that you suffered damages as a result of that negligence. Damages refer to injuries or losses. These injuries can be economic (such as wage loss, property damage, or medical bills) or non-economic (such as pain and suffering, disability, loss of enjoyment of life, inconvenience, impairment, etc.). You must also establish causation under Colorado law to prevail on a personal injury case. Causation is basically the link between liability and damages. The question asked is, did the negligence cause the damage? The following two examples will illustrate the analysis that needs to be performed by a qualified personal injury attorney before pursuing a case, automobile accident, or otherwise, in Colorado.
You are the passenger in a car westbound on Colfax at the intersection of Chambers in Aurora, CO. As the driver of your car enters the intersection on a green light, a semi-truck driver runs a red light and turns left into your car. An officer from the Aurora Police Department cites the semi-truck driver. The driver of your car is not injured but you are taken by ambulance to Aurora Regional Medical Center in Aurora, Colorado. You are treated and released. In analyzing the case, we first look at liability. Clearly, drivers on the road in Colorado have a duty to other vehicles and their passengers. The tractor-trailer driver breached his duty by turning on a red light and causing a crash. Thus, liability is established.
You were injured so you sustained damages. Your damages include pain and suffering and medical bills from the ambulance and hospital. What about the driver of your car? He was not injured, so, did he sustain damages? Yes! The driver of your vehicle sustained damage to his car and will likely incur rental car costs as well.
We must decide if causation existed. Clearly, the negligent semi-truck driver caused the collision but that is not enough. Did he cause your damages or injuries as well? In this example, the driver did in fact cause your damages (bills and pain) in addition to the damage to your driver's vehicle. The negligent semi-truck driver would not be responsible for prior damage to the vehicle or for medical conditions that existed prior to the crash. However, in Colorado, a negligent driver who causes a motor vehicle collision is responsible for the aggravation of any pre-existing condition you may have had.
In this example, we have established (1) liability; (2) damages; and (3) causation. Therefore, you would have a case. You may click here to answer the question "What is my case worth?"
While walking in the produce department of King Soopers in Denver, Colorado you and slip and fall on a grape, break your ankle, and are taken by ambulance to University Hospital. Is there a case? For this example, we will consider liability last. Clearly, you have damages in the form of medical bills and pain and suffering. Causation would also be easy if liability is established because there is a video in King Soopers showing your slip and fall. Liability is a tougher question. Yes, King Soopers has a duty to use reasonable care to protect their customers from dangerous conditions such as slipping and falling on grapes. Did King Soopers breach the duty though?
In a premises liability case, to establish a breach of the duty to protect customers, you, the Plaintiff must establish one of three things. Either (1) the store caused the dangerous condition, or (2) the store knew of the dangerous condition and did nothing, or (3) the store should have known of the dangerous condition. In this case, we have no evidence that the store caused the grape to be on the floor or that they knew the grape was on the floor. The only way to establish that the store should have known there was a grape on the floor would be to establish that it was there for a long period of time.
In this case, there is no liability and no case despite your injuries and the fact that they were caused by your slipping. The result would be different if an employee by the name of Matt was stocking grapes and spilled them on the floor. Then you could establish that the store caused the dangerous condition. The result would also be different if the video showed grapes being spilled two hours earlier by a customer because the store "should have known" of the dangerous condition had it inspected the area. Many people feel that a store should automatically be responsible for all injuries on the property. However, it is simply not fair to hold the store responsible, and there is no liability if another customer spilled grapes ten seconds before you slipped. If you could identify the other customer, you could pursue a negligence case.