Colorado Medical Malpractice Laws

A Colorado medical malpractice plaintiff needs to understand the statute of limitations filing deadline, the "certificate of review" requirement, and the state's cap on damages.

Before you decide to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in Colorado, be aware that these cases are notoriously complex. Strict procedural rules need to be obeyed, volumes of medical records need to be sifted through and analyzed, and the plaintiff's "burden of proof" is substantial. In this article, we'll take a look at the Colorado statute of limitations deadline for medical malpractice lawsuits, the state's "certificate of review" requirement, and the Colorado cap on medical malpractice damages.

The Colorado Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations

If you're thinking about filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in Colorado, the first law you need to be aware of is the statute of limitations, which puts a strict limit on the amount of time you have to get your case started in the state's civil court system.

The statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases (which you can find at Colorado Revised Statutes section 13-80-102.5) gives you two years to get your lawsuit filed, starting from the date the harm was inflicted or the date on which you discover -- or could reasonably have been expected to discover -- that you were harmed by a medical error. The law goes on to say that you must get your case filed within three years of the alleged malpractice regardless of when it was discovered, UNLESS:

  • the case involved fraud or concealment on the part of the defendant
  • the case involved the leaving of a surgical instrument or some other foreign object in the patient’s body, or
  • you could not have discovered both the actual malpractice or the resulting injury even “by the exercise of reasonable diligence.”

Finally, in Colorado, any lawsuit brought on behalf of a minor who was under the age of six at the time the alleged medical malpractice occurred must be filed before the child’s eighth birthday.

If you wait too long to get your lawsuit started -- you try to file it after the statutory time limit has already passed, in other words -- the court will almost certainly refuse to consider your claim (unless a rare exception acts to extend the deadline). That’s why it’s so important to comply with the Colorado statute of limitations in a medical malpractice case.

The "Certificate of Review" in Colorado Medical Malpractice Cases

A Colorado medical malpractice plaintiff (or the plaintiff's attorney) must, within 60 days of serving the lawsuit on the defendant(s), file a "certificate of review" pertaining to each health care professional named in the case. Extra time to get the certificate filed might be granted it the plaintiff can show "good cause" for an extension.

This certificate must state that:

  • the plaintiff has consulted a medical expert who has relevant experience in the area of medicine at issue, and
  • the expert has reviewed the plaintiff's claims and records, and has concluded that the lawsuit "does not lack substantial justification."

Additional paperwork is necessary if the defendant health care professional is a physician. In that situation, the certificate of review must include a declaration that the consulted medical expert qualifies to offer his or her expert opinion under Colorado court rules.

When a certificate of review is required, failure to file one will almost certainly result in the dismissal of your medical malpractice lawsuit.

This is a simplified explanation of Colorado's "certificate of review" requirement. Check out the full details at Colorado Revised Statutes section 13-20-602.

Does Colorado Cap Medical Malpractice Damages?

Yes. Like a lot of other states, Colorado has passed laws that limit the amount of compensation a patient can receive even after a jury has found that an error by a doctor or other health care professional liable caused the patient’s injuries.

Colorado is a little unique in that the state actually has two caps on medical malpractice damages.

First, there is a $1 million “umbrella” cap on the total amount of compensation that a medical malpractice plaintiff can receive, whether economic losses -- which includes payment of past and future medical bills, as well as compensation for lost income and reduced earning capacity -- or non-economic losses, which we’ll explain in more detail below.

A plaintiff might be able to get around Colorado’s $1 million cap if there is good cause for doing so and the court finds that application of the cap would be unfair under the specific circumstances of the case, but any amount in excess of $1 million will typically be limited to compensation for future medical care and future earnings.

The second Colorado law you need to know about sets a damage cap of $300,000 on non-economic damages in a medical malpractice case. Non-economic damages are those that aren’t as easy to quantify or capture with a dollar amount. That includes compensation for “pain and suffering,” loss of enjoyment of life, fear and anxiety, sleeplessness, scarring, disfigurement, and other subjective negative consequences of the defendant’s medical malpractice.

This article provides a brief summary of some of the Colorado laws that any medical malpractice plaintiff needs to have in mind. If you've got questions about how the state's laws will affect your potential situation, an experienced Colorado medical malpractice attorney will have the answers.

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