Every personal injury case is different. Most take months or even years to resolve. Your personal injury case will resolve in one of two ways: (1) a settlement; or (2) a jury verdict. Over 95% of civil cases resolve through a settlement. A settlement is an agreement with the insurance company and/or at-fault party(ies) to accept a sum of money in exchange for releasing the at-fault party(ies) from any further legal action forever. The way we engage the insurance company and/or at-fault parties in settlement discussions is by submitting a fully-supported demand for settlement called a Settlement Demand Package (“SDP”). The SDP will contain all evidence we have supporting liability and damages. Such evidence typically includes your medical records, bills, photographs, witness statements, diagrams, any necessary accident reconstruction, letters from or videotaped interviews with your doctors, a calculation of your damages, and an opening offer of settlement to initiate negotiations.
If the insurance company fails to engage in negotiations or offers an insufficient sum of money, the next step is to file your case in court against the at-fault party(ies). This does not mean that there are no further opportunities to settle your case. To the contrary, there are typically many opportunities to settle your case during the course of litigation.
We take every opportunity to settle our clients’ personal injury claims fully and fairly without the need for litigation. Although timelines can vary, the critical question to answer before submitting the SDP is, “What is the reasonable value of your personal injury claim?” Let’s start by discussing the types of damages available to a personal injury claimant.
The SDP will outline the amounts claimed for your damages. Your attorney will assign a dollar amount to each available damages category. In Colorado, there are three types of damage categories available to you: (1) Economic Damages; (2) Non-economic Damages; and (3) Permanent Impairment/Disfigurement. These categories account for past, present, and future losses.
Economic damages are the financial losses. Classic examples are medical bills, lost wages, diminished earnings capacity, and out-of-pocket expenses such as house cleaners, dog walkers, and medical equipment. Colorado law does not place caps on these types of damages.
Non-economic damages compensate you for intangible losses, such as pain and suffering, grief, anxiety, loss of enjoyment of life, and financial stress and worry. Colorado law limits the amount injured persons can recover for non-economic losses,. The current cap for this type of damages is $571,870. See C.R.S. § 13-21-102.5. This cap adjusts to inflation. This cap can be doubled under very limited circumstances.
Permanent Impairment/Disfigurement are damages are designed to compensate you for permanent physical limitations or restrictions and/or disfigurement from scarring or loss of a body part. Colorado law does not place caps on these types of damages.
If H|H is handling a wrongful death or survival action for you, the available damages and damages caps are different than those described here. Your attorney will discuss this information with you.
The SDP will be compiled once you have reached maximum medical improvement (“MMI”). MMI is a medical term. It means that you have either fully recovered or reached a “treatment plateau at which no fundamental, functional or physiological change can be expected within reasonable medical probability in spite of continuing medical or rehabilitative procedures.” See here. Your medical providers (not your attorneys) will decide when you reach MMI.
You must reach MMI before we create the SDP so that we make sure to encompass all damages in the SDP. It is important to remember that a settlement typically comes in the form of one lump sum payment in exchange for an agreement to release the at-fault party(ies) from any further legal action forever. That is why it is critically important to make sure you at MMI because, until you reach MMI, we will not know what your doctors recommend for you in terms of future medical treatment needs, if any. As we stated above, the damage categories are for past, present, and future losses.
In order to effectively negotiate your case pre litigation, we must submit the SDP well before the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations for most personal injury claims is two years. The statute of limitations for personal injury claims involving the use of an automobile is three years. Because the process of negotiating a pre-litigation settlement can take months to potentially more than a year, the SDP will be submitted, if possible, well before the statute of limitations on your claim runs.
H|H will advise you on a reasonable settlement value for your claim after we draft and compile the SDP but before we submit the SDP to the liable parties. We will examine and discuss all available information relating to liability, your injuries, and your losses, focusing heavily on your goals and expectations regarding settlement. We will work with you to assign dollar amounts to the available categories of damages to determine a reasonable settlement range in light of the overall value and risks with moving forward with litigation.
H|H lawyers are directly available to you during normal business hours. Please let us know how frequently you wish to communicate with us. The lawyers will in appropriate cases offer their cell phone numbers to ensure immediate and direct access.
Thank you for contacting H|H. We are ready to come on board as Your Ally and Your Advocate.