It wasn’t your fault, but in an instant, your life was turned upside‑down. Maybe another driver raced through a red light and rammed into your car. Maybe you bought a product that proved to be dangerous. Maybe an insurance company denied your claim and suddenly put you at risk for thousands of dollars.
Now, you’ve been seriously injured or a loved one has been injured or even killed. Perhaps you can’t work to pay your bills, or even get the medical treatment you need. You’re faced with decisions you have to make quickly even while you wrestle with pain and emotional problems.
You are not superhuman. Your problems are serious. In addition to everything else you are facing, the law is a complex array of sophisticated issues, from sorting through the insurance coverages and employer benefit plans that may be available to help find immediate relief and medical care, to bringing to justice the person or company that is legally responsible for your injury or loss. You should not have to deal with these issues alone.
I have 35 years of experience, caring and providing people like you with quality legal services. Your trust is one of the most important facets of our profession. We want to earn your trust because we know how important it is to you. If you agree to have us handle your case, we will treat you with dignity and we will be sure you know where your case stands.
Our initial consultation about your personal injury case is free. Please call me personally at (303) 831-4750, my associate, Matt Molinaro, or my legal assistant, Debra Woods to find out how we can help you.
- Do I have a case?
While general information on this web site should not be mistaken for legal advice that an attorney can only give you after becoming familiar with the facts of your case, every legal case has a series of elements that must be present before you can recover damages from another party. The elements vary with the type of injury, claim, or conduct (such as automobile accidents, workers’ compensation system, even where the employer is not at fault.
Causation. The injured party must show that his or her injury was caused by the conduct of the other party.
In recent years, a fourth factor – personal responsibility – has taken on great importance in injury cases. Personal responsibility is not a legal element so much as a theme that defendants and insurance companies often successfully use against injured people at trial. Cases that should be about the careless conduct of one party can end up being about what the victim of that conduct has done to recover from his or her injuries. This is why you must do everything you can to take responsibility for your recovery – by keeping medical appointments and following your doctors’ advice, by taking advantage of re-employment opportunities, and by doing all you can do to bring your life as close as it can be to the day before you were injured.
Many people see the legal system as a lottery. This is not my philosophy. I strive to obtain a fair recovery for people injured at the hands of others. Those who expect an excessive recovery are likely to be disappointed – no matter who represents them.
- What is the process for bringing a claim?
The justice system has room for only two ways to resolve a claim: a settlement, or a trial or hearing.
Most claims are resolved by settlement. The parties reach an agreement where the person or company that caused the injury (or, more often, that person’s or company’s insurer) pays a specified amount to the injured person. Settlements have many advantages: they reduce the delay of waiting for a trial and possible appeal, they reduce the cost of the trial, and they provide certainty, avoiding each side’s risk of a less favorable result after trial.
Settlements can occur at virtually any point in the process: before a lawsuit or claim is filed, after suit is filed and the attorneys are preparing for trial, during the trial, and even after trial, when the parties may be considering an appeal or awaiting its result.
Where a disputed claim cannot be settled, the injured party must prepare for a trial or hearing (some disputes, such as certain claims for uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, must be brought to an arbitrator rather than a judge or jury), and must do so within certain time frames. In most cases, after you have filed your suit or claim, each party has the opportunity to learn more about the other side’s claims and defenses through a process called “discovery.” During discovery, the parties may demand documents, ask questions, and conduct depositions – extensive, recorded interviews of a party or witness under oath by the other party’s lawyer.
The parties often try, or try again, to settle the claim after the discovery process, sometimes by hiring an impartial retired judge or other mediator. If they still can’t resolve the case, it proceeds to a hearing or trial before a judge, jury or arbitrator, who will decide if the injured person can meet his or her burden of showing that all elements of the claim have been met, and the amount of damages.
The losing party may appeal the decision of a judge or jury, leading to substantial further delay. In most litigated cases, however, the verdict or judgment at trial stands up on appeal.
- Do I have a time limit for bringing my claim?
Yes. Different types of claims carry different time limits – also known as statutes of limitations. If your claim is not filed in court within a certain time frame provided by law, you will lose the claim – forever.
Some statutes of limitations give you up to three years to file suit for an injury. Others are very short. For example if you have been injured by the negligence of a employee of a state or local government in Colorado, you must give written notice to the governmental body within 180 days of your injury. The time limit in your case may be easy to determine – or it may not, since your case may involve unusual facts and circumstances.
- Auto, Motorcycle and Truck Collisions
Driving on the nation’s roads and highways remains one of the most dangerous activities of daily life. The Colorado Department of Transportation reported 547 fatalities in Colorado motor vehicle crashes in 2015. According to the department, alcohol impaired driving (where a vehicle operator had a blood alcohol content of over 0.08) is typically involved in one-thrid of the traffic fatalities, and cannabis or other drugs are involved were involved in 28% of the 2014 fatalities.
Distracted driving has become an increasing problem in recent years with the advent of devices like mobile phones and GPS systems. The most recent statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicate over 3,000 fatalities and 400,000 additional injuries annually from distracted driving. Colorado law prohibits new drivers from using cell phones — even for hands-free calling — while driving, and prohibits all drivers from texting while driving.
Motor vehicle collisions, whether they involve cars, trucks, motorcycles or pedestrians, involve a complex web of insurance coverage. By law, all motorists must carry minimum levels of liability insurance or comparable financial protection for other drivers. That’s good – as far as it goes. But not all drivers obey this law. And even when they do, the at-fault driver’s insurance company may force you to wait until you’ve taken your case to trial, or longer, before they will pay any damages on your claim.
Your most immediate need after you’ve been injured in a collision is medical care and treatment. In 2003, the Colorado legislature did away with the decades-old system of “no-fault” insurance that required a driver’s own insurance company to provide certain levels of medical and wage-loss protection to the driver and those using the driver’s car. You may still carry limited, optional medical payments coverage through your own motor vehicle insurance. But if you’ve been seriously injured, you will probably need to find other ways to get medical treatment.
Another critical source of insurance protection you should carry as part of your own motor vehicle coverage is uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. This coverage typically makes up the shortfall where the driver that caused the accident does not have as much coverage as you have on your own vehicle. This coverage is especially important in difficult economic times when many drivers choose to save money by going with little or no auto liability coverage.
An experienced attorney will help you gain an understanding of how the various coverages relate to each other, and can tell you how they can work to your benefit.
- Slip/Fall and Premises Injuries
Those who own and manage properties – including stores, apartments, homes and recreational facilities – have a duty to protect the public from dangerous conditions on their properties. If you have been injured from a fall on a broken stair, an uneven or poorly lit walkway, or from any of a number of hazards on someone else’s property, you may have a claim against the property owner or manager who was at fault.
The prospects for a successful claim vary widely in these cases. For example, property owners faced with slip and fall claims almost always try to defend themselves by claiming that the injured party was not careful enough to protect himself or herself from the danger. Again, it’s all part of the “personal responsibility” picture. This type of defense in some cases can reduce or entirely eliminate recovery for damages.
It is especially important to contact an attorney as soon as possible after you have been injured. An experienced attorney can determine at an early stage the need for photographs of the scene, witness interviews, and other steps to be taken to present the best possible case.
- Dangerous Products
If you’ve been injured because a company allowed a dangerous product into the marketplace, that company may be responsible for your injuries.
To hold a manufacturer or seller liable for the damage its product caused, you must generally show that the product was unreasonably dangerous because of a defect. The defect can result from poor product design, which may lead to a product recall. The defect can be an isolated problem in the manufacturing process. Or, a product, such as a power tool, might be dangerous simply because the manufacturer did not provide adequate warnings to be sure the product was used safely.
Potentially dangerous products can be household or consumer items, chemicals, drugs, materials or substances used in the workplace, or recreational equipment. Safe use of a product starts with the user, but being careful may not be enough. If you’ve been injured by a dangerous product, contacting an experienced attorney promptly is especially important. The attorney will need to quickly determine how the product that caused the harm can be preserved as evidence or tested if necessary, how other evidence can be gathered, and how your claim can best be presented to the manufacturer or seller.
- Mistreatment by Insurance Companies (Bad Faith)
People buy insurance for peace of mind. In this complex world, you or your employer may carry insurance to protect you against any number of risks: losing your livelihood, damage to your house, valuables or car, or even being sued by someone else, with or without a good reason.
An insurance policy is a contract – a legal commitment to you. Insurance companies have a special duty toward the people they insure to act in good faith. This means they must diligently investigate your claim, pay the claim promptly if it has merit, and keep you informed about your claim. If your insurance company denies your claim, it must explain the reason to you.
If you believe your insurance company has not lived up to its commitment to you, an experienced attorney can help you evaluate whether you have a valid bad faith claim.
- Wrongful Death
The tragedy of wrongful death can result from any of the kinds of injuries above: motor vehicle collisions, dangerous products, and property-based injuries.
The wrongful death laws specify which family members can bring a claim, and during which time frames after the fatal injury. In Colorado, for example, where there is a surviving spouse, the spouse is the only person who can bring a claim within the first year, and in all cases, the claim must be brought within two years.
Whether or not you can win your case is only part of what you need to know to make an informed decision about bringing a claim.
In most personal injury cases, there are three general types of available damages.
Economic damages are those damages that can be easily measured in monetary terms, such as lost wages and benefits and medical expenses. Your ability to earn money in the future is also an economic loss, although it is harder to measure. Although future losses may seem to involve some degree of guesswork, experts in labor economics and vocational rehabilitation often testify in personal injury cases to explain to a jury what the future is likely to hold for you if you’ve been seriously injured.
Noneconomic damages, such as emotional distress, suffering, and the inability to fully enjoy life, are obviously difficult to measure. Nevertheless, we routinely ask juries and judges to put a dollar value on these items, because money is the only way the legal system can compensate you for these damages.
Permanent disability and disfigurement damages are also available in injury cases. These damages compensate you for any lifelong physical or mental impairment, or disfigurement or scarring you are likely to suffer due to your injury.
While you are generally entitled to recover for the damages caused by an injury that another person is responsible for, you have an obligation to mitigate your damages. If you can’t return to your old job, you must make reasonable efforts to find substitute employment. If your doctor reasonably recommends medical treatment that will help you, you must follow those recommendations, or the damages awarded to you may be reduced.
Punitive damages are also available in those rare cases where an injured person can show beyond a reasonable doubt that his or her injury involved willful and wanton conduct. Punitive damages are not meant to compensate an injured person. Instead, they are meant to hold up the defendant as an example and to deter similar conduct by the defendant and others.