State entities and state employees who are acting in the scope of the employment – even if they are grossly negligent - are usually completely immune from lawsuits. This means that no matter how negligent they are or how severely hurt someone is, lawsuits are generally not allowed.
In the few instances, such as when the state is aware of dangerous snow and ice on a road and does nothing to remedy this, or a traffic signal is not fixed, lawsuits are allowed. However, in those instances, there are very severe “caps” on damages.
If a lawsuit is allowed to go forward, the most a victim can be awarded is $350,000 - even for those who suffer permanent disabilities, are unable to ever work again, or face lifelong medical bills. For instance, imagine that you are injured because of a dangerous road condition on a public highway in Colorado and, as a result of the accident, you're rendered quadriplegic. You now face a lifetime of care, high medical bills, and cannot return to work but your compensation is limited to $350,000. This won't begin to cover your medical bills, nevermind the other expenses.
In addition to this cap on individual damages, there is also a $990,000 total cap for a single accident or event irrespective of how many people are injured or killed. So even if 10 or 20 people or more are all injured or even killed in a catastrophic event, only $990,000 is available. This must be split among every victim, with no one victim receiving more than $350,000. This means some people might not receive any compensation at all, despite suffering real injuries. (These governmental immunity caps were recently raised from even lower amounts -- $150,000 per victim and $600,000 per accident and will be adjusted for inflation every 4 years beginning in 2018.)
Currently health care practitioners who work as public employees, i.e. doctors who work in university hospitals receive governmental immunity even for work they do in a private capacity. This means that a doctor who injures a patient while working at his private practice receives governmental immunity if he is affiliated with a public hospital. Caps Harm Colorado encourages the Colorado legislature to amend the governmental immunity laws so that these health care practioners are not immune from lawsuits when they injure patients.
Another problem Colorado victims face when attempting to sue the government is a strict notice requirement. The victim has 180 days from the time of the discovery of the injury to file a written notice of their claim against the government. This could be extremely difficult for anyone who may be severely hurt, facing significant medical issues and other disruptions in their life, and the chance of even knowing about this deadline is slim to none, yet it is no excuse if the victim is unaware of this requirement or timeframe. If they miss the deadline they are out of luck, regardless of the circumstances.
Ski Area Immunity
When skiers are injured in Colorado, their right to sue is greatly restricted. Even when an injury occurs as the result of the ski areas own negligence, the ski area's liability and accountability is severely limited. The ski area can only be sued if they breach a specific duty laid out in the 1979 Ski Safety Act found here. In the few situations where a lawsuit can occur, victims face a $1 million damages cap and their non-economic damages are capped at $250,000. Unlike in other cases, the non-economic damage cap is not adjustable for inflation.
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