Recently, it has been confirmed to Colorado attorneys and judges that the Denver Office of Administrative Courts (OAC), which hears workers’ compensation cases among others, is relocating from its present location on 17th Street to the vacated offices of the Colorado Attorney General’s office. Although the 17th Street location has been criticized for its difficulty to find as well as the expensive parking that surrounds the location, it is generally agreed by the legal community that the new location will be a nightmare experience for any Colorado citizen who participates in an administrative hearing. There is virtually no parking surrounding the new location, and transit opportunities are limited. It is foreseeable that the cost of parking tickets that attorneys and experts will incur will be passed along to the general public, hearings will be delayed due to the participants inability to find parking, and even worse, hearings will be continued and/or cases dismissed when claimants and witnesses fail to appear for trial.
There has been a great deal of publicity recently regarding the newly constructed Ralph L. Carr Justice Center. It was logical that the judges from OAC would have been relocated to the new Justice Center. Instead, the Attorney General’s office relocated there. It is also my understanding that a great deal of funds are being spent converting the office space formerly occupied by the Attorney General’s office into courtrooms. Neither myself nor a prehearing law judge could understand why these choices were made.
After reading a recent article in the Denver Post, I think I understand. Apparently, the cost of appealing lower court decisions or the accessibility of administrative hearings is irrelevant when it comes to the two highest courts in our state as well as the relocation of the Attorney General’s office. According to the Post, based on an investigation by CALL7 Investigators, there are $1,300 wood serving carts with silver trays sitting in Supreme Court Justice Michael Bender’s reception room. The general public, however, cannot view these carts without a security clearance or an escort. Additional furniture in the Justice Center include an octagon tray table totaling $7,200, a cocktail table with ash burl top costing $5,900, desks totaling $5,000, leather sofas costing $4,800, and credenzas with antique brass hardware totaling $2,375. The total cost of furnishing the Supreme Court justice chambers was $24,000, and the total cost of furnishing the chambers of the appeals court judges was $19,000.
State Court Administrator, Jerry Marroney, who was responsible for the oversight of the complex’s building budget, defended the furniture selections. According to Mr. Marroney, some of the furniture initially selected was ‘outlandish’, and was rejected by a committee of state officials and architectural and building experts. When Mr. Marroney was questioned what the bar for ‘outlandish’ was, he replied: ‘It’s what they decided it was.’ One expects this type of arrogance from a titan of industry, not a civil servant.
How was this furniture paid for? Court fees were increased. The citizens of Colorado, who are for the most part the least able to afford it, had the cost for filing a complaint in District Court increase from $68 to $224. It is ironic that the courthouse is named after former Governor Ralph L. Carr. Governor Carr was known for fiscal restraint when it came to state spending as well as protesting the internment of Japanese-American citizens after Pearl Harbor. It is generally agreed that this stance cost him his political career. He must be turning in his grave.
When I moved to Denver in 1985, I thought that I had entered the Emerald City in the Land of Oz. Denver was a beautiful city on the plains, surrounded by poppy fields. (OK. There weren’t any poppy fields, but the city was surrounded by fields of beautiful wildflowers and beautiful sunflowers).
Approximately twenty years later, I had to move both my private residence and my business. Although there were numerous reasons as to why I decided to move, one of the main reasons I chose to move was because I was convinced that if I didn’t, it was just a matter of time until I would hit, and potentially kill, a pedestrian who was illegally jay-walking or a bicyclist who was riding down the wrong side of the road or in the middle of the street. Turns out, I was right.
In a recent article in the Denver Post, the Post reported that pedestrian accidents have spiked. Specifically, Joey Bunch of the Post stated: “This year’s spike in auto-pedestrian collisions is deadly serious, Denver police say, regardless of whether it’s a statistical anomaly or an early sign of a long-term problem.” I’m here to tell you, Joey, it’s a long-term sign (probably not accurately statistically reported) of a long-term problem.
Denver’s auto-pedestrian accidents were up 46% for the first eight weeks of 2013 over the previous two years. Last year the city had 13 hit-and-run fatalities, more than the previous three years combined. Apparently, it is Denver Police Chief White’s position, through his spokesman, that it is not just a police problem, but a city problem which the city needs to work on. I beg to differ. It wasn’t until the turn of the century that I noticed that the Denver police stopped writing tickets enforcing municipal ordinances that dealt with pedestrian infractions and/or bicycling infractions. Coincidentally, this happened when Denver, as the majority of municipalities, started subcontracting lucrative criminal “rehabilitation programs” to private subcontractors. In other words, there isn’t any money in policing these types of cases.
Chief White, through his spokesman, Lt. Matt Murray, also said that the city is working on a public education campaign, “but we’re getting to a point where we’re going to have to take action on enforcement.” What the hell is he talking about! When did the Denver police stop enforcing the laws on the books? I know. It was when the privatization for profit of law enforcement happened.
As set forth by reporter Bunch, the consequences of auto-pedestrian accidents can be tragic. On February 27, 2013, two East High students were struck outside the school within minutes of each other. In one case, a student just walked out into traffic. According to Denver police statistics, after averaging about 31 auto-pedestrian incidents a month, the average jumped to 44 a month in January and February. Apparently, traffic safety officials indicate the “enforcement” of jay-walking laws is not practical with hundreds of thousands of residents, workers, students and tourists spread across Denver each week day, with a limited number of officers to respond to all kinds of calls. That logic can apply to all Colorado laws. If that is the position of the Denver police, the city should simply do away with their police force, and save the city a great deal of money.
Dogs are defined under Colorado law as any domesticated animal that is related to the fox, wolf, coyote or jackal. The following breeds are often considered dangerous by homeowner insurance companies, and are often excluded from coverage; Pit Bulls, Boxers, German Shepherds, Akitas, Bullmastiffs, Chow Chows, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, and Siberian Huskies.
Until 1999, Colorado law, as in other states which addressed dog bites, had what was known as the “one bite rule”. A dog’s owner could not be liable for the dog’s vicious behavior unless the owner knew or should have known of the dog’s propensity to be vicious. Colorado case law, however, established that even the confinement of a dog by an owner was proof the owner knew of the dog’s dangerous behavior.
The law changed in 1999 when the legislature enacted various Colorado statutes that address when the owner of a vicious dog can be held liable. Now, Colorado dog owners can be held strictly liable for serious bodily injuries as a result of an attack or dog bite if the injured person was lawfully on private or public property. An injured individual is considered lawfully on another person’s property if: 1. they are on the property from the express or implied invitation of the owner; or 2. they are on the property in performance of a duty imposed on them by local, state or federal law or regulations. In other words, it is no longer necessary that the dog owner be aware or should have been aware of the dog’s dangerous propensities prior to an attack. However, for a lesser injury or to collect full damages for a serious bodily injury, a dog owner will be held liable under the one bite rule, for negligence or for violating an animal control law.
With regards to Colorado’s strict liability dog bite statute, it relies upon restrictive definitions of “bodily injury” and “serious bodily injury”. “Bodily injury” is defined as “any physical injury that results in severe bruising, muscle tears, or skin lacerations requiring professional medical treatment or any physical injury that requires corrective or cosmetic surgery.” “Serious bodily injury” is defined as “bodily injury which, either at the time of the actual injury or at a later time, involves a substantial risk of death, a substantial risk of serious permanent disfigurement, a substantial risk of protracted loss or impairment of the function of any part or organ of the body, or breaks, fractures or burns of the second or third degree.” Pain and suffering or emotional distress would not be covered under the statute, but can be recovered under Colorado common law as discussed above.
As to what “economic damages” can be recovered under Colorado’s dog bite statute, these damages include past medical bills, future medical bills, past psychological counseling, future psychological counseling, past loss of income, and loss of earning power as a result of disability or disfigurement. An injured individual cannot recover damages if the injured person is unlawfully on public or private property; if the injured individual ignored a warning sign; if the injured person provoked the dog; if the injured individual were a judge at a dog show or was performing a service for the dog; if the injured person was doing police or military work; or if the dog was working as a predator control, hunting, herding, farming, or ranching dog under the control of the dog’s owner.
As set forth above, if an injured individual is not able to recover for their personal injuries under a theory of strict liability, he or she may still be able to recover for their losses, injuries and damages if they can prove that the dog had dangerous propensities, that the owner violated local or state animal control laws or that the owner acted in a negligent manner. The injured victim may sill be able to recover for a dog attack if the dog attack was intentional or if the owner fails to stop the attack after it began.
Under the Colorado premises liability statute, “landowners” can be held liable to a person bitten by a dog. This statute is broadly applied and landowners include not only titled owners of real property, but anyone who exercises a sufficient degree of control over the circumstances existing or activities taking place on real property where the accident occurred. Beside landlords, tenants and janitors have been considered landowners. The landowner is liable for the dog’s attack on an injured individual only if he or she knew of the dog’s dangerous propensity, and consented to the dog being on the property.
If a dog bites or attacks another person, and the owner knew that the dog was dangerous or had dangerous propensities, the owner could be liable for all injuries, damages, and losses resulting from the attack. A victim of a dog attack could recover damages under Negligence Theory of Liability by proving four elements by a preponderance of the evidence. The first element is duty. A dog owner has a duty to keep their dog on a leash or fenced in a yard. The second element is breach. A dog’s owner breached their duty by not keeping their dog on a leash while taking the dog for a walk. The third element that must be proven is a dog attack victim suffered compensable injuries as a result of the negligence of the dog’s owner. The last element that must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence is the dog owner’s conduct must have been an actual and proximate cause of the injuries.
If someone is bit or attacked by a dog, they are entitled to recover economic damages. This can include medical expenses, loss of income, diminished earning capacity or any other out-of-pocket expenses. They can also recover noneconomic damages which include compensation for pain and suffering, mental anguish, impairment to their normal lifestyle, and loss of enjoyment of life. In Colorado, noneconomic damages is capped at $500,000.00. A third type of damage one can recover relates to physical impairment and disfigurement. This is intended to compensate for permanent physical disability and scars and disfigurement suffered during an attack. In Colorado, there is no cap for physical impairment and disfigurement damages.
Also, if a child or children are a victim of a dog bite or attack, the above information still applies. The only difference is in the settlement procedure. When a child or children under the age of 18 are injured, the settlement has to be approved by a court order.
Section 13-80-102 of the Colorado Revised Statutes limits the time someone can file a claim for bodily injuries suffered from a dog attack to two years. Once the two years passes, an injured party can no longer file a claim. It is important for any dog bite victim to contact an attorney as soon as possible.
Most injured workers or people injured in an auto accident or slip and fall do not realize that often times the insurance company who insures the employer or person responsible for the accident routinely conducts surveillance of the injured person. Surveillance is especially common in workers compensation cases.
The insurance company hires an investigator who may or may not be licensed. A license is not required to be an investigator in Colorado. The investigator will follow the injured individual in his or her vehicle or stake out the injured worker’s home. Then the investigator will film the injured person. The majority of time, the surveillance shows nothing that would incriminate the injured worker. From this, one can deduce that the majority of injured people are honest, and do not exaggerate their injuries. Occasionally, however, the film will capture an injured person lifting things that are triple their restrictions or engaging in an activity that is inconsistent with his or her injury, i.e. playing baseball or lifting weights.
More recently, insurance companies and the attorneys that represent them are turning to social media to obtain information that incriminates injured workers. Since most people have a tendency to exaggerate their physical attributes on the internet, things posted on Facebook or other social networking sites can be particularly damning. Recently, I was representing an injured worker who had severe lifting restrictions, and wasn’t working. It was her position that she was unable to earn wages. Unfortunately, she represented on a diet website that she was walking miles during the week, had lost weight, and felt great. Needless to say, this severely reduced the value of her case.
In the event you are injured at work or injured through the fault of another, I advise you to cease all social networking until your claim is settled or your case is resolved. Many injured people believe that they have a right to privacy on the Internet, especially if they have utilized privacy settings. Unfortunately, recent case law says the opposite.
As to solutions to surveillance, it is not uncommon for investigators to overreach and harass an injured worker when following and/or filming him or her. There are laws against stalking people in Colorado so injured individuals should not be afraid to call the police.
Most people are unsure about what steps they should take if they are hurt on the job. So, if you are at work when you suffer an injury, what should you do?
- If you suffer a life or limb threatening injury, seek immediate medical attention at the closest emergency room. Life or limb threatening means an injury that would threaten a portion of your body or life without immediate medical attention.
- Then notify your supervisor or employer in writing about the injury.
- For all other types of injuries, notify your supervisor verbally and in writing that you were hurt and then seek medical attention from one of the health care providers that your employer provides you with.
- No matter how minor the injury is, you should always report it to your supervisor or employer.
In the state of Colorado, you must notify your employer in writing within four working days of your injury. Even though you notified them verbally that you suffered an injury, you must still give them a written notice that you were injured. Again, this must be done within four working days after you sustained a work related injury. If you fail to do so, and your employer has posted a sign requiring four days’ notice, you could be subject to penalties and lose some benefits.
If your employer has a designated medical provider, you will have to see that provider for your medical care. If you seek medical care from a different medical provider, it could result in nonpayment of medical benefits and you will be responsible for any medical costs. However, if your employer does not have a designated medical provider, you can obtain medical treatment from your choice of medical providers.
After you are injured, your employer has ten days to file a report of the injury to its insurance company. If your injury causes you to miss more than three days or three shifts at work, the insurance company has 20 days from the date your employer notified them of your injury to inform you whether benefits will be paid. The insurance company will issue an Admission of Liability or a Notice of Contest. If they issue an Admission of Liability, the insurance company will pay out benefits. If they issue a Notice of Contest, the insurance company is denying the claim. If you have not missed three days of work because of your injury, the insurance company does not have to issue anything in writing.
Most people don’t want to consider that they can be in an accident involving a car, truck or motorcycle that isn’t their fault. However, hundreds of auto accidents occur every day in Colorado. Therefore, it is important that you know what to do in the event a car accident happens to you.
1. Exchange insurance information with the person who is at fault in the accident.
Unfortunately, there are instances where the person at fault has given the other person the wrong information to avoid a liability claim. Therefore,
2. Ask the person who hit you to show you his or her proof of auto insurance card.
The name of that person’s insurance company as well as the insurance company’s phone number should be on the front or back of the card.
3. Write down the license plate number of the car, truck or motorcycle that hit you.
4. If there are witnesses to the accident, obtain their names, addresses and phone numbers.
5. Notify the police immediately.
6. Follow up with that police department to obtain a copy of your report to make sure it’s accurate. If it isn’t, you need to file a corrected “counter report”.
7. Don’t move any injured persons, apologize for the crash, tell anyone how much insurance you carry, accept any money (which could act as a waiver to future claims) or agree to forget about the accident.
8. In the event you are injured, it is important that you seek medical attention immediately.
Unfortunately, many injury victims wait to seek medical attention hoping that their injuries caused by the motor vehicle accident will improve. This can create a “treatment gap” that could reduce the value of your personal injury claim or personal injury case. If the insurance company of the person who is at fault wants to take a recorded statement, don’t do so without consulting with an attorney who emphasizes personal injury law.
9. Take pictures of the property damage to your car.
Whether it is your insurance company that is making the repairs to your vehicle or the person who is at fault, these pictures could aid in negotiation.
10. In the event you experience external injuries, it is critical that you take pictures of your injuries immediately.
This will memorialize the extent of your injuries as well as the pain and suffering you may be experiencing.
11. You can decide what auto body shop you want to repair your vehicle.
Colorado has laws that prohibit insurance companies from steering their insured to specific repair shops. You want to hire an auto body repair shop that provides guarantees and specific time lines on repairs. Find out settlement amounts before you sign off on repair costs since your insurance policy has certain limits and deductibles.
12. Notify your insurance company immediately of the accident even if it isn’t your fault.
Ask your agent how to proceed and what forms or documents are necessary to support your claim. Your insurance company may require a “proof of loss” form, as well as documents relating to your claim, such as medical and auto repair bills. Cooperate with your insurance company in its investigation, settlement or defense of any claim. In the event you receive legal papers in connection with the accident, turn copies of those papers over immediately to your insurance company. Your insurer should represent you if a claim is brought against you and defend you if you are sued as a result of the accident.
13. Keep records of your expenses.
Unfortunately, many people don’t realize that they have at least $5,000.00 in “medical payment insurance” under their own automobile insurance policy. Unless you opted out of this provision in writing, Colorado law requires this insurance to pay outstanding medical bills. Furthermore, this automobile insurance is “primary”, and should pay out before you make a claim under your primary group insurance. Your own insurance may possibly pay for other costs such as lost wages and at least part of your costs if you have to hire a temporary housekeeper. Keep copies of your paper work, and store copies of all paper work in your own files. You may need to refer to it later.
In Colorado, all insurance providers must provide uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage with any new or renewal car or motorcycle policy. If you didn’t reject this coverage in writing to your insurance carrier, you should have it. The minimum amount of insurance you have must be at least equal to your “bodily injury liability limits” or the limits of your primary policy in the event you are in an accident and it is the other person’s fault.
In Colorado, automobile insurance is mandatory. Drivers need uninsured and underinsured coverage for protection from those people who drive without insurance, those people who drive with only minimum insurance, and people whose insurance has lapsed.
When uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage is purchased, the policy holder is covered as well as other drivers covered by the policy. In some circumstances, passengers are covered. A passenger involved in an accident, who owns an insured vehicle that is not involved in the accident, but which carries uninsured motorist coverage, may be covered under the passenger’s own policy if other coverage does not apply.
In Colorado the minimum amount of liability insurance required by law is $25,000 per person for bodily injury, $50,000 per accident for bodily injury, and $15,000 per accident for property damage. These are minimums required by law. You can purchase higher amounts for additional costs.
If you are injured as a pedestrian or riding on a bicycle by an underinsured motorist, you may have additional bodily injury coverage through your own uninsured motorist coverage. You should check you policy or ask your agent. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage cannot be purchased for a boat or a plane. Nor can you purchase uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage as a stand-alone policy. This insurance coverage is only offered as an addition to a primary automobile insurance policy.
Why do you need uninsured or underinsured motorist insurance? There are approximately 210 million licensed drivers in theUnited Stateswho had an estimated 5,419,000 crashes that police took reports on in 2010, the most recent year that the National Highway Traffic Safety administration has data. Those crashes killed 32,885 people and injured 2,239,000. For every 100 million vehicle miles that people traveled, there were 75 injuries, including those to pedestrians, and there were 1,066 injuries for every 100,000 licensed drivers. Even though automobile insurance is mandatory in most states, the odds of running into people with no insurance at all to pay for your claims against them are higher than you think. The Insurance Research Council’s most recent estimate, from 2009, is that 13.8 percent of all United States drivers have no insurance. ISO, an insurance risk information service, estimates that about 20 percent of people who do have insurance purchase just the minimum liability coverage in case they hurt someone else. As discussed above, in Colorado, as in many states, their policies may pay out as little as $25,000.
How costly are injuries? In 2010, according to a service called Jury Verdict Reporter, the median jury award for liability cases for vehicular accidents was just $19,806. However, due to the larger awards, topping out at just over $13 million, the average award was 181,197. According to ISO, about 5 percent of bodily claims in 2010 were for more than $100,000 while about 2 percent reached $300,000.
In the state of Colorado, motorcycle riders over the age of 18 are not required to wear helmets on the roads. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration found that in 2006, “65% of fatally injured motorcycle riders were not wearing a helmet in states without all-rider helmet laws, compared with only 13% in states with all-rider helmet laws.”
According to the Denver Post, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study used government data and found that 14,283 motorcycle deaths occurred between 2008 and 2010. The study found that 6,057 bikers who were killed were not wearing a helmet. Only 12% of those deaths occured in the 20 states that require motorcycle riders to wear helmets. The article goes on to explain that while motorcycles account for only 3% of registered vehicles on the road, 14% of all people who die in traffic accidents are motorcycle riders.
Requiring all motorcycle riders to wear helmets would help prevent the loss of life in traffic accidents. Losing a family member or friend in a traffic accident is devastating. The Associated Press reported recently that traffic deaths increased 13.5% in the first quarter of 2012, compared to the same time period in 2011. In order to reduce those numbers, motorcycle riders need to make safety their first priority, and wear a helmet when they ride.
Recently, I read an article in the Denver Post explaining how dog bite incidents are on the rise though out the country. As I recall, the article also explained as to how a claim can be made against the owner of the vicious dog though the owner’s homeowner’s or renter’s policy. What the Post did not indicate is that insurance policies are now being written which exclude certain dogs. For the most part, these “exclusions” are being written in by smaller not larger insurance companies.
Furthermore, it is not just the breed of dogs typically thought of as aggressive, such as pit bulls, Rottweilers, chow chows, Doberman pinscher and German shepherds. There is no standard list that insurance companies maintain to determine if a certain breed of dog is “aggressive”. According to the Humane Society of theUnited States, the bite list changes from year to year and from one area of the country to another, depending on the popularity of the breed. The Journal of Applied Animal Behavior has reported that dachshunds, Chihuahuas and Jack Russell terriers are the most likely to bite.
According to Ashley Hunter, owner and president of HM Risk Group, an insurance and risk management brokerage in Austin,Texas, insurance companies go by the average number of bites reported by a certain breed as to when they decide to exclude a certain breed of dog. The latest statistics from the Insurance Information Institute, an industry association in New York, show that the average cost of a dog bite claim nationwide was $26,166.00 in 2010. This figure is up 5.3 percent from 2009. In addition, dog bites account for one-third of all homeowners’ claims.
If you are considering acquiring a dog, and want to protect yourself from not having insurance coverage if your dog bites another person, contact your agent prior to buying the dog. Do not under any circumstances misrepresent the breed your dog is since this could result in the insurance company denying your claim entirely.
Sometimes work-related injuries aren’t that bad, like a pulled back or a bruised bone. Sometimes they’re worse, like a torn ligament or a slipped disc.
And then sometimes they’re bad enough to be called catastrophic, because your life will never be the same. Serious brain injuries damaged spinal cord, paralysis, amputated limbs, or severe burns.
No one is mentally prepared for an injury of that magnitude, and sustaining an injury like that can have far more long-reaching mental and emotional effects than most people expect.
Often in catastrophic injury cases, it’s not difficult to convince a jury that you’ve been injured. The extensive damage speaks for itself, so you don’t need a lawyer who can explain your injuries. What you will need, however, is a lawyer who can create a thorough, comprehensive treatment plan for both physical and mental injuries so that you can be assured of getting the compensation that you deserve.
It’s far too easy to settle for less than you are owed, but unless you know how much money it will cost to be treated, you can’t possibly know what sort of payout is fair. One hundred thousand dollars may sound like a lot of money in the courtroom, but rising medical costs and expensive medical procedures will use up that kind of money faster than should be possible.
Without a representative who can fight to get you the full compensation that you’re owed, you may find that you can no longer work, and that you don’t have enough money to pay medical bills.
If you or someone you know has suffered a catastrophic injury due to someone else’s negligence, call an experienced lawyer today!