New Colorado Law Set to Raise Damage Caps in Personal Injury, Wrongful Death and Medical Malpractice Cases.

On June 3, 2024, Governor Jared Polis signed into law House Bill 24-1472. The new law increases money damage limits for certain tort actions in Colorado. Here’s what you need to know.

History and current law on the caps on damages in Colorado

The term “civil action” means lawsuits for money damages.  “Civil actions” for personal injuries are rights or claims based upon by an individual’s physical injury caused by someone else’s wrongdoing.  Damages for civil actions for personal injuries fall into two categories: “economic,” or “non-economic.” Economic damages stem from money spent as a result of the harm, including health care expenses and lost income. Non-economic damages are damages for physical pain, suffering, and emotional distress.  

Existing laws setting caps on damages were put onto the books in the 1980’s. As to medical malpractice, the limit was last adjusted in 2005, from $250,000 to $300,000. That limit hasn’t been adjusted since then; and as of June 2024, the limit on noneconomic damages, including wrongful death, for medical malpractice, remains at  $300,000.

As to general personal injury claims such as slip and fall, car and truck accidents, the presumptive limit on noneconomic damages was set in 1986 at $250,000. However, the 1986 statute set up an exception to the presumptive cap which could be exceeded when “the court finds justification by clear and convincing evidence therefor” up to an absolute enhanced cap of $500,000. In 2007 the legislature enacted  a new law intended to restore the damages limitations to the dollar value as to when they were enacted and thus to reflect the effects of inflation. The statute was re-written to provide for cumulative annual adjustments for inflation for each year based upon the consumer price index. As of June, 2024 the presumptive limit for noneconomic damages as adjusted for inflation is set at $729,790. But still the damages may be increased by the court upon clear and convincing evidence up to an enhanced cap – for a maximum of $1,459,600.  These values reflect caps of $250,000/$500,000 adjusted by inflation from the base rate of 1998 to present. This means that what you could buy in 1998 for $250,000 would cost $729,790 today – this is the distressing truth as to how the General Assembly monetizes money damages in personal injury cases.

In 1989 noneconomic losses due to the wrongful death of a family member were defined as “grief, loss of companionship, pain and suffering, and emotional stress, to the surviving parties who may be entitled to sue.” The noneconomic loss maximum was limited to the same value as noneconomic loss for personal injury cases — $250,000. A few years after the personal damages limitation was tied to the consumer price index, the legislature did the same for wrongful death cases. That means that as of June 2024 the wrongful death noneconomic damages cap is $679,990 reflecting just a slight lag behind noneconomic damages for personal injury cases. There are exceptions to the cap, for instance when the act causing the death is a felonious killing.  We see that, for instance, in drunk driving cases.

The 2024 statutes increasing damages for noneconomic damages

Effective Date – Except for medical malpractice cases, the new laws enacted by the General Assembly in 2024, and signed into law by the Governor, are effective to civil actions filed on or after January 1, 2025. The effective date is based on the filing of the claim. The medical malpractice adjustments are only effective as of the date of the injury.

This means that cautious lawyers might advise waiting until after New Year’s Day, 2025, to file a personal injury or wrongful death case arising from negligence.  But medical malpractice cases’ increase on noneconomic damages is only applies to acts or omissions occurring on or after January 1, 2025.

Let’s take a look at how the new law affects civil actions for noneconomic personal injuries.

For civil actions for personal injury damages which are filed on or after January 1, 2025, the bill increases the cap on damages for noneconomic loss for injury to $1.5 million, and starting January 1, 2028, and every 2 years thereafter, the new law adjusts the damages cap based on inflation. There does not appear to be any corollary to the existing law in which damages can be increased, or doubled to an enhanced cap when the court finds by clear and convincing evidence a basis for doubling the award. However, note that the new cap exceeds today’s enhanced cap by just $40,400.  The General Assembly apparently found it to be unnecessary to allow an enhanced limitation based upon the Court’s finding by clear and convincing evidence.

Current law specifies who may sue for wrongful death. The bill adds a sibling of the deceased as a party an eligible family member who may bring a wrongful death action in certain circumstances. The bill imposes a wrongful death damages cap of $2.125 million, and starting January 1, 2028, and every 2 years thereafter, adjusts the damages cap based on inflation. The wrongful death noneconomic damages cap is the largest jump in limits – allowing almost a doubling of permissible noneconomic damages.  

Beginning January 1, 2025, the bill incrementally increases the medical malpractice noneconomic damages cap to $555,000. It treats wrongful death noneconomic losses, that is for grief and loss of the survivors, to the losses defined as noneconomic injury for injury due to malpractice.  These equivalencies are then adjusted upward at specified increments, from $550,000 in 2025, to $810,000 in 2026, to $1,065,000 in 2027, and so on until 2029 when it reaches $1,575,000 for both a wrongfully injured patient’s noneconomic damages and the equivalent for the survivors’ grief and sadness for a medical malpractice wrongful death. Effective 2030, the caps are adjusted biennially for inflation, or until the General Assembly enacts some future legislation and tinkers again with these statutory limitations on the judgments of jurors.


Certain industries have special caps.  For instance, caps on damages in ski cases are not expressly included or excluded. 

Caps on damages in cases involving a public entity are, as of June 2024, $424,000 for any injury to one person in any single occurrence and $1,195,000 for any injury to two or more persons in any single occurrence, although no one person may collect more than the limit of $424,000.

Jim Chalat, June 11, 2024