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New Law Set to Raise Colorado Wrongful Death Damage Caps by 2025

New Law Set to Raise Colorado Wrongful Death Damage Caps by 2025 | Amaro Law Firm

New CO Damage Caps Will Reform Compensation Limits into the Millions & Add Built-In Adjustments for Inflation

Nearly 40 years after their debut, wrongful death damage caps in Colorado will soon increase more than eight times, going from $250,000 to $2.125 million as of January 1, 2025. Made possible by House Bill 1472 (HB24-1472), these changes to Colorado tort law are years in the making, representing a complicated agreement between trial attorneys, insurers, corporate interests, and others. 

With HB24-1472 on the verge of becoming a new law, here’s a rundown of exactly what is expected to change, with more on:

To view the latest draft of the official bill or its current status, click here and here, respectively. 

Colorado Wrongful Death Damage Caps: A Brief Background

In 1986, Senate Bill 67 (S.B. 67) codified noneconomic damage caps for tort cases in Colorado for the first time ever. In a move some viewed as serving “tort reform”  at the time, the resulting law (C.R.S. 13-21-102.5) was largely a response to the 1980s media- and insurance industry-manufactured “insurance crisis.” 

Background on CO Wrongful Death Damage Caps That media- and industry-manufactured “crisis” referred to skyrocketing premiums for liability coverage, with some rising by ~250% while many insurers were: 

  • Denying professional coverage across the board: While many commercial policies were denied during this time, doctors and other medical professionals reportedly had a particularly challenging time obtaining coverage.
  • Filing for bankruptcy: According to authorities, 176 health and life insurance companies were declared insolvent from 1975 to 1990. Nearly 64% of these bankruptcies occurred from 1986 to 1990.

With that information, 1980s lawmakers capped wrongful death damages in the Mile High State, limiting them to $250,000. Additionally, damages for “derivative noneconomic injury,” such as loss of consortium, were kneecapped, with the law only permitting the Court to award damages for derivative noneconomic injury with “clear and convincing evidence” to warrant such damages. 

These and other restrictions took effect on July 1, 1986, with some adjustments for inflation after — but with most damage caps remaining largely in place for close to four decades since.

Why CO Wrongful Death Damage Caps Are Changing

Victims’ advocates, trial lawyers, and others have fought to raise the damage caps in Colorado (and elsewhere) for years, going up against deep-pocketed insurance companies and other corporate interests to try to: 

  • Update the laws to the modern age
  • Bring damage caps up from the thousands to the millions to reflect modern economic realities
  • Make justice against insurance companies more accessible and viable for victims it tends to elude.

To that end, opposing interests came together to find new middle ground, with: 

  • Insurers, business groups, and others agreeing to raise damage caps: Raising Colorado wrongful death damage caps above the million-dollar threshold was the concession these parties made in order to keep damage caps in place. They fear that eliminating damage caps altogether would result in roughly $2.1 billion losses to the Colorado economy.

  • Colorado trial lawyers agreeing to not take their fight to ballot: Attorneys and victims’ advocacy groups forfeited the opportunity to seek a ballot measure aimed at ending wrongful death damage caps in Colorado. With the changes the opposition agreed to, many victims may be better positioned to overcome the barriers to justice, especially in more complex, expensive cases where previous damage caps proved to be exclusionary.

While the new damage caps and other updates to tort laws may not help those with cases currently proceeding in Colorado courts, many have lauded HB24-1472 as an integral step in the right direction — while still acknowledging that the updated damage caps continue to fall short of adequately compensating many for the true extent of their pain, suffering, and losses.

3 Key Changes to CO Wrongful Death Damage Caps in 2025

HB24-1472 is poised to update damage caps for wrongful death cases and other Colorado torts in several ways, with some specific changes geared towards distinct types of cases, like catastrophic injury cases and medical malpractice claims. 

While different details of the new statute may be vital for some claims or sectors, the following highlights some of the most significant changes for cases filed on or after January 1, 2025.

1. Non-economic Damages for CO Wrongful Death Cases Will Be Capped at $2.125M.

Colorado Wrongful Death Damage Caps to Rise in 2025 Pain, suffering, and other non-economic damages will soon be subject to higher caps in Colorado, with $2.125 million established as the state’s new upper limit for compensation in “general injury” wrongful death cases filed on or after January 1, 2025. Notably, this cap does not pertain to:

  • Compensatory damages, which include losses like lost earnings, medical expenses, and other similar economic damages
  • Medical malpractice cases, which are subject to a $1.5 million cap and “a five-year graduated phase in of the increases”
  • Cases that involve “felonious killing,” in which there are no damage caps in place.

2. Siblings May Be Able to Pursue Wrongful Death Damages.

Brothers and sisters who have lost a loved one to negligence in Colorado may have the right to sue for wrongful death as of January 1, 2025. Never before eligible to file wrongful death lawsuits in Colorado, siblings may be entitled to pursue these claims IF

  • There is no spouse, child, parent, or other designated heir available to file a wrongful death case.

  • The sibling files the claim within two years of the date of death.

This may open up fair access to justice  for adult siblings — who were previously shut out of the system — to seek justice and financial compensation on behalf of minor and adult brothers and sisters who have lost their lives to preventable negligence.

3. Damage Caps Will Be Automatically Adjusted for Inflation Starting in 2028.

As of January 1, 2028, wrongful death damage caps in Colorado will start to be adjusted for inflation, with:

  • Damage caps for general injury-related wrongful death set to be adjusted in 2028.

  • Medical malpractice-related wrongful death caps on track to be adjusted for inflation in 2030.

  • Adjustments for inflation to occur every two years after they begin for a given type of case.

What’s Next

Unanimously passed by the Colorado legislature on May 7, 2024, HB 24-1472 now sits before Governor Jared Polis, who has signaled that he intends to sign the bill into law.

With that, more modern Colorado wrongful death damage caps will be codified, officially set to become a new law in the Mile High State as of Jan. 2025.

As a major win for tort law and victims in Colorado, these damage cap reforms may help more families seek full, fair compensation in the aftermath of wrongful deaths occurring due to the negligence of other parties.