Colorado Attorneys Advocate for Removing Caps on Pain and Suffering Damages to Support Victims of Life-Altering Injuries

Denver, Colorado – Attorneys and healthcare professionals in Colorado are engaged in a heated debate over whether to remove caps on pain and suffering damages in the state. The discussion comes in the wake of a recent case involving Steve Straughen, who was severely injured while working at a fracking site in Northern Colorado in 2019. Despite winning a $30 million jury award, Straughen will only receive about half of the amount due to the existing limits on non-economic damages.

Kurt Zaner, Straughen’s attorney, argues that removing these caps is essential to ensure that individuals with life-altering injuries receive the compensation they deserve. To this end, Zaner supports Initiative 150, a proposed ballot measure for the November election that seeks to eliminate the non-economic damages caps.

However, opponents of the cap removal, including some doctors and small business owners, express concerns about the potential consequences. Dr. Catrina Bubier, who runs her own OBGYN practice in Littleton, fears that if the caps are eliminated, it could lead to higher insurance premiums for doctors, which may ultimately affect the cost of living in Colorado and the accessibility of healthcare services.

As an alternative, Dr. Bubier suggests gradually increasing the caps over time to keep up with inflation. A proposed bill, Senate Bill 130, aims to raise the medical malpractice pain and suffering caps from $300,000 to $500,000.

Both sides of the debate cite studies to support their arguments. Advocates for eliminating the caps reference recent research that indicates such laws do not lower insurance premiums. On the other hand, opponents point to a 2007 study from the National Institutes of Health, which found that states with caps had 17.1% lower insurance premiums compared to states without caps. Another study from 2022 highlights how insurance rates decreased in North Carolina after the state implemented a cap in 2011.

In addition to the financial considerations, opponents of the cap removal stress the potential impact on medical professionals. Dr. Bubier highlights the challenges faced by OBGYNs in states with high costs and suggests that some physicians may even be forced to leave their states if the caps are completely eliminated.

As the debate rages on, COPIC, a group working with Dr. Bubier for insurance purposes, supports two alternative ballot measures to Initiative 150. Initiatives 170 and 171 propose capping attorneys’ contingency fees at 25% and ensuring more cost transparency from attorneys.

All of the proposed ballot initiatives are still in progress and have yet to gather enough signatures to be included on the November ballot. The outcome of these measures will ultimately determine the fate of pain and suffering damages caps in Colorado.