While negligence will likely be the principal cause of action for most cases arising out of a motor vehicle collision, it may be necessary to plead other associated causes of action. For example, the Federal Tort Claims Act provides the cause of action based on the negligence of a federal governmental employee. A claim involving the negligence of a state, county, city or political subdivision employee is brought under Colorado’s Governmental Immunity Act (CGIA) to the extent that act waives sovereign immunity pursuant to C.R.S. §24-10-106(1). If you are bringing a claim under the CGIA, it is important that you file a written notice pursuant to C.R.S. §24-10-109 within 182 days after the date of the discovery of the injury. This must be done regardless of whether you knew then all of the elements of the claim or cause of action. Failure to file a written notice within the 182 day time frame will bar any action you may have had.

Usually claims involving the negligence of a public employee under the CGIA are brought against the employee’s governmental employer under a vicarious liability theory. However, the CGIA also allows claims to be brought individually against the employee when the employee acts willfully and wantonly in causing the injury. But, think twice before alleging as part of a cause of action that a public employee acted willfully and wantonly, since if proved the employee’s governmental employer is not itself liable for or obligated to pay on behalf of its employee a settlement involving the employee or judgment against the employee. Furthermore, if a plaintiff does not substantially prevail on a punitive damage claim against a public employee, the court shall award attorneys’ fees
against the plaintiff and/or the plaintiff’s attorney.

A claim for wrongful death is a cause of action that is made in conjunction with the negligence or other cause of action regarding the cause of death. This cause of action includes claims for the survivors’ economic losses and certain non-economic losses. A punitive damage claim can also be made in lieu of having to prove non-economic damages, a cause of action for solatium can be pled that entitles the plaintiff to non-economic damages in a fixed amount. During the first year following death, only the spouse may make a wrongful death claim, unless the spouse elects to allow the decedent’s heirs to join in the claim or to pursue the claim without the spouse. A survival cause of action also should be pled to recover the loss of earnings and expenses, such as medical expenses, the decedent incurred prior to death.

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