Understanding the Colorado Candor Act

doctor talking to patient

In 2021, there were more than 860 million doctor’s appointments in the United States. Patients also received medical care in hospital emergency rooms, with ERs in the U.S. handling 130 million visits in 2018. Although many patients have favorable outcomes, some experience adverse health care incidents when they receive medical care.

An adverse health care incident is an undesirable result stemming from medical treatment. These incidents specifically refer to treatment from a medical professional causing a patient’s death or injury. While an adverse health care incident can result in a medical malpractice claim, the Colorado Medical Society supported introducing the Colorado Candor Act. Patients may find the Act confusing and wonder how it affects their rights after an adverse health care incident. Understanding the Act can clarify your rights and help you understand your options if you’re dealing with a death or injury stemming from medical treatment.

What is the Colorado Candor Act?

The Colorado Candor Act is an option medical professionals can use with patients who’ve experienced adverse outcomes. Historically, medical professionals have been reluctant to discuss adverse incidents with victims of medical malpractice because they’re legally required to report allegations of malpractice to the Colorado Medical Board, which could trigger an investigation. Medical professionals can sometimes lose their medical licenses if found guilty of malpractice.

The Colorado Candor Act creates a forum for open discussions between medical professionals and patients. It undermines the adversarial dynamic that existed before the Colorado Candor Act, which forced most patients to go to court to seek compensation for malpractice. This Act promotes privileged and confidential interactions, allows medical professionals and health facilities to offer compensation to patients, and enables involved parties to reach out-of-court medical malpractice settlements

How does the “open discussion” process work?

Medical professionals initiate the Candor process with a written notice delivered to the patient within 180 days of learning about the adverse health care incident. The notice should inform the patient of their rights, explain the Candor Act, and outline how the process works.

The Candor process allows health facilities and medical professionals to conduct investigations and determine whether to offer compensation to the victim. All the discussions are confidential, so it’s possible to address malpractice complaints without creating a public record of the incident. This encourages medical professionals to communicate openly with patients because they don’t have to fear legal repercussions.

Types of Incidents that Qualify Under the Colorado Candor Act

The Colorado Candor Act can address any medical treatment resulting in an adverse outcome. Types of incidents covered include:

  • Misdiagnosis
  • Medication errors
  • Surgical mistakes
  • Infections
  • Acting without consent
  • Communication errors
  • Treatment errors

Any steps taken before, during, and after treatment can result in a malpractice claim. Issues before treatment include misdiagnosis or failure to investigate symptoms to reach an accurate diagnosis. Treatment errors include incorrect use of medical equipment. Leaving tools inside a patient or removing the wrong organ are examples of surgical errors. Medication errors include prescribing the wrong medication or giving the patient the wrong dosage. An example of a communication error is failing to explain procedures and treatment options. 

What is the timeline for the Colorado Candor process?

Medical professionals should initiate the Colorado Candor process within 180 days of the adverse incident. The timeline starts when the medical professional learns of the adverse outcome. If a doctor knows they misdiagnosed a patient a year ago, the 180-day deadline begins the day they learned of the misdiagnosis. 

Are there reporting requirements that apply to the Colorado Candor Act?

Utilizing the Candor Act enables medical professionals to avoid reporting the incident to the National Practitioner Data Bank. However, if the medical professional is licensed to practice medicine in other states, they may be required to notify other regulatory boards. Medical professionals should clarify their legal obligations based on where they practice medicine.

Can a patient file a lawsuit after a Candor discussion?

scales of justice with blurry background

Patients may accept a settlement through the Candor process and receive compensation from the medical professional’s insurance company. Patients can also hire catastrophic injury lawyers and pursue legal action if they are unsatisfied with the Candor process. The Candor Act does not force patients to waive their legal rights, although patients can’t use the discussions during the Candor process to support their lawsuit. 

Whether patients participate in the Candor process or not, they must pursue legal action before the statute of limitations expires. Medical malpractice cases in Colorado must be initiated within two years of the date the malpractice occurred.

How can a catastrophic injury attorney help you after an adverse health care incident?

catastrophic injury lawyer shaking hands with client over paperwork

When you contact our catastrophic injury attorneys, you’ll receive a confidential assessment of your case. Our catastrophic injury attorneys have in-depth knowledge of Colorado’s medical malpractice laws and fight for clients to receive fair settlements for malpractice claims. 
Our catastrophic injury attorneys will explain your rights and options, ensuring you make informed legal decisions. Contact our legal team today for a free consultation to discover how we can help you receive the compensation you deserve.


Ambulatory Care Use and Physician Office Visits. (2022).
Emergency Department Visits. (2022).Martin, J.
(2019). Recently passed legislation offers a new approach to addressing adverse outcomes with patients.

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