Suddenly losing a loved one is a traumatizing experience. Working through the events that follow an unexpected death can be complicated, especially if another person's negligence caused it. In many cases, the surviving family members may be entitled to compensation from the responsible party for expenses and losses after a wrongful death incident.
Coping with unexpected loss along with the financial burdens caused by it is difficult for any family. Navigating an array of confusing legal procedures can make it even worse. It is important to speak with a Denver wrongful death attorney you can trust to consider your options for a wrongful death claim so that you can begin the process of healing.
What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Wrongful death lawsuits are for when a person dies as a result of another person or entity's negligence or wrongful act. Colorado wrongful death cases are civil suits for the recovery of money damages. There may also be a parallel proceeding in the criminal courts for charges like manslaughter, and careless driving causing death. Qualified heirs of the deceased are entitled to a share of the recovered damages, even if they are not named plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
The Max Law Firm can assist your family during this difficult time. We will help you navigate Colorado's wrongful death laws and procedures. We'll provide compassionate and thoughtful representation. We'll help you work through the seemingly impossible task of recovering compensation for this kind of loss.
Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim in Denver, Colorado
Colorado Revised Statutes § 13-21-202 specifies that when asserting wrongful death claims, the surviving family must prove the following:
- The plaintiff is a proper plaintiff under the wrongful death statute. Proper plaintiffs may include the decedent's spouse, lineal descendants, and designated beneficiaries.
- The death was caused by the negligence or wrongful act of another person, company, or entity.
- The deceased would have been able to recover monetary damages had they survived.
Who Can File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Many lives are affected when a person unexpectedly passes, but Colorado laws have precise specifications for who may be eligible for wrongful death claims. Denver wrongful death attorneys help these individuals to file a wrongful death claim.
Only the surviving spouse may file a wrongful death lawsuit in the first year following the death. Alternatively, during the first year, the surviving spouse can elect to allow the decedent's children to file the claim or join them in filing. Children of the decedent may file during the second year following the wrongful death.
If the decedent was unmarried, the surviving children or beneficiary may file a wrongful death lawsuit during the first year. If there are no surviving children, the parents of the decedent may bring a wrongful death claim.
What Can Be Recovered in a Wrongful Death Claim?
Wrongful death settlements in Colorado can include economic, noneconomic, and punitive damages against the person or company who caused the death. A wrongful death lawsuit in Denver can include compensation for the following damages:
- Funeral costs
- Loss of future earnings
- Loss of benefits, such as pension or retirement benefits
- Past medical expenses
- Financial loss for the surviving heirs and/or beneficiaries
- Past and future grief
- Loss of companionship
- Impairment of quality of life
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- These are punishment damages awarded for egregious conduct by the at-fault party.
- Punitive damages can be triggered by circumstances of fraud, malice, or willful and wanton conduct.
- In most cases, punitive damages will not exceed the amount awarded in actual damages. However, the court may increase, decrease, or refuse to impose punitive damages. Depending on the circumstances, a judge may award punitive damages up to three times the amount of actual damages.
- Punitive damages must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt before a court will consider imposing this category of damages.
Colorado wrongful death cases are unique from each other. A jury may determine damages awarded to the surviving parties after considering many factors like the circumstances of the death, the decedent's income and expected future earnings, the decedent's relationship to the plaintiffs, health, age, and life expectancy, among other factors.
Caps on Non-Economic Damages
The Colorado Legislature has capped the amount that can be recovered for non-economic damages related to wrongful death claims. The cap is periodically adjusted for inflation by the Colorado Secretary of State. Your Denver wrongful death attorney will be able to advise you regarding the current caps and limitations that may impact your wrongful death recovery. For claims that accrue after January 1, 2022, the general cap on non-economic damages for wrongful death claims is $571,870.
There is no cap on economic damages.
How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Colorado?
Colorado statute of limitations specifies that most wrongful death lawsuits must be filed within the two years following the person's death. There are exceptions to this timeframe for instances like hit-and-run vehicular homicides, in which case, the surviving family must file a wrongful death claim within four years of the death.
What is a Survival Action and How is it Different from a Wrongful Death Claim?
A survival action under C.R.S. 13-20-101 is a claim brought by the decedent's estate to recover economic damages incurred by the decedent between the time of injury and the time of death. For example, someone who suffers a fatal injury in a car accident, (and lingers for several weeks on life support before passing), will have accrued significant medical bills between the date of injury and the date of death. These medical bills would be recoverable by the decedent's estate in a survival action.
What are Common Types of Wrongful Death Cases?
Many circumstances may constitute a wrongful death case, including but not limited to the following:
- Fatal car crashes caused by careless or intoxicated drivers, which may also include incidents like motorcycle crashes and bicycle accidents.
- Fatal workplace accidents
- Fatal medical errors
- Death caused by defective products like medical devices or prescription drugs
- Death caused by intentional killing
- Death caused by intentional acts such as physical assault and battery.
Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney in Denver
The Max Law Firm is ready to assist with compassion, integrity, and thoughtful legal representation. If your loved one has passed due to the wrongful act of another, please contact us for a free consultation for your Denver wrongful death lawsuit.