A loved one was killed in a drunk driving accident. A child dies from injuries due to a defective baby bed. Or someone died in the hospital after a simple surgical procedure. Can you file an action for a wrongful death?
This type of suit is similar to a personal injury suit that an injured person would file after an accident. The difference is that that the surviving spouse, parents, children or other dependents would file it on behalf of the deceased individual. If they are successful, they may be awarded damages for wrongful death. Let’s look at how this works.
What is wrongful death?
When someone dies as a result of negligence, or intentional reckless actions of another individual, it’s called a wrongful death. The causes can include:
- A car accident, whether a drunk driver or another driver’s negligence
- Workplace accidents (especially those that were preventable)
- Severe slip & fall accidents (also called “premises liability”)
- Medical malpractice
- Defective products (including vehicles and parts)
- Nursing home abuse and negligence
- Prescription drug side effects that caused death
- Other cases of individual negligence that caused an unnecessary death
A surviving spouse, children, or in some cases, surviving parents, can file a wrongful death suit on behalf of a deceased person.
A note about workplace accidents
Survivors will usually be entitled to death benefits through Colorado’s worker’s compensation system. In some cases, you may be able to file a wrongful death suit. Workers who died as a result of asbestos exposure may be considered a wrongful death. Consult with an attorney who is experienced in wrongful death cases to find out if the workplace accident qualifies, and if you are able to file suit.
Statute of limitations on wrongful death lawsuits
Like any lawsuit, there is a time limit. Colorado has a two-year time limit on wrongful death lawsuits. Contact a lawyer immediately if you are considering filing one.
Colorado’s Wrongful Death Act allows the surviving spouse the initial and exclusive rights to file a claim during the first year the death of their spouse. After that, a surviving spouse and children may bring a claim. If the deceased had no spouse and/or children, his or her parents can pursue a claim for wrongful death, including the first year.
Additionally, a representative of the deceased’s estate can also file a survival action to recover specific types of losses from the estate.
Wrongful death monetary damages
Spouses, children and/or parents may be awarded monetary damages that compensate them for the loss of the individual. Those damages may include:
- Loss of future wages
- Benefits as a result of the loss, such as life insurance
- Loss of companionship, love, care, and protection that the deceased provided
Plaintiffs may also request damages for:
- Medical expenses from the deceased’s fatal injury or illness
- Funeral/burial expenses
- Punitive damages, or “punishment” to a wrongdoer for his or her negligence, and as a deterrent to others who might commit the same negligence
Colorado doesn’t have caps on economic losses (lost wages, etc.) But punitive damages are currently limited to $468,010 for pain and suffering. Other limits apply to different types of cases.
A wrongful death claim is a civil claim, and the only punishment involved is financial. However, a criminal case filed in the same action doesn’t preclude a family member from filing a civil suit. This can happen in the case of a vehicular homicide—the state will file criminal charges and bring a criminal action, and the family can file a wrongful death case at the same time.
Wrongful death suits in Denver
Losing a loved one is never easy. A wrongful death can be even harder. Our attorneys understand the pain and difficulty of a lawsuit after losing a loved one. We will work to guide you through the legal process.
Call the Civil Rights Litigation Group at (720) 515-6165, or use our online contact form, to schedule your free consultation with us today.