A car accident. A fatal slip-and-fall. A preventable accident at a workplace. Medical mistakes or preventable hospital-borne infections. A crime that didn’t have to happen if adequate lighting or security were available. A badly made or designed product that causes a death, including medical devices. All of these can lead to a wrongful death, or the unnecessary death of an individual through negligence. This can leave grieving families with serious financial difficulties if the deceased is the family’s provider.
Colorado allows wrongful death suits to be filed on behalf of a deceased person, for the compensation he or she might have been able to recover as if they were still alive.
Several factors are involved when a person dies at the hands of another. Depending on the circumstances, it may be possible to recover damages from the responsible party through a lawsuit, known as “wrongful death.”
The permitted parties
In Colorado, it’s possible to recover damages in a wrongful death lawsuit, but there are limits on who can file one, depending on the individual’s status. The Colorado Wrongful Death Act details these individuals:
- For the first year after the death, only the deceased’s spouse may file
- If the spouse does not file after the first year (or there isn’t one), any surviving children can file, as well as the spouse
- If the decedent has no surviving spouse and/or children, the deceased’s parents can file
- Anyone who would have been a beneficiary and lost an inheritance as a result of the wrongful death can file
- A representative of the deceased’s estate may also file
Relatives such as siblings, nieces and nephews aren’t permitted to file a lawsuit unless they were previously a designated beneficiary or would have been a beneficiary.
Proving wrongful death
If the wrongful death is the result of a criminal act, there will be two parts to the equation: a criminal case and a civil case. The criminal case is brought by the state, and the civil case is brought by a spouse, children, parents, or other qualified individual.
In order to prove that the individual’s negligence is responsible for the death, you’ll need to prove it with “preponderance of evidence.” This demonstrates that the defendant is more than likely than not guilty of negligence that caused the wrongful death.
Once a death is proven to be wrongful or negligent, the plaintiff can request:
- Medical, expenses, including hospital and emergency room charges.
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Lost wages, future wages, any financial benefits or anticipated inheritances (such as life insurance policy payouts)
- Punitive (“punishment”) damages to make an example of the defendant and discourage other individuals from doing the same thing
- Loss of companionship from the deceased person
- Any other accident/injury related expenses
Qualified parties have a two-year statute of limitations on filing a wrongful death lawsuit. That’s why it’s important to find a personal injury attorney who understands wrongful death laws to have the best possible outcome, and begin working with them as soon as possible.
Wrongful death attorney in Denver, Colorado
The death of a loved one is always difficult. But knowing that someone else’s negligence caused a needless death makes it even worse.
If you believe your loved one’s death was negligent as well as preventable, call the Civil Rights Litigation Group at (720) 515-6165, or use our online contact form, to schedule your free consultation with us today.
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.