When a loved one dies due to another person's negligence, recklessness, or intentional actions, it can be a devastating experience. Whether your loved one passed away following a car accident or due to the action or inaction of a medical professional, their death can leave you and your family reeling.
In some cases, it may be possible to seek justice through a wrongful death claim. Wrongful death claims are civil suits filed against individuals or entities whose negligence resulted in the loss of life. To bring a wrongful death suit against an individual or entity, you should first contact an experienced wrongful death attorney who can help you understand your rights and legal options.
If it is determined that a wrongful death claim is an appropriate course of action, the attorney will typically file a summons and complaint in court. The complaint must include details about who was responsible for the death, including what actions or inaction resulted in the loss of life.
The complaint must also include a detailed list of damages the surviving family members seek. This can include medical expenses related to end-of-life care, lost income and benefits from the deceased, funeral costs, pain and suffering prior to death, and other types of compensation for each person who has suffered a loss.
Once the complaint has been filed, the defendant typically has an opportunity to respond. The case may be resolved through settlement negotiations or can proceed to trial if a settlement cannot be reached.
It is important to remember that wrongful death claims are time-sensitive and must be filed within a certain period, known as the statute of limitations. Colorado's statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim is two years from the date of death. In some instances, however, the court may extend that period. It's essential that you consult with a knowledgeable attorney to ensure that your claim is filed promptly.
What Qualifies as a Wrongful Death in Colorado?
According to Colorado Revised Statutes Title 13 Article 21.201-202 (2021), a death is considered "wrongful" if it results from an act, neglect, or default that would have entitled the victim to file a personal injury claim had they survived. Essentially, a wrongful death claim is an extension of a personal injury claim that the decedent cannot make.
Several scenarios could qualify as a wrongful death in Colorado. These may include but are not limited to:
- Fatal car accidents resulting from another driver's negligence
- Death due to medical malpractice, such as surgical errors or misdiagnosis
- Fatal accidents at work due to unsafe conditions or negligent behavior
- Death caused by a defective product
- Accidents leading to death due to premises liability, e.g., a fall in a poorly maintained property.
The burden of proof rests with the plaintiff, who must provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate the defendant's negligence or intentional actions that caused the death of their loved one. As a complex process, it requires the guidance of a seasoned attorney to navigate the intricacies of Colorado's wrongful death laws and successfully argue your case in court.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
The law stipulates who can bring forth a wrongful death lawsuit in Colorado. Only the surviving spouse can file a wrongful death claim during the first year following the death. If there's no surviving spouse, the deceased’s children can file the claim. If the deceased has neither a spouse nor children, the parents have the right to file the claim.
In the second year after the death, both the surviving spouse and children can file the wrongful death claim. Importantly, if the deceased is a minor, the parents have the right to file a claim within two years of the child's death. If the deceased has no surviving spouse, children, or parents, the deceased’s designated beneficiary or the representative of the deceased’s estate can file a lawsuit.
The following are some of the key parties who are typically eligible to file a wrongful death claim:
- Surviving spouse during the first year following the death
- Deceased’s children, if there is no surviving spouse
- Both surviving spouse and children during the second year
- Parents, if the deceased is a minor or if there are no surviving spouse or children
- Designated beneficiary or representative of the deceased’s estate if there are no surviving spouse, children, or parents
At all times, wrongful death claims are complex and emotionally challenging. Therefore, having an experienced wrongful death attorney guide you through the process can be invaluable. They can help ensure that all paperwork is filed correctly and within the required timeframes, and they can give you the best chance of securing the compensation you deserve for your loss.
How Much Can You Sue for in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The amount that can be pursued in a wrongful death lawsuit varies significantly and is largely dependent on the circumstances surrounding the case. Generally, damages in a wrongful death case can be categorized into economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages refer to the quantifiable financial losses suffered due to the death of your loved one. These might include lost wages, loss of future earnings, medical expenses, and funeral costs.
On the other hand, non-economic damages are those that don't have a specific dollar amount attached, like pain and suffering or loss of companionship.
Below is a summary of possible compensatory damages in a wrongful death lawsuit:
- Medical expenses: This includes any medical bills incurred for the treatment of the deceased before their death.
- Funeral and burial costs: The costs associated with the funeral and burial of the deceased can be recovered.
- Loss of income: If the deceased was a significant or sole earner, the loss of their future earnings can be claimed.
- Loss of benefits: This refers to any lost benefits, such as health insurance or retirement benefits, which the deceased might have provided.
- Pain and suffering: The emotional anguish experienced by the surviving family members can also be compensated.
- Loss of companionship or consortium: The emotional toll and loss of companionship experienced by the surviving spouse or family members can be compensated.
It's important to note that Colorado caps non-economic damages in wrongful death cases. As of 2020, the maximum amount that can be recovered for non-economic damages in a wrongful death case is $571,000, with some exceptions.
For instance, if the death resulted from a felonious killing, the cap does not apply. In some cases, the cap may also be adjusted for inflation. The cap does not apply to economic damages, which can be significant in cases where the deceased was a high earner or had substantial future earning potential.
How Clawson & Clawson, LLP Can Help Your Family Recover
No amount of money can ever make up for the loss of a loved one, but filing a wrongful death claim may be the best way to seek justice and recover financial compensation for the losses sustained due to their passing.
At Clawson & Clawson, LLP, we understand that dealing with the loss of a loved one is a difficult and emotional ordeal. Our team of compassionate and experienced wrongful death attorneys is dedicated to providing support during this challenging time. We are committed to pursuing justice for your loved one and ensuring you receive the compensation you are entitled to.
Navigating the legal complexities that surround a wrongful death case can be overwhelming. Our attorneys have the skills and expertise to handle these complexities, alleviating your stress and allowing you to focus on your healing process. We meticulously examine every aspect of your case, gather all necessary evidence, and build a compelling argument to prove negligence and liability.
Our goal is not just to win your case but to secure the maximum compensation for your loss. This includes financial compensation for medical bills, lost wages, funeral and burial expenses, pain and suffering, and loss of companionship.
If you have lost a loved one due to the negligence, recklessness, or intentional actions of another person, contact us online or call us at (719) 602-5888 for a free consultation today.