Learn your legal rights and remedies in the case of a wrongful death in Colorado
In Colorado, those whose loved ones lose their lives in accidents caused by someone else’s negligent or wrongful act can collect compensation on the victim’s behalf by filing a wrongful death claim in court.
Only certain individuals have the right to file a wrongful death suit and courts require plaintiffs to comply with strict procedural rules, so if you lost a relative as a result of another person’s illegal act or negligent behavior, it is critical to contact an experienced wrongful death attorney who is well-versed in state law and can assist you with filing your claim.
Have you lost a loved one? We are here to help.
No amount of money can bring your loved one back, but a civil lawsuit can make clear that there are consequences when someone’s negligent actions are responsible for ending a life, and can help prevent future tragedies. A qualified wrongful death attorney from our Firm will listen to the details of your case and explain your options. Get a free case review now.
What Qualifies as a Wrongful Death in Colorado?
Colorado law defines a wrongful death as any death that is caused by the default, neglect, or wrongful act of a third party. Generally, a wrongful death suit can only be filed if the facts of the case would have allowed the victim to file a personal injury claim had he or she survived.
Although most wrongful death suits arise out of car accidents, they can be based upon any kind of negligence or fault if it resulted in the death of another person. For example, wrongful death cases often arise out of the following types of accidents:
- Workplace accidents, involving explosions or fires;
- Dangerous or defective consumer products;
- Substandard medical care; and
- Nursing home neglect.
In these cases, the victim’s surviving relatives may be able to recover both economic and non-economic damages from the at-fault party.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Colorado?
In Colorado, only a decedent’s lineal descendants or spouse are eligible to file a wrongful death claim. Furthermore, the law allows different relatives to file at certain times. For instance, during the first year after the victim’s death, only the decedent’s surviving spouse will be permitted to file a wrongful death claim.
Once the one year mark has passed, however, any surviving children will be eligible to bring an action. In some cases, a decedent’s representative can file a claim to recover losses suffered by the estate in what is known as a survival action.
How Much Time Does the Family Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Colorado?
As with other types of personal injury claims in Colorado, there is a two (2) year statute of limitations on wrongful death claims in Colorado. This means that family members have two years to bring a claim beginning on the date of the decedent’s death.
There are exceptions to this rule which allow for a wrongful death claim to be brought outside of the two year deadline. For instance, if the death occurred because of the result of a vehicle collision, the plaintiff has three years from the date of death to file a wrongful death claim.
Similarly, if the defendant engages in fraud or attempts to hide facts which prevent the discovery of evidence that is relevant to the claim, the two year statute of limitations may be expanded.
Because of the complexity and nuance involved with the wrongful death statute of limitations in Colorado, families who have lost a loved one should always consult with a qualified, reputable attorney to ensure the best possible chance of holding the responsible party accountable.
What Types of Damages are Recoverable in a Wrongful Death Claim?
There are a variety of damages available to plaintiffs who file a wrongful death claim, including:
- Medical expenses;
- Funeral and burial costs;
- Lost benefits;
- Lost wages;
- Loss of future income; and
- Property damage.
While calculating how much a victim was required to pay in hospital bills or what his or her family paid for a funeral is relatively straightforward, it can be a much more difficult process to determine future loss of income. This is because calculating pecuniary loss requires an estimation of how much a person would have made if he or she had not passed away.
In most cases, this determination can only be reached after an economist has analyzed a number of factors, including the decedent’s:
- State of health at the time of the accident;
- Life expectancy based on gender and physical condition;
- Earning capacity; and
- Financial circumstances.
Expert analysis and testimony is especially important when a victim did not earn a paycheck. These situations often arise in cases where the decedent was a child, homemaker, or elderly person. Despite the absence of a permanent income, economists are often able to demonstrate to a jury that a decedent’s family will have to pay for additional services, such as childcare and home maintenance, as a result of the victim’s death.
Furthermore, wrongful death suits also take into account the decedent’s relationship to his or her family when calculating loss. For this reason, juries can base awards on the loss of child rearing opportunities, nurturing, or companionship experienced by the decedent’s loved ones as a result of the accident.
In some cases, courts will also order an award to compensate plaintiffs for the pain and suffering endured by the decedent prior to his or her death, as well as for the emotional stress and grief suffered by surviving family members.
Exemplary Damages in Colorado Wrongful Death Cases
In cases where there is evidence that a death was attended by circumstances involving fraud or malice, or willful conduct, a wrongful death claimant may also be eligible to receive exemplary damages. This covers conduct that is purposefully committed:
- Recklessly or heedlessly;
- Without regard to the consequences;
- Without regard to the rights and safety of others; or
- By someone who realized the danger of the action, but was not deterred.
Generally, the amount of exemplary damages awarded cannot exceed the amount of actual damages ordered by the court. However, the court can award damages in a sum that is three times the amount of actual damages if there is evidence that:
- The defendant continued the behavior or repeated the action that is the subject of the claim against someone else while the case was pending; or
- The defendant acted in a willful or wanton manner while the case was pending in such a way that further aggravated the plaintiff’s damages.
While no amount of money can compensate those who have lost a loved one, collecting damages can play an important role in allowing a decedent’s family members to pay off debts and cover household expenses while they mourn.
Contact an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney Today
Losing a beloved relative is one of the most traumatic experiences that a person will ever have to endure. The last thing these individuals need to worry about is how to pay medical bills and funeral expenses, so if your spouse or parent recently passed away in an accident that was caused by someone else’s negligent, wrongful, or reckless conduct, please contact McCormick & Murphy, P.C. at 888-668-1182 to speak with a compassionate wrongful death attorney who can explain your legal options.
No one should have to go through this kind of ordeal alone. Please call us today, initiate a live chat with a member of our legal team, or send us a quick email to get started on your own claim. We have offices in Denver, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo and will be happy to help you set up a free case review at your earliest convenience.