What Damages Are Available in Wrongful Death Cases?
Losing a loved one can be incredibly challenging for surviving family members. While the loss itself is devastating, it can be even more difficult when you know negligence caused your loved one’s death. If a person’s careless actions led to a family member’s death, you may be able to recover damages with a wrongful death claim.
Our wrongful death lawyers share what compensation you can claim and how a wrongful death case can help you get justice for your loved one.
We’re with you every step of the way. Contact our wrongful death lawyers to schedule a free consultation.
What is a wrongful death case?
When a death is caused by negligence or intentional acts, surviving family members can take legal action against the responsible party with a wrongful death lawsuit. This type of personal injury claim seeks monetary compensation for the damages caused by the loss.
A wrongful death action is civil, which means the victim’s family files the lawsuit through the civil court system. The purpose of these cases is to compensate the victim’s family for their financial losses and emotional suffering after their loved one’s death.
What are legal damages?
If you’re considering a wrongful death claim, it’s essential to understand some of the vocabulary frequently used in these civil cases. The most important one to know is “damages.” Legal damages refer to the categories of compensation a plaintiff qualifies to claim. Damages are the losses the victim incurred as a result of the wrongful act.
A personal injury victim or, in the case of wrongful death claims, the surviving family members can get monetary compensation for damages by filing a lawsuit.
What types of damages are awarded in wrongful death cases?
Typically, the deceased person’s family members can claim the same damages as the victim could have in a personal injury lawsuit if the victim had survived. However, there are also compensatory damages unique to wrongful death cases.
Common damages you can recover with a wrongful death claim include:
- Medical bills
- Burial and funeral expenses
- Lost wages
- Property damage
- Loss of consortium
- Pain and suffering
- Punitive damages (in some cases)
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What are the different categories of wrongful death damages?
The damages awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit can be broken into several categories.
First, there are the damages sustained from the time of the wrongful act to the moment of the victim’s death. These damages include medical care and the victim’s pain and suffering.
Then, there are the damages incurred after the wrongful death that affect the victim’s family members. For example, a surviving spouse may claim loss of consortium and loss of financial support based on lost wages and net income at the time of death. The total of these future damages is calculated using victims’ life expectancies and factors such as:
- Average life expectancy
- Lifestyle and activity levels
Additionally, wrongful death damages can be categorized as:
- Economic compensatory damages – These are tangible losses that are easier to calculate because they have a specific monetary cost attached to them.
- Non-economic compensatory damages – These damages represent all the ways the victim and family members suffer outside of financial losses.
- Punitive damages – When the wrongful act was particularly harmful or intentionally malicious, these damages are awarded to punish the defendant and deter them from repeating the same actions.
Who can be awarded damages in a wrongful death case?
The rules of who can claim compensation after losing a family member can vary from state to state; however, the order of who can bring a wrongful death case follows this general structure:
- Spouse – The husband, wife, or common-law spouse of the deceased can file a wrongful death claim after their spouse dies.
- Child – If the victim did not have a spouse, a child may file the claim. If the deceased did have a spouse, a child can file a wrongful death lawsuit one year after the death if the spouse did not take legal action.
- Parent – Natural or adoptive parents of a wrongful death victim can file a claim if there is no spouse or children.
Other relatives, including siblings, cousins, aunts, or uncles, cannot file a wrongful death claim. The executor of the estate or other personal representative of the deceased person can file a survival action—but not a wrongful death action.
Is there a time limit to recover wrongful death damages?
In Colorado, the statute of limitations to file a wrongful death claim is two years from the victim’s death. Those who qualify to bring a wrongful death case must do so within those two years. The exception is if a child is filing the lawsuit and must wait until an eligible spouse chooses not to file within the first year. The victim’s child then has one remaining year within the statute of limitations to take legal action.
Get the answers you need about wrongful death now with Kyle Bachus’ Unthinkable—available online.
How can a wrongful death lawyer help with recovering damages?
Dealing with a complex wrongful death lawsuit while you’re grieving can be overwhelming. An experienced wrongful death lawyer offers the support, knowledge, and advocacy you need to get financial compensation to help you rebuild your life.
The Elite Litigation Group at Bachus & Schanker focuses on one thing – helping victims and their families get justice. We take wrongful death cases nationwide, specializing in wrongful death litigation and fighting for the maximum settlement for our clients. To learn more about our legal services and how we can help you during this difficult time, contact our team to schedule a free consultation.