Learn More About Wrongful Death Lawsuits

If you have unfortunately lost a loved one because of someone else, you already understand nothing can bring them back. But you might be wondering, “What now?” That question has many answers during a terrible time like this, but if you are considering filing for a wrongful death lawsuit, we are here to help you every step of the way. We empathize with your tragedy and would like to help offer guidance as you navigate your path forward.

Some additional questions may be:

We hope after reading this, you can have a better understanding of this painful process.

We also have our own specially assembled Victim’s Advocates team, who works directly with the Elite Litigation Group to ensure all your rights are met, and you and your family are protected.

Focus is on a Victim's Advocate team member consoling their client by clasping their hand after discussing a wrongful death claim.

What does the Victim’s Advocates team do?

Our victim advocates used to work for a police department and judicial system, so they deeply understand the civil and criminal justice system and empathize with what you are going through.

Their focus is on you, and their goal is to help you find out what really happened by ensuring a full investigation has been opened. This can include but is not limited to:

  • Ensuring appropriate charges are filed
  • That your rights are followed
  • Being the liaison between your family and the prosecutor’s office 
  • Hiring the necessary people to gather evidence. They will not rely on law enforcement only. This is important because the justice system/law enforcement can not always be depended on for this, or they might take longer to do this.
  • Ensuring evidence is preserved
  • Ensure you are financially taken care of
From Kyle’s interview for the Masters of Personal Injury series on ReelLawyers.com.

A wrongful death claim is a civil claim brought against an individual or corporation to recover damages for a death caused by negligence. Unlike in a criminal charge where the government prosecutes a person charged with a crime, in a civil claim like a wrongful death claim, an individual (called the plaintiff) claims that another person or corporation (the defendant) has failed to act reasonably under the existing circumstances and as a result, someone has died.

Most laws surrounding the civil system in the United States (called tort law) originate directly from English common law. This means that many laws are relatively consistent across all fifty states. However, English common law has a gaping hole. Under English common law, a person’s family would have no civil legal recourse if a victim died because of someone else’s carelessness or recklessness. This is wrong and unfair.

To patch this hole, individual states have constructed their own “wrongful death” laws that dictate who, when, and how a family member can seek legal recourse, such as restitution, for a death. However, this means that states have vastly different laws, which can make things more confusing. Colorado’s law can be found in 13-21-201-203 of the Colorado Revised Statutes. As you might imagine, the language is pretty complicated. Before we explore Colorado’s laws further, it is important to understand how these cases generally work.

There are three essential elements in a wrongful death case. First, the defendant must act or not act such that they fail to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances. In other words, they must act negligently. This means that they must do something or fail to do something, on accident or purpose, that unreasonably puts somebody at risk. Second, there must be real damages. For our purposes, this means somebody must have died, and the plaintiff must have been negatively affected by that death financially and/or emotionally. Third and finally, there must be an element of causation. What this means is that the defendant’s action or inaction must have caused a person’s death and, thus, the plaintiff’s suffering. The negligent action and the death cannot be independent events.

The three major questions that judges and juries will decide in a wrongful death case are negligence, damages, and causation. Some examples of wrongful death cases include deaths that resulted from:

From Kyle’s interview for the Masters of Personal Injury series on ReelLawyers.com

Colorado’s law surrounding who can file a wrongful death claim can appear quite complicated because whether and when you can file a claim depends on your relationship with the deceased. However, there are some broad and easy rules to understand.

First, no claim can be filed later than two years past the date of your loved one’s death. Second, only one claim can be filed per deceased person. This means if multiple interested parties (say, a spouse and numerous children) are eligible under the law to bring a wrongful death claim, then one or more qualified parties can bring the formal claim. Under Colorado law, however, it only takes one eligible party to bring the claim. Others with eligibility can choose to formally join the wrongful death claim or not join. Regardless of whether others with eligibility choose to formally join, the person or persons who actually do bring the formal wrongful death claim are required to recover damages for all of those who were eligible to bring a wrongful death claim – even for those who decided not to formally participate.

Again, this is because, under Colorado law, there can never be more than one wrongful death claim. As a result, the damages suffered by all eligible family members must be recovered in that one claim. And when any money is recovered on the wrongful death claim, Colorado law requires that the funds be split or shared among only the eligible family members who had a right to bring or participate in the wrongful death claim.

Colorado law is very particular about how the money is split, but this split will depend upon which family members are eligible to bring the claim, how many total eligible family members there are, and whether the person who died has a surviving spouse.

For more detailed information regarding which family members can bring a wrongful death claim under Colorado law, please follow the flowchart below.

Who Can File A Wrongful Death Claim In Colorado And When Can They File It? Infographic

The information on this chart is no substitute for legal advice. Sometimes, the time periods in which you can file a claim are different depending on who caused the death of your loved one. No matter your relationship with your loved one, it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible to ensure there are no special circumstances in your case.

This is perhaps the most technical question. Before we begin, it is helpful to remember that a wrongful death claim is a civil claim, so the only damages you will receive are monetary compensation. This claim will not put anybody in jail. That being said, you can seek two types of damages: compensatory and punitive. As the name may suggest, compensatory damages are meant to compensate you for any financial losses or emotional anguish you might suffer. Punitive damages (sometimes called exemplary damages) are intended to punish the person who inflicted that loss. Punitive damages may only be sought in the most egregious cases: if the person who caused your loved one’s death acted recklessly or intentionally. We will be talking first about compensatory damages.

In a Colorado wrongful death case, you may recover compensatory damages for various reasons as the plaintiff. Some examples are your loved one’s burial expenses, your grief and mental anguish, and your loss of your loved one’s companionship (called loss of consortium). Additionally, you may recover damages equivalent to the financial support your loved one would have provided you. Importantly, this does not mean your loved one’s total expected earnings, just the earnings you would have been provided. For example, if your loved one’s income was paying for your food, house, or insurance, you may be able to recover money to compensate you for those losses.

As discussed above, non-economic or incalculable damages differ from economic or calculable damages. In Colorado, the legislature sets the limit on the amount of money you can receive for non-economic damages such as grief, mental anguish, and loss of consortium as part of the wrongful death statute. It is adjusted for inflation every two years, so if your incident occurred before January 1st, 2020, the cap is $436,070. If it happened after January 1st, 2020, the cap would be $571,870. There is no cap for calculable financial expenses such as burial expenses, lost financial support, and medical expenses.

All the above applies to compensatory damages only. Punitive or exemplary damages may also be sought. These are intended not to compensate you for your losses but to punish the one who inflicted those losses. However, the circumstances under which you can recover are limited. Colorado’s Exemplary Damages statute is found under 13-21-102 of the Colorado Revised Statutes. It states you can only recover exemplary damages for circumstances of “fraud, malice, or willful and wanton conduct.” You might hear this referred to as a “standard of conduct.” The statute says that if your case entails an intentionally false representation of a matter (fraud), someone who caused harm or death with the desire or intention to do so (malice), or a person who, despite knowing of a risk, acted with a reckless disregard for your loved one’s life (willful and wanton conduct), you can pursue exemplary damages. In these most egregious cases, the legislature has concluded that it is important to deter the perpetrator of the act by imposing these additional damages.

However, the court does not take the infliction of a punishment lightly. So, if you want to pursue exemplary damages, the judge alone must decide if the evidence you present suggests the standard of conduct outlined above is met before a jury can ever consider the matter. The evidence required for this initial determination is called prima facie proof. If you are awarded exemplary damages, they cannot exceed three times the amount of your compensatory damages. Ultimately, the damages you receive depend entirely on your case’s facts.

While we hope this information is helpful for you during an extremely difficult time, it is still essential to seek legal advice on these issues. Our Victim’s Advocates team will be by your side ensuring your rights are protected as you proceed down this painful journey.

If you are not one of the family members with the right to file a wrongful death claim, you may still be able to file a survival action. A survival action differs from a wrongful death claim because it is filed on behalf of the deceased’s estate rather than by an individual. Like a wrongful death case, it requires the same three elements we discussed earlier: negligence, damages, and causation.

However, the only damages that can be recovered are financial damages incurred by the deceased between the time of the accident and death. Examples include medical bills, lost wages, personal property damage, and funeral expenses.

Sadly, there is no recovery available for pain and suffering or loss of consortium in a survival action. Also noteworthy is that the estate, not any individuals, recovers these damages. However, if you are a beneficiary of the estate, you may ultimately receive a portion of these damages.

Ultimately, all the factors of a wrongful death case we have discussed vary widely depending on each case’s unique facts. Sometimes, however, even the facts can be muddled, confusing, overwhelming, and perhaps even hidden from you by the individual or corporation that caused your loved one’s death.

Seeking legal advice can help you clarify the facts of your case, understand your options, and discern the procedure for each option. With all the information you need, we hope you will feel empowered to decide how to proceed, feel confident, and know that we have your back.

We understand how painful this journey can be and will do everything we can to ensure your best available care is met. Our Victim’s Advocates team is here to help you so you don’t have to face this tragedy alone.

We understand how heartbreaking and overwhelming it can be to lose a loved one suddenly. Remember, you are not alone. Several local Denver resources, support groups, and grief counseling organizations can help you and your family through this difficult time. Here are some that you can contact right away.

Local Denver Support Groups:

Resources For Grief Guidance And Counseling:

If and when you are ready to share your situation with our wrongful death attorneys, we are prepared to help you seek justice on behalf of your loved one. You can contact our team anytime for a free and confidential consultation.

Knowing Who To Contact Can Be an Important Step in the Recovery Process

If you or someone in your family has been seriously injured, then you have experienced first-hand how much a person’s life can be changed in the blink of an eye. When something terrible and unexpected like this happens, you and your family are suddenly thrust into a world of chaos and uncertainty that just days or even hours ago seemed unimaginable. As you try to regain some level of control amid all the uncertainty, you might wonder or ask yourself, “What do we do now?” or “What’s next for us?”

The book Unthinkable written by wrongful death attorney Kyle Bachus

Denver wrongful death lawyer, Kyle Bachus knows first-hand how difficult it can be to suddenly lose a loved one in an accident. It’s also devastating when you or a family member suffers severe injuries that forever change your life. When the unthinkable happens, what are your next steps? How can you start to rebuild your life in this new normal? If you’ve recently been affected by catastrophic injury or wrongful death, Kyle Bachus provides guidance on navigating this path that no one chooses.


Meet Our Legal Experts

We know what happened to you is unimaginable. Our only goal is to help you and your family on this painful journey and fight for your rights. When you need skilled, experienced, and compassionate representation, the Elite Litigation Group is here for you. With years of experience and multiple office locations serving nationwide, our personal injury attorneys are ready to serve you and fight for the compensation you deserve.

A headshot of personal injury lawyer Kyle Bachus
Kyle Bachus
Founding Partner
A headshot of personal injury lawyer Kyle Bachus
Darin Schanker
Founding Partner
Maaren Johnson personal injury attorney at Bachus & Schanker, LLC
Maaren Johnson
Equity Partner
Personal injury attorney Corey Holton from Bachus & Schanker law firm
Corey Holton
Equity Partner


“Thank you for not giving up on me”

…there was a point when I wanted to give up… Bachus & Schanker did not give up on me. They just kept pushing through and letting me know that we’re on a team and that they’re there for me, to support me and help me in any way I need.

Thank you for giving me a second chance, for helping me with a second chance and thank you for not giving up on me.

When you go through an accident, so many people you find give up on you and you don’t matter anymore to them and that wasn’t the case with Bachus & Schanker.

Molly Cain

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