What Qualifies As A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Losing a loved one because of the negligence of another can be a complicated and difficult process to navigate. Many families turn to resources including counseling and community support to navigate through the loss. Other families may want to seek justice through legal action.
One of the most effective forms of legal action is a wrongful death lawsuit. A wrongful death lawsuit allows you to hold negligent parties responsible for their actions that lead to your loved one’s death. A wrongful death lawsuit may be brought forward for a variety of reasons against a number of responsible parties. Understanding how to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit and the nuances associated with them can be an effective way to ease some of the hardships you and your family may experience because of a loved one’s death.
Contact our wrongful death attorneys today to learn more about how our legal team can serve you and your family during this time of need.
What is considered a wrongful death?
Wrongful death occurs when an individual dies because of the negligence of another. The individual who passes away might do so because of the intentional or reckless negligence of another individual, a business, or even an employer.
A wrongful death can happen for a variety of reasons; however, they are more likely to occur in certain types of accidents than in others. The following are common instances in which a wrongful death may arise:
- Motor vehicle accidents, including accidents with commercial trucks
- Workplace accidents
- Slip and fall accidents where head trauma or other fatal injury occurs
- Intentional recklessness intended to cause harm
What is a wrongful death lawsuit?
Families who lose a loved one because of a wrongful death may have the option to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Like many other civil lawsuits, including personal injury lawsuits, the plaintiff, or the person who is filing the lawsuit, can recover financial damages that resulted from their loved ones’ death.
If your loved one died because of someone else’s negligence, this financial recovery can help your family navigate life following their death. Damages can be awarded for costs including:
- Medical bills, treatment, and other medical expenses associated with their loved one’s passing
- Replacement of lost or damaged property associated with the death
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Compensation for the mental pain and suffering your family has had to endure
Who can sue for wrongful death?
Colorado’s wrongful death statute stipulates that only direct heirs of a decedent can file a wrongful death lawsuit. There is also guidance on which heirs have priority and when they can file a lawsuit.
Following the first year after an individual’s death, only a spouse can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Children can also join in the spouse’s wrongful death lawsuit or file one on their own if there is no surviving spouse. If there is no spouse and no children who can file, then a decedent’s parents may file a wrongful death lawsuit.
In the second year following the death, other heirs, including children and parents, can bring forward a complaint, or they can join in on the complaint brought forward by the surviving spouse. If the decedent has a named beneficiary, that named beneficiary may also be able to bring forward a wrongful death lawsuit.
Finally, claims can also be brought forward on behalf of the decedent. These claims are known as survival action claims.
How much is a wrongful death lawsuit worth?
Because of the nature of a wrongful death lawsuit, resolution amounts will typically be higher than other civil lawsuits, such as personal injury complaints.
The amount of a wrongful death lawsuit largely depends on the circumstances of the death and the wrongful death damages that the surviving family members pursue. On average, however, wrongful death lawsuits can range anywhere from 500,000 to a million dollars.
Colorado law allows plaintiffs in a wrongful death lawsuit to collect on economic damages without any caps. This means plaintiffs can be awarded 100% of the economic damages they claim.
Non-economic damages, on the other hand, are capped — meaning there is a limit Colorado law allows an individual to collect. Currently, the non-economic damages cap is $250,000 plus inflation. Under certain circumstances, the cap on damages can be extended to $500,000 plus inflation.
Who gets the money in a wrongful death lawsuit?
Typically, the surviving family who brought forward the wrongful death lawsuit will receive the money awarded from the complaint, regardless of whether a resolution was reached through a settlement or a verdict. If plaintiffs filed together, such as a decedent’s spouse and children, both will be named beneficiaries of the award amounts.
In some cases, a wrongful death lawsuit might be brought forward by an individual’s personal representative. A personal representative stands in to bring forward a lawsuit on behalf of a decedent’s estate.
The personal representative is a predetermined individual and is typically a surviving spouse, child, or other family heir. In cases like this, the beneficiaries will be determined based on who has priority toward the decedent. The personal representative will also consult with any estate planning documents such as a will or trust to determine who will get settlement awards and how much.
Statute of limitations and when a wrongful death suit can be filed
The statute of limitations is the time legally allowed for a wrongful death lawsuit to be brought forward. Once this statute of limitation expires, a lawsuit can no longer be brought forward against negligent parties.
Statutes of limitations exist to protect both the family of the decedent and the individuals who are named as being responsible for the death. If too much time goes by after an individual is killed, pertinent evidence that can prove or disprove an individual’s responsibility in the death can get tainted or destroyed.
By allowing a statute of limitations to exist, victims can have a stronger case with stronger evidence to prove that the named defendants are responsible. Additionally, defendants in a wrongful death lawsuit can still collect sufficient evidence to push back against any allegations that they are responsible for someone’s death.
Colorado allows a decedent’s family the legal right to file a wrongful death lawsuit up to two years after the death. Within this statute of limitations, there are restrictions on what heirs can bring forward a lawsuit and when. Under certain conditions, the statute of limitations may be extended. This happens very rarely but may occur if a family discovers that the death of a loved one was the result of negligence, even months or years after the death.
Should you work with a wrongful death attorney?
If you are considering bringing forward a wrongful death lawsuit, working with an experienced wrongful death attorney is one of the best ways to hold accountable the individuals or entities responsible for your loved one’s passing.
The Elite Litigation Group at the Bachus & Schanker Law firm is committed to representing your family during what is undoubtedly a difficult time. Learn about your rights and options when you work with our specialized team of lawyers who are well-versed in wrongful death and catastrophic injuries.
Our Elite Litigation Group works alongside our Victim Advocates Team to provide the utmost quality in legal representation to our clients. Our Victim Advocates Team helps individuals navigate wrongful death, catastrophic injury, sexual assault claims, and other sensitive legal cases. This team will work diligently to collect pertinent evidence, connect you to critical resources in the community, and provide education and outreach to help you better navigate the road ahead.
To learn more about how our specialized teams can serve you and your family, get in touch today to schedule a free case consultation.
Economic damages. (2023).
Fatality Facts 2021 Large Trucks. (2023).
Non-economic Damages. (2023).