Wrongful Death Settlements Explained

Wrongful Death Settlements Explained

Bachus & Schanker

Wrongful Death Settlements Explained

A sudden death in your family can change your life in an instant. It’s hard to know where to start or what can be done to get justice for your loved one. If you’re considering a wrongful death settlement to resolve your claim, the process doesn’t have to be overwhelming. The Elite Litigation Group at Bachus & Schanker, LLC, explains wrongful death settlements and what you can expect.

What Is a Wrongful Death Settlement?

A wrongful death settlement is an agreement to resolve a legal claim. The parties enter into the agreement instead of taking the wrongful death claim to trial. It’s up to the parties to decide the terms of the settlement, including the amount that the defendant pays and any conditions that go along with the payment.  A wrongful death settlement becomes a legally binding contract. The claimants receive financial compensation. In exchange, it resolves the legal claim without a trial.

What Should Be Included in a Colorado Wrongful Death Settlement?

Most wrongful death settlements in Colorado should contain the following:

  1. Description of the matter being resolved (i.e., a car accident on a specific date)
  2. Payment details – the amount, timeline, structure and classifications of compensation
  3. Timeline to satisfy the judgment
  4. Confidentiality statement, if there is one
  5. A requirement that the defendant pay attorney fees if the plaintiff must take court action to enforce the judgment
  6. An agreement that each party has read and understands the terms
  7. A statement that the settlement resolves the case

Keep in mind that some other rules and regulations may apply. Both parties must still take all steps that are required under Colorado law to properly execute the judgment.

Colorado Wrongful Death Lawyers

Why Choose the Elite Litigation Group for Your Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

The sudden and unexpected death of a family member or suddenly being confronted with a catastrophic injury changes life in an instant and raises many important questions about what has happened and about what to do next.

Our Elite Litigation Group will take immediate action to get real answers for your family about what happened to your loved one. We mobilize experts to secure and preserve important evidence and initiate an independent investigation on your behalf. At the same time, our Elite Litigation Group will serve as a resource and anchor for your family advising you about your constitutional rights as a crime victim and about the various government, insurance, financial and community resources that may be available to your family based upon the individualized needs and specific circumstances. Our team will help your family navigate all aspects of a sudden loss or catastrophic injury and will serve as very powerful advocates for your rights every step of the way!

Consultation is free, there’s no hourly fees or upfront expenses.

Do Personal Injury Caps Apply to Wrongful Death Settlements in Colorado?

Yes, personal injury caps apply to wrongful death settlements in Colorado. While there is no limit on economic damages, non-economic damage caps apply. Generally, the plaintiffs can claim the following for non-economic damages:

  • Up to $250,000 in all cases
  • As much as $500,000 if there is clear and convincing evidence that it’s appropriate, based on the facts
  • No more than $300,000 if the claim is based on medical malpractice
  • No damage cap for felonious killing (murder or manslaughter cases)

A solatium amount is a sum of money paid in a wrongful death claim. It represents non-economic damages suffered by the victim. Rather than testify about their suffering and losses, the plaintiff may claim the statutory amount as a flat solatium award. Some plaintiffs prefer to elect the solatium award rather than have to testify and present evidence of emotional distress. The amount of the award is set by statute and adjusted for inflation.

Whether a wrongful death settlement is taxable depends on the purpose of the compensation. Generally, compensation for economic damages is not taxable. IRS Rule 1.104-1 states that wrongful death settlements are not subject to tax because they cover personal injury and physical illness. However, compensation for emotional distress or punitive damages may be taxed. In addition, taxes may apply for any amount previously deducted in prior years for medical bills and expenses.

The following laws may apply to Colorado wrongful death settlements:

Colorado Wrongful Death Act – C.R.S. 13-21-201, et. al
Title 15 – Probate, Trust and Fiduciaries – 15-1-101
Rules of Civil Procedure
Colorado personal injury statutes and common laws

A wrongful death settlement is split between family members based on Colorado law. Even if the spouse files the claim first, they must still share any recovery with children, if there are any. If the children file, they must share with a surviving spouse.

The split is as the parties agree or based on Colorado law. In general, the spouse claims an initial amount up to the statutory limit. Then, any remaining amounts are split evenly between the spouse and the children. Colorado Revised Statutes 15-11-102 explains the rules for interstate distribution that extend to wrongful death settlements.

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 in a wrongful death settlement, 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. However, this split will depend upon which family members are eligible to bring the claim, how many total eligible family members there are and upon whether the person who died has a surviving spouse.

Yes, personal injury caps apply to wrongful death settlements in Colorado. While there is no limit on economic damages, non-economic damage caps apply. Generally, the plaintiffs can claim the following for non-economic damages:

  • Up to $250,000 in all cases
  • As much as $500,000 if there is clear and convincing evidence that it’s appropriate, based on the facts
  • No more than $300,000 if the claim is based on medical malpractice
  • No damage cap for felonious killing (murder or manslaughter cases)

Usually not. Wrongful death settlements generally include a confidentiality agreement. If the case goes to trial, or if the parties put the agreement on the record, information is accessible as a public record. There are pros and cons to consider before you decide if you want the settlement to be confidential.

Many wrongful death settlements involve minors. There are many special rules and considerations for how wrongful death settlements work in cases involving children.

A wrongful death settlement for a minor works by holding the funds in trust. The minor child gets a fiduciary, also called a conservator or guardian ad litem, to act on their behalf and manage the funds. The court approves the terms and the amount of the settlement. The fiduciary must provide a receipt for payment.

Yes, a family member can be a trustee for a wrongful death settlement for a minor. If the parent serves as a fiduciary, the court generally uses a restricted account at an insured financial institution. Then, an attorney must approve withdrawals. The conservator must present a financial plan for protecting and managing the funds within 90 days after their appointment.

Parents are often appropriate fiduciaries for their children. However, there are some reasons that a parent may not be the right choice to handle the money for their child. A parent may not have the financial management skills to handle the funds. There may be a conflict of interest if the parent is also injured or if the defendant is a friend of the parent. The court decides who should serve as the fiduciary.

A structured settlement in a wrongful death case is an agreement for periodic payments rather than a lump sum. Regular payments ensure that the funds last for a period of time. However, the arrangement is generally not modifiable, so it may not be best if the needs of the child may change in the future. The terms of the structured settlement may vary, and the parties may agree to terms they find suitable. A structured settlement may be used in any kind of wrongful death settlement, including claims that involve minor children.

Whether you should resolve a wrongful death claim by agreeing to a settlement depends on several factors. Each case is unique and should be considered carefully. 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, our Colorado wrongful death attorneys hope you will feel empowered to decide how to proceed, feel confident in that decision and know that we have your back.

If you need further guidance on a wrongful death settlement, the Elite Litigation Group is ready to help. We understand how devastating an accidental death can be to a victim’s family. That’s why we will be with you every step of the way. We know nothing can undo what happened, but we can help you rebuild your life through compassionate legal advocacy and support.

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We know that what happened to you is unimaginable. Our goal is to help you have the best possible experience in the legal system. When you need skilled, experienced, and compassionate representation, the Elite Litigation Group is here for you.

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Founding Partner
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Founding Partner
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Equity Partner
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Equity Partner

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