Experienced Wrongful Death Lawyer
Serving Denver & the Greater Colorado Area for Three Decades
The death of a loved one is devastating, and the grief is only worsened when it’s the result of a situation that was preventable. Loved ones and family members should know their rights before speaking with the other party’s insurance company.
I’ve handled thousands of wrongful death cases over the past 25 years. Contact me for a free consultation at (303) 454-8000 or toll-free at (800) ROSEN-911, or by filling out the contact form
Below you’ll find helpful information that all Colorado residents should be aware of concerning wrongful death cases.
Wrongful Death Facts & Resources
What is Wrongful Death?
When the death of another person is negligently or intentionally caused by a person or entity, that party may be liable for financial losses resulting from the death under a wrongful death claim. Typically, a personal representative of the decedent’s estate will file suit and any recovery will be placed in the estate and distributed according to the terms of the estate.
The statute of limitations for a wrongful death action in Colorado is two years from the date of the decedent’s death. It can extend past that date if the plaintiff has a disability or if the defendant has engaged in fraudulent concealment of facts regarding the claim.
Wrongful Death in Colorado
Deaths that were preventable are unfortunately more common than we think. Our own state of Colorado made headlines in 2013 when it was reported that St. Thomas More Hospital, which is operated by Catholic Health Initiatives, argued in a wrongful death lawsuit that fetuses are not people. The case, now headed to the Colorado Supreme Court, involves the 2006 death of a 31-year-old woman seven months pregnant with twins whose on-call obstetrician failed to make it to the hospital, resulting in the death of the babies as well.
Colorado’s Wrongful Death Act
Colorado’s Wrongful Death Act, which was enacted in the late 1800s and has been amended many times, now includes six statutes: C.R.S. § 13-21-201, -202, -203, -203.5, -203.7, and -204.
- The purpose of the Act is to protect those who, due to no fault of their own, are left with the financial and emotional burden of the decedent’s death.
- The claimants in a wrongful death action must prove that the defendant negligently or intentionally caused the decedent’s death to recover damages.
Wrongful Death Damages
C.R.S. § 13-21-202 provides that damages may be recovered to compensate family members for losses resulting from the death of a family member. Colorado law provides recovery for compensatory damages and historically did not permit recovery of punitive damages in wrongful death actions, but in 2000, the Colorado General Assembly amended C.R.S. § 13-21-203 to allow recovery of punitive damages if the defendant’s conduct is proven to have been willful and wanton.
Damages available in a wrongful death lawsuit include:
- Economic damages, such as medical bills, funeral costs, funds that the deceased would have received in pension or retirement benefits, and the income the person who died would have earned had he lived.
- Non-economic damages, including the loss of companionship and emotional support that the deceased would have provided to the surviving spouse and minor children, and the pain and suffering resulting from the person’s death may also be recovered under C.R.S. § 13-21-203.
How Wrongful Death Damages are Calculated
Calculating damages in a wrongful death case is a complicated process.
Factors that are considered include:
- How dependent the plaintiff was on the deceased person.
- The nature of their relationship.
- The expected lifespan, earnings, and benefits of the decedent.
- Whether or not the decedent may have also been at fault for the death.
Limitation on Damages
Under C.R.S. § 13-21-203, there is no limit for economic damages for wrongful death in Colorado, but these damages can only be recovered by the decedent’s dependents – usually a spouse and/or minor children. The amount is typically based on funeral expenses and the financial benefits the plaintiff would have received if the death had not occurred.
Recovery for non-economic damages, such pain and suffering and emotional distress, is limited to $250,000 in Colorado, unless the wrongful death was due to murder or manslaughter.
C.R.S. § 13-21-203.5 provides that the plaintiff may choose a soliatium in the amount of $50,000 as an alternative to non-economic damages. A soliatium is a separate award for damages including loss of companionship, consortium, pain and suffering, and emotional distress that is awarded upon a finding or admission of the defendant’s liability. Once liability is proven, the solatium cannot be reduced, even if the decedent was comparatively negligent.
According to C.R.S. § 13-21-201(1) the parties entitled to bring a wrongful death claim in Colorado include:
- The spouse
- Designated beneficiary
- Heir or heirs — Refers to lineal descendants, and does not apply to nieces, nephews, siblings, or adult adoptees.
- Surviving parents of an unmarried and childless decedent may potentially make a wrongful death claim — The parents of the deceased person are not allowed to file a wrongful death claim if the deceased person had a spouse or a child, even if the spouse or child decides not to make a claim.
More than one family member may be a beneficiary to a wrongful death award in Colorado. Under Colorado law, the amount recovered is distributed in proportion to the pecuniary damages suffered by each individual.
Contact Colorado Wrongful Death Lawyer Daniel R. Rosen
If a loved one or family member has died due to someone else’s negligence, the fastest way to find out if you have a case is to schedule a free consultation with me.
Just fill out the form on the right, or call our Denver office at (303) 454-8000 or toll-free at (800) ROSEN-911.
At the Law Offices of Daniel R. Rosen, it’s our goal to get you through your wrongful death case as quickly and smoothly as we can. I personally handle every single case that comes across my desk, and I have three decades of experience handling wrongful death cases.