Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney
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 hundreds of wrongful death cases over the past 30 years, and I can help you and your family get the justice you deserve. Contact me today for a free consultation at (303) 454-8000 or (800) ROSEN-911.
Colorado Wrongful Death Resources
Get the facts you need to know…
A wrongful death is an unnecessary death caused by the negligence of another person, such as a drunk driver, the manufacturer of an unsafe product, or a medical professional. Survivors of the victim of a wrongful death in Colorado often ask the following questions.
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. The survivors of a loved one who died as a result of another person’s negligence or misconduct may file a wrongful death lawsuit seeking monetary damages as compensation for the financial and emotional support lost as a result of the wrongful death. Typically, any recovery will be placed in the decedent’s 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.
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.
Are Punitive Damages Recoverable?
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.
Economic damages available in a wrongful death lawsuit include:
- Medical bills.
- Funeral costs.
- The value of funds that the deceased would have received in pension or retirement benefits.
- The money that the deceased would have earned had he lived. If the decedent never held a job but was a stay-at-home husband or wife, the contributions of service, nurturing and guidance can be considered pecuniary losses and are quantifiable.
Non-economic damages can include:
- The loss of the companionship and emotional support that the deceased would have provided to the surviving spouse.
- The pain and suffering resulting from the person’s death may also be recovered under C.R.S. § 13-21-203.
How Are Wrongful Death Damages 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.
Is There a Limit on Damages in Colorado?
There is no limit for economic damages in a Colorado wrongful death action. But under C.R.S. § 13-21-203, only the decedent’s dependents—usually the spouse and/or minor children—can recover these damages. The amount is typically based on funeral expenses and the financial benefits the plaintiff would have received if the death had not occurred. Unless the wrongful death was due to a felonious killing like murder or manslaughter, recovery for noneconomic damages like pain and suffering and emotional distress is capped at $341,250 if the death occurred after January 1, 1998. Colorado law limits damages for the wrongful death of a child younger than 21 or of a non-breadwinning spouse at $250,000.
What Is a Solatium?
C.R.S. § 13-21-203.5 provides that as an alternative to noneconomic damages, the plaintiff may choose a solatiumin the amount of $50,000. This is a separate award compensating for “grief or wounded feelings”—including loss of companionship, loss of consortium, pain and suffering, and emotional distress—if the defendant is found liable for the wrongful death in a trial. Once liability is proven, the solatium cannot be reduced, even if the decedent was comparatively negligent.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
According to Colorado law, the parties entitled to bring a wrongful death claim in the state include the spouse, the heir or heirs, and a designated beneficiary. The surviving parents of an unmarried and childless decedent may bring a wrongful death lawsuit, but nieces, nephews, siblings, or adult adoptees may not. 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 make a claim. Under Colorado law, the amount recovered is distributed in proportion to the pecuniary damages suffered by each individual.