Claims Allow Families to Recover Damages After the Death of a Loved One
When a family loses a loved one, a wrongful death lawsuit can enable those left behind to receive compensation that eases the financial burden caused by the loss.
What is wrongful death?
Wrongful death occurs when the negligent, reckless, or deliberate behavior of one person causes the death of another. Often, wrongful death lawsuits are filed because of automobile accidents, medical malpractice, and dangerous or defective products.
A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil claim made by the survivors of an individual who died as a result of such negligence or misconduct. Under Colorado’s wrongful death statute, survivors can make a claim for monetary damages for the financial and emotional support that they have lost as a result of the death.
In Colorado, only certain persons may bring a claim for wrongful death. Within the first year of the death, only the spouse or heirs (with the spouse’s consent) may file a claim. If there is no spouse, the children or designated beneficiary of the deceased person may file a claim. In the second year after the death, the spouse, children, or designated beneficiary may file a claim. If the deceased person had no spouse or children, his parents may file a claim within two years.
All Colorado wrongful death claims must be filed within two years of the wrongful death.
A wrongful death action is not the same as a survival action, which can be brought for damages that the decedent sustained before dying. Survival actions are typically brought when someone has survived for a certain period of time before dying and has suffered pain during that time. A survival action and a wrongful death action can be filed simultaneously.
Wrongful Death Damages
Three kinds of damages are typically available to survivors who file a wrongful death lawsuit.
- These damages include the value of the financial contributions that the victim would have made to the survivors, including earnings, benefit plans, inheritance, and the value of goods and services that he would have provided. There is generally no limit to the amount of economic damages that can be recovered in a Colorado wrongful death action.
- These damages include pain and suffering and the loss of care, protection, guidance, advice, training, love, society, and companionship. Under Colorado law, noneconomic damages for wrongful death are currently capped at $571,870.
- These damages are awarded to punish the defendant for especially egregious conduct. In Colorado, a claim for punitive or exemplary damages may not be asserted in the original wrongful death claim. But the claimant may be allowed to amend the complaint to include a claim for exemplary damages 60 days after the parties have exchanged disclosures if prima facie proof of the bad conduct has been established.
Survivors are entitled to recover prejudgment interest on the compensation that they eventually win from the time that the damages were incurred up to the time that the award is collected. Survivors may also receive reimbursement from the defendant for attorneys’ fees and other costs incurred by filing the lawsuit.
Contact an Experienced Colorado Personal Injury Attorney
Because wrongful death actions usually involve complex areas of the law and can result in large damage awards, it is wise to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney if you have reason to file one. If you have experienced the wrongful death of a loved one, contact Dan Rosen at (303) 454-8000 or (800) ROSEN-911 to schedule your free initial consultation to discuss the details of your case.