Losing a loved one unexpectedly can be a devastating experience, especially if you know their death was the result of another party’s actions. A “wrongful death” is any death that occurs because of negligence or intentional misconduct. Proving fault for a wrongful death requires most of the same considerations as proving liability for a personal injury, but Colorado upholds several laws specific to wrongful death claims. Specifically, there are restrictions concerning who may file a wrongful death claim, the damages they can seek, and how long they have to file the claim.
The “statute of limitations” is the time limit for legal action. In the state, the statute of limitations on personal injury claims and wrongful death claims is two years, and the time limit begins on the date of the injury or death in question. So, for example, if you lost your loved one in a fatal accident on January 1, 2023, you would have until January 1, 2025, to file your wrongful death suit. However, this statute of limitation will pause if the cause of death isn’t immediately determinable or if the defendant who caused the death concealed their liability through fraud or any other type of deception.
State law restricts eligibility to file a wrongful death claim as well. State law grants the primary right to file a wrongful death claim to the surviving spouse, followed by the heirs of the deceased and, finally, the parents of the deceased. If the decedent named a personal representative in their estate plan, this individual would likely be expected to handle the wrongful death claim. An experienced attorney can provide you and your family with valuable guidance when filing your wrongful death suit.
Unlike a personal injury claim that seeks compensation for the victim’s losses, a wrongful death action seeks compensation for the losses the surviving family experiences from the death in question. However, like a personal injury claim, the plaintiff in a wrongful death suit must prove liability before they can recover compensation from the defendant. Wrongful deaths may result from acts of negligence or intentional misconduct. Your attorney can help you gather the evidence needed to prove fault before proceeding with a calculation of your claimable damages.
In a wrongful death case, the plaintiff can seek compensation for funeral and burial expenses, the family’s loss of financial support from the deceased, and compensation for the pain and suffering they experienced. It’s also possible to seek compensation for damages incurred by the deceased estate with a survival action, but this is not possible in every case. The best thing to do to determine your family’s optimal path to legal recourse is to consult an attorney you can trust as soon as possible after losing a loved one to another party’s negligence or misconduct.
While hiring legal representation may not be a strict requirement for filing a wrongful death claim, an experienced attorney can make every aspect of your case easier to manage and more likely to generate the results you hope to see. Your attorney can handle your civil court proceedings as your case unfolds so you and your family can mourn with some peace of mind. Legal counsel you can trust significantly increases the chance of success with your claim and the likelihood of maximizing the compensation you and your family secure from the defendant.
Any unexpected death can cause serious problems for the surviving family members. Unlike a personal injury claim that seeks compensation for the victim’s losses, a wrongful death claim focuses on the surviving family’s damages. An experienced attorney is the best resource to consult for an accurate estimate of your wrongful death claim’s potential value, and their legal counsel can substantially improve your chances of winning your case.
Incarceration, fines, and other criminal penalties are possible if one person’s negligence or misconduct results in wrongful death. It’s possible for the state to file charges for criminal negligence when a defendant has exceeded the scope of typical negligence. If a defendant caused a wrongful death through any intentional act of harm, they could face prosecution for murder and spend many years or the rest of their life in prison.
If an investigation reveals that your deceased loved one was partially responsible for causing the fatal accident that claimed their life, a fault percentage would be assigned, and the state’s modified comparative negligence law would apply to the case. If the victim’s fault is deemed to be less than 50%, the family can still receive compensation minus a percentage equal to this fault percentage. However, if the victim’s fault is more than 50%, the family would not be able to pursue a wrongful death action against the defendant.
When a defendant is clearly responsible for the death in question, it may not take very long to settle your claim if you have reliable legal counsel advising you. However, if a defendant contests liability or disputes the damages sought by the plaintiff, settlement may not be an option, and the case will need to be resolved in litigation. A wrongful death attorney can provide their client an estimate of how long their case is likely to take to conclude.
A wrongful death in the family is a life-changing experience for all surviving relatives of the deceased. When you believe another party is directly responsible for the death of a loved one, it is crucial to have legal counsel you can trust if you want to hold them accountable. The compensation you receive from a successful wrongful death claim cannot bring back your lost loved one, but it can make it easier for your family to adjust to their new circumstances and handle the economic impact of the death. Contact Cheney Galluzzi & Howard today if you think you have grounds for a wrongful death action in Colorado, and we will explain how we can assist you with your case.