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Written by: J. Todd Tenge

Wrongful Death: Who Can File a Claim in Colorado?

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wrongful death Colorado

A “wrongful death” is the death of a person that was caused by the wrongful act of another.

Wrongful acts include negligence, such as careless driving, or intentionally harmful acts, such as assault and battery.

After a person dies in this manner, legal action can be brought against the responsible party in civil court, to compensate the family of the victim.

This type of lawsuit is known as a wrongful death claim.

Our experienced Colorado wrongful death attorneys will explain.

For immediate assistance, please send us an online message or call (303) 665-2929 today for a free consultation.

Who Can File a Colorado Wrongful Death Claim?

Only certain people can file a Colorado wrongful death claim, within certain time restrictions under the Colorado wrongful death statute of limitations (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-21-201).

In Colorado, the law grants the exclusive right to file a wrongful death lawsuit to the surviving spouse during the first year following a death. If there is no surviving spouse, children have the option to file, and if there are no children, parents can initiate a lawsuit. After the initial year, heirs are also granted the right to file their own wrongful death suit or join the existing lawsuit filed by the surviving spouse.

First Year

In the first year after the person dies, a claim may be brought by the surviving spouse of the deceased.

Upon the written election of the surviving spouse, a claim may also be brought by the spouse and heirs of the deceased, or by the heirs alone.

If the person who died left no surviving spouse, a wrongful death claim may be brought by the heirs or by the designated beneficiary.

Second Year

In the second year after the death, any of the following may file a wrongful death claim:

  • Spouse of the deceased
  • Heirs of the deceased
  • Spouse and heirs of the deceased
  • Designated beneficiary of the deceased

When Can Parents File a Wrongful Death Claim?

If the deceased person has no surviving spouse and no surviving children, the parents of the deceased may file a claim within two years of the person’s death. When a child is the victim of wrongful death, the parents may file a claim.

Both parents will have an equal interest in the judgment. If either parent has died, the surviving parent will have an exclusive interest in the judgment.

How Long Does the Family Have to File for Wrongful Death?

The statute of limitations (time limit imposed by law) is two years in Colorado.

A wrongful death claim that is not filed within that time period will be forever barred from recovery.

Family members who have lost a loved one through someone else’s negligence should begin the process as soon as possible to ensure this does not happen.

What Damages Can Be Claimed for Wrongful Death?

Damages for the wrongful death of an adult may include:

  • Medical expenses for the final illness or injury of the deceased;
  • Funeral and burial expenses;
  • Loss of the deceased person’s income and services;
  • Pain and suffering (this is capped at $250,000); and
  • Loss of companionship and emotional loss (also capped at $250,000).

The damages parents are entitled to claim for the wrongful death of a child are typically limited to their financial damages, as children usually have no income and have not contributed significantly to the household.

Colorado allows for punitive damages (designed to punish the defendant) in cases when death was caused by willful or reckless actions.

Is There a Colorado Wrongful Death Damages Cap?

Under state law, non-economic damages are capped in Colorado.

With certain exceptions, the Colorado wrongful death damages cap on pain and suffering is $250,000. In medical malpractice cases, Colorado allows a total of $1 million in damages, but no more than $300,000 for pain and suffering.

If there is no surviving spouse of a wrongful death victim, total damages are capped at $250,000 (or $500,000 with clear and convincing evidence that it is justified), or at $300,000 if wrongful death resulted from medical negligence.

Contact a Colorado Wrongful Death Lawyer for Help

Wrongful death claims can be complicated in Colorado.

If you have lost a loved one through the wrongful act of another, call the Tenge Law Firm, LLC, at (303) 665-2929 or send us an online message to speak with a wrongful death attorney in the Boulder, Denver, or Fort Collins area.

We are a full-service firm with the knowledge, skills, and resources to effectively handle your case.

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