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Written by: J. Todd Tenge

Wrongful Death Due to Car Accidents: Legal Rights and Recourse

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Wrongful Death Due to Car Accidents: Legal Rights and Recourse

Car accident victims have the right to pursue a legal claim for personal injury when the accident is caused by someone else’s negligent behavior.

But what happens when the accident is fatal? There are few things, if any, more devastating than the preventable loss of a loved one.

Following such a tragic loss, filing a car accident wrongful death lawsuit can help surviving family members seek justice and meaningful compensation from the party at fault for the accident

What Do I Need to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit for a Car Accident?

Wrongful death falls under the umbrella of personal injury law, which generally requires proof of negligence. There are four elements of negligence that pertain to wrongful death cases:

  • The negligent party owed a duty of care to the accident victim. In cases involving vehicle accidents, duty is easily established because each person operating a motor vehicle on public roads has an obligation to do so in a way that is reasonably safe and in accordance with traffic laws. 
  • The negligent party breached their duty of care by acting in a way that was not reasonably safe. In most cases, the cause of the accident was an unsafe driving maneuver such as speeding, running a red light, or countless other actions. It could also involve distracted driving or driving under the influence.
  • The breach of duty was the cause of the accident that resulted in your loved one’s death. To prove this element, you generally need to show that the breach of duty caused your loved one’s death and that if the negligent party had acted differently, the fatal accident would not have occurred. 
  • The victim’s loved ones have suffered damages as a result of their death. To recover compensation for a wrongful death claim, the victim’s loved ones have to demonstrate the losses they experienced as a result of the death.

Your attorney can help you determine if all the necessary elements for a car accident wrongful death lawsuit are present. 

Who Can File a Car Accident Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Your eligibility to file a wrongful death lawsuit for a car accident in Colorado is based on your relationship to the decedent. This relationship may also impact the timing of your claim. 

The only person allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Colorado during the first year following the death of your loved one is their surviving spouse.

The spouse has the option to file the claim in conjunction with other surviving heirs or defer the right to file to them. If the decedent does not have a surviving spouse, the heirs or a designated beneficiary automatically has the right to file the claim. 

After the first year has passed, a car accident wrongful death lawsuit can be filed by any of the surviving heirs or designated beneficiary. If the deceased is a child or has no heirs, their parents may file the claim at any time. 

Can I Receive Compensation for Death in a Car Accident?

There is never an appropriate monetary amount to make up for the loss of a life, but monetary compensation is the best the legal system has to offer. Not only is losing a loved one devastating, but it can also pose a financial burden.

Filing a claim can provide valuable compensation for death in a car accident. Here are some of the things you can potentially be compensated for, based on the circumstances of your claim:

  • Burial and funeral expenses,
  • Costs of medical treatment before death,
  • Lost financial support for those financially dependant on the decedent’s monetary contributions,
  • Post-traumatic stress,
  • Depression and anxiety, and 
  • Loss of companionship or guidance. 

There are just some examples. Your wrongful death car accident lawyer will be able to help you determine the actual value of your claim and what damages you are entitled to receive. 

There is no limit on economic damages. These are dependent on the economic costs you have incurred and vary by situation. However, Colorado law does place some limitations on noneconomic damages for wrongful death lawsuits.

Noneconomic damages relate to your mental and emotional losses from the experience of losing your loved one. Colorado’s cap adjusts for inflation each year. For claims arising before January 1, 2024, the cap is $598,350. However, there are exceptions for certain circumstances.

How Can a Wrongful Death Car Accident Lawyer Help?

When coping with the loss of a loved one, the last thing you want to have to deal with is the Colorado legal system. Here are some of the ways a wrongful death car accident lawyer can help:

  • Listen to the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s death and determine if you have a viable claim;
  • Conduct an independent investigation to determine who is liable for the death, including gathering evidence;
  • Help you understand your legal rights and the best legal strategy for your claim; 
  • Determine the value of your claim based on your expenses and experience caused by the loss of your loved one;
  • File the necessary paperwork and conduct negotiations with the insurance company;
  • Ensure that you do not accept a settlement for less than what you are rightfully owed; and 
  • Pursue litigation, if warranted, which includes filing your lawsuit, handing crucial documents and paperwork, preparing for trial, and representing you in front of a judge and jury. 

At Tenge Law Firm, we understand how difficult this time can be, and we are committed to pursuing maximum compensation for what you have been through, while allowing you the space to heal and work through the grieving process.

What Is the Car Accident Statute of Limitations In Colorado?

The statute of limitations is a rule specified by each state that provides plaintiffs with a certain amount of time to file a legal claim.

The car accident statute of limitations in Colorado gives eligible heirs four years from their loved one’s date of death to bring a cause of action for wrongful death in most cases. If you do not file within the allotted period, you may be barred from legal recovery.

The time clock starts running from the date of death. It is important to know that this timeframe is an exception to the standard two-year statute of limitations for wrongful death. If needed, your attorney can help you understand any other exceptions that may apply. 

Contact Us

The award-winning attorneys at Tenge Law Firm understand how difficult this time can be, and you do not have to go through it alone. We have successfully represented hundreds of clients across Colorado, including those in the midst of grief. We can help you determine if filing a car accident wrongful death lawsuit is the right approach for compensation.

Contact us today to schedule your free case consultation. 

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