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Written by: J. Todd Tenge

Colorado Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations: What to Know

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colorado wrongful death statute

If you lost a family member due to someone else’s negligence, you could be entitled to bring legal action.

While no amount of money will bring your loved one back, it can help with the sudden and unexpected financial burden your family is facing. When someone causes another person’s death, the injured party can hold them responsible through a wrongful death lawsuit.

However, you only have a limited amount of time to file. The Colorado wrongful death statute says you generally have two years from the date of death to bring a lawsuit.

These claims can be challenging to pursue independently. You need a Colorado wrongful death lawyer who understands the challenges in these matters and will ensure you don’t inadvertently miss the statute of limitations for wrongful death in Colorado.

While the general rule is two years from the date of death, some situations may alter the deadline. Working with an experienced attorney is the only way to verify that you file within the statute of limitations for wrongful death in Colorado.

What Is the Colorado Wrongful Death Statute?

The Colorado wrongful death statute is discussed under Colorado Revised Statutes Sections 13-21-201 through 13-21-204. It’s commonly referred to as the Colorado Wrongful Death Act, and it allows certain surviving family members the right to pursue legal action against the party who caused their loved one’s death.

Not everyone can file a wrongful death lawsuit, nor is it available in every situation. For example, you can only file a wrongful death lawsuit if the deceased victim would have had legal grounds to file a personal injury lawsuit if they were still alive.

Any legal defenses that would’ve applied in the victim’s personal injury lawsuit will still apply in a wrongful death case. For example, comparative liability or assumption of risk are defenses the other party’s insurance company may raise.

Some of the most common personal injury situations that give rise to a wrongful death lawsuit include:

  • Motor vehicle accidents;
  • Large truck accidents;
  • Motorcycle and bicycle accidents;
  • Pedestrian accidents;
  • Boating accidents;
  • Slip and fall injuries;
  • Construction site and other workplace accidents;
  • Swimming pool accidents;
  • Medical malpractice; and
  • Defective products.

Potential recovery under the Wrongful Death Act will vary based on the circumstances of the case.

Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Colorado?

Colorado law only allows certain people to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Colorado.

Within the first year following the victim’s death, only a spouse is legally entitled to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. The deceased’s children can join the case, provided the spouse gives written consent.

In the second year following the victim’s death, the children or the surviving spouse can bring a claim. If the deceased did not have a spouse or children, the victim’s parents could file a lawsuit.

Recovery is limited to lineal descendants. Family members such as brothers, sisters, uncles, and aunts typically cannot bring a wrongful death lawsuit.

The representative of the estate can also file a survival action.

What Is the Difference Between a Wrongful Death Lawsuit and a Survival Action?

A survival action differs from a wrongful death lawsuit in the type of damages they seek. With a wrongful death lawsuit, family members are seeking compensation for their own damages, such as:

  • Funeral expenses;
  • Loss of deceased’s services;
  • Loss of financial support;
  • Emotional loss of support; and
  • Pain and suffering.

With a survival action, the estate representative is pursuing damages that the deceased would have been able to sue for had they survived.

These damages include their medical expenses and lost wages while still alive. However, damages such as pain and suffering or future loss of income, disfigurement, etc., are not available in a survival action because they do not survive the victim’s death.

Damages Cap on Wrongful Death Cases in Colorado

Colorado limits the amount of damages you can recover in a wrongful death case in some instances. For example, Colorado law doesn’t cap economic damages such as loss of financial support. But the law subjects non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, to a maximum amount or “cap.”

Currently, that figure is $571,870 for claims occurring on or after January 1, 2020. The legislature adjusts that figure every two years so the cap will increase again for claims accruing on January 1, 2022, or later. 

The cap can vary in some situations. If the person died and had no surviving spouse, minor children, or dependent parents, then the law caps the total damages award. If the victim died due to a “felonious killing,” then all caps are lifted. Felonious killing is when the defendant is charged with first or second-degree manslaughter or murder.   

Contact a Colorado Wrongful Death Lawyer

If you fail to bring a lawsuit within the Colorado wrongful death statute of limitations, you could lose your family’s right to recovery. Please don’t risk your case by trying to handle it independently. Let the skilled legal team at the Tenge Law Firm, LLC help.

We have three decades of experience representing grieving family members in Colorado wrongful death lawsuits. We have worked hard to earn the reputation as one of the finest personal injury law firms in Colorado and we will be there for you every step of the way.

To learn more about how we can assist you with a Colorado wrongful death lawsuit, contact Tenge Law Firm, LLC., today.

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