If a member of your family lost their life in an accident caused by another’s negligence or willful act, you may wonder who can sue for wrongful death in Colorado. If you are the surviving spouse, child, beneficiary, or, in certain cases, the surviving parents of a loved one killed, you have a right to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
There are few situations in life more emotionally devastating than losing a loved one. But that pain may be magnified by the fact that their loss could have been avoided. An experienced wrongful death attorney understands that no amount of money can replace the loss of your family member. However, recovering in a wrongful death claim may assist you in the healing process, so you and your loved ones may move forward.
What Is Wrongful Death?
Unlike a personal injury lawsuit, which the injured person brings on their own behalf, a wrongful death lawsuit is brought by the loved one of the person killed due to another’s negligence. Several key elements must be established to prevail on a wrongful death claim based on negligence, including:
- Duty of care. A wrongful death claim requires proving that the defendant owed your loved one a duty of care. A duty of care requires an individual to behave reasonably in situations where they may harm others.
- Breach of duty. A breach of duty occurs when a person with a duty fails to behave reasonably.
- Causation. Causation requires proof that a person’s failure to act reasonably resulted in the death of another.
- Damages. There must be damages to support a wrongful death claim, such as loss of financial support and loss of companionship.
A wrongful death claim may also exist in situations where someone causes a death intentionally. It’s important to reach out to a wrongful death attorney to analyze the facts of your wrongful death claim. Establishing the key elements for a wrongful death claim builds a strong case and will help you recover compensation for your devastating losses.
Types of Wrongful Death
Wrongful death can have many causes. However, some types of wrongful death occur more commonly than others.
More than 38,000 people die every year in road-related accidents. Some of these fatal accidents may result from the negligent acts of another.
Many deaths each year result from medical malpractice. Medical malpractice, or medical mistakes, require evidence that a health care provider violated a set of rules required to ensure the safety of patients.
Dangerous or Defective Products
When filing a lawsuit claiming that a product is defective, you must establish that the defect caused the wrongful death. There are several different types of product defects including:
- Manufacturing defects,
- Design defects, and
- Warning defects.
An experienced wrongful death attorney works to establish the type of defect relevant to your wrongful death claim.
Nursing Home Neglect
Nursing home neglect, resulting in death, requires an extensive investigation to establish your wrongful death claim. Nursing home neglect cases often include federal and state law violations and criminal investigations, in addition to your wrongful death claim. Therefore, don’t go through this process alone. A wrongful death attorney can work to establish your claim so you can recover for the harm to your loved one.
For premises liability cases where an accident on another’s property resulted in the death of a loved one, certain elements must be established to determine the duty of the property owner.
The duty owed by a property owner under Colorado law depends on what your loved one was doing on the property at the time of their death:
- Trespasser. Property owners owe no duty to trespassers except to refrain from willfully or intentionally harming them.
- Licensee. A licensee is someone whom the owner permits to be on the premises, such as a party guest or a salesperson. Property owners owe licensees a duty to disclose a dangerous condition if they know about it.
- Invitees. Invitees are those invited onto property for the benefit of the owner, such as customers at a store. Property owners owe invitees the highest duty of care. Property owners must fix all dangerous conditions and take additional steps to prevent dangerous conditions.
Premises liability represents a complex area of law for a potential wrongful death claim. In some situations, you may be filing a claim against grocery store chains or other large companies. Therefore, it’s important to ensure your representation by a qualified wrongful death attorney.
Employers must take steps to keep their employees safe while they work. These requirements are federally enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
A wrongful death caused by a workplace accident has the potential to financially devastate a family. If the loved one killed was the sole breadwinner for the family, the loss is not only emotional but economic.
While family members can typically recover for a work-related wrongful death only through Colorado’s workers’ compensation system, there are some circumstances where you may be able to pursue a wrongful death claim. A qualified wrongful death attorney works to analyze the facts of your case and help identify your options.
Statute of Limitations in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Colorado sets a deadline for when a loved one may file for wrongful death, known as a statute of limitations. Colorado’s statute of limitations provides that a wrongful death claim must be brought within two years of the date of death.
Although two years may seem a long time, after experiencing the loss of a loved one, that time period may sneak up quickly. During this period, important evidence may be lost and events surrounding the death may be forgotten.
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death in Colorado
Who may bring a wrongful death claim under Colorado law depends on the decedent’s family situation.
First Year After Wrongful Death
If the decedent was married, only the surviving spouse of the decedent may file a wrongful death claim in the first year following the death. During that year, the surviving spouse may permit any children to file their own claim or join in the surviving spouse’s claim. If the decedent was unmarried, the decedent’s children or named beneficiary may file a wrongful death claim.
Second Year After Wrongful Death
In the second year after the death of the decedent, the following people may file a wrongful death claim:
- Decedent’s surviving spouse,
- Decedent’s surviving children,
- Decedent’s surviving spouse and surviving children, or
- The decedent’s named beneficiary and surviving children.
If the decedent was unmarried and had no children, the decedent’s surviving parents may file a lawsuit for wrongful death.
Compensation in most wrongful death claims includes economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are quantifiable financial losses. Common types of economic damages include the following:
- Lost income the decedent would have earned had he or she survived;
- Lost benefits such as life insurance or other investments held by the deceased; and
- Funeral and burial expenses.
Non-economic damages include intangible and subjective losses for the death of a loved one, such as:
- Loss of companionship and love of the decedent;
- Loss of consortium with a spouse; and
- Loss of care, guidance, and advice of the decedent.
Non-economic damages are intended to compensate surviving family members for how the loss of their loved one has diminished their quality of life.
In certain situations, a court may also award punitive damages. Punitive damages serve to punish the defendant and deter future conduct by others. Punitive damages may be awarded in situations where the harming party acted with malice, fraud, or willful and wanton conduct that led to the death of a loved one.
The Tenge Law Firm is a focused boutique law firm specializing in personal injury and insurance cases. For the past thirty years, The Tenge Law Firm has worked to provide clients with aggressive and thorough representation through the hardest points in their lives. We understand the indescribable loss you must be feeling. Let our attorneys get to work for you, so you can get moving on the path to recovery.
A wrongful death lawsuit is complex and requires the assistance of a qualified and experienced attorney. We provide clients with personalized attention and communication, so you never feel left in the dark about the status of your case. Contact us today to discuss your wrongful death lawsuit with a no-obligation consultation.