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Who Is Entitled to Wrongful Death Compensation in Colorado?

08/28/2021

The loss of a loved one is a terrible tragedy for anyone. But when a life is cut short by someone's negligence, the pain is doubled by the sense of helplessness in front of this injustice. At Firouzbakht Law Firm we believe that no bereaved relative should feel helpless. An experienced wrongful death lawyer will assist you during these difficult times and help you obtain compensation for the financial losses and noneconomic damages you suffered as a result of your loved one's death.

We know that the last thing on your mind is preparing and filing wrongful death actions. However, you are burdened by burial expenses, medical expenses incurred before the deceased person's passing, as well as by loss of income and support. According to personal injury law, you have the right to recover various types of damages from the person or persons responsible for your loved one's death.

A family walks a coffin of a loved one in a Colorado cemetery

According to the Colorado Revised Statutes 13-21-201, wrongful death is a case when "a person dies from any injury resulting from or occasioned by the negligence, unskillfulness or criminal intent" of another person.

Although wrongful death claims or lawsuits are brought by the living family members, in order to have a case, the claimants must prove the fault party's negligence.. Negligence is proven by:

  • the existence of a duty of care for the deceased person
  • the fact that in acting in a negligent manner, the other party breached the duty of care
  • the fact that the person's death is directly owed to the negligent act
  • the fact that the family suffered damages as a result of their loved one's death.

Please note that all these elements have nothing to do with the criminal charges that the authorities may or may not bring against the responsible parties. A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action, with the purpose of obtaining financial compensation for the economic and noneconomic losses caused by the person's death to their immediate family.

The Most Common Types of Wrongful Death Cases

An experienced personal injury attorney has seen many instances of accidents leading to someone's death.. They were caused either by simple negligence or wanton conduct, but they all had something in common: they resulted in someone's accidental death.

The most frequent types of fatal accidents are:

Motor Vehicle Accidents

According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, 648 people died in fatal car accidents across the state in 2017. Auto accidents remain, by far, the most frequent cause of wrongful deaths. A collision between two cars can lead to severe physical injuries, such as traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury.. In some cases, the victims cannot recover from their catastrophic injuries, despite the doctors' best efforts.

A fatal accident on the road is usually caused by:

  • distracted driving
  • drunk driving
  • speeding
  • drowsy driving
  • defective cars
  • road defects (debris, potholes).

Motorcycle Accidents

Motorcyclists have absolutely no protection against a crash with a passenger vehicle, bus, or truck. The most common causes of motorcycle crashes are failure to yield, rear-end impact, and speed. The families of these wrongful death victims are usually faced with the double pain of the loss of the decedent's support and financial assistance and the lack of empathy of insurance companies.

Sadly, there is still a lot of bias concerning motorcyclists, which affects the family's ability to obtain the monetary damages they are entitled to. An experienced personal injury lawyer can fight this bias with the force of law and relevant evidence, helping you get adequate compensation to alleviate your family's financial burden..

Trucking Accidents

When a distracted or drowsy truck driver accident loses control of their vehicle, the consequences are terrible. The sheer size of a truck or other type of commercial vehicle and its speed make a fatal combination for innocent car drivers on the road.. In such an instance, the party responsible to pay compensation for losses is not only the truck driver, but their employer, as well.

Medical Malpractice

Going to the doctor or to a hospital should not pose any danger to anyone, on the contrary. However, many people die due to medical negligence. The most frequent causes of medical malpractice are:

  • surgical errors
  • failure to diagnose a fatal condition
  • birth defects
  • treatment errors
  • defective medical devices.
A family morns a loved one that has passed away due to a wrongful death

In this instance. the main challenge is proving that the healthcare practitioner did not act with the adequate standard of care, and this was the direct cause of the patient's death.

Product Liability

When a car brake does not work or a medical device malfunctions due to a design or manufacturing defect, the operator (driver, health care practitioner) is not the party at fault, but the manufacturer of the defective products. The wrongful death attorney will present convincing evidence that the defect of their product caused your loved one's death.

Workplace Accidents

Employers should demonstrate reasonable care in creating a safe work environment. However, many workers die due to workplace injuries on construction sites, production facilties and workshops, caused by dangerous work conditions, unsafe or defective machinery and improperly signaled unsafe areas..

Their bereaved families have the right to receive economic damages covering not only burial costs and the lost wages of the decedent before death, but also the future loss of earnings and retirement benefits.

Who Can File Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Colorado?

Wrongful death laws in the state of Colorado specify in great detail who is entitled to take legal action when someone's negligent conduct led to the death of person. According to the Colorado Revised Statutes 13-21-201, the lineal descendants who are eligible to file for recoverable damages are, as follows:

In the first year after the person's death:

  • the decedent's spouse
  • with the spouse's written approval, the deceased's children, separately, or jointly with the spouse
  • if the deceased is unmarried, the children or the designated beneficiary of the estate.

In the second year after the person's death:

  • the surviving spouse
  • the surviving children
  • the surviving children jointly with the spouse
  • the designated beneficiary jointly with the surviving children.

If the deceased is a minor child or was unmarried at the time of death and had no surviving children, then the parents are eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit for financial damages and noneconomic damages.

Siblings and fiancés/fiancées do not have the right to take legal action.

What You Need to Know about Survival Action

Survival action, as defined in Colorado Revised Statutes 13-21-202, represents a personal injury lawsuit that the surviving relatives can bring on behalf of a deceased loved one against another person. In the wording of the law "the person who or the corporation which would have been liable, if death had not ensued, shall be liable in an action for damages notwithstanding the death of the party injured".

A survival action can be brought together with a wrongful death lawsuit and applies to all types of personal injury claims.. This type of action allows the eligible heirs at law to receive only economic damages, such as:

  • lost wages prior to death
  • medical bills
  • other out of pocket expenses.

Survival actions do not allow the inclusion of non-economic damages.

Types of Damages Included in a Wrongful Death Action

Wrongful death damages include:

  • economic damages
  • noneconomic damages
  • punitive damages (in certain cases).

Economic damages include the family's present and future financial loses caused by their loved one's death, such as:

  • medical costs
  • loss of insurance or retirement benefits
  • funeral costs
  • loss of earnings
  • loss of services.

Noneconomic losses attempt to offer compensation for:

  • pain and grief
  • loss of consortium
  • emotional stress
  • mental anguish.

Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, are awarded if it can be proven that the responsible party acted not only with negligent conduct, but in a fraudulent, malicious, wanton manner or by intentional action.

Limitation on Damages in Wrongful Death Lawsuits

The state of Colorado imposes caps on damages awarded after a civil lawsuit for wrongful death. There is no limitation on economic damages. However, noneconomic damages are currently capped at $571,870. As per Senate Bill 19-109 in effect since January 1, 2020, this cap will be adjusted every two years.

However, if the person's death caused by "felonious killing", there are no caps on damages. A felonious killing is defined as:

  • first degree murder
  • second degree murder
  • manslaughter.

Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Actions

The standard period of time to file a wrongful death lawsuit in the state of Colorado is two years. This two-year period starts running from the date of the person's death. The exception to this rule is the case when death was caused by a hit-and-run car accident.. In this case, the period of time is extended to 4 years after the person's death.

We Are Your Strongest Allies in the Most Difficult Time

A woman holds a red rose as she says good buy to a loved one in a Colorado cemetery

At Firouzbakht Law Firm, you will find not only an experienced attorney to handle your case, but compassion, understanding, and support. We are here to shield you from the most unpleasant proceedings related to filing a wrongful death lawsuit and winning the financial compensation you deserve. We will take care of all the legal issues, and only get you involved when it is strictly necessary.

We work on a contingency fee basis, so you do not have to pay us any fees until we win your case. Call us now: 303-529-1722!

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