A wrongful death lawsuit arises when someone dies due to the negligent action of another person. The death may have been a result of intentional or accidental action. The surviving family members of the deceased person’s estate can then file a wrongful death lawsuit. They may recover damages from the case, including the decedent’s medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering before their death, if there was any. Some examples of wrongful death accidents include:
- Car accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Truck accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
“Damages” are anything the deceased victim’s family can recover from a lawsuit. In a personal injury cause, damages are anything the plaintiff can claim as a loss. The two categories of damages are compensatory and punitive—most states, like Colorado, award compensatory damages to surviving family members.
What Qualifies as Wrongful Death?
Each state has its wrongful death statute. In Colorado, the wrongful death statute is explained under the Colorado Revised Statutes 13-21-201 through 12-21-204. It’s also known as the Colorado Wrongful Death Act. Under this act, family members of the lost victim can bring a suit against the party that is liable for their family member’s death. However, family members of the victim can only file a wrongful death suit if the victim would have been able to file a personal injury lawsuit had they survived.
For a case to qualify as a wrongful death lawsuit, the following elements need to be present:
- The death of a person
- The person’s death was caused by another person’s negligence or intentional harmful act.
- The family members who survived after the victim’s death have suffered financial loss due to the decedent’s death.
- The decedent’s estate has a personal representative.
Common Examples of Wrongful Death Cases
In 2020, there were 611 fatalities from motor vehicle accidents in Colorado. After such car accidents, injured drivers, passengers, and families might be left to struggle with overwhelming and unexpected medical bills. They could also face lost wages or reduced incomes due to losing a loved one in a car accident. Car accidents are typically caused by:
- Distracted driving
- Drunk driving
- Reckless driving
- Traffic violations
- Driving while there is poor visibility
- Vehicle defects
- Wrong-way driving
- Improper turns
Truck accidents are still caused by a motor vehicle but are different from typical car accidents due to the sheer size and weight of the truck. Semi-trucks and commercial trucks cause far more significant and more severe damage than a collision with two smaller cars. If a vehicle hits a smaller car, the passengers in the smaller car will likely suffer serious injuries or death.
When it comes to wrongful death, truck accidents can happen from many different causes, some of which include:
- Driver error or negligence
- Failure to use turn signals
- Fatigued driving
- Aggressive driving or extremely high speeds
- Driving in inclement weather conditions
- Having an overweight cargo load on the truck
- Mechanical or technical defects
- Truck company negligence
- Driving under the influence or while intoxicated
Motorcycle accidents usually happen when drivers fail to notice a motorcycle rider. By failing to check lanes before switching, drivers inadvertently cause accidents with motorcyclists. Motorcyclists involved in car accidents can be left with the following injuries:
- Brain injuries
- Back injuries
- Neck injuries
- Spinal cords injuries
- Burn injuries
- Broken bones
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Or death
Motorcycle accidents usually require legal assistance because many driver insurance policies do not cover injuries to the degree suffered by motorcyclists.
Pedestrian accidents that involve traumatic impact from being hit by a car or run over can lead to death. Usually, this happens while walking, running, or jogging. The injured person will need immediate medical attention as many injuries from this type of accident can be internal and thus not visible but fatal. In addition, physical injuries from being hit by a car or truck can lead to death. In that case, the litigation would become a wrongful death lawsuit. The compensation would go to the deceased person’s surviving family members.
How to File a Wrongful Death Suit in Colorado
Find Out if You are Entitled to File
According to Colorado’s wrongful death statute, only the spouse can file a wrongful death lawsuit in the first year after a victim’s death. If the deceased had no spouse, the children could file in the first year.
During the second year, both the children and the spouse can file a claim and any designated beneficiary. If none of the above family members survive, the deceased’s parents are entitled to file.
The estate representative can also file a survival action for certain types of compensation on behalf of the decedent. The estate representative should do this immediately after death.
Determine Whether the Death Was Wrongful
Just because your loved one passed, it doesn’t mean you can automatically sue. Under Colorado law, a wrongful death lawsuit is only viable if a loved one died due to someone else’s negligence, recklessness, or other wrongful action. Intentional acts to deliberate harm are also accepted as the basis for a wrongful death lawsuit. Your best course is to consult an experienced Colorado wrongful death attorney who can review the evidence and decide on whether the death was wrongful.
File Within the Statute of Limitations
Colorado’s statute of limitation for bringing a wrongful death claim is two years. Therefore, family members have two years from the death of their loved one to file a lawsuit. If you miss that deadline, you will forfeit your right to file a wrongful death lawsuit for your lost loved one.
Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Colorado
A lawsuit begins with the family members filing a complaint and then serving the complaint to the defendant. You will usually sue in whatever district your loved one’s death occurred or where the defendant resides. You might file in federal court if the defendant lives in a different state. A complaint must contain certain information. Without all the requirements, a judge will dismiss the case. It’s advisable to seek expert legal advocacy to avoid having to refile later. As the law is very technical, it’s best not to handle your case independently.
Contact an Experienced Colorado Wrongful Death Attorney Today
If you do not bring a lawsuit within the Colorado wrongful death statute of limitations, you may forfeit your right to recover damages. So please don’t risk your case – get the skilled legal representation you deserve.
Losing a loved one is hard enough, so you shouldn’t try to go it alone. While money cannot replace a loved one, it can help you rebuild your life and deal with the hardships. We will be there for you every step of the way and fight for the fair and full amount you deserve. Contact an experienced Colorado wrongful death attorney today for a free consultation.