If a person dies due to someone else’s wrongful act, carelessness, or negligence, that is considered a wrongful death. The party responsible could face criminal charges, but a wrongful death is a civil matter. Therefore, this matter would be separate and independent of any potential criminal charges brought by individuals or private parties.
Wrongful death suits can be filed regardless of whether or not there is already a pending criminal charge. While criminal charges serve to punish the guilty party for an offense, wrongful death suits serve to compensate family members of a lost loved one.
Almost any situation can be a wrongful death if someone dies because of another person’s actions. The most common wrongful death cases involve car accidents, dangerous property conditions, and defective products.
If you have lost a loved one or family member due to someone else’s negligence, you could be entitled to legal action and compensation. No amount of money can make up for losing a loved one, but it can help deal with the unexpected financial hardships you face after your loss. If someone caused the death of your family member, you could file a wrongful death lawsuit to hold the at-fault party accountable.
However, you have a time limit to file a claim in Colorado. The Colorado wrongful death statute gives victims’ family members two years from the death to bring forth a claim.
As these claims can be challenging to pursue alone, you will benefit from hiring an experienced Colorado wrongful death attorney who understands the law. A good attorney will also have experience dealing with particular challenges unique to wrongful death cases and help ensure you don’t miss the statute of limitations for wrongful death in Colorado.
The general rule is two years from the date of death, but there may be exceptions in some cases. Only with a qualified wrongful death attorney can you be sure that your case is handled effectively and you receive the total and fair compensation you deserve.
What Is the Colorado Wrongful Death Statute?
Colorado’s wrongful death statute is explained in the Colorado Revised Statutes Sections 13-21-201 through 13-21-204. It’s also known as the Colorado Wrongful Death Act. This act allows family members of the deceased victim to pursue a legal claim against the party who caused their family member or loved one’s death.
While family members of the deceased do have rights, there are limitations. Wrongful death lawsuits will not be a viable option in every situation, and not everyone can file one. For example, you can only file a wrongful death lawsuit if the deceased victim had legal grounds for pursuing legal action, given they were still alive. That means, if the deceased victim were still alive, they would have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit. Essentially, whatever legal defenses that would have applied in their personal injury lawsuit will still be upheld in a wrongful death case.
Some common personal injury situations that can be translated to a wrongful death lawsuit after losing a loved one include:
- Car accidents
- Truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
The circumstances of each unique case will affect the recovery potential for family members.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Colorado?
Colorado law does not permit everyone to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
In the first year after the victim’s death, only the victim’s spouse has legal rights to bring forth a wrongful death lawsuit. After that, the children of the deceased may join the case, but only with written consent from the spouse.
The surviving spouse’s children will have legal rights to bring forth a claim during the second year after the victim’s death. If the deceased did not have a spouse or children, their parents would be entitled to file a lawsuit.
Only lineal descendants can recover damages from the death of the loved one. In other words, spouses, children, and parents can recover damages. However, family members like brothers, sisters, uncles, or aunts usually are not permitted to bring a wrongful death suit.
If the deceased left a representative of the estate, they would file a survival action.
Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit the Same as a Survival Action?
A survival action is different from a wrongful death lawsuit because of the damages sought out. In a wrongful death lawsuit, family members seek compensation for personal damages and losses, including:
- Funeral costs
- Services for loss of their loved one
- Lost financial support due to loved one’s death
- Lost emotional support from a loved one
- Pain and suffering due to the death of a loved one
A survival action is slightly different. A survival action is when the estate representative seeks to pursue the damages on behalf of the deceased. So, if the deceased were still alive, they would be able to sue for these damages. Examples of the damages an estate representative might seek to include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages if they were still alive
Damages like pain and suffering, future loss of income, disfigurement would not be permitted in a survival action because they do not survive after the victim’s death.
Damages Cap on Wrongful Death Cases in Colorado
In Colorado, some cases limit the amount of damages you can recover from a wrongful death case. While Colorado does not limit economic damages like loss of financial support, there is a cap on non-economic damages. The law puts a maximum amount, or cap, on non-economic damages like emotional pain and suffering.
As of now, if a surviving family member brought a claim after January 1st, 2020, the cap is $571,870. A lawsuit brought forth before January 1st, 2020, is capped at $430,070. Colorado law increases that amount every couple of years. The cap is not a binding rule for every situation and can vary depending on the circumstances of the case.
For example, consider a person who dies and has no surviving spouse, children, or dependent parents. In this instance, the cap would not be limited to non-economic damages, but would apply to the total damages awarded. However, there is no cap if a person is killed through a felony act. Felonious killing would be a criminal charge in which the defendant is found guilty of manslaughter or murder.
Contact a Colorado Wrongful Death Attorney
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 consultation.