If you have lost a loved one due to the negligence of others, you may be thinking about bringing a wrongful death claim. If you are considering making a wrongful death claim in Colorado, here are some important things to know.
Wrongful Death Claims 101
When a death occurs due to the negligence of others, family members or designated beneficiaries of the deceased may be able to make a wrongful death claim. Wrongful death claims are processed through the civil court system, not the criminal court system. Compensation for wrongful death claims is monetary. These claims do not involve fines and jail time like a murder would in the criminal system.
Wrongful Death Laws in Colorado
In Colorado, wrongful death claims are governed by the Wrongful Death Act, C.R.S. § 13-21-201 et. seq. This law specifies who can bring a claim, statutes of limitations, and damage limitations. The Wrongful Death Act is primarily designed to compensate family members and as such, only specific people are able to bring a claim. In Colorado, standing to bring a wrongful death claim is limited to the surviving spouse, linear descendants of deceased, parents (only if the deceased is unmarried with no descendants) and designated beneficiaries. Designated beneficiaries are defined by C.R.S.§ 15-22-104 as two people who have contractually agreed to be designated beneficiaries for each other through a Designated Beneficiary Agreement that is filed with the county of residence. Generally speaking, wrongful death claims must be brought within two years of death or the right to sue is lost.
How to Prove Wrongful Death
To prove that a wrongful death occurred, your attorney will have to demonstrate that the elements of a wrongful death claim were met. The elements of a wrongful death lawsuit are:
- Negligence: Someone failed to act with reasonable care
- Death: A death occurred
- Causation: Negligence caused or contributed to the death
- Damages: The death caused loss and suffering to the person bringing the claim
Compensation for Wrongful Death Cases
Plaintiffs in wrongful death actions may recover compensation for economic or noneconomic losses. Economic losses are not capped and include medical bills, lost wages, pecuniary losses (money the deceased would have paid to support the bereaved party if the deceased had lived) and funeral expenses. Compensation for noneconomic damages, such as pain, emotional anguish, grief, and sorrow, is capped and periodically adjusted for inflation. The cap can be exceeded in certain circumstances, such as death caused by reckless conduct, if evidence shows that an award in excess of the cap is appropriate. If a wrongful death is the result of a felonious killing (first-degree murder, second-degree murder, or manslaughter) there is no cap for noneconomic damages.
Wrongful Deaths are Devastating
At the heart of every wrongful death case is a devastating loss. Compensation can provide a sense of justice for victims, as well as much-needed financial relief to the bereaved. If you have standing to sue and the elements of the claim are met, you will still need a skilled Colorado wrongful death attorney to help you move forward with your claim. If you are considering bringing a wrongful death claim in Colorado, we want to help you.
Article by Molly Fuscher, Paralegal