Wrongful death claims in Colorado are governed by statute. Colorado Revised Statute Section 13-21-202 allows certain persons to bring a civil lawsuit to recover damages sustained due to the death of another. The statute creates a right of recovery that is separate and distinct from the cause of action that the person who was killed would have had if they had survived. The damages to be recovered are the losses suffered by persons such as a spouse or other heirs. There can be only one civil action for the wrongful death of any one person and all persons who can claim damages arising from the death can only recover their damages within the context of that one lawsuit. It is important to contact an experienced wrongful death lawyer to discuss how a wrongful death claim works.
Both individuals, companies, and other organizations can be held liable for the wrongful death of a person if the loss of life resulted from negligence or other wrongdoing. Achieving a successful wrongful death claim requires sufficient evidence to establish liability and damages, which can sometimes be difficult even in cases where a wrongful death may seem obvious based on the facts of what happened. Here’s what you need to know:
Elements of a wrongful death lawsuit
There are, generally, four elements of a wrongful death lawsuit that will need to be established. The stronger the evidence on these elements, of course, the better chance of winning the case and obtaining compensation.
First, there needs to be evidence of negligence or other wrongdoing of another person. Negligence, defined as the lack of reasonable care for the circumstances, is the basis of most wrongful death suits. For example, in an automobile crash, the negligence of another driver can form the basis of a wrongful death claim. Likewise, the actions of a manufacturer in creating an unreasonably dangerous product can form the basis for a wrongful death action.
Second, evidence needs to show that the other person’s negligence or other wrongful act caused the death. This may be simple to prove when the death is immediate and obvious from the injuries sustained, for example someone who dies at the scene of a car accident from the trauma of the crash. Sometimes, however, the death may not occur for a period of time after an initial injury and there may be circumstances where the death is not the result of injuries previously sustained. Generally, in all cases, there must be proof that the death was caused by the negligence or wrongdoing of another.
These elements will establish that a person or organization was responsible for the loss of life.
Third, to bring a claim, there must be people who are eligible to seek compensation. The Colorado wrongful death statutes identify the persons who may be eligible to bring a wrongful death claim and receive compensation, and they include a surviving spouse and heirs of the deceased. It is important to contact an experienced wrongful death attorney to identify the scope of people who may be part of a wrongful death claim.
Fourth, there also must be evidence of the damages sustained by the surviving spouse and/or heirs that resulted from the wrongful death. This could include wages, salary, commission, and bonuses the deceased would have earned if they lived, along with benefits and funeral and burial expenses. Other losses, including non-economic losses, can potentially be recovered. The wrongful death statutes allow the jury to “give such damages as they may deem fair and just”, however, there are certain damage caps (and possible exceptions) applicable to wrongful death claims that should be considered and discussed with an experienced wrongful death lawyer. There are, as with all claims, certain timeframes that must be following in bringing a wrongful death claim. Failing to file a wrongful death claim in time could forever bar the claim, so it is imperative that you talk to a wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible after the death of a loved one to help you understand your rights.
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If your loved one has passed away because of the negligence or other wrongful act of another person, Whalen Injury Lawyers can help you understand your rights. Schedule a consultation with our experienced attorneys today!