Losing a loved one is a devastating experience, made worse when it's due to someone else's negligence. The emotional and financial impacts can be long-lasting. However, in Colorado, families have legal rights and can pursue compensation through a wrongful death claim.
To file a successful claim, it's crucial to know who can bring a claim and what damages are recoverable. This blog offers a comprehensive guide on who can file a wrongful death claim in Colorado and what damages can be recovered.
Defining Wrongful Death Claims in Colorado: What You Need to Know
A wrongful death claim is a legal action taken by the surviving family members of an individual who has died because of someone else's negligence or intentional act. Colorado's Wrongful Death Act allows close family members to seek compensation for their losses resulting from the unnecessary death.
The Colorado law for damages in wrongful death cases is “The Wrongful Death Act, 13-21-201 et. seq1”. This type of lawsuit is not designed to compensate the deceased person for damages, but rather to compensate the decedent's close family members for their damages.
Who is eligible to file a Wrongful Death claim?
Under Colorado law, there are specific rules that determine who is eligible to file a wrongful death claim, depending on how long it has been since the decedent's passing. If it's within one year, the surviving spouse has primary power to bring suit. The spouse can also allow the heirs or beneficiary to join the lawsuit within that first year.
If it's within the second year, the deceased person's spouse, heirs (children), or designated beneficiary can file the claim. Parents of the deceased person can only file a claim if there is no spouse, heirs, or designated beneficiary.
What are the Time Limitations for filing a Wrongful Death claim?
After a loved one has passed, unfortunately, it's necessary to act quickly, as there is a specific time limit for filing these claims in Colorado. To ensure your rights are protected, be sure to contact a wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible.
According to the state's statute of limitations, most wrongful death lawsuits must be filed within two years of the person's death. This period is extended to four years if the death was caused by a hit-and-run vehicular homicide. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-80-102 (2021).)
What is the Compensation for Damages in Wrongful Death claims?
In a Colorado wrongful death case, economic and non-economic damages can be recovered. Economic damages compensate survivors for financial losses, such as wages and benefits lost from death and funeral expenses. On the other hand, noneconomic damages compensate for intangible losses suffered by the family, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of companionship, and grief.
Colorado law currently limits noneconomic damages in most wrongful death suits to $571,870, an amount that is adjusted every two years. However, if the wrongful death claim is based on a "felonious killing," the limitation on noneconomic damages does not apply. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-21-203 (2021).)
The cumulation of expenses that can be paid out can be calculated from:
- All expenses paid on behalf of the victim.
- Lost wages that loved ones dependent on the value of services that the deceased used to provide or would have provided.
- Medical bills and funeral costs.
- Lost wages that loved ones depend on.
- An inability to use insurance benefits.
- Pain and suffering, emotional anguish, sorrow.
- Loss of consortium (as an alternative to pain and suffering).
- Other expenses that may have resulted from the victim's death.
Contact the lawyers at Whalen Injury Lawyers
Losing a loved one is an incredibly challenging and emotional time, and pursuing a wrongful death claim may be the last thing on your mind. However, it's essential to know your rights and options in such situations.
If you live in Colorado and need to file a wrongful death claim, Whalen Injury Lawyers can help. Our experienced lawyers can guide you through the process and help you recover the compensation you deserve.