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The Basics of Wrongful Death in Colorado

Posted on May 10, 2021 in

Losing a loved one is incredibly difficult. This is particularly true for those who lose their lives far too soon due to the careless or negligent actions of other individuals or entities. In these cases, family members may be able to recover compensation by filing a wrongful death lawsuit. Here, we want to discuss the basics of wrongful death claims in Colorado, including how these cases arise, who can file a claim, and what types of compensation may be available.

How do Wrongful Death Claims Arise in Colorado?

When we turn to the law regarding wrongful death claims in Colorado (Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-21-201, 13-21-202 (2021), we can see that wrongful deaths are defined as being caused by “a wrongful act, neglect, or default of another” individual or entity.

Wrongful death claims arise in various ways. Some of the most common types of incidents that lead to wrongful death lawsuits in Colorado include the following:

  • Vehicle accident
  • Semi-truck accidents
  • Motorcycle accidents
  • Drunk driving incidents
  • Bicycle accidents
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Defective product cases
  • Medical malpractice claims
  • Premises liability incidents

This is not an all-inclusive list of the ways that wrongful death claims arise in Colorado. If you have any questions about whether or not you have grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit, please speak to a skilled attorney about your case as soon as possible.

Who can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Colorado?

There are various parties who can file wrongful death claims in Colorado. The law in this state specifically outlines who can file a claim as well as how soon these claims must be filed after a death occurs.

In the first year following a person’s death, the only person allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit is the deceased’s surviving spouse. However, there are some exceptions to this. A surviving spouse is allowed to file a claim with the deceased’s children or join the deceased’s children in their claim. If the deceased person was unmarried at the time of their death, their children or beneficiary will be allowed to file the wrongful death lawsuit in the first year following the death.

In the second year following a deceased person’s death, any of the following parties will be allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit:

  • The deceased’s spouse
  • The deceased’s surviving children
  • The deceased’s spouse and children together
  • Any designated beneficiary of the deceased or the deceased’s children

All wrongful death claims in Colorado need to be filed within two years from the deceased’s death. Failing to file a claim within this window will result in family members or beneficiaries being unable to recover the compensation they are entitled to. However, there is an exception to this rule concerning vehicle accidents. If a person loses their life in a vehicle accident caused by the negligence of another party, the statute of limitations is extended to three years from the date of the accident.

Types of Compensation Available for Wrongful Death Claim

There may be various types of compensation available to family members or beneficiaries following a wrongful death. This can include multiple types of economic and non-economic payment. Economic damages are paid to the surviving family members of the deceased and their estate to cover the financial losses associated with the death. This can include the following:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Benefits lost as a result of the death, including health insurance
  • Wages or benefits that the deceased would have provided if they lived
  • Medical bills incurred as a result of the incident and before the death

Non-economic damages in a wrongful death claim are more challenging to quantify because they deal with the types of losses a family sustains that are relatively intangible. Some of the most common types of non-economic damages in a Colorado wrongful death case include the following:

  • Pain and suffering damages
  • Emotional distress damages
  • Loss of consortium for a spouse
  • Loss of care, companionship, comfort, and guidance of the deceased

It is crucial to work with a skilled Denver wrongful death attorney who can enlist the assistance of medical and economic experts to properly calculate these total losses.