Losing a loved one is undoubtedly one of the hardest things someone can ever go through. This is especially true if they passed away as a result of someone else’s negligence. We know that nothing can ever make up for the loss you suffered. However, a wrongful death claim may be able to help you take the first steps towards financial recovery.
Under Colorado law, anyone who has lost a loved one to an accident caused by a third-party may be legally entitled to seek compensation for their losses. This includes but is not limited to things like lost income after the death of a family breadwinner, along with loss of companionship and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Dealing with end-of-life decisions is devastating. It can also be very costly. Fortunately, there is no limit to the amount you may recover for economic damages in a wrongful death claim. This includes any medical expenses that were related to the fatal injury, along with any burial costs and lost income (on the behalf of the deceased). In this blog post, we will give a brief overview of what you can expect from your wrongful death claim settlement in Colorado.
You may be wondering what exactly a wrongful death claim is. It is important to establish right away that wrongful death claims are civil cases rather than criminal ones. This means that they can only be brought against the defendant by the survivors of the decedent. The decedent must have been killed as a direct result of an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, misconduct, or otherwise wrongful actions. Those who file wrongful death claims may seek compensation for both economic damages (such as lost wages, funeral costs, et cetera) and non-economic damages (such as grief, loss of companionship, et cetera).
You need evidence on your side to win a wrongful death case. In other words, you will need to prove that there was a direct link between the decedent’s death and the responsible party. It may be that the accident was caused as a result of the other party’s negligence, recklessness, or intentionally wrongful actions. Because wrongful death claims are civil cases rather than criminal ones, the plaintiff will not have to prove everything “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Rather, the plaintiff will simply need to meet the “preponderance of evidence” threshold.
Different states have different laws regarding wrongful death claims. In the state of Colorado, the decedent’s spouse is the sole party able to maintain a cause of action to file for the first year following death. After the first year has passed, the decedent’s children and/or other designated beneficiaries may also choose to take legal action.
However, if the decedent was single and did not have children, their parents may choose to bring forth an action. Furthermore, Colorado law allows for a “designated beneficiary” of the deceased to file a wrongful death claim. A designated beneficiary is exactly what it sounds like—someone who has been designated by another as their beneficiary, through some form of legal agreement. In any case, Colorado’s statute of limitations requires family members to file a wrongful death claim no later than two years after the date of death.
You may be able to collect compensation for both economic and non-economic damages in a wrongful death claim. Economic damages refer to compensation for those losses that can be easily quantified. These include things such as financial contributions that would have been made by the decedent, had they not passed away. The exact amount of economic damages sought in a lawsuit may be based on a combination of the following:
Non-economic damages are often harder to quantify than economic damages. Such damages are meant to compensate the survivors for the loss of their loved one and any diminishment of joy in life as a result of the death. The exact amount of non-economic damages sought in a lawsuit may be based on a combination of the following:
If your case was specifically egregious, it is possible that you will also be awarded exemplary damages (also known as punitive damages). Such damages are meant not to compensate the survivors for any specific losses, but to punish the guilty party for their wrongdoing. Punitive damages usually apply in cases where there is proof the defendant acted with malice, fraud, and/or willful and wanton conduct.
Nowadays, Colorado’s cap on non-economic damages in wrongful death claims is approximately $468,000. Unfortunately, this cap may sometimes reduce the amount of compensation survivors may be able to recover. For example, some cases will multiply the amount of economic damages (usually by twice or thrice the original amount) and demand the amount for non-economic damages. Furthermore, the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that any caps on non-economic damages must be applied on a per-claim basis (as opposed to on a per-defendant basis). While this may not sound problematic, it can easily cause issues when there are multiple defendants.
It can be difficult to figure out how to navigate a wrongful death claim, especially if you do not have a full and comprehensive understanding of the law. We at Injury Victim Law may be able to help. Though we are a Colorado-based law firm, our team of experts and investigators is ready and available to fight for survivors all across the United States. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation with one of our experienced and compassionate nationwide wrongful death attorneys. More stress is the last thing you need. Let us fight for you.