If you suffered the death of an immediate family member due to the negligence of another, Colorado law allows you to seek compensation for damages—including the loss of financial support and loss of benefits—through a wrongful death claim.
The Denver attorneys at the Frickey Law Firm understand that no amount of money is adequate when a loved one has lost his or her life, but we also know that a successful wrongful death claim can ease some of the financial burdens you’re facing as you and other surviving family try to move forward. Please call 303-237-7373 for a complimentary consultation with one of our experienced wrongful death lawyers if someone else’s carelessness contributed to the death of a family member.
What Is Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death law applies to situations in which an individual dies due to the negligent, reckless or intentional actions of another person or entity. A wrongful death claim may stem from circumstances that include but are not limited to:
- Motor vehicle accidents caused by drunk or otherwise careless drivers
- Defective consumer products, including faulty vehicles and vehicle parts
- Dangerous prescription drugs or medical devices
- Medical errors, such as a physician’s failure to diagnose a treatable condition
While every state has wrongful death laws, individual states vary on which family members and other beneficiaries are eligible to recover damages. Colorado’s Wrongful Death Act allows a surviving spouse the initial and exclusive rights to file a claim within the first year after an individual’s death; thereafter, the spouse and any surviving children may bring a claim. If no spouse or children survive the decedent, the parents of the deceased may pursue a wrongful death claim.
How to Prove Wrongful Death
After you have filed your lawsuit, you will need to prove the various elements of a wrongful death claim. This step is crucial and must be completed in order to recover any damages. In general, you must show that the defendant was negligent and that their negligence resulted in the death of your loved one.
You must also demonstrate the losses your family has suffered. This may sound like a difficult task, but you will have the help of our experienced lawyers. We will work to gather high quality and credible evidence needed to argue your position, including: Medical records Police reports Witness testimony
Who Can Be Liable in a Wrongful Death Claim?
Wrongful death liability is far-reaching. Depending on the specifics of the claim, it can extend to various people, companies, employees, and government agencies. Our attorneys will conduct a thorough investigation to determine who may be responsible for the death of your loved one.
It can be helpful to look at an example of wrongful death liability. In the case of a deadly car accident involving a drunk driver and a road hazard, liable parties may include everyone from the at-fault driver to the designer of the faulty roadway. The owner of the premises where the alcohol was served may also be liable under dram shop law. Other parties may exist as well.
The Key Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim
The sudden loss of a family member or loved one is always a tragic event. However, it is not always grounds for a wrongful death claim. Certain elements must be present, including:
- Negligence: A person acted in a careless, reckless, or unreasonable manner. In some situations, intentional conduct to purposefully hurt another person can apply here instead.
- Death: Wrongful death cases are brought in response to the death of another person. Causation: The victim’s death was directly caused by the negligent or intentional act in question.
- Damages: The family of the victim experienced losses due to their loved one’s passing. These losses may include things such as loss of income, medical bills, funeral expenses, loss of services, loss of parental guidance, and other damages.
How Does a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Work?
Wrongful death cases are civil lawsuits filed on behalf of a spouse, other surviving immediate family members, or a designated beneficiary. Like other types of personal injury claims, wrongful death suits are bound by statutes of limitations, or timeframes in which a plaintiff must file a lawsuit seeking damages.
Wrongful death claims in Colorado must be filed within two years of the date of a person’s death. In the first year following an individual’s death, only his or her spouse may bring a wrongful death claim, although the spouse may also include additional heirs as plaintiffs; if the decedent was unmarried, other heirs or a designated beneficiary may file a claim. After the first year, both the spouse and any children of the deceased may seek damages; in the event that the decedent died without a spouse, children or a beneficiary, the decedent’s parents may file a wrongful death claim at any time during the two-year statute of limitations.
According to Colorado law, this deadline may be extended if the defendant conceals facts relevant to the claim or if the plaintiff suffers a disability that affects his or her ability to pursue timely legal action. While discussing a wrongful death case can be emotionally difficult, it’s in your best interests to consult with a knowledgeable wrongful death attorney as soon as possible to ensure that evidence and other relevant information is preserved.
How to prepare for Court
Many wrongful death cases settle out of court. You may not have to take the matter to trial in order to recover the justice and compensation that your family deserves. However, it is not always possible to come to a satisfactory agreement, especially with so much on the line. In that situation, going to trial may be a wise decision.
If your case goes to court, our attorneys will help you prepare. Some steps that you may need to take to get ready include: Familiarizing yourself with the trial procedures Rehearsing your testimony and answering practice questions Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your case
Compensation in Wrongful Death Claims
Financial compensation in wrongful death cases may include economic and noneconomic damages. Economic damages are based on hard figures, such as funeral and burial expenses, and loss of income and benefits; noneconomic damages may include money for pain and suffering, and loss of companionship.
Under the Colorado Wrongful Death Act and related statutes, some damages are capped and other damages are bound by whether the deceased left behind dependents, such as a spouse or minor children. In general terms, damages in wrongful death cases may include compensation for:
- Lost wages and other financial support the decedent would likely have earned
- Loss of benefits, such as health insurance or pension
- Any related medical expenses incurred by the deceased prior to death
- Funeral and burial costs
- Pain and suffering or mental anguish
- Loss of companionship or consortium
In some cases, a court may also award punitive damages, which is additional compensation intended to punish the defendant for reckless behavior and deter others from engaging in a similarly negligent manner. Your attorney can help you understand specific damages to which you and other family members may be entitled.
Read more about wrongful death claims in our blog
How Long Does the Wrongful Death Case Process Typically Take?
It can take a few months to several years to settle a wrongful death claim. It depends on the specific circumstances of the case in question and whether or not the matter goes to trial.
Even if a wrongful death claim does not go to trial, it still takes time to move through the process. No average settlement timeline can tell you when your family may be able to find justice. Instead, seek out a careful evaluation of your claim from our wrongful death attorneys.
How a Wrongful Death Lawyer Can Help You
Good wrongful death lawyers are not only skilled attorneys, but compassionate people dedicated to helping you relieve the stress and financial burdens you’re facing while allowing you and your family the space you need to grieve and begin to move ahead with your lives.
The foundations for wrongful death lawsuits are often the same as those for personal injury cases. The accomplished attorneys at the Frickey Law Firm have an extensive record of success in personal injury and wrongful death claims, and we have the trial experience necessary to fight for you in court when settlement offers are inadequate for your needs. We also offer our services on a contingent-fee basis, which means you don’t pay unless we achieve a settlement or court award on your behalf.
Why Choose Frickey Law Firm
Working with a capable wrongful death lawyer can improve your chance to receive fair compensation, provide peace of mind during a difficult time, and help you establish realistic expectations for damages and the duration of your case.
If you lost a family member due to the negligent, reckless or intentional behavior of another, please contact the Frickey Law Firm at 303-237-7373 for your complimentary consultation. Our wrongful death attorneys are proud to fight for injury victims and their families from Lakewood, Boulder and the greater Denver area.