Colorado has specific rules about who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in the state, covered in this article. For additional questions, please contact a wrongful death lawyer in Colorado for more information.
Wrongful Death Claims in Colorado
In this state, a wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action that tries to establish that a person or entity is liable for someone’s death. To do this, the plaintiff must show that negligence, recklessness, or intentional behavior caused the death.
Many personal injury cases, including slip and fall cases, car accidents, and medical malpractice, can be the reason to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
In essence, a wrongful death action is a personal injury lawsuit where the injured party is deceased. However, another party can take the place of the dead and pursue the legal claim.
Who May File
Colorado statutes state who can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Particular time limits apply to each person who wants to file suit in court. In this state, the deceased’s surviving husband or wife is the only one who can file the claim in the initial year after the person’s death. After the death, the surviving husband or wife and surviving children may file a wrongful death claim during year two.
If the person who died had no surviving husband, wife, or children, the person’s mother or father could file the claim.
Additionally, the state’s representative can file the claim to recover some types of losses incurred by the estate. This is called a survival action.
Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
In most cases, the jury determines monetary damages in a wrongful death lawsuit, but a judge may perform this duty in some cases. The damages awarded in the legal action depend on case particulars. Generally, Coloradans can seek the following, following injuries:
- Income, wages, commissions, and other compensation the person would have earned if they had survived.
- Lost benefits, such as 401(k) and life insurance.
- Loss of care, comfort, companionship, protection, and affection
Also, the representative of the estate can seek the following damages suffered by the estate:
- Hospital, medical, and emergency care costs related to the person’s illness or injury, and
- Funeral costs.
In a few cases, families may seek punitive damages. These damages are awarded to punish the person whose reckless behavior led to the death. Punitive damages also discourage other people from engaging in similar reckless behavior.
Note that a wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action and differs from a criminal case. The federal or state prosecutor files the criminal case, and punishments include jail or prison time, fines, probation, etc.
The punishment in a wrongful death lawsuit is monetary only. A criminal case and wrongful death can be filed simultaneously. If the criminal case results in an innocent verdict, the wrongful death case still may find the accused liable for the death.
Time Limits to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
In Colorado, the plaintiff must file a wrongful death lawsuit within 24 months (2 years) of the person’s death date. This deadline is referred to as the statute of limitations.
The time available to file this civil action is further limited by filing during certain parts of those 24 months.
For example, during year one, the person’s parents or children cannot file the claim if the spouse is still living. Only the husband or wife of the deceased can file during that year.
During year two, the husband or wife can file, but the surviving children can file. If no one else has survived, parents can file the lawsuit at any time.
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