Everyone knows what happens if they are injured in a car accident – the negligent driver’s insurance (or the victim’s insurance) should pay for the driver’s failure to act as a prudent person. But what happens when a person is killed as a result of another’s negligence or wrongful act? The Colorado Wrongful Death Act can assist a family in their pursuit of justice for the tragic loss of a loved one. It applies in all cases in which someone dies, like when someone is killed on another’s property, or if a product is the cause of the death. If you have lost a family member in Denver or the surrounding cities, the experienced injury lawyers at Springer & Steinberg can help explore your options.Bringing a Wrongful Death Claim under Colorado Law
The State of Colorado has codified the law of wrongful death. It provides a two-year statute of limitations for filing a claim and sets forth two tiers of potential claimants. Generally, only the surviving spouse, if there is one, may pursue litigation during the first year following the decedent’s death. In some cases a spouse can choose to include the decedent’s heirs in the suit. If the person who died was unmarried or had no heirs or designated beneficiary they may also be included a lawsuit. In cases in which the surviving spouse brings the action, he or she does so both in an individual capacity and on behalf of any and all children of the deceased.
During the second year after the decedent’s passing, the spouse, the heirs, or the designated beneficiary may bring a wrongful death claim. They may bring their claims separately, or they may join them together.
If the reason a person dies is due to the negligent act of another person, the claimant must show, by a preponderance of the evidence, four basic elements: duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages. The case is the same as if they survived and so any defenses that would have been available to the defendant. For example, if the decedent was partially at fault in an accident that led to his or her death, the defendant may ask for a proportionate reduction of damages under the doctrine of modified comparative fault. (Unfortunately, this doctrine may bar recovery if the decedent is found to be 51% or more responsible for the accident.)Potential Damages for the Loss of a Family Member
Determining the amount of damages that may be available to wrongful death claimants can be extremely complicated because of the various factors that come into play, such as the circumstances of the decedent’s death, whether the defendant was a governmental entity, and so forth. Some of the damages that may be available include economic damages, such as funeral costs and financial benefits lost due to the decedent’s death, as well as non-economic damages like compensation for grief and emotional stress. Punitive or exemplary damages sometimes may be available. In addition to wrongful death damages for qualified claimants under the Act, the Colorado Survival Statute allows for the recovery of a decedent’s pre-death pecuniary losses, such as medical expenses and lost wages, in situations in which the decedent was not killed instantly but instead lingered for a time before succumbing to his or her injuries.
If your family lost a loved one to a wrongful death caused by a negligent or reckless person, company, or arm of the government, you should not delay in speaking to an experienced injury lawyer about your right to pursue compensation. In addition to risking a dismissal of your case on grounds of untimeliness, a delay in seeking counsel can also result in a reduction of compensation due to spoliation of evidence. Unfortunately, accident scenes can change over time, and witnesses’ memory can fade. Unless critical evidence and statements are preserved early on, it can be difficult to prove a case in court later.Consult an Experienced Denver Lawyer for Your Negligence Case
The law firm of Springer & Steinberg has handled many wrongful death cases over the years, and we will be glad to put our experience to work in reviewing your potential suit. Our attorneys can help families in the Denver area who have lost loved ones in car accidents or other harmful events, such as incidents of medical negligence or accidents caused by defective products. Call us at 877-473-6004 or contact us online to schedule a free evaluation of your case. We also serve individuals in other Colorado cities, including Highlands Ranch, Castle Rock, Boulder, and Colorado Springs.