Denver Wrongful Death Attorney
When one person injures another person or damages his or her property due to negligence, the injured party can sue the negligent party for his or her damages in a personal injury lawsuit. However, when negligence causes a person’s death, the deceased’s family will need to file a wrongful death claim to secure compensation. Every state has unique laws concerning wrongful death claims, and the Denver wrongful death attorneys at Bryan & Terrill Law want residents to know what to expect from the wrongful death claims process.
Wrongful Death in Colorado
A wrongful death claim operates very similarly to a personal injury claim, with the major difference that the victim in the case cannot represent his or her own interests. A surviving loved one will need to file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the decedent. Like most other states, Colorado places a two-year statute of limitations on wrongful death claims, beginning on the date of the death in question. However, this statute of limitations works a bit differently in Colorado than other states with two-year statutes.
Colorado state law dictates that during the first year following a person’s wrongful death, only the spouse of the deceased may file a wrongful death claim. During the second year following a wrongful death, the surviving spouse or the decedent’s surviving adult children may file a claim. If the deceased had no spouse and no surviving children, the deceased’s parents may pursue a wrongful death claim. While the surviving family may file a wrongful death claim, a representative of the deceased individual’s estate can also file a “survival action” to recover losses incurred by the estate.
Proving Negligence and Securing Compensation
Just like in a personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff in a wrongful death claim will need to prove the defendant’s negligence to succeed in the claim. Proving negligence requires showing the court that a defendant owed the victim in the claim a duty to act with reasonable care, violated that duty, and his or her failure to act with reasonable care directly resulted in the victim’s death. In cases involving criminal acts that cause a wrongful death, the surviving family’s civil action may run in tandem with criminal prosecution against the defendant by the state. For example, a negligent driver who strikes and kills a pedestrian could face vehicular manslaughter charges from the state and a civil action from the victim’s family.
Compensation in most wrongful death claims can include:
- Funeral and burial expenses in accordance with the deceased’s final wishes (within reason).
- Medical expenses resulting from the decedent’s final injury or illness.
- Pain and suffering experienced by the deceased during his or her final injury or illness.
- Lost benefits such as life insurance or other investments held by the deceased.
- Lost income the deceased would have reasonably expected to earn in the future had he or she survived.
- Pain and suffering damages for the surviving family due to the loss of a loved one, including loss of affection, love, guidance, support, and household services.
- Punitive damages. If a wrongful death resulted from criminal activity or gross negligence, the judge may award punitive damages to deter similar behavior in the future.
At Bryan & Terrill, we understand how devastating a wrongful death can be for families, and we aim to provide comprehensive legal assistance during this difficult time. Reach out to our firm today to schedule a consultation or for more information about wrongful death claims in Denver.