Denver Wrongful Death Attorney
If you recently lost a beloved family member, we at Jordan law want to extend our sincere condolences. We know what it’s like to lose a loved one, and don’t wish it upon anyone. When you have a suspicious feeling that someone else caused or contributed to a death, the loss can be even more difficult to accept. One form of legal action that could give you and your family closure and financial recovery for damages is a wrongful death claim. The Denver team at Jordan Law has decades of experience handling these types of claims for clients, and might be able to assist your family during this dark time.
Resources For Wrongful Death Claims:
- What Damages are Available in a Wrongful Death Case?
- How Do I File a Wrongful Death Claim in Denver?
- Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in Denver
How Jordan Law’s Wrongful Death Lawyers Can Help
A conversation with one of our knowledgeable and experienced wrongful death attorneys can guide you through the stipulations of the law and answer any questions or concerns you might have about your claim. We can help you with every aspect of your claim, from gathering evidence of wrongdoing to bringing your official claim with the Denver civil courts. Start with a free case evaluation, in the form of an in-person or over-the-phone meeting with one of our personal injury lawyers in Denver. Call (303) 465-8733 to schedule yours today.
Top 3 Colorado Wrongful Death Laws You Should Know
Colorado’s wrongful death statutes list many rules, restrictions, and regulations claimants must follow for successful lawsuits. Jordan Law excels at helping family members navigate the state’s laws to their greatest possible advantage. During a free case evaluation, we can help you understand which provisions of the state’s laws apply to your particular case, and when and how you should proceed with your claim. In the meantime, here are three of the rules we find most pressing:
What is Wrongful death?
- Colorado law defines a “wrongful death claim” as a lawsuit in which the claimant must establish the defendant’s “negligence, recklessness, or intentional behavior” caused the incident. A rule of thumb is that if the deceased person could have filed a personal injury lawsuit had the accident not resulted in his or her death, surviving family members can likely file a wrongful death claim now.
Who can bring a wrongful death claim?
- Not just anyone in Colorado can pursue damages for the death of a loved one. In the first year following the death, the surviving spouse of the deceased person is the only party the law permits to bring a wrongful death claim. In the second year, the surviving spouse and children can file. If these parties do not exist, the decedent’s parents may file at any time. In addition, a representative of the decedent’s estate may file a survival action to recover damages for losses to the estate.
Are there Time limits for filing?
- A qualified claimant only has two years from the date of death to bring a wrongful death claim. There are limited exceptions to this rule, but for the most part the two-year deadline is strict. Missing the deadline to bring your claim can result in losing your right to secure any damages for the death. The sooner you speak to someone at Jordan Law, the lesser your odds of missing an important statute of limitations.
What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
If you recently suffered the loss of someone close to you, ask yourself if the death fulfills the definition of wrongful. The first sign that you might have a wrongful death claim is if your loved one passed away in an accident of some kind. For example, a fall at work or a vehicle collision. Accidents often come down to someone else’s negligence, which may give you the right to file a claim against the at-fault party. Learn the definition of a wrongful death lawsuit to find out if you have one in Colorado.
The Definition of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Colorado
A wrongful death lawsuit is a legal action survivors may be able to bring after someone dies due to the fault of another person or party. Wrongful death suits aim to reimburse survivors for the losses and damages relating to the loved one’s death. A wrongful death claim is a legal process in which the plaintiff(s) will present evidence to a judge or jury in an attempt to prove that the death would not have happened but for the defendant’s actions.
Note that a death because of the legal fault of another person is not the same as murder or homicide. The courts can find someone guilty of wrongful death but not of murder – as exemplified in the famous case The People v. O.J. Simpson. Negligence leads to wrongful death, while intent to harm leads to murder charges.
In the Colorado courts, a wrongful death lawsuit is a civil claim that aims to establish one person or entity’s liability for the death of another person. The allegedly at-fault entity – or defendant – could be a driver, employer, product manufacturer, property owner, government agency, or another party.
To have a wrongful death lawsuit, a claimant needs to have four main elements: proof of a duty of care the defendant owed to the decedent, proof of a breach of this duty, evidence showing a causal link between the defendant’s breach and the fatal accident, and proof of damages. These elements may change slightly according to the circumstances of the death. For example, a deadly product liability accident may not require the claimant to prove the manufacturer’s negligence. A lawyer can help plaintiffs understand the necessary elements for a specific claim.
Parts of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
If you believe you have grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit in Colorado, the first step toward securing recovery is filing your claim. Claims filing involves a qualified individual or estate representative filling out the proper forms and submitting them to the right civil courthouse according to where the accident occurred. Once you file the claim, the legal process will go through the following steps:
- The defendant will have the opportunity to respond to your initial request for recovery. If the defendant agrees to enter into negotiations, you can potentially avoid a trial by coming to a satisfactory settlement agreement during mediation. If the defendant denies your claim or fails to respond by the deadline, the case can proceed to trial.
- Discovery phase. Both sides of the wrongful death lawsuit will have the chance to learn as much as possible about the case through the “discovery process.” This can involve questions, interviews, and witness testimony on both sides.
- A wrongful death trial may be part of your lawsuit if you cannot settle beforehand. A trial may involve a jury that will decide whether the defendant is liable for your loved one’s death, and if so, for how much.
The exact parts of your Colorado wrongful death lawsuit will depend on the specifics of your case. Working with our attorneys can help you through all steps of filing, building, and winning a lawsuit. We’re here to discuss your claim with you in detail during a free consultation in Denver. Request your consultation today.
What Damages Can Be Claimed in a Wrongful Death Claim?
In a wrongful death case, what damages can be sought after depends on a few different factors. If, for example, the decedent was undergoing a personal injury lawsuit and died before bringing that case to trial, his or her heirs can continue that suit against the defendant. This type of case is a survival action, and juries determine the award based on the suffering of the victim and the length of time they were in pain.
Several different types of damages are possible for compensation after a wrongful death. Most significantly are pecuniary – or financial – damages. This type of damage covers financial losses that result from a premature death, such as lost wages or family support. Other financial losses and expenses covered under wrongful death damages include:
- Medical expenses for the deceased.
- Funeral charges paid by the plaintiff.
- Pain and suffering on the part of the victim.
- Emotional suffering for the surviving family.
- Lost benefits and inheritance, such as life insurance.
Additionally, Colorado is one of a handful of states that allow wrongful death suits to charge punitive damages. These charges serve to deter and punish criminals, and set an example for other lawbreakers in the future. Not all states allow plaintiffs to collect these damages, but it is possible in Colorado in the most extreme of wrongful death cases – such as murder. Punitive damages are separate from criminal charges, as the deceased’s representatives, not the state, collect them.
How Do I File a Wrongful Death Claim in Denver?
Wrongful death is a civil suit, meaning it is a violation of the legal responsibility owed between individuals. Regardless of whether there is a criminal case, it is possible to charge for wrongful death. A case can stand regardless of whom the victim was, irrespective of age, employment status or earning potential.
Unemployment does not bar someone from wrongful death, as emotional and caretaker support is covered under pecuniary losses. Children, the elderly, and stay-at-home parents all contribute to their homes and lives in some capacity, even if the monetary payout in these cases is generally lower. One of the few cases where a wrongful death suit is not possible, however, is in the death of an unborn fetus in most locations, including Colorado.
Victims’ families must file a case within two years of the death. Within that first year, only the surviving spouse – if any – can initiate a suit. After the first year, surviving children are eligible to make claims as well. In other cases, the victim’s parents can file a claim, as well as any members of the victim’s estate who lost inheritance because of the death.
What Do I Need to Prove a Wrongful Death Claim?
Compared to a criminal trial, wrongful death claims have a lower burden of proof. This means that it is relatively easier to prove guilt in a civil, wrongful death case than a criminal murder or malpractice trial. Four requirements exist to prove a wrongful death claim:
- The victim died.
- This death was a result of negligence or violent intent on the part of the defendant.
- There must be surviving family who suffer financially from the victim’s death.
- There is a personal representative for the victim’s estate.
A wrongful death claim covers several different situations that meet these requirements. This includes car accidents, motorcycle accidents, truck crashes, workplace injuries that result in death, and medical malpractice. Since the standard of proof is lower in civil suits, the results of a criminal case do not necessarily reflect the results of a civil suit. It is possible for wrongful death cases to establish guilt, even when the criminal case does not.
Wrongful Death Statue of Limitations
The Colorado Wrongful Death Act allows for a party to file a claim within two years, beginning on the date of the decedent’s death. However, there are quite a few exceptions that allow for the statute of limitations to be extended. Unlike other cases, such as medical malpractice or product liability, circumstances wherein the wrongful death occurred as a result of the use or operation of a motor vehicle allow the plaintiff three years from the date of death to file a wrongful death claim. This three-year deadline may also be extended in cases where the timing of discovery of insufficient liability coverage hinders a plaintiff’s ability to file a claim within the deadline.
If the defendant engages in fraud or conceals facts relevant for the filing of a claim, which prevents discovery or knowledge of wrongful acts or negligence leading to the decedent’s death, the statute of limitations may run past its two-year deadline. Additionally, the statute of limitations may begin when the plaintiff is aware, or should be aware, of facts that relate to the wrongful death, rather than beginning on the date of death, particularly in cases where the discovery of facts may require more time. If a plaintiff has a disability that impacts his or her ability to take legal action within the designated legal timeframe, the date may be extended.
The Colorado Wrongful Death Act specifies that a plaintiff may be the decedent’s spouse, children, designated beneficiary, or parents if the decedent is unmarried and childless. If the decedent’s spouse or children choose not to file a claim, the surviving parents may not file a claim. If the decedent’s only surviving beneficiary is a minor, the statute of limitations may begin on his or her 18th birthday if he or she chooses to file a wrongful death claim.