The loss of a loved one is always a tragic and devastating experience and impacts us for the rest of our lives. A loss is even more devastating when it is sudden, unexpected, and the result of someone else’s negligence. Colorado allows certain persons to pursue a wrongful death claim against a responsible party when they have caused the death of another person, but there are limitations on wrongful death claims, such as:
- Who can pursue the claim;
- When can a person pursue a claim;
- How the person can collect;
- Whether the deceased bears some responsibility for their death; and
- While not a legal consideration, even if a person has a timely and valid claim, whether the responsible party capable of compensating those left behind.
Who Can Pursue a Wrongful Death Claim in Colorado?
Colorado is very specific about whom can pursue this type of claim. A wrongful death claim can only be brought if the decedent could have pursued a claim against the person responsible for their death had they survived the event. Generally, during the first year after a death, only the spouse can pursue a claim. During the second year, the spouse and surviving children can pursue a claim. If the decedent was not married and did not have children, then the parents of the decedent can pursue a claim. Siblings, adoptive parents of an adult, cousins, and grandparents may not pursue such claims. The representative of the decedent’s estate can pursue a similar type of clam, called a survivor claim, for economic losses to the estate. This type of claim is separate from the wrongful death claim.
Another limitation on who can pursue a claim is a rule that only one wrongful death claim can be brought. That is to say for example, if a spouse files a claim, the parents cannot also file a claim.
Colorado also has very specific time limitations on when a person can pursue claim. Colorado limits the time to two years with some exceptions such as if the person died as the result of a motor vehicle crash. If a loved one misses this time period, the claim cannot be brought.
How Much are Claims Worth?
If a person does file a claim, Colorado limits the amount of money a person can be compensated. This is called a “cap on damages.” There are two types of damages: economic and noneconomic. Economic damages include things such as medical bills and funeral expenses. Noneconomic damages include things such as the pain and suffering and emotional distress caused by losing a loved one. Colorado, with some exceptions, does not limit economic damages, but does limit noneconomic damages, currently at $571,870.00. But, there are some exceptions to this cap.
If the death was due to things such as fraud, malice, or willful and wanton conduct, or if the wrongdoer’s actions could be considered felonious, the cap can be removed. A claimant may also be awarded punitive damages beyond any cap. Whether the cap can be removed involves a meticulous look at the facts and circumstances of the death and what the person responsible did.
Another roadblock to wrongful death claims can sometimes be the degree to which the decedent contributed to their death. Typically, a claim can only be brought against someone if they can be found to have been more responsible for the death than the decedent themselves. And, if the decedent contributed to their own death, but less than the other party, the amount of damages may be reduced to account for their actions.
Lastly but importantly, sometimes the person responsible simply does not have the ability to compensate the family member bringing the claim. These situations are emotionally difficult because even though the family member clears the hurdles described above, at the end of the day, a successful claim may not mean they are compensated.
We’re on Your Side
Wrongful death claims are complicated and require a thorough understanding of the law and the practical considerations they inherently bring. If you have lost a loved one because someone else was negligent, you need an experienced attorney to look at how your loss fits into Colorado’s wrongful death statutes.
The Colorado Springs personal injury attorneys at The Bussey Law Firm, P.C. have successfully handled multiple wrongful death claims for those who have lost loved ones. We have been able to secure seven figure outcomes to help compensate our client’s losses. We routinely represent the loved ones of those who have been wrongfully killed by someone else. We understand your trauma and compassionately carry your case forward for you. If you have questions about a possible wrongful death claim, you should call the attorneys at The Bussey Law Firm, P.C. at (719) 401-0585.