Types of Damages in a Colorado Wrongful Death Claim
After the loss of a loved one, you may be left with leftover medical bills, funeral expenses, a loss of future wages, and other costs that you should not have to bear alone. If you lost someone to a wrongful death, you may be able to recover all of these costs and more to give you and your family a brighter future.
A wrongful death occurs when someone dies because of the negligence or wrongdoing of another. A wrongful death claim is a legal action that allows you to seek justice for your deceased loved one and to hold the responsible parties accountable for their actions. It is also a way to pursue compensation for your family’s future.
What Damages Can Surviving Family Members Claim?
Monetary damages may be awarded by an insurance company or jury to surviving family members in a wrongful death claim. The amount of damages will depend on the circumstances of the case. Typically, the wrongful death damages family members may be entitled to claim include:
- Wages or income the deceased person would have earned had he or she lived
- Benefits lost as a result of the wrongful death
- Loss of the care, companionship, love, comfort, protection, assistance, and affection of the deceased
In addition to the above damages, the personal representative of the deceased may claim damages on behalf of the estate, which may include funeral and burial expenses and medical costs related to the last illness or injury of the deceased.
Are Punitive Damages an Option?
In some cases, the surviving family members may be able to claim punitive damages for wrongful death. These damages are designed to punish the defendant for wrongdoing or particularly egregious (shocking or outstandingly bad) behavior, and to deter others from taking similar actions in the future. There is a cap on punitive damages in Colorado. Unless specific criteria are met, as determined by the court, punitive damages may not exceed whatever the family is awarded for actual damages. If those criteria are met, punitive damages may not exceed three times the actual damages amount.
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death in Colorado?
Only certain parties may file for wrongful death in Colorado, and special time limits apply in each case.
- During the first year after death, only the surviving spouse of the deceased can file a wrongful death claim.
- During the second year after death, both the surviving spouse and the surviving children are allowed to file for wrongful death.
- If there is no surviving spouse and no surviving children, then the parents of the deceased may file a wrongful death claim during the second year.
- The personal representative of the deceased’s estate may file an additional claim known as a survival action to recover certain types of losses to the estate.
Why Do You Need a Lawyer?
The statute of limitations (time limit imposed by law) for wrongful death is two years from the date of death, and specific time limits for particular parties also apply. For example, if the person who died was your spouse, you have only one year from the date of death during which you alone may file a claim. During the following year, any surviving children, or surviving parents if there are no surviving children, may also file. Once the time limit for wrongful death has expired, your claim is forever barred.
Wrongful death claims are not only emotionally charged but also involve complex legal issues. An experienced attorney can guide you through the process and increase your chances of a successful outcome.
If you have lost a loved one through someone else’s negligence, contact The Bussey Law Firm, P.C., at (719) 475-2555 to schedule a free consultation. Timothy Bussey is a Colorado Springs personal injury lawyer who has been voted Top Attorney by Colorado Springs Style Magazine and awarded membership in the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. You can rely on him for superior representation and dedicated advocacy in a wrongful death claim.