When we lose someone close to us, it is always a time of deep sorrow and grief. We all know that death is an inevitable part of life, but that doesn’t make the loss of a loved one any easier. But there is a difference between a life ending because of age or illness and a life suddenly and unexpectedly cut short because someone else was reckless or negligent.When a death is caused by such irresponsible conduct, the shock felt by those left behind can be accompanied by anger and a need to hold the negligent party accountable. In Colorado, a wrongful death lawsuit offers grieving families an opportunity to do just that. But what exactly makes a death “wrongful” such that family members can file a suit and seek to recover compensation for their irreplaceable loss?
What Makes a Death “Wrongful”?
Under Colorado law, a death is considered “wrongful” and can be the basis of a claim for compensation if it was caused by the negligence, recklessness, or intentional conduct of another person or entity.
Specifically, the Colorado Wrongful Death Act, CRS § 13-21-202, provides that “when the death of a person is caused by a wrongful act, neglect, or default of another, and the act, neglect, or default is such as would, if death had not ensued, have entitled the party injured to maintain an action and recover damages… the person who would have been liable, if death had not ensued, shall be liable in an action for damages notwithstanding the death of the party injured.”
In simpler terms, this means that if the victim had been injured and not killed and could have filed a personal injury suit based on the defendant’s actions, designated family members can file a wrongful death suit based on that same conduct.Since the person killed cannot file a lawsuit to recover compensation for their own pain and suffering, loss of future income, and other losses arising from their death, certain family members have the right to file a lawsuit on their loved one’s behalf and to recover for their own losses as a result of the tragedy.
Common bases for Colorado wrongful death cases include:
- Auto, truck, and motorcycle accidents
- Slips and falls
- Bicycle accidents
- Criminal acts
- Defective products, medications, or medical devices
- Medical malpractice
Who Can File a Colorado Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
No matter how close a family member may have been to a wrongful death victim, not every family member has a right to file a Colorado wrongful death lawsuit. During the first year after the death, only the surviving spouse may seek to recover damages in a wrongful death suit, In the second year after the loss, both the surviving spouse as well as any surviving children can file a wrongful death action. If the person killed does not have a spouse or children, the victim’s parents may seek to recover damages at any time during those first two years. Additionally, the representative of the deceased person’s estate can file what is called a “survival action” to recover certain types of damages.
When Should You Call a Lawyer?
If you have lost a loved one and believe that someone else may have contributed to their death, you should contact an experienced wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible. The statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits in Colorado is two years. If a claim is not filed within that time, family members and the estate will lose all rights to seek compensation against those responsible for their loved one’s death.
A wrongful death attorney will listen to you, answer your questions, and offer you guidance as to how to proceed. Not every death can be the basis of a wrongful death suit, even if it involved another person. But if, after evaluating the facts, your attorney believes there may be a basis for a wrongful death lawsuit, you can make an informed choice as to whether to pursue a claim.