Losing a loved one due to the actions of another is a tragic experience, and one that can throw your entire life off balance and leave you with dozens of questions about the future. While our law firm understands that nothing will ever replace your loved one or truly make up for their loss of life, we have seen how bringing forth a wrongful death action can provide plaintiffs with the financial compensation that they need to start planning for the future.
Like all types of civil actions, there are certain elements that a person must establish in order to bring forth a successful suit for wrongful death damages. Our attorneys are prepared to help you.
Elements of a Wrongful Death Suit
There are four elements of a wrongful death suit that a plaintiff will generally need to establish in order to hold the responsible party liable for damages. These include:
- Duty of care. People almost always owe a basic duty of care to one another, but certain types of relationships have special duties. For example, a doctor owes a duty of care to a patient to use an accepted medical standard in their treatment, and a property owner owes a duty of care to a person who enters the property to maintain the property in a safe condition.
- Breach of duty of care. After it has been established that a duty of care existed between the defendant and the decedent, the plaintiff must prove that that duty of care was breached - the doctor breached the medical standard of care, the property owner failed to maintain the property in a reasonable safe condition, etc. Negligence--the failure to take property care in doing something--is usually the backbone of a breach of duty of care.
- Causation. The third element of a wrongful death claim is causation. Causation requires proving that the defendant’s actions were the direct cause of the decedent’s fatal injuries, and that the death would not have occurred but for the breach of duty of care.
- Damages. Finally, damages must be proven. Obviously, death in itself is a major loss. In addition to the death of a loved one, a plaintiff in a wrongful death case/beneficiaries may have suffered medical expenses, lost wages of the decedent, and more.
Other Rules Surrounding Wrongful Death Actions in Colorado
Knowing the elements that must be proven in a wrongful death claim is critical. In addition to these four elements, other rules that govern wrongful death actions include:
- The surviving spouse of the decedent is the only party who maintains a cause of action to bring forth a wrongful death action during the first year following death. In the second year, children can bring forth the action, as can other designated beneficiaries. If there is no spouse, parents can bring forth the action. The representative of the estate may also file a lawsuit to recover losses - this is called a survival action.
- The statute of limitation for a wrongful death claim is two years. This means that you must file your action within two years of the date of your loved one’s death, or risk forfeiting your right to recovery altogether.
- Economic and non-economic damages are recoverable. In some cases, punitive damages may be available as well.
Call Our Colorado Wrongful Death Attorneys Today
Filing a legal action after losing a loved one may not be at the forefront of your thoughts. Our lawyers understand what you’re going through, and offer our condolences and support. We want to remind you that we are here to serve as your legal partners and provide you with competent and aggressive representation during this tough time. For a free consultation, please call our law offices today or contact us using the intake form on our website.