Unfortunately, sometimes negligence leads to wrongful death. Whether it is a slip and fall accident at work, a car accident, or a drunk driving incident, if a loved one has been killed in an accident through no fault of their own, your family is likely entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering and for damages.
For many people in this situation, things can be overwhelming. Between trying to deal with the grief of unexpectedly losing a loved one and figuring out the complex legal landscape of your case and what steps to do next, you have very little time to figure out what is going on and what the best steps to take next are.
At Anderson Hemmat, we have helped hundreds of families to get the compensation they deserve for the wrongful death of a loved one. Our Colorado Wrongful Attorneys have over 40 years of experience helping people in your position win their cases.
We created this guide to help answer some of the biggest questions you have, and to help you understand the process of filing a claim, dealing with the legal system, and getting compensation. If you still have questions after reading this guide, give us a call and one of our experienced attorneys will gladly help you find the answers you are looking for.
(1) What is Wrongful Death in Colorado?
In Colorado, wrongful death refers to a civil lawsuit whereby one person establishes liability of another individual for the death of another person. Essentially what this means is that if one person passes away because of the negligence of another, a wrongful death claim can be brought against the person whose negligent behavior caused their death.
In order for a wrongful death claim to be legally viable, the person bringing the claim forward has to demonstrate that the death was a direct result of recklessness or negligence by the other person. In Colorado, it doesn't have to be an individual person who is held liable for the wrongful death, it can also be a company. Many types of wrongful death accidents are the results of things like car accidents, injuries from defective products, or slip and fall incidences.
(2) How Are Damages Calculated for Wrongful Death Settlements?
The damages for wrongful death settlements are calculated based on the particular facts of each case. If, for example, the deceased was the main breadwinner for the family, the calculation could include the financial loss of that income stream.
While each case is different in terms of the damages awarded, the calculation remains consistent. Wrongful death damages are usually calculated based on a few main factors:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of income
- Property damages
These are what are considered compensatory damages, or damages that seek to compensate for the loss of your loved one.
There are also punitive damages, which are additional charges given to the negligent party designed to be a punishment for the crime or act of negligence they have committed. These are enforced to provide an incentive for people to not do the same thing in the future.
(3) How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Colorado?
In Colorado, you have two years from the date of the event to file a wrongful death claim. However, there are specific laws stipulating who is allowed to file the claim and at what time. For example, if the deceased has no spouse or children, the parents are allowed to file on their behalf at any time during that two-year span. If the deceased has a surviving spouse, the spouse can file at any time during those first two years. If the deceased has surviving children, the children are only allowed to file the claim between the first and second year after the date of death assuming the spouse did not.
This is why it is very important to work with an attorney who can get the claim filing process started immediately, and who can easily navigate through the legal landscape to avoid stalling efforts by the defending party. This helps to ensure that your claim gets filed in the appropriate time frame and you do not lose your right to compensation.
(4) How Long Does a Wrongful Death Case Take in Colorado?
The length of time required for a wrongful death case in Colorado is based on the circumstances of that case. If, for example, there was a car accident in which the negligent behavior of a drunk driver caused the death of another person, and that driver accepted responsibility, the case could be settled in a matter of months.
However, if the party decides to fight the accusation that they were negligent and their negligence resulted in wrongful death, it could result in a much longer case. In situations like these, the length of time a wrongful death case takes between 1-4 years or more.
If the case goes to trial, the trial itself is usually quite fast, no more than 5 days on average but it can take up to 15 months of discovery and interviews, depositions, and the exchanging of information before that trial actually comes to pass.
(5) What is a Wrongful Death Settlement?
A wrongful death settlement is an assessment of monetary damages determined by the judge or the jury if the case is in a trial-setting. The specific amount you receive for damages depends on the facts of the case. People who file a wrongful death lawsuit can seek damages for different losses, including things such as:
- Lost wages or other compensation that the deceased person would have likely earned
- Lost benefits that were lost as a result of the death
- Loss of companionship, protection, love, and care of the deceased
- Medical costs associated with the final care be deceased received in between the accident and their passing
- Funeral and burial costs
A settlement is an out of court agreement between two parties that allows them to settle a case. These settlements are for smaller amounts of money than would have been awarded in court if the case was ruled in favor of the plaintiff. However, these settlements cut the process down significantly, and can usually be reached in less than a year.
(6) How Can an Attorney Help?
Working with a Colorado Wrongful Death Attorney can help with many things. First and foremost, attorneys know the administrative requirements and the timelines associated with wrongful death cases. Something as simple as failing to meet a deadline, submitting incorrect paperwork, or a clerical error can result in a case being thrown out. With an attorney on your side, you can avoid all of these small mistakes that can reduce or eliminate your compensation. The last thing you want is to have your case dismissed because of a simple error.
A lawyer can also help you to gather evidence you might not be able to get on your own. The evidence required to prove a wrongful death varies based on the circumstances. In one example, you might try to prove that another driver was texting when they hit the vehicle and caused the death of your family member.
As a civilian, you do not have access to their phone records or to video cameras nearby. But an attorney can request those records to substantiate the claim that text messages were being sent and received at the time of the accident, in order to prove negligence and therefore wrongful death.
(7) What is the Process Like?
In a wrongful death claim in the state of Colorado, the first step is to file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased. For the first year after the death, only the surviving spouse can file a wrongful death claim. During the second year after the death, the surviving children can file the claim.
If the deceased has no surviving spouse or children, their parents may file the claim at any time within the first 2 years after the death. If there is a representative of their estate, they can file a claim to recover any damages under what is called the survival action.
Once that claim has been submitted to the court it initiates the entire process. This claim effectively gives one side of the story and states why it's believed that the other party involved was negligent and how their negligence resulted in wrongful death.
From there, the other party gets an opportunity to respond legally by submitting their response to the course within the first month or two after the initial claim has been submitted. It is at this point that they can choose to fight the case or settle.
If they do not settle, on average, between the 3rd and 15th month after the initial claim has been submitted, both sides begin a process gathering evidence to go to trial. This often includes depositions, interrogations, photo and video evidence, and other interviews. During this process, information must be exchanged between both parties as needed during this process.
After that, the other parties can choose to submit a motion to dismiss. This is basically a request that the judge dismisses the case before it goes any further. The judge will have two months to review this case. If they do not process the motion, if it is denied, the case will move forward and go to trial.
If the case is dismissed by the judge, you have the option of filing a motion to appeal.
Overall, depending on the way the negligent party chooses to act, Colorado wrongful death cases can take anywhere from 1-4 years on average to settle but can take longer with complications. They can be settled out of court sooner, but this is not usually the case, as the allegations are very serious.
(8) What is the Average Wrongful Death Settlement in Colorado?
There are many types of damages considered part of a wrongful-death settlement, including the compensatory damages and the punitive damages which are designed to punish the negligent party. The average settlement varies from one wrongful death case to another and specifically varies based on the type of case.
A wrongful death claim brought about by a car accident has a different average settlement compared to one brought about by medical malpractice. This is something to discuss with your attorney so that they can provide you with a more applicable average based on the type of wrongful death case you have.
(9) How Much Does a Wrongful Death Attorney Cost?
A wrongful-death attorney varies in terms of cost. The cost typically should include the administrative fees for things like court filing for paperwork, copies of documents, and the hourly fees for all team members involved. This is something that can be talked over with the attorneys you are considering so that you have a better understanding of what your total cost might be. Usually, the best wrongful death attorneys in Colorado do not charge for their time or working a case until they win the case. Then, they take a portion of the compensation as their fee.
(10) How Do You Prove Wrongful Death?
Proving wrongful death begins with proving that someone died as a direct result of negligence. This varies based on the type of case. Sometimes the cause of death is more apparent than others. For each type of case, there are different burdens of proof, but it all revolves around being able to prove negligence on behalf of the at-fault party that lead to death.
For Example: If a driver got into an accident which resulted in wrongful death because of someone who was texting or intoxicated, proving wrongful death would have to substantiate the fact that the driver was texting or intoxicated at the time of impact. This would prove negligence on their part and prove wrongful death.
Similarly, if you are making the claim that a company was responsible for a wrongful death because of a defect in their product, you would have to prove that the product defect was in fact there, could have been avoided, was only allowed because of the negligence of the company, and resulted in the death.
This is something that will need to be reviewed based on your situation and your case.
Get a Free Case Evaluation for Your Wrongful Death Claim
Looking for more answers to your questions about wrongful death in Colorado? Not sure if you have a case, or what steps to take next?
Give us a call today for a free case evaluation. Our experienced Colorado Wrongful Death Attorneys will walk you through the process, answer your questions, and advise you on the next steps to take in order to get the compensation you deserve.
We have over 40+ years of combined experience and have the resources and skills necessary to help represent your case. If a loved one has suffered a wrongful death due to someone else’s negligence, you are entitled to compensation.
We understand your emotional distress, aggravation, and confusion, and work hard to be not only a legal resource but an understanding group of advisors that you can count on throughout the entire process. Contact us today to get started working towards the compensation you and your family deserve for your pain and suffering.