Understanding the Legalities of Wrongful Death
Jim Avery, an experienced Colorado wrongful death lawyer can help bring justice from negligence so you do not have to deal with the consequences of the catastrophic loss alone. A wrongful death is a term that describes a situation when someone’s negligence or wrongful conduct causes another person’s death. The ‘responsible’ person’s negligence does not have to be the ‘sole’ cause of death. For instance, in an accident, there may be many ‘causes’ combining to lead to death, such as driver error combined with defective seat belts. All responsible parties can be sued for wrongful death, at the election of the survivors. Wrongful death action includes the following criteria:
- Death caused either completely or partially by the defendant
- Defendant was negligent and liable for the death
- Decedent left heirs, whether a spouse, children, sibling, and
- The heirs suffered grief or monetary damages as a result of the death
Wrongful death can arise out of a variety of different circumstances, such as medical malpractice, automobile or airplane crashes, exposure to hazardous conditions at work and criminal behavior. If the wrongful death is caused in part by medical negligence or malpractice, then the Health Care Availability Act controls that claim. If wrongful death is caused by a governmental employee, then the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act governs that claim, and/or Federal civil rights laws.
Colorado Wrongful Death Act
The following is a summary of the law of Colorado under the Wrongful Death Act. (Other laws may apply such as the Health Care Availability Act or the Product Liability Act.) The survivors may file a claim or lawsuit within two (2) years of the date of death for grief, loss of companionship, etc. (noneconomic losses), burial expenses and other economic and ‘net pecuniary loss’ to the Estate.
‘Net pecuniary loss’ basically means the amount of money that the deceased would have earned in his/her lifetime (or accumulated wealth) minus personal expenditures such as their own living expenses. Net pecuniary loss of future damages must be reduced to present value, a determination made by a professional economist or similarly trained individual taking into account factors such as inflation and discount rates on money. In some cases, a ‘solatium’ (fixed amount) may be awarded.
The purpose of a wrongful death suit is to provide relief to heirs who have been grieived and/or injured financially as a result of a supporting family member’s death. If you have lost a loved one as a result of someone else’s conduct, Avery Law Firm will perform a thorough investigation for free. Consult an experienced injury attorney to assist you by calling 866-987-4368 or complete the contact form on this page.
Leading Colorado Wrongful Death Lawyer, James W. Avery
At the Avery Law Firm, we recognize that there is no greater loss than the tragic and untimely loss of a loved one. You can rest assured that our legal team, lead by Colorado SuperLawyer Jim Avery, will treat you and your family members with sensitivity, professionalism, dignity and respect.
What damages are recoverable in a wrongful death case in Colorado?
In the State of Colorado, wrongful death causes of action were created by statute. The Colorado legislature passed the Wrongful Death Act. Pursuant to this Act, a lawsuit in the name of the Estate of the party that died as a result of the wrongful act of another must be commenced within two (2) years of the date of death, or the cause of action will be barred by the running of the statute of limitations. Under Colorado law, the types of damages that may be recovered in a wrongful death case depend upon whether the case involves Health Care or not. Caps apply depending on the type of case, and are set at $250,000 (from 1989, adjusted for inflation in non-Health Care cases). For example, the adjusted amount in non-Health Care cases as of 2011 is $341,250. In addition, economic losses are recoverable, such as:
- Reasonable medical, hospital, funeral and burial expenses
- Reasonable cost of administration of the decedent’s estate
In many wrongful death cases, families suffer devastating financial harm resulting from the death of a spouse or a parent. If the deceased person had a surviving spouse, surviving children, or relatives that were financially dependent upon the decedent, the following economic damages may be recovered in a wrongful death cases:
- Lost earnings and household services that would have benefited the survivors
Wrongful Death With No Dependents
The Colorado legislature has enacted an alternative statute which allows recovery of damages for the wrongful death of a person with no dependents. The statute provides for the recovery of both economic and ‘solatium’ damages. The economic damages include the reasonable medical, hospital, funeral and burial expenses that result from the wrongful death. An estate representative may elect in writing to sue for and recover a solatium in the amount of fifty thousand dollars (adjusted for inflation). Such solatium amount shall be in addition to economic damages and to reasonable funeral, burial, interment, or cremation expenses, which expenses may also be recovered in an action.
Wrongful Death of a Child
Colorado’s Wrongful Death Act allows parents to recover economic damages for the loss of the child’s services, the medical and funeral expenses for the deceased, and the cost of counseling for the surviving parents or minor siblings. The non-economic damages (see amounts set forth above) that may be recovered are damages for the grief, lost love and companionship that the child could have provided to his parents until the end of the last surviving parent’s life.
Wrongful Death Awards
In any wronful death action, both noneconomic and economic damages may be recoverable. An experienced lawyer will know what damages you are entitled to request. Prejudgment interest from the date of death is also recoverable.
In some cases, death does not occur simultaneously with the wrongful act, in which case the injured party (or the estate) may have a right to bring a ‘survival action’ in addition to a wrongful death claim. The survival action must be brought within two (2) years of the date of the wrongful act.
The First Step in Pursing a Wrongful Death Claim
If you or a loved one has been affected as a result of a wrongful death, call the Avery Law Firm now at 303-840-2222 or (866) 9-URGENT [987-4368]. The initial consultation is free, and if we agree to accept your case, we will handle your case on a contingent fee basis, which means we get paid for our services only if there is a settlement or recovery of funds. There is no reason to hesitate. Contact us today for a free initial evaluation of your case.