If you or a relative or friend believe that a loved one has died as a result of wrongful death, you are likely in a state of grief. The situation is likely both stressful and frightening–and at least some of those emotions are caused by the fact that the term and the law may be unfamiliar or unknown. In order to help you as much as possible, we have created this quick guide to help.
- First, in understanding what wrongful death means, it can be useful to think of it as a type of personal injury claim in which the injured party is no longer alive to bring suit. To be wrongful, the death must have been caused intentionally, recklessly, or by negligence (for example, a failure to do something).
- Second, there is a certain period of time after which a case may no longer be brought. In Colorado, the period is two years from the date of death.
- Third, only certain parties are allowed to bring a suit in our state. For the first year, only the spouse of the deceased person may do so. (There is an exception: if the deceased left no spouse and no children, then his or her parents may file a wrongful death suit.) In the second year, both spouse and children can file a suit.
- Fourth, a suit can be filed for three types of damages: 1) wages and other compensation that would likely have been earned in the deceased had lived; 2) benefits that the family members lost due to the death (life insurance is an example); and 3) loss of the love, affection, companionship, and care of the deceased.
- Fifth, in addition, Colorado allows for the estate to pursue what is termed a “survival action.” A representative of the estate may seek compensation for losses additional to the ones itemized above. These include medical, hospital, and emergency care costs associated with the deceased’s final illness or injury, and funeral and burial expenses.