Losing somebody that you care about is incredibly challenging, and families in these situations will undoubtedly be going through the emotional processes of grieving and adjusting to new circumstances. This is particularly true for those who lose a loved one unexpectedly due to the careless or negligent actions of another individual, business, or entity. At The O’Sullivan Law Firm, we are here to help if you need a Denver wrongful death attorney by your side.
Our team will fully investigate the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s death in an effort to determine liability and help you secure the compensation and closure you are entitled to. Contact our experienced attorneys today at (303) 388-5304 for a free consultation of your case.
Why Choose The O’Sullivan Law Firm for Help?
At The O’Sullivan Law Firm, we are a full-service law firm. This means that we handle every aspect of your case, including investigating the incident, determining liability, negotiating with other parties, and going to trial, if necessary.
Wrongful death claims are filed in civil court on behalf of surviving family members and/the estate of the deceased. These are not claims filed in criminal court. Criminal charges are the responsibility of state prosecutors and failed for the purpose of determining guilt and assigning appropriate punishment if convicted.
Wrongful death claims are similar to personal injury claims that a victim would have been able to pursue had they survived the incident.
How Can a Denver Wrongful Death Lawyer Help?
Wrongful death claims in Denver can become incredibly challenging, particularly for family members who do not have much legal expertise or resources. An attorney will level the playing field and be the powerhouse behind grieving family members as they stand up to the individual(s) who caused their loved one’s death. A wrongful death attorney in Denver can use their resources to:
Conduct a complete investigation into the incident and uncover any evidence needed to prove liability.
Consult with trusted economic and financial experts who can properly calculate the family’s total expected losses.
Handle negotiations with other parties involved, including aggressive insurance carriers, in an effort to secure full compensation for family members.
What Are Common Types of Wrongful Death Cases?
There are various ways that these claims can arise. At The O’Sullivan Law Firm, our Denver wrongful death lawyers regularly help family members of those who have lost a loved one due to the following:
Our team of Denver car accident attorneys is standing by to help family members in these situations. If you are unsure of whether or not we will be able to help you with your case, please contact one of our attorneys for a free consultation as soon as possible. We will examine the facts of the claim and help determine the best steps moving forward.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Colorado?
Colorado law determines who is able to file a wrongful death claim. The law also has stipulations about who can file based on how soon after the death has occurred.
In the first year following a person’s death, only the deceased’s surviving spouse is allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit. However, there are some exceptions to this. The surviving spouse may choose to allow the deceased’s children to file the claim or join with the deceased’s children in filing the claim. If the deceased was unmarried at the time of their death, then the deceased’s children or designated beneficiary will be allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Section 13-21-201 of the Colorado Revised Statutes (CO Rev Stat § 13-21-201) states that any of the following parties are allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit:
The spouse of the deceased
Surviving children of the deceased
The spouse and the deceased’s children
Any eligible designated beneficiary of the deceased and the deceased’s children
Proving Negligence in a Wrongful Death Case in Colorado
After a wrongful death lawsuit has been filed, the plaintiffs in the case (the estate representative or family members) will still have to prove various elements of negligence before any damages can be awarded. In order to prove that a defendant was negligent, the following elements need to be in place:
Duty of Care
It needs to be shown that the defendant owed some sort of duty of care to the deceased person. For example, in the case of a vehicle accident, the plaintiff must show that the defendant had an obligation to obey the rules of the road and to operate their vehicle carefully to ensure the safety of others. For death caused by a premises liability incident, it will need to be shown that the property owner owed a duty of care to the individual who was harmed on the property.
Breach of Duty
After a duty of care has been established, it needs to be shown that the defendant somehow breached their duty of care. Following the car accident situation mentioned above, it will need to be shown that the defendant failed to obey an applicable traffic law (i.e. operated well impaired, speeding, running a stop sign, etc.).
Even after it has been shown the defendant breached their duty of care, it needs to be shown that this breach somehow led directly to the death of the plaintiff.
Finally, it needs to be shown that the estate of the deceased and the family members sustained some sort of monetary or quantifiable non-monetary loss.
Common Procedures for a Wrongful Death Case
When a wrongful death claim arises in Colorado, an attorney will first examine whether or not a case is valid. They will make sure that the individual filing the claim is allowed to do so under the law, and they will also examine whether or not a negligent or deliberate wrongful action took place. If an attorney does proceed with the case, the usual procedures include:
Submitting a notice to the defendant. This will notify the defendant of impending legal action. During this phase, an attorney will continue investigating the incident in order to gather the information they need to move forward with the case.
Negotiation between the parties. When the defendant receives notification, they can request negotiation or mediation. In some cases, the defendant and plaintiff will reach an agreement during the negotiation process in order to avoid taking the case to court. This is less expensive but may not result in the desired settlement amount.
Discovery and pre-trial process. If negotiations are unsuccessful, litigation will begin. This will start with filing an official notice to the courts, and the discovery phase will start. The two parties will request information and evidence from one another, look for and question witnesses, and generally prepare for a court case. Negotiations may continue throughout this process, particularly if one or both sides receive information that could push them towards either dropping the case or settling.
Trial. If a negotiated settlement still cannot be reached, the case will go to a jury trial. Lawyers from both sides will present all evidence and information to the jury, and the jury will be responsible for determining whether or not the defendant caused the wrongful death.
Settlement or jury verdict. Settlement discussions can occur at any time during the process, up until a jury reaches a verdict. If a settlement is not reached, the jury will be responsible for determining how much compensation the plaintiff will receive.
Types of Damages Available in a Denver Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Economic damages are those paid to the deceased’s surviving family members and their estate to cover the financial losses associated with the death. Some of the most common types of economic damages awarded in these situations include the following:
Funeral and burial expenses
Benefits lost as a result of the death, including life insurance
Wages and benefits that the deceased would have likely earned if they had lived
Medical bills the deceased incurred before death
Non-economic damages can be more challenging to quantify because they deal with the intangible losses suffered by the deceased’s family as a result of the death. Some of the most common non-economic damages awarded in these situations include compensation for:
Pain and suffering
Loss of companionship, care, comfort, and guidance of the deceased
Loss of consortium for a spouse
Liability in a Denver, CO Wrongful Death Lawsuit
One of the most common defenses a person accused of causing a wrongful death will use will be to try to lay some or all of the responsibility for the death on the deceased individual. This is not uncommon to how things happen in a personal injury case. Often, the person accused of causing the injury will try to shift fault to the injury victim to limit how much money they have to pay in compensation.
Colorado operates under something called the “modified comparative negligence” system. Under this type of system, a person partially responsible for causing their injury can still receive compensation so long as they are not more than 50% responsible for the incident. However, the total amount of compensation they receive will be reduced based on their percentage of fault. We will also see this type of system play out for wrongful death claims.
If a person has lost their life due to the negligence of another individual, but they were also partially responsible, their family members and estate may receive reduced compensation based on this partial fault. For example, if a person loses their life in a vehicle accident and they are found to have been 30% responsible for the incident, the total compensation will be reduced by 30%. So, let us suppose that a family is awarded $1,000,000 in total compensation for what happened. This would then be reduced by $300,000 to reach a total of $700,000.
Time Limit to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Colorado
Families in Colorado need to be aware they have a limited amount of time to file these claims in court. The Colorado wrongful death statute of limitations is two years from the date of the deceased’s death. If family members fail to file their claim within this two-year window, they will lose the ability to recover the compensation they are entitled to.
However, there are some exceptions to this two-year rule. If a person loses their life in a vehicle accident, the wrongful death statute of limitations is extended to three years from the date of the accident or the discovery of the injury from the vehicle accident that caused the death. Additionally, if the defendant in the case attempts to hide any facts or evidence so that the cause of the death cannot be discovered, this two-year statute of limitations may also be extended.
Call a Denver Wrongful Death Lawyer Today
If you have lost a loved one due to the careless or negligent actions of somebody else, please seek legal assistance as soon as possible. At The O’Sullivan Personal Injury Law Firm in Colorado, our team has extensive experience handling complex wrongful death cases throughout Colorado, and we understand what it takes to help grieving families secure the closure and compensation they need. We will not hesitate to stand up to aggressive insurance carriers or at-fault parties in these situations. When you need a Denver wrongful death lawyer, you can contact us online for a free consultation or call us at (303) 388-5304.