Wrongful Death Attorneys Assisting Clients in Denver and Surrounding Areas
Few things are worse in life than the death of a loved one. Knowing that their death was caused by the negligence or criminal conduct of someone else can make the pain even harder to bear. Making a wrongful death claim against the responsible party or parties can’t bring your loved one back, but recovering some monetary compensation can at least help to provide for their family and pay any lingering medical or funeral costs. A skilled wrongful death lawyer can help you to hold the responsible party accountable and get you the compensation you need and deserve.
Call Greer Law Group at our Denver office today at 303-331-6460 to speak to a wrongful death lawyer and explore your options.
How is Wrongful Death Defined in Colorado?
In Colorado, wrongful death is defined as a death that results from the wrongful actions of another party or entity. One way to think about a wrongful death case is to consider it as a personal injury case that the injured party could have brought if they had survived. Wrongful death cases can be brought when the death was caused by negligence, medical malpractice, or intentional acts, including crimes.
If the death was caused by a criminal act, there may be both a criminal case and a civil wrongful death lawsuit. The criminal case can result in the incarceration or other punishment of the guilty party, but it does not typically provide any restitution to the family of the victim. Unlike a criminal case, a civil case can recover monetary damages to compensate the family or beneficiary of the deceased, and a skilled wrongful death attorney can help.
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Colorado?
Not just anyone can file a wrongful death claim in Colorado. Who can file is determined by Colorado law and is subject to certain time constraints.
In the first year after the death, the surviving spouse may make a wrongful death claim, as can heirs to whom the surviving spouse has given written permission, either with the spouse or on their own, depending upon the written election of the spouse. In the event that there is no spouse, the heirs or designated beneficiary may bring a wrongful death suit in the first year following the death.
In the second year after the death, the surviving spouse, the heirs in combination with the spouse or alone, and any designated beneficiary may file wrongful death claims, and no written election is required.
If the deceased was over 18 and had no spouse or heirs, the parents of the deceased may file a wrongful death claim within two years after the death. If the deceased was a minor, the parents may file the wrongful death claim. Both parents will have an equal interest in the judgment unless one is deceased, in which case the surviving parent will have sole interest in the judgment.
What Kinds of Compensation Can I Seek in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
In wrongful death claims, the plaintiff may request monetary compensation for economic (or pecuniary) damages and non-economic (non-pecuniary) damages. Economic damages include tangible, straightforward costs caused by the decedent’s injury and death. These can include medical bills, lost wages, and funeral expenses, for example. These costs are straightforward and easily proven with receipts and pay stubs. Non-economic costs include non-tangible losses suffered as a result of the wrongful death, including pain and suffering, loss of the deceased’s companionship, loss of the deceased’s future income, emotional or mental distress, and other non-tangible losses. These damages are more difficult to prove, but a skilled wrongful death lawyer can help.
The Colorado Wrongful Death Act provides for a flat award called a “solatium” in place of non-economic damages. This award is adjusted for inflation and is now valued at $87,210.00. The Colorado Secretary of State periodically publishes a giving the current solatium amount, adjusted for inflation. If a wrongful death plaintiff accepts a solatium award in lieu of non-economic damages, they only need to prove liability, not the extent of their non-economic damages.
In certain cases of egregious negligence or criminality, the court may award punitive damages in a wrongful death case, in addition to economic and non-economic damages. Punitive damages cannot be sought in the initial complaint, but will be added by the court if the conditions of the case warrant it.
Is There a Limit on the Amount I Can Seek in Compensation for a Wrongful Death in Colorado?
Colorado does not impose a limit on economic damages in wrongful death cases. The amount of the actual documented expenses may be awarded. Non-economic damages, however, are subject to limits. The current limit on non-economic damages in wrongful death cases in Colorado is $613,760 for incidents that occur on or after January 1, 2020, and before January 1, 2022. For accidents that happen on and after January 1, 2022, and before January 1, 2024, the cap is $642,180. The Colorado Secretary of State publishes a Certificate with all of the current damage caps, and it is a good idea to check it out to see what the caps are at the time of your wrongful death claim. As stated above, the plaintiff in a wrongful death case may opt to take a flat-rate award, called a solatium, in place of non-economic damages in a wrongful death case, and that amount is currently $87,210.00 but will be periodically adjusted for inflation
Will a Criminal Conviction or Lack of Conviction of the Defendant Affect My Civil Case?
Criminal court and civil court are different, and conviction or lack of conviction in criminal court does not guarantee liability or lack of liability in a civil court. The two court systems rely on different bodies of law in deciding cases, have different standards of proof, and lead to different outcomes. A criminal case may be filed in a death only when the defendant violated a specific law and killed someone. In a civil case, however, the plaintiff must only prove that the defendant’s negligence or unlawful action contributed to the death.
Criminal court requires that guild be proved “beyond a reasonable doubt,” while a civil case only requires that “a preponderance of the evidence” shows liability. This means that if it is determined that 51% or more of the evidence supports liability, the defendant will be found liable in a civil case. This allows a considerable amount of room for doubt, unlike in a criminal case.
The penalties for conviction in a criminal case usually involve some kind of punishment like incarceration or fines, but usually do not include restitution to the victim’s family. Civil cases, however, can lead to monetary compensation being awarded to the plaintiff(s), who are usually family members in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer for My Wrongful Death Case?
When you are grieving and suffering from the loss of a family member, the last thing you need to be doing is fighting for fair compensation. At a time when you and your family need time to heal, a competent wrongful death attorney can relieve you of the burden of legal action, and take care of all the steps needed to help you get the compensation you need and deserve. A skilled wrongful death attorney will make a thorough investigation of the death and the events leading up to it, will take care of necessary legal documentation and paperwork, and will monitor any criminal case that is related to the wrongful death.
Wrongful death cases often involve multiple defendants, some of which may be large and powerful insurance companies with aggressive lawyers hired for the sole purpose of keeping the company from having to pay claims. Nobody should be expected to go up against these large corporations on their own, and you don’t have to. The experienced wrongful death attorneys at Greer Law Group stand ready to take your side and fight for what you deserve.
There are many difficult decisions to make in a wrongful death claim, such as what damages to seek, whether to take the solatium in lieu of non-economic damages, and how to go forward without your loved one by your side. Our compassionate and knowledgeable wrongful death attorneys can give you the sound legal advice you need to make these decisions, and will relieve you of the burden of fighting alone for the compensation your family needs and deserves in the absence of the deceased
No amount of money can make up for the loss of your loved one, but you shouldn’t be forced to suffer financial ruin due to the negligence or criminal actions of someone else. If your loved one suffered injuries that required extensive medical care before their death, you might not be able to pay those debts and keep your family afloat. If someone else caused your loved one’s injury and death, they should not be allowed to walk away scot-free while you struggle to put the pieces of your life back together. Money can’t fill the hole in your life where your loved one should be, but your suffering shouldn’t be compounded by financial struggle. Contact our offices today to get a start on rebuilding your life.
The wrongful death attorneys at Greer Law Group have the right combination of compassion and strength to stand by your side and fight for what’s right. You need us on your side, and we will be there, every step of the way. Our attorneys are here to help. Call us today at 303-331-6460.