How Does a Wrongful Death Claim Work?

White roses with a lit candle in the background for a memorial from a wrongful death.

When you experience the loss of a loved one due to a catastrophic injury or wrongful death caused by another’s negligence, it can be a very challenging time. There are many unknowns and unanswered questions. Yet, one option you need to be aware of is taking legal action against the responsible party. While no amount of compensation can bring your loved one back, it does not mean you should not be financially secure now and in the future. 

How does a wrongful death claim work in Colorado?

A wrongful death claim can be filed when another party’s negligent or reckless behavior causes an individual’s death. Typically immediate family members of the deceased file a civil lawsuit to seek damages related to their loved one’s untimely passing.

How is wrongful death defined in Colorado?

Colorado defines wrongful death as a death that occurs due to the wrongful or negligent act of another party. Wrongful acts can include intentional wrongdoing, carelessness, recklessness, or negligence. Examples of wrongful death in Colorado may include medical malpractice, automobile accidents caused by another individual’s irresponsible actions, and a criminal act resulting in someone’s death.

Can a fatal car accident be a wrongful death?

A fatal car accident can be considered a wrongful death in Colorado if another driver’s reckless or negligent behavior causes it. Those affected by the loss may have grounds to pursue compensation for their damages by filing a wrongful death claim against the at-fault party with assistance from a qualified lawyer.

Who can file a wrongful death claim in Colorado?

The decedent’s family members often represent their loved one’s estate in a wrongful death claim. Typically, immediate family members such as spouses, parents of minor children, and adult children are eligible to file a lawsuit. 

Other individuals who depend on the deceased financially or emotionally can also be represented in a wrongful death lawsuit if they can demonstrate that the individual’s passing significantly impacted them.

However, only the spouse may file the claim during the first year. The spouse can elect to allow the children to join the lawsuit. After one year, if the spouse has not brought legal action, then the heirs of the deceased can file a claim. 

What damages can be claimed in a wrongful death lawsuit?

In a wrongful death lawsuit, damages compensate the family members of the decedent for losses they have suffered due to their loved one’s untimely death. Damages that can be pursued include:

  • Medical expenses
  • Funeral and burial costs
  • Lost wages
  • Lost benefits
  • Loss of companionship or consortium
  • Pain and suffering 
  • Punitive damages for gross negligence
  • Attorney fees

What is loss of companionship and loss of consortium?

Loss of companionship and loss of consortium are damages awarded to family members who have suffered losses due to their loved one’s untimely death. Loss of companionship reflects the emotional grief that family members experience from losing a spouse, sibling, parent, or other close relative. Loss of consortium refers to the financial losses experienced as well as the physical intimacy shared between spouses that can no longer be replaced.

What is the difference between wrongful death and survival action?

A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit that seeks compensation for the losses incurred by family members due to their loved one’s untimely death. A survival action is a special type of wrongful death claim in Colorado that allows the deceased’s estate to continue certain rights or actions that were initiated prior to the decedent’s passing but left unresolved at the time of death. 

Damages sought in survival action claims are designed to compensate for any personal pain and suffering experienced by the decedent before they passed away, as well as loss of any property destroyed or financial losses incurred.

The damages are limited with a survival action claim. Therefore, consulting with an experienced wrongful death lawyer is crucial to determine which claim would provide you and your family with the best compensation. 

Is there a statute of limitations on wrongful death claims in Colorado?

The statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim in Colorado is two years from the date of the deceased individual’s passing. If you fail to initiate your claim within this time, you cannot seek compensation. Speaking with a personal injury attorney immediately is essential to ensure your rights and options are protected.

How can a lawyer help me in my wrongful death case?

An attorney can help you in your wrongful death case by providing legal advice and representation. Your lawyer will handle all aspects of the case, from filing paperwork to negotiating a settlement or verdict. 

They also help ensure all evidence is properly collected and presented to maximize your chance of success. Furthermore, an experienced attorney understands how best to argue your claim using Colorado laws regarding personal injury and wrongful death, giving you the best chance at recovering maximum damages in these situations.

What is required to prove wrongful death?

To prove wrongful death, you must demonstrate that the death of your loved one was caused by someone else’s reckless behavior or negligence. This requires collecting evidence showing that another party owed a duty of care to the deceased and violated this duty in such a way that caused their death. Examples of evidence could include medical records, expert testimony, witness statements, photographs, diagrams, video footage, or security tapes related to the incident.

How long does a wrongful death case take?

The length of a wrongful death case varies based on the complexity of the case. Generally, it can take anywhere from a few months to several years to resolve a lawsuit. Working with an experienced lawyer who will remain dedicated through every step of the process to seek justice for your loved one is essential to success.

Who pays a wrongful death settlement?

In most cases, the at-fault party’s insurance company will pay out a wrongful death settlement. Depending on the circumstances, these settlements may come from multiple insurance providers or insurers. In some cases, the defendant may also pay part of the settlement.

How long before I receive a settlement?

The timeline for receiving a wrongful death settlement can vary depending on the case’s complexity and how long it takes to negotiate a settlement or judgment with the defendant. Generally, settlements may take several months up to a year, while judgments in court can take longer. 

How can Bachus & Schanker help?

A wrongful death lawyer working on paperwork at his desk. Next to him is a gavel and a Lady Justice statue.

At Bachus & Schanker, we are dedicated to delivering justice for those affected by wrongful death. We understand firsthand how difficult it can be to deal with the passing of a loved one. Our clients have access to our specially assembled group of Victim Advocates that work with our clients to provide support during this difficult time.  

Our team’s expertise in personal injury law and wrongful death claims has helped many individuals get the compensation they deserve for their losses. We are here to listen, explain your options, and provide legal guidance throughout each step toward pursuing justice.


CRS 13-21-201.

Goguen, D. (2023). Negligence, The “Duty of Care,” and Fault for an Accident.

How to Prove Loss of Consortium in a Car Accident Claim. (2022).

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