Can Family Sue For Wrongful Death?

Searching for answers after experiencing a loss might lead you through a maze of challenging information at a time when you are already hurting. Losing a loved one due to a wrongful death causes significant pain and suffering to the family.

At Bachus & Schanker, we work to find the answers you need to help you quickly determine whether family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Colorado. While no amount of money can replace your family member, our experienced law firm is with you every step of the way to ensure you receive the compensation to which you are entitled.

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Before filing a claim, it’s essential to understand what the definition of wrongful death means by law. It is when a person dies by an unlawful act, neglect, or default of another person or entity. Applicable to these scenarios are; car accidents, medical malpractice, defective products, or intentional acts of crime. Wrongful death means that, had the person survived, they would have been able to bring a personal injury lawsuit against the accused.

In the state of Colorado, a family member can represent the deceased and file a claim on their behalf. Similar to a personal injury lawsuit, financial compensation is awarded to the deceased person’s surviving spouse, family members, heirs, or beneficiary representatives.

Is a family member allowed to sue for wrongful death?

Family members of the decedent (person who died) can file a wrongful death lawsuit. The order in which family members can file is as follows:

  • Spouse of the deceased
  • Children of the deceased, including adopted children
  • Parents of the deceased
  • Heirs, specifically anyone named as a legal beneficiary

Keep in mind that only one lawsuit can be filed on behalf of the decedent. Therefore, it is imperative to make sure family members agree with the filing. Every state has different statutes, so it’s best to check with a law firm specializing in that state’s laws.

Is a family member allowed to sue for wrongful death in Colorado?

Candle burning flame in the darkness

The Colorado Wrongful Death Act requires a line of succession to be followed within a specific timeline. 

  1. The surviving spouse can file a wrongful death lawsuit within the first year after the death occurred.
  2. A lawsuit can be brought by lawful heirs or beneficiaries if there is no surviving spouse.
  3. Surviving children can file a lawsuit within the second year after death occurs.
  4. If there are no surviving children, then a lawsuit can be brought by the decedent’s parents.

This order of who can file and when is to protect the interests of those most dependent on the decedent; spouse, children, and parents.

What if the decedent was married and/or had children?

In Colorado, If the decedent was married, the surviving spouse is the first one able to file a claim within the first year after death. The spouse may elect to add children to the lawsuit.

Who is allowed to sue for wrongful death if the decedent was a minor vs. an adult?

The surviving parents of the decedent minor can file a claim. If the decedent was a single adult, many states will allow distant relatives, such as grandparents, siblings, aunts, or uncles, to file a claim.

How many people are allowed to file a wrongful death claim for their loved one?

If more than one family member files a wrongful death lawsuit, the court will consolidate the claims into one case. 

What if the decedent had a will?

The court will establish a personal representative, often called an executor, to administer the deceased’s estate. Sometimes family members may want to challenge the executor by filing their claim in order to obtain the familial right to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

What is the time limit to file a wrongful death claim in Colorado?

All states have specific statutes of limitations to file a wrongful death claim. In Colorado, it is two years from the date of a person’s death. It also depends on how the person died. If the death resulted from a vehicular homicide (also known as a hit-and-run), the time limit is within four years. 

How a wrongful death attorney can help you through the process of filing a wrongful death claim.

wrongful death attorney meeting with client

The process of filing a wrongful death claim can be challenging and overwhelming, especially when you are trying to heal from the loss of a loved one. The proper documents need to be filed in a timely manner as well as a petition or summons to notify the accused. These legal proceedings can sometimes take years to complete. 

This complicated process is why it’s best to contact a law firm that is thoroughly familiar with filing a wrongful death suit. A wrongful death attorney is paid on a contingency basis. That means when they win the case, the court will order the amount of compensation to be paid, and the attorney will receive remuneration for their services. There is no average fee, as it varies depending on the case. 

If you have experienced the devastating loss of a loved one, discuss your concerns with a knowledgeable wrongful death attorney as soon as possible to learn your options. A wrongful death attorney can tremendously ease the burden for you and your family, helping you recover the restitution owed for losing a loved one. At Bachus and Schanker, we are the best Colorado law firm, winning over a billion dollars for our clients in wrongful death lawsuits.


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Written and Legally Reviewed By: Kyle Bachus

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Kyle is a member of the Colorado and Florida Bar associations and has served on the Board of Directors of the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association for more than twenty years in total. Over the years, Kyle has achieved justice for many clients. He has served on numerous committees and repeatedly won recognition from his peers at both the state and national level. He is proud of the role he has played in the passage of state and national legislation to protect consumers and is a frequent speaker and guest lecturer.