Is there A Statute Of Limitations On A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Wrongful deaths are unexpected, traumatic events. It’s normal for the shock and grief to feel overwhelming after losing a loved one this way. There are many things to look after when you lose someone to a wrongful death and, understandably, you may not be ready to file a wrongful death lawsuit immediately. You may be focused on other tasks, such as funeral planning, and wonder how long you have to take legal action. You can ensure you’ll be ready to talk to a lawyer before the deadline passes when you understand how wrongful death lawsuits work, how an attorney can help, and the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
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What is a wrongful death?
A wrongful death is an untimely death caused by another party’s negligence. People, businesses, and organizations are expected to conduct themselves appropriately. The standard for appropriate behavior is determined by what the average person would do under the same circumstances. Failing to meet that standard is negligence, and when a party’s negligence causes a person’s death, the decedent’s family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Negligent acts include failing to act in an expected way or not taking expected actions. Examples of negligent acts that can cause wrongful death include speeding or street racing, which are choices to act with disregard for the safety of others, or ignoring a safety hazard on a property.
Multiple case types could involve wrongful death, including the following:
- Car accident cases
- Dangerous and recalled products
- Medical malpractice cases
- Slip and fall accidents
Colorado wrongful death statute
Every state establishes laws that clarify the grounds for pursuing civil and criminal cases. Colorado’s wrongful death statute determines which cases qualify as wrongful deaths. Wrongful death attorneys must demonstrate that the at-fault party meets the state’s statute to win a wrongful death case. The statute also identifies who’s eligible to file and how long the wronged parties have to initiate a wrongful death lawsuit.
How long do you have to file a wrongful death lawsuit?
The statute of limitations determines the length of time one has to file a lawsuit. These statutes are set in an effort to ensure that legal action is pursued in a timely manner, while evidence can be gathered and the incident is still fresh. You can file a wrongful death lawsuit until the statute of limitations expires. As long as you file before the statute expires, you can seek damages for your loved one’s wrongful death.
Colorado wrongful death statute of limitations
Colorado’s wrongful death statute gives family members 24 months to file a lawsuit. However, those who lose a loved one to a wrongful death in a vehicular homicide case have twice as long to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Who can bring a wrongful death lawsuit?
Colorado’s wrongful death statute prioritizes the rights of immediate family members. Assuming the decedent was married, their spouse can file a wrongful death lawsuit immediately. In cases where the decedent has a surviving spouse and children, the spouse may permit the children to file suit immediately. Otherwise, the children must wait 12 months before they can take legal action. Children can file immediately if the decedent has no surviving spouse.
Other family members can initiate legal action in cases where a decedent doesn’t have a spouse or children. Parents can file a lawsuit if they lose a child to a wrongful death.
When a decedent has a will and a designated beneficiary, the beneficiary may qualify to file the wrongful death lawsuit, even if they aren’t related to the decedent. Family members can contest this in court if they want the right to file suit.
Damages for wrongful death
You may wonder how much you can sue for and what damages you can seek for wrongful death. Plaintiffs can seek economic and non-economic damages; in some cases, plaintiffs can also seek punitive damages.
Economic damages are straightforward. They’re the easiest to calculate because they involve seeking reimbursement for costs related to the decedent’s death. Plaintiffs may receive compensation for multiple expenses, including the following:
- Child care costs
- Funeral bills
- Medical expenses
- Property damage costs
- Transportation expenses
Non-economic damages don’t involve reimbursement for literal costs. These damages compensate the plaintiffs for the personal toll from their loved one’s death and can include compensation for the following:
- Loss of companionship
- Pain and suffering
Since it’s harder to put a number to these damages, you’ll benefit from talking to an attorney who can help you calculate the non-economic damages. Our attorneys can explain the damages you can seek and how much to request when filing a lawsuit. We’ll also explain what to expect once you file suit.
Some wrongful death cases allow plaintiffs to seek punitive damages. Punitive damages punish the at-fault party for egregious conduct. These damages apply when the person, company, or organization responsible for the wrongful death acted knowingly or deliberately caused the decedent harm.
Suppose your loved one went to the hospital for a medical procedure. The person who operated on them didn’t have a medical license, and your loved one died. The hospital could be liable for punitive damages because it failed to ensure that it hired licensed, qualified staff. Victims may also receive punitive damages from companies when employees commit criminal acts resulting in a client’s death.
How can a wrongful death attorney help with your case?
Dealing with a wrongful death is a life-changing event that could impact you for years after losing your loved one. It’s understandable if the thought of learning about the legal system so you can file a wrongful death claim seems overwhelming.
Our dedicated team includes legal experts with firsthand experience dealing with the trauma of a wrongful death lawsuit. We also have a Victim Advocates group that helps victims throughout the legal process. Our advocates offer support throughout wrongful death investigations and inform family members about the financial and other resources available while waiting for their settlement.
Lawyers for wrongful death cases protect the plaintiff’s legal rights and provide expert guidance. We’ll ensure your case is filed before the statute expires, and we will investigate your case and gather the evidence needed to prove wrongful death.
CRS 13-21-201. (2022).
Negligence. (2023). Wallis, J. (2022). ‘Shocking breach of faith’ | Spectrum owes $7 billion in punitive damages for murder of Texas customer.
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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.