What Qualifies as a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

When a loved one dies as a result of an accident, you may have legal grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit. It is essential to consult with a wrongful death attorney to determine when you can file a damage claim against the responsible party.

At Bachus & Schanker, we offer a free case consultation and evaluation, and our wrongful death attorneys are happy to answer any of your questions.  

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When does a case qualify as a wrongful death?

What qualifies as wrongful death is generally when a person dies due to the negligence of another and their failure to provide a duty of care. In addition, one can file a wrongful death claim when the death occurred from some form of intentional action, such as assault, as allowed by the Colorado Revised Statutes 13-21-202.

Furthermore, in the event that a person does not die immediately but later dies as a result of their injuries, the surviving family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible party.

What are the elements of a wrongful death lawsuit?

To bring forth a wrongful death lawsuit, the following four elements must be present:

  • Negligence – The death must have occurred as the result of the negligent and careless actions of another.
  • Breach of Duty – The responsible party must have acted in such a manner as to fail to provide a duty of care.
  • Causation – The responsible party’s actions must be established as the cause of the death.
  • Damages – The surviving family member or members that file the wrongful death lawsuit must show that they sustained damages in some manner due to the death of their loved one.

Is a wrongful death case considered a civil case or a criminal case?

A wrongful death case is considered a civil case and is part of tort law. It specifically has to do with an individual’s personal injury due to another’s actions. While wrongful death claims are not considered a crime, the responsible party could face criminal charges separately when their actions are deemed a crime.

For example, if your loved one was killed by a drunk driver, not only can you seek damages and financial compensation from them, but they could also face criminal charges related to drunk driving laws and involuntary manslaughter.

Although civil and criminal cases can both be filed, the outcome of your civil proceedings will not affect their criminal proceedings. In criminal courts, the defendant has to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil proceedings, you must establish the other party was negligent, breached their duty of care, and their actions led to the death of your loved one.

Examples of Wrongful Death Cases

judge gavel on book in law library

There are several different kinds of wrongful death cases. Some of the more common causes of wrongful death claims include the following types of accidents:

Car Accidents

According to the IIHS and HLDI, in 2020, there were 574 fatal car accidents in Colorado that resulted in 622 deaths. Nationwide that same year, there were 35,766 fatal crashes and 38,824 deaths. Car accidents can include:

  • Texting While Driving
  • Speeding
  • Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs
  • Reckless Driving
  • Distracted Driving
  • Drowsy Driving
  • Vehicle Defects
  • Road Defects
  • Road Construction

In addition, wrongful death from vehicle accidents can include truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, Uber and Lyft accidents, pedestrian accidents, and bicycle accidents.

Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice claims occur when someone fails to receive proper health care or there is an error or mistake that results in personal injuries to the defendant, including wrongful death. Some examples include:

  • Defective Medical Devices
  • Misdiagnosis
  • Surgical Errors
  • Improper Treatment
  • Delayed Treatment
  • Lack of Treatment
  • Birth Injuries
  • Medication Errors

Workplace Accidents

Employers have a duty of care to keep their employees safe, provide safe working conditions, and provide employees access to personal protective equipment to reduce the risks of personal injuries. Wrongful death lawsuits have occurred as the result of workplace accidents such as:

  • Slips, Trips, and Falls
  • Defective Equipment
  • Defective Machinery
  • Hazardous Conditions
  • Exposure to Toxic Chemicals
  • Exposure to Asbestos
  • Unsafe Work Environment

Surviving family members often qualify for death benefits through Colorado’s worker’s compensation death benefits that also cover funeral expenses. However, when the death resulted from negligence, there could also be grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit.

Defective Products

Consumers trust manufacturers to provide them with safe products. However, this does not always occur, and defective products are released. When a product is deemed faulty and results in death, manufacturers can be held accountable. Some of the more common defective products cases have involved:

  • Defective Vehicles
  • Defective Child Toys
  • Products Catching on Fire
  • Dangerous Prescription and Nonprescription Medications
  • Toxic/Tainted Food
  • Defective Building Materials
  • Defective Power Tools
  • Defective Automotive Parts
  • Defective Automotive Tires

How do you prove wrongful death?

To prove wrongful death occurred, you must prove each of the four elements of a wrongful death lawsuit:

  • Negligence – One must prove the defendant had a duty of care to the decedent.
  • Breach of Duty – One must prove the defendant failed to provide the duty of care.
  • Causation – One must prove that the breach of the duty of care resulted in the decedent’s injuries and death.
  • Damages – One must prove that the decedent sustained actual harm and damages and that the surviving family members also sustained damages.

How can a wrongful death attorney help you determine if you have a case?

wrongful death attorney sitting at desk

The tragic and sudden loss of a loved one due to an accident can leave you feeling lost, unsure of what to do, and full of grief. During this vulnerable time, unfortunately, insurance companies are quick to want you to settle — often to their benefit and not yours or your family’s.

At Bachus & Schanker, attorney Kyle Bachus knows firsthand how difficult it can be to suddenly lose a loved one. As a result, our wrongful death attorneys can help provide the guidance you need during this difficult time.

Our goal is to allow you and your family the time to grieve while working on your behalf to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. While no amount of money can make up for your loss, our law firm will do its best to ensure you have a secure financial future.

We fully understand you are in an emotional and grievous process. We are happy to answer all your questions and determine if you have grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible party with a free consultation and case evaluation.

CRS 13-21-202.
Fatality Facts 2020 State By State. (2022).
Markesinis, B. (2023). Tort Law.

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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.