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Wrongful Death Statute Of Limitations In Colorado

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What Is The Statute Of Limitations For Wrongful Death Claims In Colorado?

In Colorado, certain heirs of a person who was fatally injured due to another person’s negligence are entitled to file a claim against the negligent party to recover financial compensation for the loss of their loved one. But there is a limit on how much time you have to file that claim. In Colorado, any claimant has up to 2 years to file a wrongful death claim after the death occurs. There are some other details that make a difference in this timeline which we will cover below, but if you or someone you know is looking into filing a wrongful death claim, then make sure to give our top rated Colorado Springs wrongful death attorneys a call today for help navigating your claim.

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We have won many favorable settlements for our clients, and even successfully resolved legal malpractice cases involving other lawyers who have botched them, and would be happy to help your family get the compensation you deserve.

What Constitutes A Wrongful Death?

A wrongful death is the legal term for the fatal injury of a person due to another person or company’s negligence. When a person acts without the safety of others in mind, it can end up causing a serious accident. When a person dies due to such an accident, some of their family members or heirs are entitled to receive monetary compensation for their loss. Similar to a negligence claim, there are multiple different factors that need to be met for a valid wrongful death case so let’s discuss those briefly.
The first part is duty of care which means that every person has a duty to act in a safe manner in order to keep the people around them safe. This can be as simple as watching where you are going while operating a motor vehicle on the roads. We all have a duty to drive in a safe manner to protect our fellow citizens from injury.
The second element is the breach of that duty of care which can be as simple as not paying attention to where you are driving, driving recklessly, or too fast for weather conditions. It could be more serious such as breaking a law that was put in place to keep everyone safe. For example, driving drunk would be an obvious breach of the duty of care since there are laws specifically stating that drunk driving is not legal due to the dangers of operating a vehicle while intoxicated.
Third is the causation which means that the negligence or breach of duty of care directly caused the accident and therefore injuries that led to the person’s death. Lastly is damages, which are always devastating in the case of a wrongful death where you will never get to see a loved one again.
When all of these parameters are met, you have a valid wrongful death claim.

Who Is Allowed To File A Claim?

When filing a wrongful death claim, the time when you can file is divided up into two periods according to the Colorado Wrongful Death Statute Of Limitations.  Additionally, not every family member is lawfully authorized to file a wrongful death claim. Only certain family members, such as spouses, children, or parents of the deceased are lawfully able to do so.
First Year – During the first year after death, the spouse of the deceased has the exclusive right to file a wrongful death claim. If the spouse chooses to bring the children of the deceased into the claim so that they receive compensation as well, then they may do so within the first year. The spouse can also elect to have only the heirs file a claim by themselves during this time. In the event that there is no surviving spouse, then the right to file goes to the heirs of the deceased, which strictly means children in this case. If there are no surviving spouses or children of the deceased, then the parents of the deceased have the right to file a claim.
Second Year – After the first year has passed, all of the above mentioned parties (spouse, children, parents) are eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent party if none of the first right parties have filed a claim yet. If two separate parties decide to file, then they will need to agree that both parties will have the right to receive compensation and file a claim jointly.

What About The Parents And Families Rights To File A Lawsuit?

When the deceased person has no surviving spouse, children or heirs according to their will, then the parents have the right to file a claim within two years of the person’s death. If the deceased is a child, then the child has the right to file a wrongful death action. This becomes tricky, as children cannot file lawsuits in their own for obvious reasons. In these circumstances a guardian has to be appointed to bring suit on behalf of the child, but there are many other technicalities that inly a licensed attorney should address in these instances.
Who may file, and when they may file, is always a tough question and definitely not one you want to try to answer by reading an internet article. These are the trickiest cases to handle, so if you have any questions about a potential wrongful death case, please pick up the phone and call our office for a free consultation.
No matter who it is that is filing the wrongful death lawsuit, they all have a strict 2 years to file from the time of death. This is why it is so important to start your claim early, so your lawyer has plenty of time to gather all of the facts, evidence and put together a strong case before filing the claim officially. Don’t wait around to get this done, call today to speak with one of our Colorado wrongful death lawyers right away. You’ll be happy you did.

Are There Any Exceptions To The 2 Year Limit?

In some wrongful death actions, there is one reason where the statute of limitations will be increased. This exception is when the death was caused by a negligent driver that is convicted of vehicular homicide AND leaving the scene of a fatal accident. When this situation happens, the time limit is increased to four years, giving more time to discover the person who is at fault and hold them accountable.
Children also present special issues with the statute of limitations. Because a child may not be aware of his or her right to make a claim, the statute usually will toll until the child turns 18.

What Damages Can Be Claimed?

When asking for compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit, there are three different types of compensation you may be eligible to receive.
Economic Damages – Economic damages mean any damage that was incurred that has a specific monetary value. These are things like funeral and burial expenses, medical bills, loss of income, property damages and more. Since these things have an exact dollar value, compensation will be awarded based on the total of these values plus any non-economic damages.
Non-Economic Damages – Non-economic damages will include any type of damages incurred that DO NOT have a specific monetary value. These are things such as pain and suffering, loss of companionship, emotional loss and more. These are impossible to quantify when we are dealing with a death. The state legislature had capped the amount that can be awarded by statute. That number is constantly being adjusted for inflation, but it does have a limit, and that limit depends on the date of the death at issue.
Punitive or Exemplary Damages – Punitive damages are not commonly awarded as they are restricted to claims where the negligent person that caused the fatal accident was willfully acting reckless. These damages are meant to be an extra cost as a punishment to the at-fault party for willfully acting in such a dangerous manner.  They are only available in specific instances.

Is There A Limit On How Much Compensation You Can Receive?

Colorado state law does not cap the amount of economic damages as these have an actual monetary value that should be compensated for, no matter how large the sum is. But non-economic damages do have a cap. Pain and suffering is the main cap that Colorado imposes with a limit set by state statute, and adjusted for inflation by the Colorado Secretary of State from time to time. The upward limit depends upon the date of the death.

Common Causes Of Wrongful Death

A wrongful death lawsuit can be brought on for the death of a person that was caused by another person or company’s negligence, but what kinds of accidents are the most common? Well, these accidents can come from a wide array of different accidents, but these are some of the most common.

Contact An Attorney For Help

If you or someone you know is going through the process of starting a wrongful death lawsuit, feel free to reach out to our experienced attorneys for help. We have helped countless families receive compensation for their loss and won favorable amounts for them in each case. Our law firm is dedicated to providing only the best service for our clients and we help you deal with every aspect of the case so you can get back to normal life without the financial burden that the wrongful death has left with you.
From start to finish you can expect compassion and professional help from all of our staff. We answer all of your questions thoroughly, prepare you for what will happen next and do everything possible to make sure you receive the maximum compensation for your loss. Wrongful death cases are never a fun thing to go through, but our goal is to make the process as easy as possible on you so you can grieve without the burden of navigating an intense lawsuit. Call today for a free consultation or feel free to stop by our office and meet with us in person.

Areas We Serve

We serve clients injured anywhere throughout the state of Colorado, but we focus on residents of these areas: Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, Fountain, Briargate, Monument, Black Forest, Pueblo, Canon City, Larkspur, Security-Widefield, Peyton, Castle Rock, Teller County, El Paso County, Elbert County, Park County, Douglas County and beyond.