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WHAT IS A WRONGFUL DEATH LAWSUIT?
Wrongful death occurs when somebody dies because of a person or entity’s negligence. Wrongful deaths are civil suits, but they can also carry criminal charges. If wrongful death cases have criminal charges, the charges are manslaughter or murder.
There are different types of wrongful death lawsuits, such as medical malpractice, motor vehicle accidents, toxic torts, manufacturing defects, and criminal activity. Every state has a different wrongful death statute that contains criteria for procedures and precedents. We’re experienced with wrongful death lawsuits in Colorado and understand how to work with other legal teams, insurance companies, and doctors to provide you with a smoother road toward recovery.
Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Colorado?
Determining who can file a wrongful death lawsuit depends on the state’s position on “real parties of interest.” The real parties of interest include those deemed to have suffered harm from the decedent’s death. In all states, family members such as spouses, children, and parents of unmarried children have the right to pursue legal action. However, in some states, other people, such as siblings and grandparents, can also seek legal compensation.
In Colorado, the decedent’s spouse is the only person who can file a wrongful death claim in the first year after the accident. After a year, the children of the deceased can file a wrongful death suit.
COMPENSATION IN WRONGFUL DEATH CASES
Wrongful death occurs when somebody dies because of a person or entity’s negligence. Wrongful death lawsuits require proof of negligence or intentionality behind wrongful actions. If the real party of interest proves negligence in a wrongful death lawsuit, they are entitled to economic and noneconomic remuneration.
The parties of interest may receive economic damages such as medical or funeral expenses, out-of-pocket expenses, property loss, or loss of support or income. If a parent with younger children or adolescents dies, the children may recover economic reparations for the loss of parental guidance. The jury should consider earnings at the time of death and potential future payments to calculate the total financial loss. On your own, it can be incredibly challenging to calculate the total expenses.
Noneconomic damages in a wrongful death lawsuit include compensation for emotional pain and suffering. These damages usually include interest that starts from the date of death. Punitive damages may also be awarded in Colorado when the decedent dies from gross negligence or an egregious act. However, most states do not offer punitive damages in wrongful death cases.
The decedent’s survivors may also use “survival action” when the decedent doesn’t die immediately. Survival action claims afford the decedent’s representatives compensation for the pain and suffering the decedent endured while alive. The jury may consider the decedent’s degree of consciousness, the severity of their pain, and their awareness of impending death to determine compensation for wrongful death in Colorado.
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PROVING NEGLIGENCE IN A WRONGFUL DEATH CASE
Establishing negligence depends on four primary elements:
Duty refers to the commitment the defendant owes to the plaintiff. For example, as a licensed driver, you have a responsibility to obey traffic laws such as speed limits or not driving under the influence. To prove negligence, the plaintiff must first establish that the defendant had a duty to uphold for their fellow citizen.
Breach means that the defendant disregards their duty to their fellow citizen. For example, the defendant drinks eight alcoholic beverages before getting behind the wheel. Driving under the influence is a clear example of a breach because, as a licensed driver, you must safely operate your motor vehicle, and alcohol impairs that ability.
Causation means the defendant’s actions have a direct impact on the plaintiff’s injury or loss. If the defendant was under the influence, and their intoxication played a role in an accident that caused the plaintiff’s injury or death; there is clear causation.
Finally, damages refer to the plaintiff’s harm level caused by the defendant’s negligence.
How Long Do Wrongful Death Cases Take?
If you’re considering filing a wrongful death case, you should understand the taxing elements involved and how long it can potentially take. Personal injury claims can quickly become complicated and lengthy. Because wrongful death cases have complex procedures with many factors to consider, hiring a wrongful death attorney can assist in the wrongful death case process. By gently guiding you through the process, the experienced personal injury attorneys at the Paul Wilkinson Law Firm will be there every step of your wrongful death case.
Wrongful death case timelines vary from one to the next, but you should be aware of the more time-consuming events. The following are the primary stages for wrongful death cases:
The investigative process is one of the more prolonged and exhaustive stages of the claims process. To win your lawsuit, you need credible evidence that proves the defendant’s negligence caused you damages. The investigative process often involves working with experts such as medical professionals and law enforcement officers to establish your claim. Organizing this evidence can take months, if not longer than a year.
After an accident causes a death, the surviving loved ones suffer damages that include medical and funeral expenses, lost wages, and loss of household services. You must take your time to make sure you account for all of your losses during this period. Once you begin the negotiation process, it can be challenging to add grievances to your claim.
Once you gather your evidence and calculate your damages, you can start the negotiation process. This process requires you to negotiate with the defendant. In the case of an entity’s negligence, they will likely have a team of skilled lawyers to back them up throughout this portion of the claims process. If you’re dealing with an individual, they can be difficult to communicate with and might also have an attorney for protection. Settlement talks can take months, especially if you have a larger claim.
Out-of-court settlements take less time and effort, and therefore, are ideal. However, many cases can’t settle out-of-court because parties can’t agree to the terms. In these cases, civil litigation is the final step to recuperating the damages owed to you. Cases that go to court usually take over a year to finalize.
WRONGFUL DEATH CASE PRACTICE AREAS
Determining whether your loved one’s death constitutes a wrongful death claim can be confusing. We’ve discussed what wrongful death cases are and what goes into determining negligence in a wrongful death case. But because negligence applies to many different legal areas, it’s crucial to discuss accident types that justify a wrongful death claim.
Some common areas of wrongful death lawsuits that Paul Wilkinson Law Firm specializes in:
- Motor vehicle accidents (including car accidents, motorcycle accidents, and pedestrian accidents)
- Personal Injuries
- Truck and commercial vehicle accidents
- Defective products
If you lost a loved one in any of the preceding situations, hire a qualified Denver wrongful death attorney. Paul Wilkinson Law Firm empathizes with your loss, and we will help you get the compensation you deserve.
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DO I NEED A WRONGFUL DEATH ATTORNEY?
No one should have to think about pursuing legal action while grieving the loss of a loved one. Mourning a loved one is as challenging a process as one can endure. Adding complex legal responsibilities to the equation can unnecessarily overwhelm you during a vulnerable time.
Before filing a claim on your own, consider the following reasons why working with trusted wrongful death attorneys can help you gain closure following your loss.
MINIMIZE THE INVESTIGATIVE BURDEN
Since the investigative process is one of the most challenging aspects of filing a wrongful death claim, hiring a wrongful death attorney can save you from tiresome efforts and costly errors. Investigations are time-consuming and expensive, and without professionals conducting the investigation, you can miss pertinent details that affect your case’s outcome.
A qualified Denver personal injury attorney understands how to manage the investigation process by paying for the correct professionals, such as private investigators. Wrongful death attorneys also have a dedicated staff that preserves evidence and ensures its proper organization.
NEGOTIATING ON YOUR BEHALF
As referenced earlier, compiling evidence to support your claim gives you much-needed negotiating power. Having a skilled legal professional helps you deconstruct the opposing party’s objections throughout the settlement process. Your attorney accomplishes this by using the evidence compiled in the investigative process. They also advocate for your deserved compensation using legal precedents to reject unfair settlements.
ANSWERING LEGAL QUESTIONS AND ENSURING COMPLIANCE
The wrongful death claims process can be long and drawn out, which is why having an attorney present to guide you through the labyrinth makes the process that much more bearable. Your attorney can also track your claim and ensure it follows all of the necessary steps. A simple example of this is an attorney’s responsibility to file a claim within the wrongful death statute of limitations.
CONTACT OUR WRONGFUL DEATH ATTORNEYS FOR A FREE CONSULTATION
The statute of limitations for wrongful death in Colorado dictates that you typically have two years to file a claim. However, there are exceptions, which is why you should hire a wrongful death attorney to review your case as soon as possible.
Gathering critical evidence after the accident prevents the destruction or deterioration of evidence. Eye witness accounts fade, and the longer you wait, the more likely you are to forget pertinent details regarding your lost wages and economic compensation.
Our attorneys have twenty years of experience with wrongful death cases, which means that we can successfully guide you through the complex, ever-changing legal process.
Contact the Paul Wilkinson Law Firm today, and let our attorneys fight for the compensation you deserve.