Understanding Wrongful Death Claims

  • Personal Injury
December 6, 2023

Wrongful death claims are a complex and emotionally charged area of law that can have a profound impact on families and loved ones. If you’ve lost a family member due to another party's negligence or deliberate actions, you may seek legal recourse by pursuing a wrongful death claim.

When to File a Wrongful Death Claim

You can generally file a wrongful death claim in the following instances:

Breach of Duty: In a wrongful death case, it's essential to establish that the individual or entity held a legal duty to exercise care and avoid causing harm to others. Below are a few examples to illustrate “duty of care”:

  • Motorist: A driver must operate their vehicle responsibly, following traffic laws, and driving safely to avoid accidents.
  • Property Owner: Property owners are legally obliged to keep premises safe to prevent accidents and injuries to visitors.
  • Manufacturer: Manufacturers are responsible for ensuring their products are safe, free from defects, and do not pose any harm when used as intended.

Negligence and Causation: In addition to establishing a duty of care, you must also demonstrate that the deceased's death was caused by negligence.

More specifically, you need to show that the responsible party breached their duty and failed to take reasonable precautions or actions that a responsible person or entity would have taken in a similar situation. Additionally, you must establish that this lack of precaution is directly connected to the deceased's death.

Listing Damages: In a wrongful death claim, it's typically necessary to demonstrate that the victim's death resulted in damages. Damages refer to the losses the surviving family members or beneficiaries suffered due to the wrongful death. These damages can be economic and non-economic and may include medical expenses, loss of income, burial or funeral costs, loss of companionship, and pain and suffering.

Who Can Pursue a Wrongful Death Claim?

The eligibility to make a wrongful death claim varies by jurisdiction. However, you may be entitled to pursue such a claim if you are a(n):

Immediately After Death: Colorado gives a spouse the sole right to file for a year after the wrongful death (if there is no spouse, the decedent’s children can file and if there are no children, the decedent’s parents can file in this time frame.

One Year After Death: After the first year, Colorado gives “heirs” (i.e. the decedent’s children) the right to file a wrongful death suit or join the surviving spouse’s suit. If there is no surviving spouse and there are no heirs, the decedent’s parents can file a wrongful death suit. The only other potential person who has standing to file a wrongful death suit is a “designated beneficiary” (i.e. someone named by the decedent in their will before they died). Surprisingly, siblings of the decedent have no legal right to file a wrongful death suit in Colorado—even if they’re the only surviving relative.

Need Legal Representation for a Wrongful Death Claim?

Handling a wrongful death claim can be emotionally overwhelming and legally complex. Our team of dedicated attorneys is here to assist you in understanding the necessary steps and legal considerations involved in pursuing a wrongful death claim.

Contact one of our knowledgeable attorneys at Jorgensen, Brownell & Pepin, P.C. today. We are here to assist you in seeking justice and compensation for you and your loved one during this challenging time.

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