Should You Seek a Wrongful Death Car Accident Settlement?
When a loved one dies in a car accident, no amount of money can bring them back or replace the person you lost. However, you may be suffering real damages and losses.
You may be able to claim compensation for these. When a person passes away, his medical bills and other debts do not die with him. Sometimes you have to sell assets to cover bills.
Funerals usually cost tens of thousands of dollars. To make matters worse, you may wonder how to support your family without your spouse’s income. Finances associated with the sudden loss of a family member can be overwhelming.
You should file a wrongful death claim when someone’s negligent or harmful acts are responsible for your loved one’s death.
If your loved one died in a car accident that was not their fault, you may be able to recover damages from the person that caused the accident. It’s normal to wonder if filing a wrongful death lawsuit is the right decision for you. This post intends to provide some insight about wrongful death car accident claims.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
In Colorado, only a spouse, child, or parent of the deceased can file a wrongful death claim. Only the surviving spouse can file a lawsuit in the first year following the death. The can file for their benefit and on behalf of other heirs. Of course, this only applies if the deceased had a spouse. After one year, the deceased’s surviving children can file a wrongful death lawsuit if the spouse has not. (The surviving spouse can still benefit from a claim filed by another person.) If there are no surviving children, or the children do not wish to file a claim, the parents of the deceased may file a wrongful death lawsuit.
In some cases, the deceased person does not have a spouse. Then, the surviving children (or parents if there are no children) do not need to wait until the second year to file a wrongful death claim. In rare cases, there is no surviving spouse, child, or parent. When this happens, a representative of the deceased’s estate can file a claim on behalf of the beneficiaries of the estate.
Colorado Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims
A statute of limitations is a law that limits the amount of time allowed to file a certain type of lawsuit. If you do not file a lawsuit for your wrongful death claim within the time frame, you cannot seek recovery for your claim.
The statute of limitations in Colorado for a wrongful death claim is two years from the time of death. But, state law prohibits certain family members from filing a claim in the first year following a death. So you may have only a one-year window in which to file a claim. Preparing and filing a lawsuit takes time, so it is important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible after a loved one’s fatal car accident.
Compensation in a Wrongful Death Case
The value of damages suffered determines a victim’s compensation. Compensatory damages (also called actual damages) account for your financial losses. They also cover intangible damages like pain and suffering.
Economic losses are damages a family suffers that have a specific dollar value.
This includes the loss of financial support, funeral costs, and other end-of-life expenses. The deceased person’s dependents are the only people with claims to economic losses.
These include a spouse and minor children. There is a specific way to measure pecuniary (financial) loss. We use the deceased person’s net worth, earning capacity, age, life expectancy, and other factors. These losses estimate the financial support the deceased could have provided.
The deceased person may not earn a salary or they may be responsible for taking care of the home. In these cases, you should calculate the value of services performed at home. These would include childcare and other domestic work.
Some losses are not tied to financial numbers. They include mental anguish and suffering, and loss of love, companionship, care, consortium, and quality of life. So how does one put a price tag on non-economic damages? Juries should award reasonable compensation for non-economic losses using common sense. As you might imagine, this is not an easy task. Awards for non-economic damages in wrongful death cases can vary wildly.
Colorado caps non-economic damages at around $436,000. The state lifts the limit on non-economic damages in cases that involve a “felonious killing.” This means the state charged the defendant with homicide or manslaughter. Sometimes, a jury may instead award a “flat” solatium award of about $87,000, rather than attempting to calculate non-economic damages. A solatium award is in addition to economic damages.
The purpose of compensatory damages is to remedy the losses incurred by the plaintiffs. They are not intended to be a punishment for the defendant. Sometimes, a judge or jury will award punitive damages. Unlike compensatory damages, these punish the defendant for bad behavior. They also deter them from repeating those actions in the future.
Colorado, like several other states, places a cap on punitive damages. State law limits awards of punitive damages to no more than the amount of actual damages. Even if a jury awards punitive damages, the judge can overrule the decision. Generally, punitive damages are rarely awarded in personal injury cases in Colorado. They are sometimes awarded in wrongful death cases in which a person was killed by a drunk driver.
Request a Free, No Obligation Consultation with a Colorado Wrongful Death Attorney
If you have lost a loved one in a car accident, we are very sorry for your loss. The Law Office of Steve Roberts, LLC is here to help you through this devastating time. Steve Roberts is an experienced and dedicated personal injury and wrongful death attorney serving the greater Denver area. Contact our office in downtown Denver anytime to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.