The loss of a loved one is always a challenge, but certain situations can make grief more difficult to manage. Having to struggle financially in addition to coping with intense emotions after losing a loved one unexpectedly is a perfect example of this phenomenon. Someone’s premature death caused by a preventable situation, like a defective product or a drunk driving crash, can leave family members feeling emotionally bereft and financially vulnerable. Colorado law empowers those affected by someone’s untimely passing to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit in certain cases.
In order to pursue compensation successfully, there will generally need to be evidence that either negligence or misconduct on the part of a business or another person caused the death in question. There are also numerous other state rules that apply to and limit such lawsuits. The following are some of the important and unique rules in place for wrongful death lawsuits in Colorado.
Rules about who files
Colorado has a relatively complex wrongful death statute when compared with other states. Who gets to file the lawsuit depends on how long it has been since someone’s death. When the person who passes is a married adult, only their spouse will have the option of filing a wrongful death lawsuit in the first year after their passing. Other family members, including their children, could file a wrongful death lawsuit in the second year after someone’s death. There is a two-year statute of limitations that applies, so those who wait too long may lose the right to file a claim.
Limits on compensation
Some types of damages in wrongful death claims are not subject to statutory limits. Requests for compensation for lost wages and medical expenses can lead to full compensation for provable losses. However, there are limits on other kinds of damages. Claims for pain and suffering are subject to a maximum payout limit of $250,000. The same limit applies to compensation for the loss of companionship and emotional suffering of the surviving loved ones bringing the claim.
Punitive damages are possible
There are some states that do not allow those harmed by the actions or negligence of another party to seek punitive or exemplary damages. Punitive damages do not relate directly to the losses generated by someone’s untimely passing but are instead a form of punishment for the individual or business that caused someone’s death. In Colorado, punitive damages are only an option if there is evidence of malice, fraud or wanton conduct.
Those who understand Colorado’s approach to wrongful death lawsuits may be in a better position to pursue justice when a loved one dies unexpectedly due to the actions or failings of an outside party.