After the unexpected death of a loved one, your family may need to make plans to pay for a funeral, cover any outstanding medical bills, and consider future finances. A wrongful death lawsuit may be appropriate if another party’s negligence or intentional act resulted in your family member’s death, as it could allow you to demand compensation to provide for your family’s current and future financial needs.
A Fort Collins wrongful death lawyer may be able to provide guidance in these often-complex legal matters. It can be difficult territory to navigate, but the compassion and knowledge of a seasoned personal injury attorney could help put you at ease and achieve your legal goals.
When is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Legally Appropriate?
A wrongful death action is a lawsuit for damages filed by the spouse (not ex-spouse) and/or heirs of a deceased adult, or by the parent(s) of a deceased unmarried adult who had no children, or by the parent(s) of a deceased unmarried minor who had no children against the person or entity who wrongfully killed the deceased. Such a suit would be warranted when the facts that led to the death would have given rise to a personal injury suit, had the victim survived the incident.
During the first year after the death, the decedent’s spouse—if they had one—has an exclusive right to file a wrongful death lawsuit, although they may elect in writing to allow eligible heirs to join the lawsuit. If neither a spouse nor an heir is available to act as a plaintiff, or if neither party files within a year, the decedent’s parents may pursue a case.
Statute of Limitations
No matter which plaintiff comes forward, the case is always subject to various notice provisions and statutes of limitations. According to Colorado Revised Statutes §13-80-102, wrongful death lawsuits must be filed no more than two years after the date of the death. However, a Survival action to recover medical expenses incurred from the date of injury to the date of death must be filed no later than one year after the date of death. A Fort Collins wrongful death attorney could provide more information about filing a claim within its proper time constraints.
Pursuing Compensation in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
A wrongful death plaintiff may claim all direct economic damages that result from the incident, including funeral costs and the loss of income that the deceased would have earned from the date of death to end of their normal life expectancy. There is no limit on the amount of economic damages that a jury may award.
However, there is a strict cap on non-economic damages for losses like grief, sorrow, and loss of companionship. As of 2019, the maximum value of recoverable non-economic damages is around $436,000. The non-economic damages cap will increase to $584,210 in 2020 and will thereafter be adjusted for inflation every two years.
Punitive damages may also be recoverable if you can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant’s conduct was willful and wanton, although the amount of these damages cannot exceed that of your actual damages.
What is Survival Action?
Finally, medical expenses and lost wages related to an untimely death may also be recoverable, but only through a survival action. A survival action is a lawsuit filed by the personal representative of the deceased’s estate to recover medical expenses that accrued between the date of injury and the date of death. A wrongful death lawyer in Fort Collins could help you accurately measure your losses and demand appropriate payments from at-fault defendants.
A Fort Collins Wrongful Death Attorney Could Provide Support During a Difficult Time
After a wrongful death, you must deal not only with immediate funeral and medical costs, but also potentially a serious impact on your future finances. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to seek financial relief through a wrongful death claim and/or survival action.
Attorney Mac Hester has extensive experience in representing clients in wrongful death and survival claims and could help you gather evidence of defendant fault, leverage that evidence into a comprehensive civil claim, and look out for your best interests in private settlements and—if necessary—in court. Contact Fort Collins wrongful death lawyer Mac Hester today to discuss your options.