How to Sue a Drunk Driver for Wrongful Death in ColoradoLast updated on: August 14, 2019
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Despite Colorado laws prohibiting driving while intoxicated, drunk driving is still prevalent. If your loved one has been the victim of a drunk driving accident that lead to their death, you may have the right to bring a wrongful death claim against the drunk driver and seek monetary damages. A wrongful death claim may be brought in Colorado when the misconduct (negligence, recklessness, or intentional behavior) of another caused the death of your close family member.
Losing a loved one at the hands of a drunk driver is an incredibly sad and unfortunate event. While the drunk driver may face criminal prosecution by the government, in most cases, you may also be able to bring a wrongful death claim against the at-fault driver in order to seek retribution and justice in the form of monetary damages.
If your loved one has been killed in an accident by a drunk driver, you may be able to bring a wrongful death claim against them. Call Zinda Law Group today at (800) 863-5312 for a free case evaluation with a Colorado wrongful death attorney.
Was There a DUI Conviction?
While you may sue the driver regardless of whether they have been criminally prosecuted, if the driver has been charged with a DUI, this can strengthen your wrongful death case. Such a case may be legally shown where the other driver was negligent. Negligence means that the driver breached their duty to act reasonably and, because of this, caused the wrongful death. More simply, the other driver acted in a way that a reasonable person would not.
In Colorado, driving while intoxicated is a direct form of negligence. A reasonable person would not drive while drunk, and thereby endanger the lives of others. Thus, it might be much easier for your legal team to establish and prove your wrongful death claim against a driver who was given a DUI charge.
Since driving while intoxicated is prohibited in Colorado, a DUI conviction also is a form of negligence per se. Negligence per se means that the incident occurred while the driver was breaking the law, such as the Colorado law prohibiting driving while intoxicated. This essentially means that your legal team will already have half of the evidence for proving negligence, that the other driver breached their duty to act reasonably, and your team will only need to provide evidence that the driver caused the wrongful death, and that damages were incurred.
What If There Was No DUI Conviction Issued to the Drunk Driver?
Your experienced wrongful death legal team may attempt to prove your claim in multiple ways in order to greatly enhance your likelihood of success.
Even if the driver was not charged with a DUI, this does not automatically prevent you from successfully bringing and winning a wrongful death claim against them. In Colorado, drivers have an obligation not to be negligent while driving. While driving drunk is one form of negligence, there is a possibility the driver may have been negligent in another way. The legal team can conduct proper investigations to obtain any needed evidence to support the claim. This evidence would indicate any suspected intoxication of the other driver, as well as any other way the driver was negligent.
The negligence of the drunk driver is often a key element in successfully showing that a wrongful death occurred. Negligence occurs when the driver breaches their duty to act as a reasonable person, and their actions caused the death of another. This can take many forms and can include driving while intoxicated, not obeying traffic laws, or simply not paying adequate attention while driving.
Even if the opposing driver’s blood-alcohol level was at or below the Colorado legal limit, .08 blood alcohol content (BAC), they may have been negligent in other ways, such as not paying full attention while driving, performing an illegal lane change, or running a red light. Your legal team has experience determining which evidence to seek and use in order to adequately prove the negligence of the other driver.
Wrongful Death Laws in Colorado
In Colorado, a civil suit may be brought apart from any other criminal case surrounding the incident where the misconduct of a person or company caused the death of another. The spouse, children, and parents, along with the official estate representative may bring a civil wrongful death claim against the offending party.
Misconduct of the offender is defined as either negligence, recklessness, or intentional behavior that caused the wrongful death. Negligence is typically the easiest to prove, and the overall wrongful death claim generally requires less evidence to prove in a civil case than in the criminal case brought by the Colorado prosecutors office.
How to Sue a Drunk Driver for a Wrongful Death?
Immediately after the wrongful death occurs, it is advisable to speak with an experienced attorney immediately. An experienced attorney often knows which information to obtain in order to successfully preserve and gather evidence to support your wrongful death case, as well as the deadlines for bringing your case to the court. Additionally, an experienced wrongful death attorney will have the familiarity and compassion in order to deal with your difficult situation professionally.
Your legal team will likely seek an official police report of the accident. In many cases, the report may serve as official documentation of the intoxication of the driver who caused the wrongful death.
Once all of the proper evidence is gathered, your attorney will file a lawsuit with the pertinent court, likely a Colorado State Court, naming the party that caused the wrongful death, and the claims against them – including the wrongful death claim and a summary of your case.
After the other party in notified of the lawsuit, their attorney may attempt to reach an early settlement, depending upon the initial evidence that may seek to end the case quickly in order to avoid extended legal costs, or to avoid a loss at trial. Ultimately, your experienced wrongful death attorney can advise you on the action that is in your best favor.
Compensation for Wrongful Death Caused By a Drunk Driver
While many personal injury lawsuits deal with pain or damages directly caused to you, a wrongful death case is available when the misconduct of another is the cause of death to a loved one. The close family member or official representative of the estate is essentially bringing a lawsuit on behalf of your loved one.
There are various damages available for compensation. You may have suffered from the wrongful death in the form of emotional pain, injury, and trauma, as well as the loss of insurance cover, loss of financial support, personal companionship, and protection.
It is important to remember that you may still sue the drunk driver who caused the wrongful death whether or not the drunk driver is separately criminally prosecuted.
The damages that arise from a wrongful death drunk driving crash are not limited to tangible losses such as property damage. The court system of Colorado recognizes that damages may also include loss of financial support, loss of companionship, emotional pain and suffering, as well as medical and funeral expenses.
There are numerous factors that the court system uses in calculating the damages you have experienced from the wrongful death. The deceased’s age and health before the accident can come into play into estimating their future lost income and potential lost financial support.
Further, life expectancy and physical characteristics of the deceased can also be used in calculating monetary damages such as loss of future financial support. Due to the number of factors that may be used in quantifying your monetary damages from the wrongful death, it is strongly advisable to consult with an experienced wrongful death attorney. An attorney can formulate evidence that can be used in calculating the most significant and accurate compensation for your loss.
An experienced attorney in wrongful death cases will also have experience in professionally dealing with such a delicate situation of a grieving family who is seeking restitution for damages incurred by the wrongful death.
Legal Time Limits to Bring a Wrongful Death Case in Colorado
In order to bring a wrongful death claim in Colorado against a drunk driver, you must be the personal representative of the deceased’s estate. A personal representative most commonly includes immediate close family, such as spouses, children, and parents. Also, an official representative of the deceased’s estate may be able to bring a claim.
Colorado has a two-year statute of limitations on all wrongful death claims. The statute of limitations is a time limit in which you must bring your claim. The statute of limitations is a two-year time frame in which you may bring your case starts from the time of death occurred. If you wait until after the statute of limitations has ended, you may be prevented from bringing the lawsuit in a Colorado court.
In Colorado, the surviving spouse of the deceased may bring a wrongful death claim at any time within the statute of limitations, and the children may bring a claim in the second year, or immediately if there is no surviving spouse. If there are no surviving spouses or children, then the parents may bring a claim at any time during the statute of limitations.
The official representative of the estate may bring a claim after a year for certain limited purposes, such as securing medical and funeral expenses, and other losses to the estate, or immediately if there are no surviving spouses, children, or parents.
Given the statute of limitations period, it is imperative to at least consult with an experienced Colorado wrongful death attorney immediately after the event occurs in order to maximize your chances of successfully bringing your case, as well as being sure to adhere to Colorado laws such as the statute of limitations.
OUR EXPERIENCED AND EXPERIENCED COLORADO WRONGFUL DEATH ATTORNEYS CAN HELP
Losing a loved one at the hands of a drunk driver is extremely tragic and saddening.
While complex factors such as the intoxication of the other driver, the circumstances surrounding the accident, police reports, and statute of limitations can be considered in your wrongful death case, our compassionate attorneys have the resources to help you bring a strong case against the wrongdoer.
Our attorneys believe competent, professional, and effective legal representation should be affordable. This is why at Zinda Law Group we provide completely free consultations to discuss your case. Call (800) 863-5312 for your free consultation with an experienced and competent Colorado wrongful death attorney today.
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