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The loss of a loved one is always difficult to cope with, but when the death of a loved one was caused by someone else's negligent behavior, it can make the situation even more painful. The sudden departure of a loved one because of an accident can cause financial hardship for their family in addition to the emotional pain and suffering. A Denver wrongful death attorney can help you to get back on your feet and seek compensation for your losses.
Call us today on 512 246 2224 for a FREE consultation with a wrongful death lawyer in Denver.
Wrongful Death Defined
Wrongful death can be defined as a death that resulted from an accident caused by another person’s negligent or intentional acts. In these cases, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit to seek economic compensation from the at fault party for your losses, this includes your financial losses such as funeral expenses, lost income and also loss of consortium or loss of companionship.
What to Do After an Accidental Death
1. Consult an Attorney
If you have lost a loved one in an accident and believe the accident may have been caused by someone else's negligent behavior, you should contact a Denver wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. This allows your attorney to have ample time to investigate the details of your claim and determine liability and negligence and potentially file any lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires.
2. Obtain A Death Certificate
You should obtain a death certificate from the Colorado Department of Health.
3. Document the Accident
You should document as much evidence regarding the accident as possible. You should attempt to collect or take photographs of the accident site and objects that may have been involved in an accident. It is also important to collect the contact information of any witnesses to the accident.
4. Appoint A Personal Representative of The Estate
In a wrongful death case, you will need to appoint a personal representative of the estate of the deceased to represent the surviving family members, if one is not already named in a will.
5. Investigation of Accident
Once you have contacted an experienced attorney, they will begin to investigate the accident and determine if you may be eligible to file a wrongful death suit, they will help you file the lawsuit and potentially recover compensation for your lost loved one
Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim
In order to successfully pursue a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff must prove the following:
Duty of Care
In order to prove liability, it must be shown that the persona at fault for the accident had a duty of care towards the deceased. A duty of care is an obligation that the at-fault party had to behave in a certain manner and take certain precautions in order to prevent an accident from occurring.
Breach of Duty
It must then be shown that the this duty of care was breached, such as by driving under the influence or speeding.
Even if a duty of care has been proven as well as a breach of that duty, it must still be proven that this breach caused the accident that resulted in the wrongful death.
A claim can be denied even if duty, breach of duty, and causation can be proven, but damages or injury to the victim cannot. However, in wrongful death cases, damages and injuries to the victim is usually presumed if the other factors can be proven, as the accident resulted in the victim's death.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
A wrongful death action can be brought by:
- Spouse - if married at the time of the accident
- Child - if at least one year has elapsed since the victim’s death or the victim’s spouse is no longer alive
- Parent - if the victim left no surviving spouse or children
A sibling cannot file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Parties That Can Be Held Liable
In a wrongful death case, there are a variety of parties that may be held liable, depending on the type of accident involved as well as the details surrounding it. These parties may be liable:
- At Fault Driver – If they behaved in a negligent or reckless manner that led to an accident resulting in death.
- Car Manufacturer – If they were negligent in the design or manufacture of the vehicle or its parts, and a malfunction causes death.
- Government Entities – If poor maintenance of roadways or related objects caused a fatal accident.
- Trucking/Cargo Company – If a large truck or 18-wheeler was the cause of the accident resulting in death due to negligence.
- Employer – The employer may be held liable in many workplace accidents, often for a failure to promote effective safety measures, conduct proper oversight, or comply with safety regulations, as well as in cases where the employer’s employee negligently caused the accident.
- Employee – Employees may be held liable if they negligently cause the workplace accident or the unsafe condition that led to the fatal accident.
- Physician – If the doctor behaved in a negligent manner that resulted in the death of the patient.
- Product Manufacturer – If a medical device or medication was manufactured and/or distributed in a negligent manner that resulted in death.
- Product Manufacturer - If the manufacturer of a defective product that caused death through a malfunction acted negligently during the manufacturing or design process of the product.
- Retailer – The retailer or distributor who sold the defective product may also be liable in some wrongful death claims.
- Premises Owner – The premises owner is the most common party held liable in slip and fall cases or for other unsafe conditions.
- Employees – Some employees may be held liable if they negligently caused the unsafe condition.
How To File A Wrongful Death Claim
1. Contact A Wrongful Death Attorney
If you have lost a loved one due to an accident where negligence was involved, you should contact a Denver wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. A wrongful death attorney can help guide you through the process, investigate your wrongful death claim, and help to seek potential compensation you may be entitled to.
Once you have hired an experienced wrongful death attorney, they will begin the process of investigating the accident that resulted in the death of your loved one and the details surrounding it. This investigation will help them to determine liability and potentially prove negligence.
Your attorney will present your claim to the defendant or their insurers, and they will give a counteroffer. Your Denver attorney will use the facts uncovered during their investigation to help strengthen your claim. This negotiation may go on for some time until a settlement is reached.
If no settlement can be reached, the case may go to trial. Your lawyer will go to court to prove liability and negligence in order to seek compensation by judgment.
Wrongful Death Settlement
Wrongful death compensation laws vary by state. In Colorado, wrongful death laws allow for a family to collect both economic as well as non-economic compensation.
The victim in a wrongful death lawsuit may have survived for some time after the accident before succumbing to their injuries, and may have incurred heavy medical expenses. Compensation for medical damages will usually include costs of hospital stay, treatments, and medications.
Compensation for burial costs usually covers the cost of funeral services and burial.
Loss of Earnings
Compensation for lost income awards are based on lost income during the time period after the accident, but before the loved one’s death, as they were unable to work during this time due to injuries.
Loss of Earning Potential
Compensation for the potential income a lost loved one could have been expected to earn during a normal lifetime. This is calculated according to the deceased's salary at the time of the accident, sex, age, health, nature of occupation, and other variables.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering damages offer compensation for the physical and emotional pain or agony the victim may have suffered before their death as a result of the accident. Pain and suffering compensation varies according to the nature of the injuries and details surrounding the accident.
Emotional distress damages provide compensation for emotional anguish and distress suffered by the family due to the death of the victim. This compensation can vary according to the details of the case.
Loss of Parental Guidance
If the victim of a wrongful death was survived by their children, the children may be eligible for compensation for the loss of their parent and the care they provided.
Loss of Companionship
If the victim of a wrongful death was survived by a spouse, the spouse may be able to claim compensation for the loss of companionship due to the wrongful death.
Statute of Limitations
In Colorado, the statute of limitations requires the family of a victim of a wrongful death accident to file a claim within two years of the death. If the claim is not filed within this time, it will most likely be dismissed if filed later. It should also be noted that in Colorado, there are time restrictions on when certain family members may file a wrongful death claim. Only a surviving spouse can file a wrongful death claim during the first year after death. During the second year after death, a wrongful death claim may be filed by a surviving spouse, surviving children, or in the absence of a surviving spouse or children, surviving parents may file a claim.
Child Wrongful Death
If a child who is a minor, or under the age of 18, is dies in a fatal accident, and negligence may have been involved, the parents of the child can file a wrongful death claim, so long as the child does not have a spouse or children. However, the damages that parents may seek in these cases are limited to financial damages, and these may be much smaller than similar damage for an adult who contributes to the financial ability of the family.
Common Wrongful Death Cases
Car accidents can often prove fatal. Common causes of car accidents caused by negligence include distracted drivers, drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or fatigued drivers. In most car accident cases, the negligent driver will be at fault, but if the accident was caused by a mechanical malfunction or a dangerous road condition such as a deep pothole or bridge failure, the car manufacturer or government entity may be at fault.
Due to differences in size and weight, accidents involving large trucks or 18-wheelers often result in the death of the driver or passengers of cars involved. These accidents are often caused by negligent behavior such as fatigued driving, driving under the influence, and distracted driving. Some accidents may be caused by mechanical malfunctions, such as brake or tire failure. Depending on the nature of the accident, the driver and/or the trucking or shipping company who owns the truck may be at fault.
Despite substantial regulation, many workplaces often present many dangers and cause fatalities. Common causes of wrongful death include failure to enforce proper safety rules, properly maintain safety equipment, or effectively train employees to perform work safely. If a wrongful death is caused by a workplace accident, the employer may be at fault, as well as any negligent employees, present third-parties, manufacturers, or others who contributed to the accident.
Sometimes medical professionals like doctors may be at fault for the death of a loved one. Such behaviors can include cutting corners or using shortcuts in procedures to save time and effort, misdiagnosis of a condition, a failure to diagnosis it completely, or failure to follow proper protocols during a procedure. The physician responsible for the patient may be at fault for their death if they have acted in such a negligent manner, and in some cases, the hospital or doctor’s employer may also be liable.
We increasingly rely on a variety of manufactured products and machinery to go about our daily lives, but sometimes these machines and products can malfunction, with deadly results. Defective products are usually caused by flawed designs or manufacturing defects. In these cases, the product manufacturer may often be at fault as well as distributors or retailers or the defective product.
Various injuries are often suffered while on the premises of a business or other third party. Slip and fall accidents are one of the most common causes of personal injury on the premises of another. These falls can sometimes cause a traumatic brain injury, severe internal injury, spinal cord injury, or other serious injury leading to the victim’s death. If a death has occurred, the property owner will often be held at fault, in addition to any negligent employees or third parties who may have contributed to the unsafe conditions that caused the death.
Frequently Asked Questions
When is this claim valid?
- When a victim is killed as a result of negligence or an intentional harmful act
What do you need to prove?
- You will need proof that their actions were a direct cause of the death
- You will also need proof that the victim’s death caused the damages you are seeking to recover
Who can file a wrongful death claim?
- The spouse or the surviving children
- If there are no surviving spouse or children, the parents may file the claim
Should you have an attorney?
- This answer is always yes
- Hiring a qualified personal injury attorney with experience in wrongful death cases is vital when seeking compensation for the death of your loved one
CALL ZINDA LAW GROUP NOW TO LEARN ABOUT YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS
If you are a relative of a victim that is deceased due to another party’s culpable behavior, it is important that you retain the services of a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible after the accident. Zinda Law Group is a Denver personal injury law firm that has handled numerous wrongful death cases.
Our Denver wrongful death lawyers will put their experience to work to seek the best possible settlement or court judgment for you. Call 303-225-9846 to get a free consultation with us to explore your options.
Meetings with Attorneys by appointment only.