Fort Collins Wrongful Death Lawyer
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If you have recently lost a loved one to an accident, you may be eligible to file a wrongful death suit. While no amount of money can replace a lost loved one, you may be able to receive compensation to help deal with the financial burden that can come with their loss by contacting an experienced Fort Collins wrongful death attorney.
Definition of Wrongful Death
A wrongful death occurs when a person dies as the result of another person’s negligent, reckless, or intentional actions.
Common Wrongful Death Cases
Roads can be dangerous places, with some accidents causing the death of one or more people involved. If your loved one died as a result of a car accident where the other driver was driving under the influence, fell asleep at the wheel, or was driving recklessly, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim. The negligent driver who caused an accident is usually considered to be at fault.
Accidents involving large trucks can often result in the death of the driver or passengers of smaller vehicles due to the truck’s heavier weight and larger size. Truck accidents can result from fatigued truck drivers, failure to properly maintain the truck’s brakes, or turning too widely. A truck driver who negligently causes an accident may be at fault for the accident, potentially in addition to the trucking company, a vehicle or parts manufacturer, or government entity overseeing road maintenance.
Many workplaces can be dangerous, and if employers fail to take proper precautions such as enforcing safety rules, providing safety equipment, or properly maintaining equipment, fatal accidents may occur. Fatal workplace accidents caused by negligence may be the employer’s fault, equipment manufacturer, or a third party.
Physicians may sometimes cause wrongful death, potentially through misdiagnosis of conditions, improper treatment, or errors during surgery. A negligent doctor whose actions cause the death of a person may be at fault for that death.
Manufacturers have a duty to ensure their products will not harm consumers when used as intended and that flawed products are prevented from entering the market. Some manufacturers, however, may fail to ensure proper quality control measures are taken, and these malfunctioning or defective products can make their way to consumers, potentially causing death. In such cases, the manufacturer will often be at fault.
Fatalities sometimes occur because of unsafe conditions on the premises, often as a result of a slip and fall. Death may occur as a result of traumatic brain injuries, spinal injuries, or other serious injuries that cause the victim’s death. The property owner will often be the party held liable for these deaths.
What to Do After A Wrongful Death
1. Consult A Wrongful Death Attorney
If a loved one has died in an accident, you should immediately consult with a Fort Collins wrongful death attorney, to ensure they are able to fully investigate your claim and potentially seek compensation for your loss.
2. Obtain A Death Certificate
You should obtain a death certificate from your local Colorado Department of Health office, as it will provide legal evidence of your loved one’s death.
3. Appoint A Personal Representative
If a personal representative of the deceased’s estate is not already named in a will, you will need to name one. The personal representative of the estate will present the wrongful death claim and represent the surviving family members.
4. Document Evidence
It is important to document the nature of the accident, as well as the details surrounding it. You should collect the contact information of any witnesses that may have seen the accident occur. If possible, you should also take photographs of the accident and the area where it occurred. This evidence can help your attorney prove liability and negligence.
5. Investigation of Accident
Once you have consulted and hired a wrongful death lawyer, they will immediately set about investigating the accident to determine its cause, liability, and if negligence may have played a role in the accident.
Elements of A Wrongful Death Claim
Four elements must be proven in a wrongful death claim:
- Duty of Care: The defendant had a duty of care to the victim
- Breach of Duty: The defendant breached their duty of care and acted negligently.
- Causation: The defendant’s breach caused the fatal accident.
- Damages: In wrongful death cases, the victim’s death satisfies the damages requirement.
1. Duty of Care
It must be proven the defendant had a duty of care to the victim. A duty of care requires a party to take precautions to help ensure an accident does not occur.
2. Breach of Duty
Once a duty of care toward the victim has been established, it must be proven that a breach of duty has occurred. For example, a breach of duty could be driving while intoxicated, fatigued, or distracted, failing to ensure proper quality control is maintained during the manufacture of products, or failing to ensure that employees have access to proper safety gear.
If it is shown that the defendant did breach a duty of care, your attorney must also show that this breach caused the accident. This could include proving that distracted driving caused the collision, failure to properly inspect products caused the defective product to be sold to a consumer, or failure to ensure employees had proper safety gear caused the workplace accident.
In wrongful death cases, the damages requirement is satisfied by showing the accident caused the victim’s death.
- At-fault Driver: The at-fault driver may be liable if they behaved in a negligent or reckless manner.
- Vehicle Manufacturer: If the manufacturer was negligent in the design or manufacture of the vehicle, they may be liable.
- Trucking/Cargo Company: If a truck or 18-wheeler was at fault in the accident, the trucking/cargo company that operates it may be liable
- Government Agencies: If the accident was caused by poor or improper maintenance of the roadway, government agencies responsible for maintaining that roadway may be liable.
- Employer: If the employer fails to provide proper safety gear, training, enforce safety rules, or properly maintain equipment, and this results in an accident, the employer may be liable
- Equipment Manufacturer: If tools, machinery, or safety equipment malfunction due to a defect and cause an accident, the equipment manufacturer may be liable
- Third Parties: If a third party was present in the workplace, and they caused an accident through negligent behavior, they may be liable.
- Product Manufacturer: If a product causes an accident by malfunctioning due to design flaws or manufacturing defects, the product manufacturer may be liable.
- Physician: If a doctor fails to take proper precautions and acts in a negligent or reckless manner, and causes an accident, they may be liable
- Property Owner – The property owner is often held liable for slip and falls or other fatal accidents on the premises.
- Employee – Employees may also be held liable if their actions negligently caused the unsafe condition and fatal accident.
How To File A Wrongful Death Claim
1. Consult A Wrongful Death Lawyer
You should consult a Fort Collins wrongful death attorney as soon as possible if you have lost a loved one in an accident. An experienced wrongful death lawyer will help you navigate the complex legal intricacies involved in filing such suits.
After you have consulted and hired a wrongful death lawyer, your attorney will start to investigate the accident that resulted in the death of your loved one to determine liability and if negligence may have been involved.
Once your attorney has determined the facts of the case, they will present your claim to the liable party. Proof of liability and evidence of negligence will help to strengthen your position in these negotiations. The defendant will offer a counterclaim, and negotiating may go back and forth until a settlement is agreed upon.
In the event a settlement cannot be agreed upon, the case may go to trial, where you may be able to recover compensation for the loss of your loved one.
Wrongful Death Settlements
In Colorado, families are allowed to collect economic and non-economic compensation including:
- Medical Costs: Compensation for medical costs will include costs of hospital stays, treatments, and medications the victim may have incurred due to the accident before death.
- Burial Costs: Compensation for burial costs will cover costs incurred during the burial and funeral process.
- Loss of Income: If the victim was unable to work after accident due to injuries suffered in the accident, the family may be able to collect compensation for loss of income during the period after the accident before death.
- Loss of Potential Income: The death of a loved one can often mean the loss of an income provider for a family. Loss of potential income compensation can be claimed by the family, and is calculated based on a variety of factors, including the victims age, sex, health, type of work performed, salary at time of death, and others.
- Pain and Suffering: Compensation for pain and suffering can be claimed to compensate for the physical and emotional pain caused by the accident before the victim’s death. This type of compensation will vary with every case, dependent on the specific details regarding the nature of the injuries from the accident.
- Emotional Distress: Compensation for emotional distress may be claimed to compensate for the emotional pain suffered by the surviving family of the victim.
- Loss of Parental Guidance: This type of compensation is claimed by the surviving children of the victim, as compensation for the loss of care provided by the victim.
- Loss of Consortium: The surviving spouse may be able to claim compensation for loss of the victim's companionship.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations restricts the amount of time that may pass before a claim is no longer allowed to be filed. Colorado places a two-year statute of limitations on wrongful death claims. This period usually begins upon the date of the victim’s death.
In the first year after a victim’s death, only a surviving spouse may file a wrongful death lawsuit. During the second year after the victim’s death, a surviving spouse, surviving children, or surviving parents if there is no surviving spouse or children, may file suit.
Wrongful Death of a Child
A wrongful death suit may be filed by the parents of a minor, (a child under the age of 18), if they die as the result of an accident where the liable party was negligent. These cases differ from those filed by the spouse or children of adult victims, in that the parents of a victim who was a minor will only be able to claim economic damages, such as medical and burial costs. Economic damages resulting from the death of a minor will generally be lower than those of an adult who contributes economically to the family through income, as minors have not had the chance to begin earning yet.
GET HELP FROM OUR FORT COLLINS WRONGFUL DEATH ATTORNEYS
At Zinda Law Group, our Colorado wrongful death lawyers have the knowledge and resources to help you build the strongest case possible and seek the compensation and justice that you and your family deserve.
Our firm also believes that grieving victims should never have to worry about being able to afford excellent legal representation. That is why we offer 100% free consultations, and why you will pay nothing unless we win your case. That’s our No Fee Guarantee.
If you have lost a loved one due to another’s negligence, call Zinda Law Group today at (855) 693-9177 to receive your free consultation with one of our experienced and compassionate wrongful death lawyers in Fort Collins.
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