While “wrongful death” might seem like a broad or vague term, it actually has a specific legal definition. So, if you’re wondering whether you can claim a wrongful death lawsuit, you’ll want to first consider the following information.
What Is It?
Wrongful death refers to a situation in which a person dies due to the actions of another person. Those actions could be either negligent or intentional.
When Does It Apply?
Because the defendant’s actions might have been the result of intentional actions or simply negligence, this type of lawsuit can apply to a variety of circumstances. Here are a few examples:
Medical malpractice could lead to a wrong death lawsuit. This is when a surgeon or doctor is careless in a way that would be deemed unusual for standard medical professionals. For example, using unsterilized equipment or performing unnecessary surgeries are mistakes that could prove fatal to a patient. WebMD reports that over 4,000 preventable mistakes take place in surgery rooms every year. These don’t always prove fatal, but they often negatively affect the patient’s health.
Car accidents can also lead to a wrongful death lawsuit. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, suggests that most roadway fatalities are due to distracted, drowsy, or drunk drivers. When negligent drivers end the lives of passengers or other people on the road, they put themselves at risk of a serious lawsuit.
Mistakes aren’t always the reason behind a wrongful death lawsuit. If the death was the result of intentional actions, a claim can still be filed. While this might sound like murder, murder comes with a higher burden of proof than wrongful death. In fact, this is where the phrase “beyond a reasonable doubt” comes in. In order for murder to apply, the person filing the claim also needs enough evidence to prove the defendant’s intent.
Many times, when a not guilty verdict is reached in a murder trial, the plaintiff proceeds to a wrongful death claim. This following lawsuit can involve the same evidence, but it’s easier for the plaintiff to win this time around.
Keep in mind that, while these are common reasons to file a wrongful death lawsuit, they’re not the only reasons.
Who Can Bring a Lawsuit?
Not just anyone can file a lawsuit related to a deceased individual. Each state has specific laws in place to determine eligibility. In Colorado, a surviving spouse, children, parents, or individuals who represent the deceased person’s estate can file claims, but there are quite a few factors to consider, including timing.
During the year following a person’s death, their surviving spouse is the only person who can file a wrongful death claim. This person can also choose to include the children in this legal battle.
Children can file in the first year if the person who died didn’t have a spouse. Otherwise, the children will have to wait until the second year following the death, or hope the spouse includes them.
A deceased person’s parents can file a wrongful death claim if the person didn’t have a spouse or children. If, however, the deceased person does have a surviving spouse or children, but those individuals simply declined to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit, the parents cannot file for one either.
Representatives of the Estate
Individuals who represent the deceased’s estate can also file claims to recover losses during the second year following the death.
Other Family Members
A standard list of additional family members often includes nieces, nephews, and even siblings. It might seem odd, but, according to Colorado laws, none of these people are eligible to file the lawsuit.
In Colorado, wrongful death claims in need to made within two years of the person’s passing. Between this statute of limitations and the eligibility laws, the state has fairly strict conditions surrounding wrongful death lawsuits. However, some exceptions can apply when it comes to deadlines. Colorado law experts like Lampert & Walsh can advise clients on further details, as well as provide guidance throughout the potentially complex legal process.
It’s a tough reality to face: No matter how the lawsuit turns out, a life was lost due to negligence. What can a plaintiff hope to gain from a wrongful death lawsuit?
Surviving family members often try to receive compensation for the deceased person’s expected wages and benefits, including life insurance. Damages can also be sought for things such as loss of companionship, protection, and assistance. Medical costs and pain and suffering the deceased person experienced before death are also potential damages. And, of course, family members might seek compensation for funeral and burial costs.
This can be a lot of information to take in, especially for grieving family members. And the possibilities of a complicated legal process can make things more difficult. Anyone looking to file a wrongful death claim should be sure to consult with legal experts who will steer them in the right direction.