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When a person dies as the result of another’s negligence, many people hesitate to pursue a wrongful death claim. They may think a wrongful death claim will not bring their loved one back, and therefore, choose not to pursue such a claim. In truth, perhaps a wrongful death claim will provide closure or perhaps it will not. Everyone is different; however, while money certainly will not replace the life you had with your loved one, it can make the future a bit easier, particularly if the deceased was the primary wage earner in your family.
Wrongful deaths are never just devastating and emotionally exhausting—although they certainly are those things—they can also be costly. Funeral expenses, medical bills, insurance payments, car repairs…the list of expenses can go on and on. Working with an experienced wrongful death lawyer from the Law Offices of Dianne Sawaya can help you receive the compensation you need and deserve following the wrongful death of your loved one. Our wrongful death attorneys are smart, aggressive and compassionate and we truly care about you and your family—let our family fight for your family.
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What is Wrongful Death?
A wrongful death claim may be brought against a person or entity who caused another’s death, whether through negligence or through intentional harm. A wrongful death claim allows the estate of the deceased person to file a lawsuit against the party who is legally liable for the death. A wrongful death claim is filed by a representative of the estate, on behalf of surviving family members and other affected parties.
A wrongful death claim is, essentially, a claim which otherwise would have been a personal injury claim due to negligence or an intentional harmful act, except that the victim died. When a victim dies as a result of medical malpractice or when there is a car accident fatality involving negligence are just a few examples of how a personal injury case can turn into a wrongful death claim. The one exception is when a death occurs in the workplace; these types of deaths must usually be handled through the state’s worker’s compensation system.
What Are The Typical Causes of Wrongful Death Claims?
There are a number of types of wrongful death claims, including the following:
- Auto accidents;
- Large commercial truck accidents;
- Motorcycle accidents;
- Bicycle or pedestrian accidents;
- Auto accidents where a defect in the car is present;
- Deaths caused by defective medical devices;
- Deaths caused by dangerous prescription drugs;
- Medical negligence;
- Nursing home deaths caused by medical errors, abuse or neglect;
- Construction site deaths including falls or faulty equipment;
- Defective product deaths;
- Defective or absent warning label consumer deaths, and
Who Can Pursue a Wrongful Death Claim in Colorado?
Every state has its own set of rules and laws regarding who is eligible to file a wrongful death claim. In the state of Colorado, those who have lost an immediate family member due to a willful or negligent act may be able to pursue financial compensation for the loss. Colorado laws regarding wrongful death are meant to protect those who were economically dependent on the deceased.
During the first year after the wrongful death, a Colorado spouse has the exclusive right to file a wrongful death action to receive financial compensation for the losses. During the second year following the death, the spouse and the heirs of the deceased may bring a wrongful death claim. These heirs include children and grandchildren—siblings are usually not allowed to bring a wrongful death claim. When there is no surviving spouse or children, the parents of the deceased are allowed to bring a wrongful death claim. Filing a wrongful death claim can bring compensation for:
- Loss of support;
- Loss of insurance benefits
- Loss of earnings the deceased would have provided;
- Loss of protection, companionship, love and guidance;
- Funeral expenses;
- Medical expenses, and
- Punitive damages in some instances to punish the wrongdoer.
It is important to remember that the state of Colorado has a two-year statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim. Once that time has passed, family members will no longer be able to receive financial compensation for your loss. It is important to speak to an attorney from the Law Offices of Dianne Sawaya today.
What Must Be Proven in a Wrongful Death Claim?
To hold a defendant liable in a wrongful death claim, the claimants in the case must meet the same burden of proof that the victim would have been required to meet if he or she had lived. In short, this means that it must be shown that the defendant owed the deceased a duty of care, that the duty of care was breached by the defendant, that the breach was a direct cause of the death, and that the death caused the damages the plaintiff is attempting to recover.
Wrongful Death vs. Medical Malpractice
Many people wonder about the differences between a wrongful death claim and a medical malpractice claim. Although medical malpractice may lead to death, then a wrongful death claim, not all wrongful death claims will emerge from medical malpractice. Medical malpractice results when a medical professional is negligent and as a result of that negligence, a patient is harmed. Wrongful death occurs when a death occurs as a direct result of a wrongful act, carelessness, lack of action or negligence. Some examples of medical malpractice include surgical errors, delayed treatment, misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose, birth injuries, nursing home abuse and medication errors.
Medical malpractice can occur at any point from diagnosis to treatment to follow-up care. A wrongful death has a broader legal context than a medical malpractice claim or a personal injury lawsuit. While medical malpractice directly addresses medical negligence (and a medical negligence case can lead to a wrongful death claim), a wrongful death claim could result from an auto accident, assault, nursing home abuse, birth injuries, medical malpractice, recalled or dangerous foods sold in grocery stores or restaurants, recalled or dangerous vehicles, defective medical devices or dangerous drugs. When medical malpractice results in a death, an attorney from the Law Offices of Dianne Sawaya can help grieving family members file a wrongful death claim.
How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Determined?
As you might imagine, placing a monetary value on a life is extremely difficult. There are factors, however, which are typically considered in order to reach a specific wrongful death settlement amount. These factors include:
- The level of medical expenses incurred by the deceased;
- The state of health of the deceased prior to the accident which led to death;
- The earning capacity of the deceased;
- The age of the deceased;
- The wages of the deceased at the time of his or her death;
- The age of the dependents of the deceased;
- The education of the deceased;
- The training of the deceased;
- Funeral expenses for the deceased, and
- The value of lost benefits from the deceased, such as health insurance or a retirement pension.
The damages which lead to a settlement are not simply an estimate, rather must be supported by objective evidence. Expert witnesses, such as economists will look at the life of the deceased and consider many different circumstances when determining a wrongful death settlement amount. Pain and suffering can be awarded for loss of consortium, loss of parental guidance, loss of comfort or loss of love and companionship and are different from other financial damages in that they are a bit more subjective.
A wrongful death settlement is usually paid by the insurance provider who covered the person or entity being held responsible for the death. Most insurance policies have a limit; if the liable party does not have sufficient coverage, they may be held personally responsible for any amount over what the insurance company will pay. Wrongful death settlements are non-taxable, although if punitive damages are awarded, the IRS may tax that portion of the settlement.
What is a Survival Action Claim?
A survival action claim can also be filed following a person’s death; however, in a survival action claim only the person who is the representative of the victim’s estate is allowed to file such a claim. If the deceased made no representative appointment prior to his or her death, the court may name one. The goal of a survival action claim is to recover compensation for expenses incurred by the victim from the time he or she was injured until the time of death. As an example, suppose a person was severely injured in an auto accident caused by the negligence of another person or entity. The injured person might live for days, weeks or months prior to his or her death. The estate of the deceased can recover compensation for the medical expenses incurred during this time, and all compensation will go to the victim’s estate.
How Long Does a Wrongful Death Claim Usually Take?
It is impossible to say exactly how long a wrongful death claim will take; some wrongful death claims resolve in a few months, while others can take years to fully resolve. If the at-fault party has minimal insurance, this could cause the wrongful death claim to drag on for an extended length of time. When the responsibility for the wrongful death is disputed, it can take longer to resolve the case, or when an insurance company offers a settlement which is not even close to a fair case value, a wrongful death claim can stretch out for a longer period of time.
How Can a Colorado Wrongful Death Attorney Help?
When you make the decision to speak to an experienced wrongful death attorney from the Law Offices of Dianne Sawaya, you will be speaking to a knowledgeable, compassionate attorney who has spent many years advocating for those who have lost a loved one due to the negligence of another. Coping with the death of a loved one is one of the most difficult, traumatic experiences in life, however the grieving process can be significantly intensified when that death was the direct result of negligence.
A highly qualified wrongful death attorney from the Law Offices of Dianne Sawaya can help you every step of the way, ensuring you are properly compensated for your loss. We understand that your current situation can seem overwhelming. We will provide answers to your questions regarding your wrongful death claim and we urge you to contact our offices as quickly as possible so we can start fighting for your family.
What Can I Do If My Loved One Dies In A Car Accident?
You’re not alone. In fact, 1.3 million people die in auto accidents each year, and about 3,280 die each day. And when your loved one has become the next statistic, your nightmare becomes a reality. There’s no “how to” guide for this. There is no set procedure. But we do insist that hiring a car accident wrongful death attorney to fight for you should be your next step.
Calling a car accident lawyer is in your best interest, and we know that there are many out there. Look for one with experience, but more than that, look for a car accident attorney who is going to fight for your family with compassion, gusto, and strength that knows no bounds. Learn more about our car accident injury attorneys.
What is Pain and Suffering?
Think of the stress you’re going through right now. It seems unquantifiable, we know. But “pain and suffering” is the term used in the legal process to describe this stress and anguish one undergoes because of someone else’s negligence.
There’s no surgery to repair pain and suffering. And there’s no dollar amount that can truly compensate your family for the incredible loss you’ve suffered. We know that seeking wrongful death compensation is only the very start of your long recovery from this deep pain and suffering. But it is a start.
To learn more about how you can seek wrongful death compensation in Colorado for the pain and suffering you’re enduring after your loved one has been killed, call today.
Call Law Offices of Dianne Sawaya Today
This is incredibly overwhelming. We hope that we provided answers to the questions you had, but we know you probably have more. We urge you to call us as soon as you can so that we can answer those questions and start fighting for your family.
Call us today and speak to a wrongful death injury lawyer.