In Colorado, a statutory right of recovery exists against a tortfeasor who causes the death of another.  The statute of limitations for wrongful death in Colorado is two years and begins to run on the date of the decedent’s death.  This type of claim is governed by the Colorado Wrongful Death Act and C.R.S. 13-21-201(1) and states that only certain parties are entitled to bring a wrongful death lawsuit.  These persons are the decedent’s spouse, “heir or heirs”, or the “designated beneficiary.”  However, if the decedent is single and has no children, the surviving parents are entitled to bring a lawsuit.

 

It’s important to know that in the first year following the decedent’s death, only the spouse is entitled to make a claim.  The three exceptions to this are 1. if the spouse files a written election to include the heir or heirs in the claim; 2. the decedent is single and has no children or designated beneficiary; or 3. the decedent is unmarried but has heirs.  If an action is not filed in the first year, then in the second year following the decedent’s death, either the spouse, heir(s), or designated beneficiary may file a lawsuit.  In the event, the heir(s) file a separate lawsuit during this second year, the spouse and/or designated beneficiary has the right to join the action within 90 days of the filing.

 

In order to prove a wrongful death case, the claimant must prove that the tortfeasor negligently caused the decedent’s death.  Like other types of actions in Colorado, there is a cap on non-economic damages.  Currently, the cap is $341,250 and applies on a per-claim basis, not a per-defendant basis.  However, in a wrongful death case arising from a medical malpractice, the non-economic damages cap is $300,000 per the governing Health Care Availability Act.  Economic damages are also available and while there is no cap, such damages can only be recovered by the decedent’s dependents, most often the spouse or minor children.

 

Kidneigh & Kaufman is experienced in handling wrongful death cases and our attorney are available to answer any questions you may have.

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