The unexpected death of a loved one is a traumatic and terrible event. In addition to personal concerns and grief, there may also be a loss of support or lost income, medical and funeral expenses for the family members of the deceased, and other unforeseen expenses.
A wrongful death occurs when a person is killed due to the negligence or misconduct of another individual, company or other entity. When this happens, the person's family may be eligible to take legal action to recover monetary damages from the responsible party. In order to bring a successful wrongful death action, it must be shown that a death has occurred, that negligence or intent to harm was the cause of the death, and that family members are suffering as a result of the death.
Here are some common causes of a wrongful death:
- Medical malpractice
- An car, truck, motorcycle, pedestrian, or airplane accident
- Exposure to hazardous conditions or substances on the job
- Criminal behavior
- Death during a supervised activity
When determining loss, the age, character and condition of the decedent, his or her earning capacity, life expectancy, health and intelligence, as well as the circumstances of the family members to whom the monetary awards will be distributed. Usually, the main consideration in awarding damages is the decedent's circumstances at the time of death. For example, when an adult wage earner with children dies, the major parts of the recovery are loss of income, and loss of parental guidance. The jury may consider the decedent's earnings at the time of death, the last known earnings if unemployed, and potential future earnings.
In a wrongful death action, the jury determines the size of the damages award after hearing the evidence. The size of the award may be adjusted upward or downward by the court for a variety of reasons. For example, if the decedent routinely squandered his income, this might reduce the family's recovery. Similarly, the courts will reduce a jury's award if the decedent had poor earnings, even though he was young, had great potential, and supported children.
Should I Contact an Attorney?
Given the complexity of the issues involved and the deadlines for filing the lawsuit, you should contact a Colorado attorney experienced in wrongful death cases as soon as possible to discuss your legal rights and your potential case.
For more information about wrongful death and getting help for wrongful death cases, view here.