Filing a wrongful death suit – the basics

On Behalf of | Jul 18, 2017 | blog |

When we lose a loved one due to the negligence or recklessness of another, we typically want answers and justice. In many cases, wrongful death suits come after a criminal trial. For example, if a wreck with a drunk driver is responsible for the death of an individual, the family might choose to follow through with a suit for wrongful death after the court either convicts or finds innocent the accused driver. Since the burden of proof is much lower in wrongful death cases versus criminal trials, it is possible to win a claim even if the court found the defendant innocent of any criminal wrongdoing.

In order to file a wrongful death suit, the personal representative of your loved one’s estate must initiate the filing. The suit might include the demand for damages for injuries, pain and suffering of the decedent, and any other expenses that resulted from the accident. Read further to find out more about the basics of a wrongful death lawsuit.

Required elements

For the estate’s representative to file a suit, certain conditions must exist. First, the reckless or negligent act must have resulted in the death of a person. The person responsible for the act must have acted in a negligent or reckless way or had the intention to cause an injury. Also, there must be surviving family members suffering financial loss due to the individual’s death. The final requirement is that the estate must have a personal representative.

Common causes

Some common causes of wrongful deaths include medical malpractice, motor vehicle accidents, airplane accidents, exposure to toxic materials and criminal acts.

Measure of damages

In many cases, the damages of a wrongful death are measured using financial losses. For example, if a family has lost their main source of support through a loved one’s death, then the court would consider this a financial loss. Other financial losses include medical expenses associated with the accident, funeral costs and the loss of a prospective inheritance. Typically, the award amount in a wrongful death must be fair when compared with financial loss the family suffered.

Survival actions

In addition to the wrongful death award, the estate may also file to recover damages that the decedent suffered as a result of the accident but prior to death. For example, if a car accident severely injured an individual, but death was not immediate, the estate can sue for conscious pain and suffering. In these cases, the jury may examine the length and degree the victim was conscious, the level of pain endured, and the stress associated with the knowledge of death.

If you live in the Alamosa area and you are considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit, it is important to understand Colorado’s laws when it comes to such suits.