The death of a loved one brings pain that won’t be healed with any sort of monetary compensation. But, if their death was due to negligence, it’s your right to hold the responsible parties accountable and collect what’s owed to you. This is possible through a wrongful death case. Similarly to other legal cases, the process isn’t always simple. There are a number of steps you’ll need to take and lots of factors to consider along the way. Here are some things to keep in mind as you prepare for the case.
Every state has specific statutes that lay out who can file a wrongful death claim, and Colorado is no exception:
According to the Centennial State’s statutes, in the first year following a person’s death, only the surviving spouse can file a wrongful death claim. However, the spouse can choose to include the children in the filing as well, and if there is no spouse, the children can proceed to file.
During the second year following the death, the surviving children as well as the spouse can file a wrongful death claim. In some cases, individuals who represent the deceased’s estate can also file claims to recover losses.
In the event that the deceased person didn’t have a spouse or children, the parents can file the wrongful death claim. But if the deceased person has children or a spouse who declined to file a claim, the deceased parents cannot file either. Notably, nieces, nephews, and siblings are not entitled to file a wrongful death claim.
Consider the Deadlines
Colorado has a statute of limitations on wrongful death claims, and it’s the same as other claims of negligence: two years. However, exceptions to this statute do exist. For example, if the defendant in the case tries to conceal facts surrounding the death, the person filing the claim might be given a time extension.
Anyone filing a wrongful death claim will have to prove their case. Working alongside legal professionals like Lampert & Walsh, the plaintiffs need to begin an investigation and carefully consider whether there’s enough evidence that points to negligence by the defendant. In some cases, finding evidence is fairly straightforward. For example, if a doctor doesn’t dispute a misdiagnosis followed by improper treatment, it can be easy to prove medical malpractice took place. Documentation such as a police report can help point to undeniable proof, and the case can then be quickly settled. An attorney can help ensure the plaintiffs receive the appropriate compensation.
Unfortunately not all wrongful death cases are this simple, and the investigation process can last months. Sometimes the defendants will dispute the evidence, meaning the case will likely move onto formal litigation.
Preparing for a Trial
Moving closer to a trial can be intimidating, as the process becomes increasingly complicated. Again, this isn’t the type of situation a person should attempt to handle unprepared or without an experienced professional.
There are a number of pre-trial hurdles to clear. For example, both sides will reveal collected evidence to each other during discovery. Written questions are exchanged and responded to under oath. Oral depositions also take place under oath. Attorneys representing each side will have a chance to talk about other trial preparations.
A jury trial is often the final step, and, depending on the available evidence, it might not be as suspenseful as expected.
The Importance of Prep Work
Even if filing a wrongful death claim seems like it’s going to be an easy process due to the circumstances surrounding the death, it’s best not to underestimate the amount of time and work required. The first and most vital step is reaching out for help.