Taking Legal Action After a Wrongful Death.
Losing a loved one is especially painful when the death results from someone else’s wrongdoing. Beyond the immediate shock and grief of the loss, the surviving family members often suffer financial and health effects as a result of the wrongful death. Although no amount of money can truly make up for your suffering, you may want to consider legal action against the parties responsible for the death of your loved one. Pursuing a legal claim can accomplish two very important goals. First, it can help you and your family cope with the financial loss that almost always comes with the death of a family member. Second, it can send a message to those responsible. It can make them think twice before they repeat careless behavior that endangers someone else in the future.
Who May File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Colorado law creates a right to recover monetary damages from those whose wrongful act, neglect, or default causes the death of another person. These monetary damages are designed to compensate the survivors for their losses, both economic and non-economic, resulting from the victim’s death.
The question then becomes, who gets to exercise this right? In other words, who is entitled to bring the lawsuit?
Generally speaking, the surviving spouse of the deceased person has priority. That means, for example, that when a husband dies because of someone else’s misconduct, his wife’s right to sue the parties responsible takes priority over the rights of other people, such as her husband’s children or parents. Next in line after the spouse are the children or other descendants, followed by the victim’s parents.
Now suppose the deceased person is a child, or an unmarried adult with no children. In either situation, the lawsuit would be brought by the victim’s parents. Generally, however, the rights of parents to pursue a wrongful-death lawsuit are very limited, so it is important to consult with an attorney about what the law allows. And in all cases, it is important to understand that the “clock is ticking” on a possible lawsuit. As we will discuss in greater detail below, if the survivors fail to bring their lawsuit within the appropriate time, they will permanently lose their right to sue.
Who has a right to the proceeds of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
When a lawsuit for wrongful death results in a financial recovery, in most circumstances the surviving spouse will get all or most of the proceeds. If there is no spouse, then the children of the deceased person share equally in the proceeds. And as we saw above, if the victim had no spouse and no children, then the parents are entitled to the proceeds.
Sometimes the the situation is more complicated. For example, sometimes the deceased person is survived by a wife, but also by children from a previous marriage. Another situation that can create controversy is a claim for the wrongful death of a child, when one of the parents has had little or no relationship with the child. For example, imagine that a single mother has raised a child who tragically becomes the victim of a wrongful death, and the child’s father has never married the mother and has never provided any support. In situations like these, it becomes especially important for the surviving family members to understand their rights, as compared to those of other possible parties to the lawsuit.
How Long Do I Have to File My Lawsuit?
If you are considering bringing legal action against those responsible for the death of your loved one, it is vital that you act in time. Strict legal limits, called statutes of limitations, impose deadlines for filing a lawsuit. In Colorado, the statute of limitations for wrongful death is two years. That means that in most cases, you must file your lawsuit within two years of the death of your loved one, or else you will lose your right to sue. An experienced lawyer can help you navigate the timing that applies to your particular case.
Contact an Attorney as Soon as Possible.
If you have suffered the of a loved one because of someone else’s wrongful act, neglect, or default, you should seek the advice of an attorney right away. Taking swift action can help you protect your legal interests. Attorney Marshall R. Sumrall handles wrongful-death cases and is ready to help. Call attorney Marshall R. Sumrall for a free consultation or inquire online and you will receive a response within 24 hours.