How To File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit

A person holding a red rose at a funeral after a wrongful death.

Accidental deaths claimed 200,955 lives in the United States in 2020. Causes of accidental deaths vary and include car accidents, falls, and poisonings. All accidental deaths are tragic, but in some cases, the decedent is also the victim of a wrongful death. 

Negligence and reckless actions are the root causes of wrongful deaths. Negligence is a factor when a person doesn’t act the way most people would if they were in the same situation. Reckless actions apply when a person knows their actions or inactions significantly increase the risk of harm to others and do not alter their conduct.

If you have lost a loved one to a wrongful death, you may wonder how to file a wrongful death lawsuit. First, you need to confirm who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in your state. Let’s take a closer look at who can file a wrongful death lawsuit, how to file, and how you’ll benefit from hiring a wrongful death lawyer. 

Contact our wrongful death attorneys for assistance today.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Each state determines its wrongful death laws. To determine which laws apply to your situation, you must check the laws of the state where the decedent passed.

Family Members 

Colorado is one of the states that allows the decedent’s spouse to file a wrongful death lawsuit. The spouse takes first priority when filing, and nobody else can file a wrongful death claim without their consent until a year after the decedent’s passing. 

The decedent’s children can file a wrongful death suit immediately if the decedent is unmarried. Otherwise, the decedent’s children must wait a year to file unless they have permission from the decedent’s spouse. 

The decedent’s parents may file a wrongful death claim if their child had no spouse, children, or beneficiaries. 


Some individuals choose beneficiaries to receive their assets in the event of their deaths. This often applies to unmarried individuals without children. Beneficiaries must wait 12 months to file a claim if the decedent was married. They can pursue a claim immediately if the decedent is unmarried.

State Attorney 

Some wrongful death cases have grounds for both criminal and civil court cases. The state’s attorney can file criminal charges if they determine there’s enough evidence to support the case going to trial. It doesn’t matter if there are criminal charges or not; criminal charges do not affect the rights of immediate family members wishing to file a civil suit.

How To Start a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Initiating a wrongful death lawsuit begins with understanding the legal requirements for a wrongful death claim. You must be able to prove the defendant was negligent or grossly negligent, and their negligence caused the wrongful death. 

A legal complaint must be completed and filed with the appropriate court. You can get forms from the court or online and must submit these forms with the filing fee. You must also prepare a copy of the complaint and have the defendant served.

Some wrongful deaths occur because of medical negligence or malpractice. You must obtain a certificate of review before filing a medical malpractice case. This certificate is a statement from a credible medical professional with relevant expertise who verifies the grounds for a medical malpractice claim. 

Instead of learning to complete legal documents, determining how to serve the defendant, and securing a certificate of review from a medical professional, you can have a wrongful death lawyer initiate your case. Your wrongful death lawyer can complete the paperwork, handle the filing, and secure any other documentation required to file your wrongful death claim.

Damages That Can Be Recovered

When filing a wrongful death claim, you must determine how much compensation to seek. Compensation includes monetary damages, referring to reimbursement for costs stemming from the wrongful death. These damages include the following:

  • Childcare costs: You can seek compensation for childcare costs. Childcare costs could be justified if you’re the decedent’s spouse and must go back to work and pay for childcare for your minor children while working.
  • Final expenses: You can claim burial and funeral costs.
  • Loss of financial support: Your monetary damages can include compensation for lost wages the decedent would have earned if they hadn’t died. This is crucial if the decedent was the primary provider for your family or if you’re the decedent’s child.
  • Lost wages: Plaintiffs can file claims for any wages lost while dealing with the decedent’s accident and passing.
  • Medical bills: You can include all medical bills related to the decedent’s passing and seek reimbursement for those expenses.

Wrongful death plaintiffs can also seek non-monetary damages. These damages don’t come with invoices or bills you can submit. Instead, they focus on the personal cost incurred because of the decedent’s passing and can include compensation for the following:

Punitive damages may apply to some wrongful death claims. You must be able to prove gross negligence to justify punitive damages.

How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit? 

The statute of limitations gives you 24 months to file a wrongful death lawsuit. However, there may be grounds to extend the time limit if your claim involves medical malpractice or a hit-and-run car accident.

The Benefits of Hiring a Wrongful Death Attorney

If you hire a wrongful death lawyer, you won’t have to learn how to prepare legal paperwork, conduct an investigation, or subpoena witnesses and documentation. You can be confident your attorney will prepare and file the legal paperwork with the courts and have the defendant served.

Your attorney will also handle settlement negotiations with the defendant’s insurance company and attempt to get you fair compensation as soon as possible. You can focus on your needs while coping with your loss while your attorney prepares your case, and your lawyer will inform you of any developments and explain your options so you can make informed choices.

What To Look For in a Wrongful Death Attorney

With a little research, you can find a wrongful death attorney to handle your case. Look for a lawyer with the following:

  • Experience: Find someone who’s handled wrongful death cases before because this means they’re familiar with relevant case law.
  • Peer reviews: Look for attorneys respected by their peers to ensure you’re hiring a credible attorney.
  • Client reviews: Client reviews give you insight into the lawyer’s conduct and client relationships. Client reviews can verify the attorney communicates with their clients and devotes the time and energy to their cases that they deserve.
  • Results: Look for a wrongful death attorney who’s won claims for their clients.
  • Comfort: You will discuss personal details about your loss with your wrongful death lawyer. Since wrongful death attorneys offer free consultations, you can use a free consultation to get a sense of the attorney’s personality and approach to ensure you feel comfortable with them.

If You Have Lost a Loved One, Let Bachus & Schanker Work for You

A Lady Justice statue in front of a stack of books with a gavel on top.

Bachus & Schanker’s legal team has an impressive reputation with peers and clients. We have decades of experience fighting for our clients to receive the compensation they deserve.

We also have personal experience with wrongful death. Kyle Bachus has first-hand experience coping with a tragic loss while dealing with the justice system. Losing his mother to a wrongful death is the reason he shares his experience in his book Unthinkable. Our legal team understands the grief and trauma the decedent’s family members suffer, and we use our resources to fight for our clients to receive the justice they deserve.

Schedule a free consultation.


Elflein, J. (2023). Unintentional Injury in the U.S. – Statistics & Facts.

Gillespie, J. (2023). Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Colorado. 

Goguen, D. (2023). Colorado’s Medical Malpractice Laws.

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