Who Can Bring A Wrongful Death Claim?

casket leaving a funeral

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that over 3.38 million deaths occurred in the United States in 2020, which equals more than 9,200 deaths daily. The leading causes included accidents, COVID-19, heart disease, and cancer.

Whether a person dies from a medical condition or unintentional injuries, the deceased person may have suffered a wrongful death. A wrongful death occurs when another person’s negligence or deliberate actions cause the person’s death. 

If you’ve lost a loved one, you may wonder if you can file a wrongful death suit on behalf of the decedent. Continue reading to learn who can initiate a wrongful death case when a person dies, the type of compensation the plaintiff could receive, other critical information to consider when deciding to file, and how a wrongful death lawyer can help. 

What is a wrongful death lawsuit?

A wrongful death suit is a wrongful death claim brought against the party responsible for the decedent’s death. The plaintiff must meet the state’s criteria to file a lawsuit and file their claim before the statute of limitations expires. Wrongful death suits are civil lawsuits; when the plaintiff wins, they receive damages from the at-fault party.

State laws differ on who can file wrongful death lawsuits.

Wondering who can file a wrongful death suit? Whether you can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible party depends on your relationship with the decedent and the state laws where the person died.

In Colorado, the family members that can file a wrongful death suit are the victim’s:

  • Surviving spouse. When a person who’s married dies, their spouse can file immediately. 
  • Children. The victim’s children must wait one year before filing a suit if the decedent has a surviving spouse unless the spouse gives them consent to file during the first year.
  • Parents. When a decedent has no surviving spouse or children, their parents may file.

Refer to the links for wrongful death laws by state to determine who can file a wrongful death lawsuit if the death occurred in a different state.

Who may be sued for a wrongful death? 

police looking for drunk drivers at night

Successful wrongful death lawsuits depend upon the plaintiff’s ability to prove that the defendant was negligent or deliberately acted in a way they knew could endanger others. Examples of those who can be sued include the following:

  • Drunk driver. When an intoxicated person operates a motor vehicle, it’s possible to demonstrate they failed to show a duty of care to others since they broke the law and operated a vehicle unsafely.
  • Business. Suppose your loved one died from an accident caused by someone driving a commercial vehicle. If records indicate the company failed to perform routine maintenance and this failure caused the accident, the company could be liable for damages.
  • Doctor. Medical malpractice is grounds for a wrongful death suit. Medical professionals are responsible if they fail to provide an acceptable standard of care or act in a manner that endangers their patients. 
  • Criminal or Suspect. Family members may file suit if their loved one dies from a criminal act. These suits don’t rely upon a criminal conviction. For example, O.J. Simpson wasn’t convicted for the deaths of two murder victims, but he was sued for wrongful death and found guilty.

What type of compensation may survivors receive?

If you file a wrongful death suit in Colorado, you may receive tangible (economic) and intangible (non-economic) damages. Examples of tangible damages include the following:

  • Medical bills 
  • Funeral expenses
  • Lost income

Examples of intangible damages include the following:

  • Loss of consortium
  • Pain and suffering 

You may also receive punitive damages. The courts award these damages if you can prove the defendant acted recklessly.

Does anyone have immunity to wrongful death claims?

The Colorado Governmental Immunity Act (CGIA) shields the state’s government from personal injury lawsuits, including wrongful death suits. However, the victim’s family can seek compensation if the cause of death involves an area where immunity has been waived. For example, it’s possible to sue if deadly highway conditions caused a person’s wrongful death. Schedule a free consultation with an experienced wrongful death attorney to learn about CGIA and its potential impact on your lawsuit.

What is the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim in Colorado?

The statute of limitations is the time allotted to victims to take legal action against the at-fault party. In Colorado, the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim is typically two years from the date of death; however, the statute doesn’t apply if the decedent was the victim of a hit-and-run accident

How a Wrongful Death Attorney Can Help You Seek Justice

wrongful death attorney going over paperwork

Your wrongful death attorney serves as your representative when you seek damages for your loved one’s death. You don’t have to worry about learning how the legal system works or how to initiate a lawsuit when you hire a lawyer from Elite Litigation Group. Instead, you can be confident you’ll get answers to your questions and expert legal guidance as you weigh your options. 

We’ll explore all options and use our legal knowledge to access the evidence we’ll use to pursue your claim. We can subpoena business records and witnesses, ensuring we have a complete, accurate account of the factors contributing to your loved one’s death.

Contact our wrongful death attorneys for assistance today to discuss your case. We’ll explain the steps involved and how our legal team can help you receive the compensation you deserve for your loved one’s death. 


CGIA Summary. (2023). 

Deaths and Mortality. (2022).

O.J. Simpson Appeals Civil Suit Verdict. (2000). 

Wrongful Death. (2023).

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