Who Gets The Money In A Wrongful Death Settlement?

Two people grieving as they set flowers on top of a casket of their loved one.

In the unfortunate event of a wrongful death, the legal system aims to provide compensation to the deceased individual’s family and dependents for their losses and damages. However, understanding how the money is distributed in a wrongful death settlement can be complex. 

Various factors come into play, such as state laws, applicable insurance policies, and different beneficiaries involved. Our Colorado wrongful death lawyers share details on who typically receives the money in a wrongful death settlement and how it is divided among those entitled to compensation.

If you believe you have lost a loved one as a result of wrongful death, contact Bachus & Schanker today for a free consultation.

What is wrongful death?

Wrongful death refers to a legal claim brought against an individual or entity responsible for causing someone’s death due to negligence, intentional actions, or misconduct. It arises when the deceased person would have had grounds for a personal injury lawsuit if they had survived. Wrongful death claims seek compensation for the survivors’ financial and emotional losses resulting from the untimely death of their loved one. 

Wrongful death claims can arise from various situations, such as car accidents, medical malpractice, workplace incidents, faulty products, or criminal acts leading to fatal injuries. The objective is to hold those who caused the wrongful death accountable and provide financial support for those left behind to help them cope financially and emotionally with their loss.

Who is entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Colorado?

In Colorado, the right to bring a wrongful death lawsuit is limited to specific individuals who are considered beneficiaries under state law. According to the Colorado Revised Statutes, the following parties have the legal standing to file a wrongful death claim:

  • Spouse: The surviving spouse of the deceased has priority in bringing a wrongful death lawsuit
  • Children: If there is no surviving spouse or if they choose not to pursue legal action, the children of the deceased may file a claim
  • Parents: In cases where there is neither a spouse nor any children, parents of an unmarried individual who passed away due to wrongful actions can seek damages
  • Legal representative: If none of these immediate family members exist or wish to initiate litigation, a personal representative appointed by the court may bring forth a wrongful death suit on behalf of all eligible beneficiaries

It’s worth noting that stepchildren and adopted children generally have equal rights with biological offspring when it comes to pursuing compensation in wrongful death cases. Consulting an attorney experienced in Colorado’s wrongful death laws can provide further guidance on eligibility and navigating this complex process effectively.

How are wrongful death settlements distributed?

In Colorado, the distribution of a wrongful death payout from a settlement is governed by CRS 13-21-203. According to this statute, any damages awarded or settled in a wrongful death claim are typically distributed proportionally among eligible beneficiaries based on their degree of financial dependency on the deceased.

The court considers several factors when determining how to divide the damages, including:

  • Financial contributions: The court examines each beneficiary’s financial reliance on the deceased person and their contribution to their support
  • Relationships: The nature and extent of relationships between each beneficiary and the deceased are evaluated
  • Economic and non-economic losses: Both economic losses, such as lost wages and loss of financial support, as well as non-economic losses, like emotional suffering due to the untimely death, are taken into account during distribution

The specific proportions allocated to each beneficiary can vary from case to case, depending on wrongful death causes and individual circumstances. To ensure fair compensation for all affected parties, it is recommended to obtain help from an experienced Colorado wrongful death attorney.

Is there a limit on how much a wrongful death settlement can be?

Colorado has no specific statutory limit on the amount a wrongful death settlement can be for economic damages. The economic damages awarded in a wrongful death case are intended to compensate the eligible beneficiaries for their financial losses resulting from the untimely death of their loved one.

However, the state does have damage caps on non-economic damages. The Secretary of State updates the damage caps to account for inflation periodically. For claims between January 1, 2022, and before January 1, 2024, the $250,000 damage cap has been adjusted for inflation to a maximum of $642,180 for cases settled under CRS 13-21-102.5. 

However, depending on the Colorado Revised Statute the case is settled under, the amount could differ. For example, the adjusted amount for CRS 13-21-203 is $598,350.   

How can Kyle Bachus and the Elite Litigation Group help?

A wrongful death attorney sits with his hands folded on a stack of books. Next to him is the scales of justice, a Lady Justice statue, a gavel and another book.

Kyle Bachus knows firsthand how the unexpected and tragic loss of a family member can be sudden and life-changing after losing his mother. He also understands the impacts on family members when catastrophic injuries occur. He shares his experiences and offers guidance on navigating this difficult path in his book Unthinkable

At Bachus & Schanker, our Elite Litigation Group was formed to assist people impacted by wrongful death and catastrophic injury events. We provide our clients access to our Victim Advocates team, which helps families during this challenging time. They provide emotional support, serve as liaisons, and ensure necessary tasks are taken care of so you can focus on yourself and your family. 

Our compassionate, caring, supportive, and experienced team is here to fight for your rights and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.

Contact our wrongful death attorneys for assistance today!


Adjusted Limitation on Damages Certificate. (2023).

CRS 13-21-102.5.

CRS 13-21-201.

CRS 13-21-203.

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