Elements of a Wrongful Death Case in Colorado

Posted On December 12, 2022 / By Manning Law / Wrongful Death

The loss of someone you love is a devastating tragedy that can never be made right. If you have questions about your loved one’s death and suspect that someone’s careless or reckless acts are to blame, filing a wrongful death case in Colorado could give your family answers and closure.

Proving a Wrongful Death Case

For a wrongful death case to succeed, you or your Aurora wrongful death attorney must prove the following four elements as more likely to be true than not true:

  1. Negligence
  2. Death
  3. Causation
  4. Damages

What Is Considered Negligence in a Wrongful Death Claim?

Colorado Revised Statutes Section 13-21-201–12-21-204 states that when the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act, neglect or default of another person, a cause of action can be brought. Most wrongful death cases are based on neglect or negligence. According to the Wex Legal Information Institute, the definition of negligence is “failing to behave with the level of care that someone with ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.” 

Any act or omission that a reasonable person would not have committed in a similar situation can constitute negligence. When negligence causes a death, a wrongful death lawsuit is available. Negligence consists of two parts: duty of care and breach of duty. A duty of care is a legal or ethical obligation that someone owes to another person. An example is the duty of care that all motor vehicle drivers have to prevent car accidents by paying attention to the road and abiding by traffic laws. 

A breach of the duty of care refers to any violation of this obligation or falling short of the expectation of reasonable care. Some wrongful death cases are based on the argument that the defendant intentionally committed a wrongful act or crime against the deceased victim instead of negligence. Examples include cases of murder, homicide or manslaughter. In these scenarios, intentional conduct to harm the victim would satisfy this element in place of negligence.

Proof of Death Occurring

The second element is that a death occurred. A wrongful death action can only be brought if someone has passed away from a fatal injury or illness. If the individual that was harmed by the defendant’s negligence is still alive, a personal injury case is more appropriate. If the victim passes away while a personal injury claim is still pending, surviving family members can change the legal action to a wrongful death claim or survival action. 

Causation of Death

Under this element, the victim’s death must be a direct outcome of the defendant’s negligence or wrongful act. In other words, the victim’s death would not have occurred but for the defendant’s breach of the duty of care. There must be clear and convincing evidence of a causal link between the defendant’s act or omission and the decedent’s fatal harm. This is the only way the defendant can be held accountable or liable for the death.

What Damages Can Be Recovered In a Colorado Wrongful Death Claim?

The fourth and final element of a wrongful death case is damages. Damages refer to real and specific losses suffered by the victim’s family because of the death. Damages can be economic or noneconomic. The purpose of bringing a wrongful death claim is to seek compensation for these damages to make the plaintiff financially whole again. Common damages include:

  • Medical bills
  • Funeral and burial costs
  • Lost wages and inheritance
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Emotional distress
  • Grief and sorrow
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of services
  • Punitive damages, in some cases

Proving wrongful death in Colorado requires enough evidence to establish that the defendant is more likely responsible for the decedent’s death than not, or liable with at least a 51 percent certainty. Evidence may include police reports, medical records, photos and videos, accident reconstruction, and expert witness testimony. Working with an Aurora personal injury lawyer can help provide assistance with proving your wrongful death claim in Colorado. Contact Manning Law to request a free case consultation.