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What Do You Need To Prove In A Wrongful Death Case?


Most importantly, if you have lost a loved one, I want to express my sincere condolences. While wrongful death compensation will not bring back your loved one, it can help you find justice after negligence, recover financially after your loss and make it easier to plan for a changed future. Depending on the facts of your case, part of finding justice may include using the power of the courts to stop the defendants, or others in similar circumstances, from causing harm to others. Almost every wrongful death lawsuit is, on some level, an opportunity to make society safer and better for others. While you are grieving and adjusting to your new reality, you can benefit the right level of legal support. It would be my privilege to help you navigate that path.  

What needs to be proven in a wrongful death lawsuit 

In Colorado, the plaintiff (the party or parties who filed the lawsuit) is required to prove that the death of their loved one occurred as a result of the defendant’s negligence, intentional act, or recklessness. The burden of proof lies on the plaintiff, and they have to show that the defendant had the legal obligation to avoid harm coming to the victim. 

The plaintiff must also show that although the defendant had the obligation to avoid harm, they did not take the reasonable precautions that could have prevented the accident, and that it is more likely than not that the death of the victim occurred as a result (known as a preponderance of evidence, which is different than the reasonable doubt standard in criminal cases). Generally, the same grounds that are used for other personal injury claims can be used in a wrongful death claim, including the question of whether a defendant’s choices were reasonable. 

For example, if a building is under construction, at least one company or organization has a duty of care to reduce the dangers to people working and walking nearby, and to warn their employees or visitors of any dangers by putting warning signs or barriers in place. If appropriate warning signs have not been put in place, and that failure to warn causes an accident that results in death, the victim’s family has a right to file a wrongful death claim and may be due compensation. 

The right attorney can help you shoulder this burden. I have extensive experience in arguing on behalf of my clients and their loved ones, and together we will diligently put together and present your best case.  

How damages work in a wrongful death lawsuit 

There are three types of damages that plaintiffs can recover in a wrongful death claim: Economic, non-economic and exemplary. Let’s look at each in turn. 

Economic damages:

These damages tend to be losses with a pre-determined and clear monetary value:  

  • Medical costs 
  • Burial and funeral costs 
  • Lost wages the person would have earned 

Non-economic damages:

These are damages that are not always as easy to quantify, but cause just as much, if not more distress to survivors: 

  • Pain and suffering 
  • Loss of companionship 
  • Emotional distress  
  • Grief 

As unfair as it is, non-economic damages are capped in Colorado, including in wrongful death cases, and exceptions to that rule are rare. 

Exemplary damages:

Exemplary damages, also known as punitive damages, are extra compensation intended to punish the defendant for extremely bad behavior, such as if a defendant acted with malice, willful and wanton misconduct, or if a defendant committed fraud. An experienced wrongful death attorney can help you determine whether exemplary damages apply in your case, and if so, how to pursue them in your case.  

Understanding what must be proven in your case, what kinds of damages you should pursue, and at what point in your case to pursue them, is part of my job. As your advocate through the entire process, I will communicate with you every step of the way, so you fully understand our case strategy. We will tell your loved one’s story, and explain the measure and the dignity of your loss, together.  

Consultations are free, and there is no obligation to do anything other than talk about your options. Call 303-339-8846. You can also schedule your free consultation with me at my office, at your home, or another convenient location by clicking here.