What Factors Might Reduce My Colorado Wrongful Death Settlement?
In certain situations, you might find that you will receive less than you expected in a wrongful death settlement. Most likely, there are some rather straightforward reasons for this. For instance, it may have been found that your loved one contributed to their own tragic accident. Not every case is quite that simple but it is possible for even victims to be negligent. Perhaps your deceased relative forgot to use a turn signal while riding a bicycle. A semi-truck following behind your loved one may have run over them because the truck driver wasn’t expecting the bicyclist to stop in front of them.
In this situation, your deceased loved one does bear some of the blame for the crash that killed them. As a result, the amount you can receive in a settlement will be reduced by the percentage of fault your loved one would bear. Other reasons you may receive less than the settlement or verdict you were expecting could include the fact that you waited too long. Colorado only gives surviving family members two years from the date of the death to bring a wrongful death suit. If you missed this deadline, you will receive no money in your settlement.
Another common mistake that results in a lesser settlement amount is failing to hire an experienced personal injury attorney. Wrongful death lawsuits are not like other personal injury cases; they present unique factual hurdles. You need a Greenwood Village, CO personal injury attorney experienced in wrongful death cases, who truly understands the law and your story.
How Will The Settlement In My Colorado Wrongful Death Action Be Distributed?
The division of the settlement or damages paid out in a wrongful death lawsuit in Colorado are governed by the laws of intestate succession; the same laws that govern how one’s property is divided and distributed if that person dies without having a will. There are some cases where a person who is not even a party to the wrongful death action is entitled to recover some of the proceeds. For example, a case where a spouse brings a wrongful death claim but there are also children of the decedent, from a prior marriage, who have a right to share in the proceeds.
Generally speaking, in tort actions for the recovery of damages for damage to a person or a property, the plaintiff who brings the lawsuit is entitled to recover all of the damages awarded against the defendant. As an exception, in certain cases, the plaintiff may be required to reimburse their health insurance providers or other insurers who are claiming a subrogation interest. In a wrongful death action, however, the plaintiff who files the lawsuit against the defendant is not necessarily the one who is entitled to recover all of any damages awarded. Any damages awarded are subject to allocation and distribution. There are also special rules that apply to parents who are divorced, separated, or who live apart.
According to C.R.S. § 13-21-201(2), the recovery in a wrongful death claim “shall be owned by such persons as are heirs at law of the deceased under the statutes of descent and distribution and shall be divided among such heirs at law in the same manner as real estate is divided according to said statute of descent and distribution.” When this statute was written, apparently, there was also a statute of descent and distribution, which governed real estate. Today, under current Colorado law, there is no such statute governing the distribution of the real estate of a decedent. Instead, the distribution of a person’s property after their death is governed by the laws of intestate succession, contained in the Colorado Probate Code. In each and every case, these statutes must be carefully reviewed by a wrongful death attorney to determine who is entitled to share in the proceeds of a wrongful death action in Arapaho County.
Pursuant to statute, in cases where a wrongful death suit is brought by two parents who are married and living together, each parent is entitled to an equal share of any recovery for the wrongful death of their child. If the two parents are divorced, separated, or living apart, either parent may file a motion requesting that the court fairly divide the proceeds of the wrongful death claim. If a motion is filed, the court must conduct a post-judgment hearing. At this hearing, both parents are allowed to present evidence supporting their relationship with their deceased child. When dividing damages, the court must consider any pertinent factors, such as the custody, parental responsibility, and support taken on by each parent during the child’s life.
In cases where there are multiple parties seeking to recover damages for the wrongful death of one deceased individual, there is a situation where conflicts of interest can arise. When wrongful claims involve multiple parties who all have a right to share in the recovery, it is usually necessary that an experienced Colorado personal injury attorney make sure that any settlement extinguishes the claims of any other party who has a claim to recovery.
For more information on Reduction In Wrongful Death Settlements, a free personalized case evaluation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (303) 429-6200 today.
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