What Is A Solatium Amount?
Wrongful death claims are stressful and emotionally devastating. Given this nature, the plaintiff may wish to not testify about the loss of her relationship with the deceased individual. The facts of the case may simply be too painful and difficult for the surviving family member to relive by the plaintiff being forced to endure the ordeal of testifying in open court about her grief and loss of companionship. In other cases, it may be true that the plaintiff had a distant or estranged relationship with the deceased relative, and testifying about such might make non-economic damages difficult to prove.
To address these special family circumstances, the Colorado legislature has adopted a law which permits plaintiffs in wrongful death cases to elect, in writing, to recover a solatium amount instead of presenting proof of their actual non-economic damages. Right now, the solatium amount is $87,210. Recovery of the solatium amount requires no proof of any actual damages. This means the solatium amount represents the minimum value of any wrongful death claim under Colorado law. It is unwise to accept the solatium amount without thoroughly consulting with a wrongful death or personal injury attorney in Greenwood Village.
Typically, in a wrongful death claim, the amount of damages recoverable by the plaintiff can be reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to that plaintiff. However, the solatium amount cannot be reduced for any amount of comparative fault attributed to the deceased individual. The Colorado Supreme Court has held that after the liability of the defendant in the case is established, the plaintiff is entitled to recover the full solatium amount, without any reduction for any amount of comparative negligence.
Can Punitive Damages Ever Be Recovered In A Wrongful Death Case In Colorado?
When it comes to tort actions in Colorado, punitive damages are recoverable when the plaintiff can prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the actions of the defendant were not only negligent but also driven by fraud, malice, or willful and wanton conduct. According to the amended Wrongful Death Act, a claim for punitive damages cannot be included in the plaintiff’s original claim for wrongful death. Only 60 days after the parties have exchanged disclosure information may the plaintiff amend his or her complaint to add a claim for punitive damages, only if he or she is able to establish prima facie proof of a try-able issue. Punitive damage are rare and always require the assistance of a skilled personal injury attorney in Arapaho County.
What Are The Time Limits For Filing A Wrongful Death Lawsuit In Colorado?
In Colorado, all wrongful death lawsuits must be filed within two years of the date of the wrongful death. This deadline is established by a law known as the statute of limitations. However, it is important to know that Colorado further limits the time in which to file a wrongful death claim by limiting who is allowed to file during certain parts of that two-year period. During the first year, only the deceased person’s surviving spouse may file a wrongful death claim. During the second year of the time limit, the surviving spouse may still file a claim, but any surviving children may also file one. If no spouse and no children have survived, the surviving parents may file a claim. Time limits in Colorado are stringent and require the close guidance of a wrongful death attorney.
How Is Liability Established In Wrongful Death Actions In Colorado?
In a wrongful death action, the plaintiff can recover only if he or she can prove that the deceased relative if they had survived the injury resulting in their death, would have been legally entitled to recover damages from the negligent defendant. This means that comparative negligence or any other defenses which would have applied to the decedent now also apply to the surviving plaintiff, who is pursuing a claim for wrongful death. Establishing liability is at the core of any personal injury or wrongful death case and your experienced Greenwood Village attorney can guide you in how to go about it successfully.
In Colorado, in order to successfully establish liability in a wrongful death case, the plaintiff must show that the percentage of fault assigned to the deceased individual is less than the percentage of fault assigned to the defendant or defendants. In a Colorado personal injury case, the plaintiff is permitted to recover damages as long as the percentage of negligence assigned to the plaintiff is less than the percentage of negligence assigned to the defendant. If more than one defendant is named in the claim, the plaintiff can recover, as long as the percentage of negligence charged to the plaintiff is less than the combined percentage of negligence assigned to all of the named defendants. However, the damages recoverable by the plaintiff are then subject to reduction by the percentage of negligence that has been assigned to the plaintiff.
Under Colorado law, within 90 days of the filing of a claim, a defendant may name any non-party to the claim whose negligence contributed to the injury and death of the deceased person. Once a non-party is properly named, his or her name will appear on the verdict form, which is presented to the jury at the end of the trial. The amount of damages that are recoverable by the plaintiff in a wrongful death suit can be reduced by the percentage of negligence assigned to any named non-party, in addition to the percentage of negligence assigned to the plaintiff.
Issues of liability in wrongful death cases can present incredibly complicated factual and legal questions as to whether or not the defendant breached a certain duty of care that was owed to the deceased individual and whether, if such a breach of duty did occur, the defendant’s conduct actually caused the decedent’s death. The resolution of these issues of fact usually require the assistance of one or more experts, such as engineers, accident reconstruction experts, or medical specialists, in addition to your Arapahoe County personal injury attorney. At the Law Office Of Joseph A. Lazzara, our attorney is experienced in working with various experts to resolve the complicated issue of liability and causation. In your Colorado wrongful death case, we can help you successfully navigate the incredibly bumpy road of complex liability and causation issues that will bring you to fair compensation for your losses.
For more information on Solatium Amount In The State Of Colorado, 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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