It’s nothing short of tragic when a loved one dies before their time. It’s worse, however, when you know that their death was caused by some other party’s reckless or negligent actions.
In Colorado, there are two different ways that families can pursue some measure of justice for their loved one: wrongful death claims and survival actions.
A wrongful death claim is designed to compensate the bereaved for the losses they suffer due to a close relative’s death, while a survival action is akin to a personal injury claim on behalf of the deceased. According to Colorado law, their right to a claim survives their death.
There is another difference: Survival actions must be filed by the deceased’s personal representative (whether one was named in the deceased’s will or appointed by the court), while close family members can pursue a wrongful death claim on their own.
Survival actions and wrongful death claims often go hand-in-hand. If successful, the damages for a survival action can include the value of the deceased’s final medical bills, their funeral and burial expenses, any lost wages they suffered between the incident that led to their death and their actual death as well as property damage. Any proceeds from the claim are paid to the deceased’s estate to offset losses before being distributed according to their will or intestate succession.
Wrongful death claims, by comparison, are paid directly to the survivors and can include things like the value of the lost income the deceased would have brought to the family, the value of their lost companionship or services in the home and compensation for the pain and suffering the survivors have had to endure.
It should be noted that both survival actions and wrongful death claims are civil lawsuits. As such, they are independent of any criminal cases that may be involved in your loved one’s death. A criminal case only seeks justice for the state -- while a civil claim seeks justice for the victims of someone’s misdeeds.