If your family member suffered fatal injuries as the result of someone else's negligent or careless behavior, you may have a claim for wrongful death against that person to recover damages you sustained as the result of your loved one's death.
You can recover both economic and non-economic damages if you are successful in your wrongful death suit. Economic damages include compensation for things like: final medical bills incurred by the deceased related to medical treatment for injuries that eventually led to their death, funeral services for your loved one and the loss of financial support that would have been provided by your loved one if they were still alive. On the other hand, non-economic damages include your pain and suffering as well as loss of consortium or companionship. However, Colorado law limits or caps the overall amount of non-economic damages you can receive for wrongful death.
According to Section 13-21-203 of the Colorado Revised Statutes, you cannot recover more than $250,000 in non-economic damages (pain and suffering, loss of consortium, etc.) plus inflation. In 2015, the cap accounting for inflation was equal to $436,070.
However, the Colorado Supreme Court decided in 2008 that this cap applies to a claim for wrongful death in its entirety, not against each defendant. This means that if two (2) people were responsible for the death of your loved one, you may only receive a maximum of $436,070 total – not a maximum of $436,070 from each defendant. This cap becomes an issue when you need to apportion your damages following a favorable jury verdict.
For example, suppose the jury awards you $800,000 in non-economic damages for the wrongful death of a family member caused by two (2) defendants. The jury decides that defendant A was 60% at fault, and defendant B was 40% at fault. Because the overall damages award is over the cap amount, the award will be reduced to $436,070 and then apportioned amongst the defendants. In this example, defendant A will have to pay you $261,642 ($436,070 x 60%) and defendant B will owe you $174,428.
Now, suppose the jury still awards you $800,000 in non-economic damages, but finds that your loved one was 20% at fault for their own death, the defendant was 50% at fault and an unnamed third party was 30% at fault. If you apportion the damages first, then the defendant would owe you $400,000 ($800,000 x 50%) which is below the damages cap. However, if you apply the damages cap first, then the defendant would only need to pay you $218,035 ($436,070 x 50%) – which is much less than $400,000.
Though the Colorado Supreme Court has not yet ruled on the issue, many personal injury attorneys have argued that a non-economic damages award in wrongful death suits should be apportioned first, and then capped according to the statute. This will ensure that wrongful death claimants get the compensation they need to move forward with their lives and promotes the public policy of not reducing their damages twice.
If your loved one was killed by the negligence of another, you need the help of a qualified personal injury attorney—like those at the Law Office of Jeremy Rosenthal—who will get you the full value of both the economic and non-economic damages you incurred. Our lawyers will fight hard for your rights and get you the compensation you deserve.
Call us today for a free consultation at (303) 647-4511, or visit us online.