The irresponsible decision to get behind the wheel after drinking can irrevocably change the course of your life and the structure of your family. Losing a loved one to a tragic, preventable accident can leave you struggling with grief and depression.
Beyond the social and emotional consequences, there will also be practical concerns your family will have to address. How will you recover from losing out on their wages? Can your family even cover the cost of the funeral right now? You have enough to worry about after losing a loved one in a drunk driving accident without stressing about financial issues.
Thankfully, family courts in Colorado do allow you to take civil action against a drunk driver who causes a fatal crash. A wrongful death lawsuit can help your family reduce the financial consequences of a crash while also seeking justice for your loved one.
A wrongful death lawsuit occurs independently of any criminal action
There's a lot of confusion about the overlap between criminal law proceedings after a drunk driving accident and the rights of surviving family members to bring a civil action against the driver. Some people mistakenly believe that you can only bring a lawsuit against an individual who has already gotten convicted for an impaired driving offense related to the crash.
Another common mistaken belief is that a wrongful death lawsuit is only an option if the courts failed to convict the person responsible for the drunk driving accident. However, a wrongful death lawsuit is a step you take independent of what occurs in criminal court. It's a way of seeking justice for negligence, which drunk driving certainly is.
While it is true that a criminal court conviction that stems from the accident will certainly bolster your case and reduce the amount of evidence you have to gather to prove your claim, it is not necessary or even prudent to wait for the criminal courts to handle the case. After all, you only have two years after the date of death in which to file your claim.
What compensation can you seek under the wrongful death statute?
There are specific restrictions and limits in place on compensation that you can seek in a wrongful death lawsuit. If you want to seek financial compensation for noneconomic injuries, which could include loss of companionship or survival actions, the limit to those claims is $436,070.
However, Colorado does not limit how much you can seek in terms of provable financial consequences. The wages your loved one would have earned until retirement, their medical expenses incurred after the crash, the cost of the funeral and other provable financial losses can all be a part of the total amount you seek in a wrongful death suit.
While such a lawsuit certainly can't undo the harm a drunk driver caused your family, at the very least it can reduce the financial impact you experience and create consequences for the person who caused the accident.