Tough lawyers for tough cases.

How Damages Are Calculated for Wrongful Death in Colorado

December 29, 2023Wrongful Death

A wrongful death claim provides an opportunity for grieving family members to seek damages, or financial compensation, for the preventable loss of a loved one’s life. While no amount of compensation is equal to a human life, achieving a fair settlement or judgment award can help surviving family members move forward and plan for the future with less financial stress.

Economic Damages

Economic damages can be awarded to compensate a plaintiff, or filing party, for the financial or monetary losses associated with a wrongful death. Common examples of economic losses are the deceased person’s (decedent’s) final medical bills up to the time of death, lost wages and inheritance, property damage repairs or replacement, and reasonable funeral and burial costs.

Economic damages come with a specific dollar amount, making them relatively straightforward to calculate. Determining a fair amount in economic damages to award a plaintiff generally takes adding up all the bills and receipts connected to the wrongful death case. Calculating future estimated costs, however, such as the loss of the decedent’s financial contributions to the household, can be more difficult and require assistance from a Denver wrongful death attorney.

Noneconomic Damages

Noneconomic damages, also called pain and suffering, are more difficult to calculate. They refer to the invisible, intangible and non-monetary losses suffered by grieving family members because of a wrongful death. Examples of noneconomic damages include mental anguish, emotional distress, grief, sorrow and pain. Loss of consortium, or the loss of a decedent’s care, company, support and services, is also classified as a noneconomic damage.

Noneconomic damages do not have a specific value that can be calculated based on hard numbers. Instead, these damage awards are assigned by a judge or jury and are up to the court’s discretion. For example, a jury may base its decision on how much the death has impacted surviving relatives, how close the plaintiff was to the decedent and the actions of the defendant.

Although using a specific equation or calculation method is not required of juries regarding noneconomic damages, many rely on the Multiplier Method to assign a fair value. This method multiplies the plaintiff’s economic damage award by a number between 1.5 and 5, where the lower number represents minor harm suffered and the higher number represents severe harm.

Punitive Damages

Economic and noneconomic damages both fall under the umbrella of compensatory damages in a wrongful death claim. These awards compensate and reimburse a plaintiff for money spent and losses suffered due to someone else’s negligence. There is a second category of damages, however, known as punitive damages, that is much rarer.

In Colorado, a court may award punitive or exemplary damages in a wrongful death case if it can be shown that the defendant acted with fraud, malice, or willful or wanton conduct in causing the victim’s death. The goal of punitive damages is to punish a defendant for egregious wrongdoings, such as recklessness, gross negligence or intent to harm, and deter others in the community from the same acts of misconduct.

If you wish to find out how much your wrongful death claim in Colorado might be worth or discuss tactics for maximizing your case’s financial outcome, contact the attorneys at Dormer Harpring. Our wrongful death attorneys offer free initial case evaluations in Denver.