When a person is killed in a tragic accident caused by someone else's negligence, Colorado law provides that the immediate family members of the victim may pursue compensation for their damages through a wrongful death lawsuit.
This comes up sometimes after fatal drunk driving accidents, when a family files suit against the driver, seeking to recover loss of income, loss of companionship and other damages. In this type of case, there may be other parties that can be held liable as well.
Last year, a Colorado woman was killed when a drunk driver crashed into her car as she was stopped at a red light. The man, who had six prior DUI convictions, had been seen drinking at several bars in the area before the crash. In June, he convicted of multiple criminal charges in connection with the case, including first-degree murder. He will most likely spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Recently, the woman's family filed a wrongful death suit against the man and three taverns. They say the bars illegally served the man alcohol even though he was visibly intoxicated.
Colorado and many other states have so-called dram-shop laws, which allow victims and their families to hold bars and liquor stores liable for damages caused by a drunk customer. It isn't easy to win these lawsuits, because the plaintiffs have to show that the servers were aware that the customer was highly intoxicated. Still, it can be done, and it can be a powerful way of holding careless tavern owners accountable. It can also be a vital way of helping a family to cope with the tragic loss of a loved one.