The loss of a loved one is a devastating experience in and of itself. The pain becomes more significant, however, when the death was wrongful, untimely, and preventable had others been mindful of their actions or performed their duties diligently.
But emotional distress is just one of the many problems surviving families of wrongful death victims experience. There are also funeral and burial expenses to contend with, plus the long-term impact on the family’s quality of life if the decedent provided important financial contributions to the family. Therefore, as the distressed party, the family is well within their rights to hire a wrongful death lawyer and file a lawsuit.
If a beloved family member or relative dies as a result of another person’s negligence, hiring an experienced Chicago wrongful death lawyer should be a priority. Winning a wrongful death lawsuit will bring justice to your loved one’s death, secure financial compensation for your loss, and prevent the people responsible from committing the same mistakes and putting others in peril in the future.
What Is Wrongful Death?
A wrongful death occurs when a person dies because of someone else’s negligence or misconduct.
Illinois defines wrongful death in its Civil Liabilities (740 ILCS 180/) Wrongful Death Act as the death of a person “caused by wrongful act, neglect or default.” The victims sustained fatal injuries because of these acts, causing untimely deaths.
The following are examples of common causes or incidents that can lead to wrongful death:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Pedestrian and bicycle accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Workplace accidents
- Premises liability accidents
- Accidental poisoning and overdoses
- Drowning and boating
- Product defects
Notice that these events typically result in serious personal injury. It’s also not uncommon for a wrongful death lawyer to also specialize in personal injury law.
Wrongful Death Lawsuit: What You Need To Know
A wrongful death lawsuit is similar to a personal injury lawsuit, except the decedent can no longer pursue their own case, so it is up to the surviving family to find a Chicago wrongful death lawyer and file a claim.
An attorney can explain the legal jargon and procedures, but if you want to have some background beforehand, below are some things you need to know.
A Civil Suit
Wrongful death is a civil cause of action because it’s often initiated by a private party, which in this case would be the surviving family members or relatives (in contrast to a criminal action, which is initiated by the federal or state government and requires the jury to establish guilt beyond reasonable doubt for a defendant to be convicted).
Relatives who have lost a loved one can file a civil wrongful death case regardless of whether the government pursues a criminal case against the defendant. The fact a defendant may be found not guilty in a criminal negligence case does not mean they cannot be found guilty in a civil case (e.g., drunk driving or involuntary manslaughter). This can happen for a variety of reasons, including the fact the burden of proof in a civil case is guilty by a preponderance of the evidence (meaning what is more probably true than not true) rather than guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
People Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
All states allow immediate family members to file a lawsuit on behalf of a decedent. However, some states have additional requirements or criteria for who can initiate the case.
Illinois law, for example, mandates that only a decedent’s personal representative or executor can pursue a wrongful death claim. If the decedent doesn’t have a legally-appointed personal representative, the court can appoint one, often the spouse, parent, or any surviving immediate family member.
Burden of Proof
Anyone wanting to take someone to court would need to choose the best lawyers, but an experienced attorney is especially crucial in a wrongful death lawsuit. This is because the burden of proof rests on the plaintiff, the camp of surviving family members. They must present sufficient evidence proving that the defendant is responsible for their loved one’s death.
If you live anywhere in Illinois, hiring an experienced Illinois wrongful death lawyer would be a crucial determining factor to win your case and receive financial compensation from the people responsible for your loved one’s death.
Damages Can You Claim
Depending on the outcome of the case, the court may award the decedent’s executor or family members financial compensation for the following:
- Grief, emotional pain, and suffering
- Any bills incurred for the decedent’s emergency treatment, hospitalization, ambulance transport, etc.
- Burial and funeral expenses
- Lost wages and benefits if the decedent supported the family and other dependents
- Loss of education for the decedent’s children
- Loss of companionship for the decedent’s spouse, partner, and family members
In Illinois, the court permits damages among the surviving spouse, children, and/or next of kin. If the case goes to the jury, the distribution will depend on how the jury assigns damages to each of the rightful heirs.
Other states have different rules for the distribution of settlement. For example, some award the damages to the declared heirs, while others follow their intestacy laws if the decedent didn’t have a will.
Wrongful Death Claims Are Often Settled, Not Tried
In most cases, wrongful death cases no longer go to trial. However, since the lawsuit’s goal is to demand compensation from the responsible party, expect your wrongful death lawyer to seek a settlement.
This is also why you need a competent, experienced, and determined Chicago wrongful death lawyer who will demand the highest compensation applicable to your case. Of course, nothing can fully compensate for your loss, but financial reparations can relieve some of the financial burdens you may have to face following your family member or relative’s untimely death.
Statute of Limitations
There is a time limit, starting from the day of the decedent’s death, for their representative or family members to pursue a wrongful death claim. The statute of limitations in Illinois is generally two years from the day of death; beyond that, a court may no longer allow representative or family members to ask for civil damages from the responsible party.
However, if the cause of death was “violent intentional conduct,” the surviving family can pursue damages within five years from the day of death.
Seek Justice for Your Loved One With Kroot Law
It’s emotionally tolling to have to go through a legal battle while grieving the sudden death of a family member. But you don’t have to carry this burden alone. If you have a proficient Illinois wrongful death lawyer by your side, your family can get just compensation.
Kroot Law is ready to assist and provide fierce legal assistance to the surviving family and personal representatives of wrongful death victims in Chicago and the rest of Illinois. We have successfully represented plaintiffs in wrongful death, personal injury, and medical malpractice cases. Whether you’re aiming for a settlement or want to pursue a trial, our capable and empathetic team, led by Atty. Jason M. Kroot will work tirelessly to secure the compensation you deserve.
Contact Kroot Law at (312) 543-0030 or schedule a free consultation on our website.