Losing a loved one for any reason is upsetting, but you could be even more devastated when that person was the victim of a fatal accident.
Unfortunately, these deadly incidents are far too common.
According to statistics collected by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death among 6 out of 10 age groups.
Fatal accidents also rank third as a cause of death when considering all age groups.
Regardless of the exact causes, the death of a family member will leave you grieving and doing your best to move forward with your life. However, this may be hard to do when the loss of a loved one also leaves you in financial dire straits.
Though it cannot fill the void, there may be some consolation knowing that you may have the right to compensation for your losses.
To learn more, you should discuss your circumstances with an experienced Illinois wrongful death attorney. Some information on how these claims work, and who can bring them, should be helpful.
Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Illinois?
Under the state wrongful death statute, the deceased victim’s next of kin has standing to bring a claim for wrongful death. In many cases, this will be the surviving spouse and children.
Further distant relatives, including parents and siblings, may also have rights if there are no surviving members of the decedent’s immediate family.
Your relationship to the person who died is key in determining the compensation you can recover in a wrongful death claim.
The concept of “next of kin” may cut off certain individuals as beneficiaries, because the statute is intended to provide monetary damages to those who relied on the deceased for financial support. Therefore, a surviving spouse and children can file a suit, but parents and siblings may not.
What fatal accidents allow for a wrongful death?
Almost any incident involving carelessness, recklessness, or intentional conduct can be grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit. Some examples of common scenarios that form the basis of such a claim include:
- Car, truck, and motorcycle collisions, where the responsible motorist failed to drive safely;
- Premises liability incidents, often termed “slip and fall” accidents;
- Medical malpractice, medical errors, and misdiagnosis claims;
- Workplace accidents;
- Assaults or physical attacks;
- Fatal injuries that occur due to dangerous, defective products; and,
- Many others.
How do I prove a wrongful death case?
While the circumstances of your loved one’s death are unique, many fatal incidents are based upon the legal concept of negligence. In this type of wrongful death claim, you must prove:
- The responsible person or entity had a duty to exercise reasonable caution, such as when driving, providing medical care, or managing property;
- That party breached this legal duty through careless or reckless actions;
- The breach of duty led to the accident in which your loved one was killed; and,
- You suffered losses as a result of the victim’s death.
The emphasis in element #4 is due to the fact that a wrongful death claim focuses on how you, as the next of kin, is affected by the loss of your loved one.
In addition, you should note that certain wrongful death claims are not based upon negligence. If the victim was killed because of a defective product, intentional conduct, or a workplace injury, you may still have rights. However, the four elements listed above operate differently.
Are there any other claims available by law?
While a wrongful death case focuses on losses sustained by surviving family members, there is another option that allows the decedent’s estate to recover monetary damages. This suit is called a survivor action, because the claims survive the person who died.
What compensation can I recover in a wrongful death claim?
If successful in proving the four essential elements of a wrongful death case, you may be able to recover for:
- Medical bills incurred to treat the victim’s fatal injuries;
- Funeral and burial expenses;
- Loss of financial support the deceased individual would have provided; and,
- Grief, sorrow, and emotional suffering.
Any amount you recover in a wrongful death action must be distributed in accordance with the statute, which could lead to multiple disbursements to beneficiaries.
The key factor is the extent to which a beneficiary relied on the decedent for support. In situations where the victim had a surviving spouse and children, the compensation would be divided equally.
Is there a time limitation on filing a wrongful death lawsuit?
Under Illinois’ wrongful death statute, you must file a lawsuit in court within two years. If you don’t, you’re forever barred from recovering compensation for your losses.
This statute of limitations starts to run on the date of death, as opposed to the incident which caused death. For instance, if your loved one succumbed to fatal injuries several months after a car accident, the date of death starts the clock – not the crash.
There is one key exception that may apply to the statute of limitations in a wrongful death suit that involves minor children. A person under the age of 18 years old doesn’t have legal capacity to file a lawsuit in court, so the statute of limitations may be “tolled.”
Essentially, this means the clock doesn’t start until that person reaches the age of majority. Therefore, the statute will begin to run when the child turns 18 years old. He or she must initiate litigation against the responsible parties within two years after that date, or the law will prohibit recovery.
Discuss Your Claim with an Experienced Illinois Wrongful Death Attorney
Though we recognize that legal action cannot bring back your loved one, our team at VanDerGinst Law, PC will do our best to ensure your financial situation isn’t a factor in your grieving.
For more information on who can file a wrongful death lawsuit, please contact our office to set up a complimentary consultation. After reviewing your circumstances, we can provide additional information on various factors that affect your claim.