Losing a loved one is never easy, but when a family member’s death results from the negligent, careless, or reckless actions of someone else, it may be even more difficult to move on. While a lawsuit against the at-fault party cannot replace a lost loved one, it could help pay for some of the expenses that arise as a result of the death.
If you recently lost someone you loved, and you believe someone else was at fault, it may be important for you to speak to a Chicago wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible. There are certain laws and statutes that apply to these lawsuits in Illinois, and an experienced attorney could help you make sense of all of them.
Under Illinois law, a wrongful death must be caused by a wrongful or negligent act. More specifically, the law defines wrongful death as a circumstance that would have allowed the deceased to file a personal injury lawsuit if they had survived the accident. When these standards are met, this definition allows the families of deceased accident victims to recover damages, or compensation.
If these damages are awarded, they are typically split into two categories. The first category are damages that may be recovered by the decedent’s estate, such as funeral and burial expenses. The other category is compensation awarded to surviving loved ones for their loss, such as damages for grief and mental suffering.
Unfortunately, not everyone who is impacted by the loss of a loved one can file a wrongful death claim in Chicago. According to Illinois state law, the personal representative of the deceased’s estate is the only one who may file a wrongful death claim.
This representative is often outlined in the deceased’s will and is typically a spouse or child of the deceased. However, if there is no will in place or the personal representative described in the will is no longer alive, the court may appoint a personal representative. A wrongful death lawyer in Chicago could help determine who holds this responsibility in an individual case.
Wrongful deaths can sometimes result in a criminal case as well as a civil one, usually when the wrongful act that resulted in the death was intentional. So, if someone dies as a result of medical malpractice, it likely would not end in a criminal case if the healthcare professional did not commit a crime.
Family members of a deceased individual can pursue a wrongful death claim with an ongoing criminal trial taking place, but the two trials are wholly separate processes. Criminal cases are brought by the prosecution of the state or federal government, and any damages or sentences upon conviction would benefit the government, with loved ones receiving no compensation.
Civil wrongful death lawsuits, on the other hand, are intended solely for providing compensation to loved ones. Even if the defendant is found not guilty in a criminal trial, they could still be found liable in a civil suit. In other words, the outcome of one case will not determine the outcome of another.
Most wrongful death claims have a statute of limitations of two years. This means that, barring certain exceptions, those wishing to file a claim must file within two years of the date of death. Claims filed after this deadline are likely to be thrown out of court.
For this reason and many others, anyone wishing to file a wrongful death claim could benefit greatly from meeting with a Chicago wrongful death lawyer before filing their case. A dedicated attorney could determine if the claim is valid, when it should be filed, and even who may file it.
If you lost a loved one due to the wrongful actions of another person, call today to schedule a consultation and get started on your case. While a lawsuit cannot fix every wrong done to you, it could still help with the financial burden often left behind.