As traumatic as a loved one’s death can be under any circumstances, it may be even more difficult to take when you know it could have been prevented. In cases where the negligence or deliberate wrongdoing of another person causes a death in Cook County, family members or dependents may be entitled to compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit. If someone in your family died because of another person’s carelessness or misconduct, you should consider consulting a Cook County wrongful death lawyer.
While a lawsuit cannot bring back the person you lost, it could help you understand what happened and potentially offer some closure. Perhaps more importantly, though, a wrongful death claim could also provide compensation to make up for the household contributions you may be lacking in the future, as well as other economic and intangible losses. If retained, a dedicated personal injury attorney could advise you of your rights and the possibility of obtaining compensation in your case.
Illinois state law has a statute to address situations where a death is “caused by wrongful act, neglect, or default.” This statute generally allows a representative of the deceased person to file a lawsuit which the deceased person would have been able to file as a personal injury claim if they had survived the incident.
During the legal process, the representative filing the lawsuit stands in the shoes of the deceased person, according to 740 ILCS 180/1. Just as in a personal injury lawsuit, a wrongful death lawsuit must generally be filed within two years of the incident giving rise to the suit—in this case, the deceased person’s fatal accident. The statute of limitations is often longer in cases involving death due to violent criminal action.
The wrongful death statute in Illinois typically requires all claims to be filed in the name of the personal representative of the decedent or an individual who serves as the executor of the estate. If the deceased person named a personal representative in their will, that person would generally serve as the representative for filing a wrongful death suit. If a personal representative was not specified in a will or estate plan, the court may appoint one.
The Illinois Wrongful Death Act provides that in most cases, any damages awarded in a wrongful death case are “for the exclusive benefit of the surviving spouse and next of kin” of the decedent. According to this Act, damages may include whatever a jury believes to be “fair and just compensation” for the harm family members may suffer due to the untimely death. This could include compensation for “grief, sorrow, and mental suffering.”
The court may assess the circumstances and evaluate the level of dependency of different family members before determining how damages should be distributed. Adoptive family members are treated in the same manner as “natural” parents and children.
If the person or entity against whom a wrongful death action is filed alleges that the negligence of a beneficiary caring for the deceased person contributed to the death of that person, that argument would not bar a lawsuit. However, if such contributory negligence is found, it could reduce the amount of damages awarded. This could occur in a variety of cases, including deaths related to medical malpractice and car accidents.
A wrongful death claim may be a difficult action to undertake as such a process may be extremely emotional. However, it could be a necessary undertaking for the long-term welfare of your family.
An experienced Cook County wrongful death lawyer understands the hardship involved in these types of suits and could help address your legal concerns. To learn about the potential options that may be available to you, call and schedule a legal consultation.