Everything You Need to Know About Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Illinois

Wrongful death lawsuits represent a crucial aspect of legal recourse available to families who have lost a loved one due to the negligence or wrongful act of another party. In Illinois, understanding the nuances of these lawsuits is essential for those seeking justice and compensation for their loss.

These legal actions offer a path to financial relief for the bereaved and serve as a means to hold the responsible parties accountable for their actions. This article aims to shed light on the key elements of wrongful death lawsuits in Illinois, providing valuable insights for individuals navigating this challenging and emotional legal landscape.

What is Wrongful Death in the Context of Illinois Law?

In Illinois, wrongful death is legally defined as a death that occurs due to the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another person or entity. 

The Illinois Wrongful Death Act (740 ILCS 180) sets the legal framework for these cases. This Act enables the personal representatives of the deceased, usually close family members, to seek compensation for the wrongful death. 

The compensation covers various losses, including lost income, emotional suffering, and other damages related to the deceased’s untimely death.

Why Is This Definition So Important? 

This definition is important because it establishes the basis for a legal claim against those responsible for the death. If the deceased had survived, they would have been entitled to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the responsible party. Therefore, the wrongful death claim essentially takes the place of the personal injury claim the deceased could have filed.

How Does Wrongful Death Differ from Other Types of Personal Injury Cases?

Wrongful death lawsuits are distinct from other personal injury cases in several key ways:

  • Claimants — In personal injury cases, the injured individual is the claimant. In wrongful death cases, the claimants are the deceased’s personal representatives, such as family members.
  • Nature of Damages — Personal injury lawsuits seek compensation for the injured person’s medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. In contrast, wrongful death lawsuits seek compensation for the survivors’ losses, which include loss of financial support, emotional distress, and loss of companionship.
  • Statute of Limitations In Illinois, the statute of limitations for wrongful death cases is typically two years from the date of death but can extend to five years in cases involving violent intentional conduct.
  • Damages Recovered The distribution of damages in wrongful death cases is specifically outlined in the Illinois Wrongful Death Act. It considers the relationship and dependency of the survivors on the deceased.
  • Legal Complexity — Wrongful death cases often involve more complex legal issues than standard personal injury cases. This complexity arises from proving the causation of death and the calculation of damages based on the deceased’s future potential earnings and contributions.

Understanding these differences is critical for anyone involved in a wrongful death lawsuit in Illinois. It highlights the unique legal considerations and the need for specialized legal expertise in these cases. The underlying goal in wrongful death lawsuits, unlike other personal injury cases, is to compensate the survivors for their losses due to the untimely and wrongful death of their loved one.

How Does a Wrongful Death Case Differ from a Criminal Homicide?

The key differences between wrongful death cases and criminal homicide cases include the following:

  • Legal Nature of the Case Wrongful death cases are civil lawsuits filed by the deceased’s family or estate for monetary compensation. Criminal homicide cases are prosecuted by the state or federal government, where the accused faces criminal charges like murder or manslaughter.
  • Intent and Culpability Criminal homicide requires proof of the defendant’s intent to harm or kill, whereas wrongful death cases often involve negligence or recklessness without necessarily proving intent.
  • Burden of Proof — Criminal cases require ‘proof beyond a reasonable doubt,’ a higher standard than the ‘preponderance of the evidence’ needed in wrongful death lawsuits.
  • Outcomes — A guilty verdict in a criminal homicide case can result in imprisonment or other criminal penalties. In contrast, wrongful death cases seek financial compensation for the deceased’s family.

In some cases, there can be overlap between the two, where the same incident leads to both criminal charges and a wrongful death lawsuit. A criminal conviction can significantly impact a civil case’s outcome.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Illinois? 

In Illinois, the eligibility to file a wrongful death lawsuit is primarily designated to the personal representatives of the deceased. These are generally close family members:

  • Spouses
  • Children
  • Parents
  • Legal representatives who manage the deceased’s estate 

What is the Statute of Limitations to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

As for the time limitations, the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Illinois is generally two years from the date of death. However, this timeframe may extend in certain cases, particularly those involving violent intentional conduct or specific criminal charges. 

It is essential for potential claimants to be aware of these time constraints to ensure timely legal action.

Possible Causes of Wrongful Death

Common scenarios leading to wrongful death claims in Illinois can include the following:

  • Medical Malpractice — Deaths resulting from inadequate care or errors by healthcare professionals
  • Car Accidents — Fatalities caused by negligent driving, including DUI, speeding, or distracted driving
  • Workplace Accidents Deaths occurring due to unsafe working conditions or practices
  • Product Liability Fatal incidents involving defective or dangerous products
  • Criminal Acts — Deaths arising from violent actions like assault or battery

Calculating Damages and Compensation

Various types of damages can be claimed when calculating damages and compensation in wrongful death cases in Illinois. These can include:

  • Economic Damages — These cover tangible losses like lost wages, medical bills incurred prior to death, and funeral expenses.
  • Non-Economic Damages — These encompass intangible losses such as loss of companionship, grief, and mental suffering experienced by the surviving family members.

What Factors are Used to Calculate Damages?

Factors influencing the calculation of damages typically include the deceased’s age, health, earning capacity, and the extent of dependents’ reliance on them. 

Additionally, the nature of the wrongful act and the relationship between the deceased and the claimants also play a role in determining the compensation amount.

How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help in a Wrongful Death Case?

A personal injury lawyer can significantly assist in a wrongful death case by offering expertise in navigating complex legal processes. Their role includes:

  • Evaluating the case.
  • Gathering and presenting evidence.
  • Negotiating with insurance companies.
  • Representing the family in court, if necessary.
  • Calculating the appropriate compensation, considering factors such as lost wages, emotional distress and loss of companionship. 
  • Their experience in similar cases can provide invaluable guidance and support to families during an extremely challenging time.

Contact Pullano & Siporin for a Personalized Consultation

At Pullano & Siporin, our expert team of personal injury lawyers and trial attorneys specializes in personal injury cases in Illinois, including wrongful death lawsuits. 

Extensive Experience

With our combined experience of over 50 years, our personal injury attorneys are well-equipped to handle the complexities of wrongful death cases. We pride ourselves on providing personalized attention to every client and prioritize understanding the impact of such losses on families. 

Impeccable Track Record 

Our firm’s impeccable track record and reputation showcase our ability to achieve significant settlements and verdicts for our clients, demonstrating our commitment to seeking justice and fair compensation for all.

Contact Us Today

If you need legal advice or assistance in a personal injury or wrongful death case, please don’t hesitate to contact us for a free personalized consultation today.

Let us help you seek the justice you deserve!

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