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Basics of wrongful death laws in Illinois

December 4, 2023

If you recently lost a loved one as a result of another party’s negligence, you should learn more about the basics of wrongful death law and what you need to know about filing a lawsuit. First, it is important to understand how the Illinois Wrongful Death Act (740 ILCS 180/) defines wrongful death. Then, you should learn more about who can be eligible to file a wrongful death claim in the state. To file a lawsuit, you will also need to understand how the statute of limitations can limit a person’s ability to file a claim and the significance of filing your case within a specific period of time. Failing to file within the statute of limitations set forth under Illinois law will cause you to lose out on recovering the compensation that you deserve.

How does Illinois define “wrongful death” in Illinois?

Under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act, a wrongful death is considered a death that has occurred as a result of another party’s negligent acts or inactions. In this case, a wrongful death claim may arise if the deceased would have been eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant if the deceased had not succumbed to fatal injuries. In other words, if the injuries had not been so severe as to result in the death of the deceased, then the deceased presumably would have been able to file a personal injury lawsuit to seek compensation for her injuries. Since the deceased did not survive the accident, a family member or representative may be able to step in to file a wrongful death lawsuit instead.

Who is eligible to file a wrongful death claim?

Not just anyone can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Illinois. Under the Wrongful Death Act, only a “personal representative” can file a claim, which can include the following persons:

  • Spouse of the deceased;
  • Adult child of the deceased; or
  • Parent of a minor child (if the minor child is the deceased).

It is important to understand that the personal representative is not seeking criminal sanctions against the defendant, but rather is filing a civil suit in order to seek damages, or financial compensation, for the loss of the deceased.

Statute of limitations for an Illinois wrongful death case

In addition to understanding the basics about how wrongful death law is defined and who can file a claim, it is also important to recognize how the statute of limitations affects cases. The statute of limitations is a statutory period of time that specifies how long you have to file a lawsuit. For wrongful death claims, the statute of limitations is one year from the date of death.

While one year might seem like a long time, it is important to get started on your case as soon as possible with a wrongful death lawyer in Illinois. To be clear, missing the one-year deadline, even by a day, will prevent you from recovering any damages in a wrongful death claim.

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