While personal injury law exists to compensate people for their injuries, a person who passes away after an accident is obviously unable to pursue a claim. Fortunately for potential plaintiffs, the Illinois Legislature decided to remedy this problem by enacting a law which now allows surviving family members to sue for their losses, known as the Illinois Wrongful Death Act. See what is associated with wrongful death in Illinois and consider hiring us as your Rockford wrongful death attorneys.
WHAT IS WRONGFUL DEATH?
Wrongful death refers to a type of death caused by negligence or misconduct of another person or entity. This means that wrongful death covers both intentional or unintentional acts that lead to the demise of another person. In conjunction, a wrongful death lawsuit is a suit filed against a negligent or ill-intentioned party for causing the death of a family member, usually seeking monetary reparations to compensate loss of wages, funeral costs, and pain and suffering.
There are several different cases for which a wrongful death lawsuit may be filed. Doctors are commonly served wrongful death suits if they misdiagnose a disease that ends their patient’s life or if a surgeon misperformed his duties. Wrongful death lawsuits can be served to drivers who killed other drivers, passengers, or bicyclists. Family members may also sue alleged murderers for wrongful death in addition to their civil murder charges. The only time wrongful death cannot be claimed is due to workplace injury, which then goes through worker’s compensation legal routes – though full compensation through this type of law is still completely possible.
HOW IS A CLAIM FILED?
The process for filing a wrongful death claim can be very difficult, complex, and time-consuming, all reasons why we recommend family members of wrongful death victims visit with us as experienced wrongful death attorneys in Rockford. In most situations, the burden of proof (meaning the responsibility to hold a person accountable for a death) falls on the victim’s family and their legal counsel. Proof for a wrongful death is based on due care, breach of duty, causation, and actual damages.
The first step in filing a wrongful death claim is establishing the accused had what we refer to as “due care”. Due care essentially defines a duty someone has to keep another person safe, refrain from doing harm to another person, or both. If a person were walking along the path of a construction site, for example, and died during a demolition because the contractors forgot to mark that the path was closed, they could be held liable for a wrongful death because they construction crew had the responsibility to keep the community safe. A judge will look at all of the evidence in determining if due care was owed and will make a judgment as to whether or not the lawsuit could proceed further.
If the judge determines there was due care, the plaintiff will then have to gather evidence to demonstrate that the defendant breached his/her responsibility. In other words, it rests on those filing the wrongful death to present evidence that due care was somehow violated. Using the example above, proving that the construction company breached due care may include showing that no signs or tape indicated demolition. In a real case, the prosecution only needs to convince half of the jury that there was some breach before pushing on to proving causation and damages.
Proving causation goes hand-in-hand with due care and breach of responsibility. The plaintiff must show that the person or entity who breached due care actually caused the death of their loved one. Again using the construction example, they would need to show that not only was the path not marked, but the demolition of falling concrete and brick caused the demise of their family member. If it was a heart attack that killed him while he was walking by the dangerous site, even though the company wasn’t practicing due care, they wouldn’t be directly at fault for causing the man’s death. Generally, attorneys will be able to catch this before the situation even goes to trial.
Lastly, to actually claim wrongful death compensation, those filing the wrongful death suit must prove that actual damages were caused that cost the family monetarily. This can be in the form of funeral costs, lost wages, and/or pain and suffering. The family themselves must show a degree of hardship in order to receive a financial reward for their claim.
WHO CAN FILE A CLAIM?
The Illinois Wrongful Death Act allows surviving family members to inherit money through the state’s intestacy laws, which determine what happens to a person’s estate if they pass away without a will. As a result, a person’s spouse, children, parents, or immediate next of kin may be able to file a wrongful death claim. In addition, a personal representative appointed by the court may be able to file a claim. Any money that is awarded in a court-appointed case is used for the benefit of the decedent’s legal heirs or beneficiaries.
WHAT DAMAGES ARE AVAILABLE IN AN ILLINOIS WRONGFUL DEATH LAWSUIT?
Illinois law allows surviving family members to recover for a variety of economic and non-economic damages in a wrongful death lawsuit. Some of the more commonly sought out damages include the following:
- Loss of financial support, including the value of future wages the decedent would have provided to the family. In order to determine this type of loss, the judge or jury must consider factors such as the decedent’s age, his or her occupation, his or her health, and his or her spending habits.
- Loss of consortium (for surviving spouses). In order to determine how much compensation is due for loss of consortium, the finder of fact will consider the nature of the relationship between the decedent and his or her spouse.
- Grief, sorrow, and mental suffering. Recovery for emotional damages are a relatively new aspect of Illinois wrongful death law, but can still be pursued by surviving family members.
HIRING A WRONGFUL DEATH ATTORNEY IN ROCKFORD
There is a lot of work and time associated with establishing a wrongful death in Rockford, but with the right representation, you can be assured that your rights will be protected. If you have any questions regarding your rights, please contact us as your experienced wrongful death lawyers in Rockford, Illinois at Tuite Law for a free consultation.