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Determine How Much Your Wrongful Death Damages Are Worth: Five Factors

Paperwork Showing Wrongful Death LawsuitToo often, the worst comes from accidents. Further, families rarely prepare for the outcomes they dread the most. Yet, these two facts slam together at an unfortunate rate. After car accidents, construction incidents, and other events, wrongful deaths occur. In Illinois and across the country, we see the victims, their families, and their friends. They all struggle to deal with the event.

One thing they often forget is how much they have on their side. If your loved one died due to someone’s wrongful act, then you might be able to seek justice. The law allows people to bring a cause of action over wrongful deaths. They happen all the time. In fact, we work with families and spouses after the unthinkable happens. We show them how to use the courts to heal and move on.

Over the next few sections, we will review how you can do that. We’ll talk about what a wrongful death case means. We’ll show you how you can make one. Then, we’ll examine what your wrongful death damages might be worth. Remember, you can always call and talk to us. Our team will speak with you over the phone and set up a time to meet. It’s no hassle and no obligation. You deserve the facts! Give us a call today!

  1. What are Wrongful Death Damages?
  2. Who can Recover Wrongful Death Damages?
  3. Who can You Sue for Wrongful Death Damages?
  4. How do You get Wrongful Death Damages?
  5. Wrongful Death Facts and Figures
  6. 5 Factors That Determine how Much Your Wrongful Death Damages are Worth
  7. How Do I Calculate Wrongful Death Damages?
  8. Resources for Wrongful Death Damages
  9. Sample Wrongful Death Awards and Settlements
  10. Our Team is Ready to Help!

What are Wrongful Death Damages?

Wrongful death claims may confuse you. The victim is no longer around to cry foul. You might think this would end the matter. It doesn’t though. Certain persons can still file lawsuits. The issue remains: was the death caused through the fault of another? If it was, then a case exists. This didn’t always used to be true. For hundreds of years in the US and UK, the death meant the wrongdoer was off the hook. Now, every state and federal court permits wrongful death claims?

What are wrongful death claims? Illinois law actually defines them in 740 ILCS 180/1.

“Whenever the death of a person shall be caused by wrongful act, neglect or default, and the act, neglect or default is such as would, if death had not ensued, have entitled the party injured to maintain an action and recover damages in respect thereof, then and in every such case the person who or company or corporation which would have been liable if death had not ensued, shall be liable to an action for damages, notwithstanding the death of the person injured, and although the death shall have been caused under such circumstances as amount in law to felony.”

These actions seek compensation for the damages that arose due to the wrongful death. They can be economic or non-economic in nature. They can be for the pain the decedent felt prior to death. They may be for the suffering a family member feels after it. They could be for the expenses the ordeal created. They might even account for the egregiousness of the defendant’s conduct. Illinois law defines

We’ll get more into these specifics in the next few sections. For now, look at these common examples of wrongful death damages.

  • Missed companionship.
  • Lost support.
  • Lost income.
  • Funeral bills.
  • Emotional distress.
  • Pain and suffering.

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Who can Recover Wrongful Death Damages?

So, who can get wrongful death damages? Now, that we discussed what such a claim is, it’ll be helpful to review who can bring one. Generally, you must suffer damage due to the death. Most states assume that some people suffer from a death. They are normally people directly related or married to the victim. Take a look at this list to get sense of who counts here.

  • Parents.
  • Kids.
  • Spouses.

Some states allow more distant relatives to recover. For example, grandparents and siblings might be able to make a case. Also, anyone that suffered financially from the death can bring a claim. That can get complicated factually but it’s still an option.

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Who can You Sue for Wrongful Death Damages?

The law allows you to broadly sue anyone that caused the wrongful death. This can mean a person, company, or organization. The important point is that you satisfy the underlying elements of your case. Then, you can sue anyone that is at the end of that fact pattern. Here are some examples of defendants in wrongful death cases.

  • An individual that crashed into someone.
  • A company that was employing a driver at the time of the crash.
  • A maker of a defective product that caused a death.
  • A bar owner that overserved a patron that crashed into someone.
  • A property owner that didn’t warn others to a dangerous condition.

Immunity might be something that blocks your case. Sometimes, you can’t sue certain defendants for wrongful death. For instance, some government agencies can’t be held liable for particular accidents. Also, railroad companies and medical companies may be let off the hook too. It’s important to remember this issue when considering a case.

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How do You get Wrongful Death Damages?

Now, we want to talk about the process of a wrongful death case. This will ultimately determine if you get any wrongful death damages. That starts with filing a case in the proper amount of time. For instance, Illinois gives you the same amount of time as the underlying form of suit or 1 year from the date of the death-whichever is later. 735 ILCS 5/13-209. So, if it was for negligence, you’d have 2 years.

What must you put in your suit and prove at court? Wrongful death suits have four parts. We need to go over each of them. First, the event must have produced a death. This seems obvious, but you still need to show it. Second, the death must have come from the defendant’s negligence. Within that, you must prove all points of negligence (duty, breach, causation, damages). Third, the plaintiffs must have suffered directly from the death. Fourth, the survivors must have been harmed financially.

Sound like a lot? It might at first. Over time, you’ll see how these arose in your facts. Plus, we can help. We have years of experience working with families after a tragedy like this. We can show you how to best form your case. Then, we can fight for you at trial. You deserve every penny Illinois allows after a wrongful death. We can make sure your rights are protected!

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Wrongful Death Facts and Figures

  • Hundreds of thousands of people die each year on accident. A lot of these are due to the misconduct of someone else.

  • You can bring a wrongful death case even if the state does or doesn’t charge anyone criminally.

  • You can bring a wrongful death case and a negligence case at the same time.

  • Almost half of all road deaths are due to alcohol and distractions. Although, the number of drunk driving deaths is declining.

  • Tens of thousands of people die each year from medical malpractice.

  • Many wrongful deaths come from defective medications, slip/fall incidents, work accidents, or nursing home negligence.

  • Birth defects are a leading cause of untimely deaths. Many of these wrongful deaths stem from medical negligence.

  • More than half of accidental deaths for people over 65 happen because of falls.

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5 Factors That Determine how Much Your Wrongful Death Damages are Worth

To this point, we’ve give you info on wrongful death claims. We’ve told you about them. We’ve told you who can bring them and whom they can sue. We’ve given you facts and figures. Now, we want to provide you with some factors that determine them. You can use them to estimate your own wrongful death damages.

  1. The pain the victim felt before death.
  2. The costs the incident created (i.e. hospital/ambulance fees) and any funeral/burial expenses.
  3. Any economic losses the plaintiffs suffered as a result of the death.
  4. Any non-economic harms the plaintiffs sustained as a result of the death.
  5. The egregiousness of the defendant’s conduct.

Now, let’s apply them to see how you can calculate your own wrongful death damages.

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How Do I Calculate Wrongful Death Damages?

As the factors indicate, wrongful death claims involve different kinds of damages. You have economic and non-economic harms. Each of them deserves compensation. With economic damages, those are straightforward. You simply tally up the bills and present them. You can maximize them by keeping good records and conducting thorough investigation. Non-economic damages are harder to estimate. Normally, plaintiffs compare their injuries to other cases and make similar demands. Alternatively, they might seek a multiplier of their economic costs. For instances, if they had $50,000 in economic costs, they’ll ask for 2 or 3 times that in non-economic compensation. Of course, that depends on the severity of their intangible injuries. For both kinds of harms, you’ll recovery will be magnified if you expect to endure them well into the future. So, timeline is important when predicting the total value.

This analysis should help you calculate what your wrongful deaths could be. To get closer, speak to an experienced lawyer. Then, you’ll have a more precise estimate. If you contact our offices, we can show you how to use these factors. We can help you move from a mere prediction to a bold plan for recovery!

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Sample Wrongful Death Awards and Settlements


This case arose in Lake County, Illinois. The victim was an elderly woman. She had recently been admitted to a nursing facility. Previously, she spent time at a number of other homes. Also, she was in and out of the hospital for various treatments. She suffered from a number of illnesses including dementia. Doctors sent her to this home with instructions for care. They included a warning that she was at risk for falls. When homes get these warnings, they normally employ a bunch of safeguards. For instance, they might install bed rails. They also normally keep more staff around the person. In this case, it appears that didn’t happen. She fell at least twice from what her family could tell. She might have fallen more than that. It was the last time when things got really critical. Nursing home staff found her on the floor of her room. Blood was strewn around her. They had her sent to the ER for treatment. Doctors there identified other issues. She showed signs of neglect and malnutrition. They decided to keep her there for further monitoring. Yet, she didn’t make it long. She passed away just a few weeks later. Her family thought the onus should fall on the home. They claimed it was responsible for this fast decline in her health. They pointed to the warnings they got. Then, they highlighted the home’s inaction. Finally, they concluded the home was responsible for her death. They sought damages for expenses, bills, her pain, and their loss. The home sought to conclude the suit in a private manner. They arranged a private settlement for $500,000.


This case was brought after some things went awry in surgery. The operation took place in Chicago, Illinois. The patient was experiencing the effects of cancer. He sought care from a specialist. That doctor recommended advanced procedures. Over the course of these treatments, his health start seriously to falter. He died after the last round of care. His family consulted legal counsel. They determined that the suggested course of treatment was not in line with the norm. With medical malpractice actions, you need to show that the doctor deviated from what other doctors would do in the same circumstances. Circumstances include the patient’s background, the illness, etc. Here, the plaintiffs alleged the doctor fell below those standards. Then, that deviation led to his passing. But for this deficient treatment, he might have lived longer they argued. These cases can last for years and years because the issues are so complex. They get rather esoteric and complicated very fast. For plaintiffs, this means they might wait years to recover. For defendants, it means they might shell out a lot of money only to lose in the end. To cut their losses, many of the latter choose settlement. That’s what happened here. The family received $750,000 in a private negotiation. That came about one year and a half after the matter began. That’s still below the average for case length.


This case was filed in Tazewell County, Illinois. It came after the death of two workers. They were told to clean out a railcar. The cars were used to transport food around for livestock. The materials used were toxin to humans. Workers were supposed to wear masks and employ other safety precautions. They weren’t warned of this. One of them jumped in and began working. Not long after this, he collapsed due to inhalation of the toxic substances. Another worker noticed his fall and tried to help. He too suffered. Both of them died not long after this exposure. One of them was 29. The other was 37. They each were survived by a wife and children. Those families brought an action against the company that owned the cars. They argued they should have alerted workers more to the dangers of the toxins. The defendant tried to pin the blame on their employers. It said that company was responsible for protecting them. Plus, that should make it a workers’ comp claim and bar the action entirely. Yet, the judge ruled that the families could proceed against the defendant. That meant a jury would hear the families’ pleas. This was the last thing they wanted. They convinced the plaintiffs to end the matter with settlement. Each family received $3 million.


This suit highlights the danger of driving while texting. The plaintiff was a middle-aged man waiting in traffic on the Kennedy Expressway. He was sitting in his SUV when a truck slammed into him. The crash sent him flying over a retaining wall. He flew almost 100 feet. The fall left him critically injured. He had broken bones, bleeding, and other injuries. He died on the scene before he could be rescued. He was survived by four children. His estate filed a lawsuit against the man and his employer. The truck driver was working at the time of the incident. Also, when it occurred, witnesses reported that he was texting while driving. They even said he looked down at his phone right before hitting the SUV. In the course of trial, it came out that he was prescribed serious medications too. Those meds produced drowsiness. He didn’t tell the licensing board this when he got his license to operate commercial trucks. Had he done so, he never would have been allowed to drive. After all of these was realized, the defendant admitted responsibility for the crash and the man’s death. The issue then was damages. The jury ruled that $1 million was the proper figure. Here’s what that accounted for.

  • The man’s pain before dying.
  • The pain and grief of his family due to the death.
  • Funeral expenses and other bills.
  • Lost consortium and other intangible losses.


This incident took the lives of two people and seriously injured another. An older couple (both in their 60s) went up to Wisconsin to stay in their cabin. They brought with them their granddaughter. As they slept peacefully in their bed, a gas leak caused an explosion. It took the lives of the two grandparents. Also, it seriously injured the little girl. Representatives of the family brought a lawsuit against the company that installed and produced the gas line and tank. They argued it was negligently placed and maintained. Further, they stated that the company had a duty by contract to do it in a safe manner. The case was brought in Illinois because that was the state of their residence. The defendant quickly moved to dismiss the case. Once that motion was denied, it changed tactics. The focus then was on settlement. The little girl received $3 million. That represented money for her 1) disability 2) disfigurement 3) pain and 4) lost normal life among other things. The estate for the grandparents recovered $1 million. That was largely for wrongful death damages.

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Our Team is Ready to Help!

Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers has a full team devoted to assisting families after tragedies. We come in and support them during this terrible time. If you’ve lost someone close to you, give us a call. We can help you seek justice and get the assistance that you need. We’re just a phone call away!

Learn about other damages you can obtain. Read the following articles.

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Jonathan Rosenfeld was professionally objective, timely, and knowledgeable. Also, his advice was extremely effective regarding my case. In addition, Jonathan was understanding and patient pertaining to any of my questions or concerns. I was very happy with the end result and I highly recommend Jonathan Rosenfeld. Michonne Proulx
Extremely impressed with this law firm. They took control of a bad motorcycle crash that left my uncle seriously injured. Without any guarantee of a financial recovery, they went out and hired accident investigators and engineers to help prove how the accident happened. I am grateful that they worked on a contingency fee basis as there was no way we could have paid for these services on our own. Ethan Armstrong
This lawyer really helped me get compensation for my motorcycle accident case. I know there is no way that I could have gotten anywhere near the amount that Mr. Rosenfeld was able to get to settle my case. Thank you. Daniel Kaim
Jonathan helped my family heal and get compensation after our child was suffered a life threatening injury at daycare. He was sympathetic and in constant contact with us letting us know all he knew every step of the way. We were so blessed to find Jonathan! Giulia
Jonathan did a great job helping my family navigate through a lengthy lawsuit involving my grandmother's death in a nursing home. Through every step of the case, Jonathan kept my family informed of the progression of the case. Although our case eventually settled at a mediation, I really was impressed at how well prepared Jonathan was to take the case to trial. Lisa