What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Before you can determine whether you have the grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit, you need to understand what qualifies. Plainly put, it is defined as any unintentional action or negligent behavior that results in the death of another person.
In order to win a wrongful death lawsuit, the party initiating the case has the burden of establishing that the defendant acted negligently and that their negligence was the proximate cause of the death of their loved one.
Our Chicago law firm invests considerable time and expense when it comes to establishing negligence in wrongful death matters. Our attorneys regularly work with some of the leading experts in the fields of accident reconstruction, work safety and medicine to establish that the party we are suing acted negligently.
We feel that this investment is crucial to presenting the most favorable case before a jury or when approaching an insurance company at the settlement table.
What Forms of Compensation Can be Recovered in an Illinois Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Our Chicago wrongful death lawyers evaluate the details of each case to determine a fair value of the damages sought from the parties at fault for your loved one’s death. Generally, the damages that you can expect to recover from a successful lawsuit would include the following.
- Medical Expenses: The cost of your loved one’s medical care prior to his or her passing, including emergency care.
- Funeral Expenses: The cost of providing a funeral and burial services to lay your loved one to rest.
- Pain and Suffering: The value of your loved one’s pain and suffering preceding his or her death.
- Loss of Consortium: The emotional anguish that accompanies the loss of a valued family member and member of the community.
- Lost Income: The value of the deceased’s financial contribution to the family as well as the loss of benefits and inheritance caused by his or her death. For example, if your loved one provided health insurance to your family, the value of the insurance benefit would be included in the damages sought. If the individual was working at the time of his or her passing, a claim for lost income could be sought from a responsible party.
- Punitive damages: The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the party responsible for your loved one’s passing. If the negligent act or behavior is considered especially reckless or contemptible, punitive damages may be applied as a means of providing your family with justice while making an example of the negligent party to discourage similar behavior in the future.
Who is Entitled to Initiate an Illinois Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Wrongful death lawsuits need to be initiated by an individual who has standing to pursue the case under Illinois tort law. The marital status and / or the offspring of the deceased plays a role in whom is entitled to bring the case. Typically, close family members are the ones who are best positioned to bring the case.
In the case of a deceased person who was married at the time of his or her death, their living spouse would have grounds to bring a case. If there is not a surviving spouse, other family such as children, nieces and nephews could pursue a case. When a child is killed in an accident or due to medical negligence, parents would have standing to bring a case.
Just because an individual has standing to initiate a wrongful death case, does not mean that they will receive the proceeds from a wrongful death case under Illinois law. In order for the proceeds from a wrongful death lawsuit to be distributed, a judge must determine the amount that each family member will receive.
In Chicago, the proceeds from a wrongful death lawsuit are determined by a Judge at the Daley Center. While each circumstance is unique, most wrongful death distributions are based on the closeness and the relationship the surviving family member had with the deceased.
Time Constraints to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Illinois
Illinois has time constraints for the initiation of all lawsuits. These time constraints are referred to as statute of limitations. Your failure to file a lawsuit within the prescribed statute will forever bar your ability to recover compensation for your case.
Generally, the statute of limitations for initiating a wrongful death lawsuit in Illinois is two years from the date of the incident. (see 740 ILCS 180 Wrongful Death Act)
There are some exceptions to the above statute based upon who the defendant, or company being sued, in the matter is which may shorten the time for filing a case. Consequently, it is important to consult with an attorney as soon as feasible to protect your rights.
Why You Need an Attorney Following the Loss of a Loved One in an Accident
Many Illinois wrongful death claims are never filed because the families of the deceased feel that they have a low chance of success. They may also be wary of attorneys that don’t place their interests first.
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers has fought on behalf of families from across Illinois to help them find justice following the loss of a loved one. For this reason, we offer free consultations so that you can have your questions and concerns answered by a lawyer without any risk or obligation and if we do take on your case, you will not be required to pay us until we have successfully secured compensation on your behalf.
Recover Compensation When Loved Ones Are Killed Due to Negligence of Others
In recent matters, our top wrongful death lawyers secured a $3.45 million settlement for the family of a man who died after he was improperly monitored following surgery. In another matter, our attorneys settled a wrongful death lawsuit against a nursing home for the family of an 86-year-old woman who died after receiving an overdose of medication for over one million dollars.
If you believe the death of your family member was due to the negligence of a person or company, we invite you contact our office for a free case review. All of our wrongful death cases are handled on a contingency fee basis where we only receive a legal fee when we are successful on your behalf.
Types of wrongful death cases in our law firm handles:
Motor Vehicle Accidents
In 2015, more than 35,000 people lost their lives in highway accidents in the United States each year according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. According to the CDC, teenage drivers are more than three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash compared to drivers over the age of 20.
In Illinois, 1,082 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents during 2016 according to the Illinois Department of Transportation.
For more information on specific types of motor vehicle accident cases, please visit the following pages:
- Fatal Car Accidents
- Motorcycle Fatality
- Wrongful Death Truck Accidents
- Fatal Bicycle Accidents
- Pedestrian Fatalities
- Boating Accidents
- Drunk Driving Accidents
When we go to a doctor or hospital for care, we expect them to treat us with competence and care. Unfortunately, mistakes made in the medical field account for an estimated 210,000 to 440,000 premature deaths each year (see Journal of Patient Safety).
Illinois law allows the family of a person who was killed as a result of medical negligence to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the individual physician and / or the hospital where the treatment occurred.
Types of medical malpractice cases involving patient injury or death:
- Surgical Errors
- Nursing Home Abuse
- Anesthesia Errors
- Failure to Diagnose
- Emergency Room Errors
- Birth Injuries
- Bed Sore Fatalities
Despite ongoing legislation to improve workplace safety, going to work remains dangerous for a large percentage of the work force in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4,836 people were killed while working in 2015.
The Bureau evaluated these incidents and determined the primary causes of these incidents to be: transportation accidents (42.5% of fatalities), falls from elevated heights (16.5%), accidents involving heavy equipment (15%), exposure to harmful substances (8.7%) and fires and explosions (2.5%).
Some of the more dangerous industries include:
- Construction Accidents
- Road Construction
- Factory Accidents
- Industrial Accidents
- Refinery Incidents
- Premises Liability Accidents
Pharmaceutical Drug Incidents
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that over 48% of Americans have taken some form of prescription medication within the last 30 days. An estimated 2.8 billion prescriptions were given out to patients during visits to the doctor or admission to a hospital.
The majority of these medications are dispensed for: analgesics, antidiabetic agents and antihyperlipidemic agents.
Given the prevalence of prescription drugs in our society, there are financial incentives to develop new drugs to treat conditions. Unfortunately, sometimes the new medications are not sufficiently tested by manufactures before being brought to market and can result in deadly consequences.
Please refer to our drug recall section for additional information here regarding fatal complications related to pharmaceuticals.
For information regarding fatal complications related to medical devices, please reference our practice area here.
Other situations where a patient’s death may be related to a pharmaceutical drug involves human errors made by medical facilities or pharmacies.
These situations may involve:
Contact us today to schedule your free consultation with one of our wrongful death lawyers.
Read more about the legal rights of families who have lost a loved one in an accident or due to malpractice by visiting our Wrongful Death Lawsuit FAQ's.
The material on this page was written and updated by attorney Jonathan Rosenfeld.