The loss of a loved one due to another person’s wrongful conduct is a devastating and tragic event, and these cases are unfortunately common throughout the nation. At Agruss Law Firm, LLC, we represent families whose loved ones have suffered a wrongful death in an accident to ensure that their rights are protected and help them seek justice and compensation for their losses. If you have lost a loved one due to a wrongful death, contact our office for a free consultation.
Settlements awarded for wrongful death cases in the state of Illinois are paid “for the exclusive benefit of the surviving spouse and next of kin of such deceased person” (740 ILCS 180/2). Settlement-amounts vary greatly based on the circumstances of the accident (especially whether punitive damages are involved) and certain characteristics of the deceased, such as prior professional status and earning power, whether he/she had children, and his/her age and general health at the time of death. Some wrongful death settlements exceed $1 million while others are significantly lower, and whether the plaintiff hires a personal injury attorney often correlates strongly with his/her potential success in the case and size of the settlement.
Accidents and Wrongful Death
In the United States, unintentional injury is the leading cause of death among citizens ages 44 and younger, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and accidents were the fifth-leading cause of death among all ages in Illinois in 2010 (behind heart diseases, malignant neoplasms, cerebrovascular diseases, and chronic lower respiratory diseases). Like personal injury claims, wrongful death claims in Illinois have a statute of limitations and must be filed within two (2) years of the date of your loved one’s passing, according to the Illinois Wrongful Death Act.
Wrongful Death Claims
A “wrongful death” is one which occurs due to the fault of another party, be it a person or business entity. Common examples include auto accidents, defective products, and medical malpractice, and workplace accidents such as equipment-malfunctions or those involving asbestos/mesothelioma may also result in wrongful death claims.
Illinois has two key laws which allow a victim’s estate and surviving loved ones to be compensated: the Illinois Survival Act, which “allows the victim’s estate to recover for economic and non-economic harm the victim suffered between the time of injury and time of death,” and the Illinois Wrongful Death Act, which allows the victim’s surviving loved ones to sue for monetary losses. While these claims are legally separate, they are often pursued simultaneously against the same parties.
Wrongful Death FAQ
- What is a wrongful death lawsuit and who can file one?
- What is the time-limit for filing a wrongful death claim?
- Who can be sued for wrongful death?
- How can I pursue a wrongful death claim for medical negligence?
- Can I afford to be represented by an attorney?
- What are common causes of wrongful death in Illinois?
- What damages can be recovered in a wrongful death claim?
Establishing a Case
Just as in personal injury claims, there are four key elements of the accident which must be proven to hold the defendant legally accountable for a wrongful death:
- Duty – The defendant, be it an individual, business, or government agency, must have owed a legal duty of care to the deceased victim, such as the duty to drive safely and with reasonable caution on public roads or the duty to provide safe and timely medical care to a patient.
- Breach – The defendant must have failed to uphold his/her legal duty of care to the deceased victim.
- Causation – The defendant’s breached duty of care, whether via action or inaction, must have been the direct (proximate) cause of the victim’s death which would not have occurred otherwise.
- Damages – Under the Survival Act, damages may include the victim’s lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering between the time of injury and time of death; under the Wrongful Death Act, damages refer to the lost benefits of the victim’s survivors, such as lost money, goods, or services, as well as enduring grief and loss of consortium/companionship for the spouse.
Filing a Claim
Under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act, you have two (2) years from the date of your loved one’s passing to file a wrongful death claim on his/her behalf. There are also potential exceptions to this rule: the first is that a juvenile has two (2) years after reaching the age of majority (eighteen) to file; the second is the “discovery rule,” under which the surviving loved ones of a deceased victim of medical malpractice have two (2) years from the date that they “knew or reasonably should have known of” the injury, although the claim must still be filed within four (4) years of the date of the injury; and the third is for wrongful death claims against a government agency in Illinois, which should be filed within one (1) year and with respect to additional special-notice requirements.
In Illinois, a wrongful death claim may be filed only by the victim’s “personal representative,” which may have been appointed in the victim’s will. If no personal representative was named in the will, a surviving loved one may petition the Probate Court in his/her jurisdiction to be appointed as such.
Wrongful death claims are made for the “exclusive benefit” of the victim’s next of kin and surviving spouse, and “next of kin” may refer to any blood-relatives who would take the victim’s property if the victim died without leaving a will, according to Illinois law.
Who can be Sued for Wrongful Death?
Under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act, any person or business entity which is legally at-fault for another person’s death, typically due to negligent or reckless conduct, can be sued by the victim’s personal representative. Common examples of wrongful death cases include:
- Auto accidents – Common types of driver-negligence in auto accidents include distracted, fatigued, reckless, and intoxicated driving.
- Defective products/product liability – A product’s defective design or manufacture which results in the death of its user may result in a wrongful death claim against the product’s manufacturer. In some cases, absent or inadequate warning labels may also be considered violations of product liability.
- Dog bites/animal attacks – The owner of a pet which attacks and kills another person may be sued for wrongful death.
- Medical malpractice – Health care providers may be sued for fatal medical errors, which include medication mistakes, errors which result in birth injuries, surgical errors, and delayed/missed diagnoses, and damages may also be sought for the death of an unborn fetus under Illinois law.
- Nursing home abuse/neglect – The owner, administrators, or staff members (or a combination of these) of a nursing home facility may be legally liable if a resident dies as a direct result of abusive or negligent conduct.
- Workplace accidents – An employer may be sued if its negligence directly resulted in the wrongful death of an employee.
Compensation in Wrongful Death Claims
In a “survival lawsuit,” the victim’s estate may recover for the victim’s suffering between the time of injury and time of death, including medical expenses, lost wages, and conscious pain and suffering, and either the estate or individual surviving loved ones may file separate claims for compensation for funeral expenses.
In a lawsuit under the Wrongful Death Act, surviving loved ones may be entitled to “just and fair compensation” for their own monetary losses. These may include “money,” “goods,” and “services,” referring to what the deceased victim typically contributed to his/her family in the past and what he/she would have contributed in the future. This compensation also reflects the deceased victim’s age, health, and personal expenses, and can be specific to a survivor’s dependency; a child may be eligible for compensation for lost parental guidance, for example, while a spouse may be compensated for loss of consortium/companionship.
Compensation under Illinois law is still possible even if your loved one was partially at-fault for the accident which resulted in his/her wrongful death, provided that the victim was not more than 50% at-fault. Compensation would then be reduced in proportion to the victim’s fault for the accident.
Compensation for the survivor may be barred if he/she was more than 50% responsible for the accident; if the survivor’s fault was less than 50%, his/her compensation would also be reduced accordingly.
How We Help
If you’ve lost a loved one due to a wrongful death, your family wants to have questions answered, find resolutions, and recover the compensation you deserve for your losses, and our attorneys will be there with you every step of the way to ensure a smooth and hassle-free process. Here are some ways your attorney will ensure a successful case:
- Insurance reviews – Compensation in a claim often depends on available insurance coverage, and your attorney will review all insurance policies involved in your claim.
- Investigations – We compile evidence to establish the cause and legal accountability for your loved one’s death and may also consult with highly-qualified experts and analysts to compile more specific information for your case.
- Negotiations – We will handle negotiations with insurance companies to reach a settlement that fully compensates you and your family, as well as the estate, for your losses.
- Litigation – If necessary, we will go to trial to establish your case in court and handle any potential appeals after the verdict.
- Resolution – We will fight until the very end to ensure that your rights are protected and you are fully compensated for your losses so that you and your family can maintain stability through the tragedy of losing a loved one.
Get a Free Review
If you have lost a loved one to a wrongful death due to the negligence of another person, business, or government agency, contact Agruss Law Firm, LLC for a free consultation. We are a Chicago-based law firm representing the families of those who have lost their lives due to negligence. We will handle your case quickly and advise you every step of the way, and we will not hesitate to go to trial for you. Lastly, we are not paid attorneys’ fees unless we win your case. Our no-fee promise is that simple. There is no risk when you hire us – only the opportunity to seek justice.