When a loved one dies unexpectedly, the close family is left in a state of grief and despair. When that death was the result of the negligent act of another person and was entirely preventable, justice must be pursued.
For more than 30 years, the Chicago wrongful death attorneys at Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates have been helping the families of those who died due to the negligence or reckless behavior of others. We hold those responsible accountable for their negligent actions by filing a lawsuit in civil court.
While no level of financial compensation can make up for the loss of a loved one, it is a form of justice. Pursuing a wrongful death claim in Chicago can be helpful to the future lives of those left behind.
- What is wrongful death?
- Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit?
- Compensation in a wrongful death case
- What is the statute of limitations?
- Illinois wrongful death FAQs
What is wrongful death?
The Illinois Wrongful Death Act defines wrongful death as a death caused by a wrongful act or neglect. If death had not occurred, the deceased would have been eligible to recover damages through a personal injury lawsuit.
Most suits are usually the result of:
- Car accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Drunk driving accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
- Faulty or defective products
- Workplace accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Nursing home neglect
We will work for you to help restore your family’s dignity and to help you seek justice for what occurred. Our Chicago personal injury lawyers will hold the responsible parties accountable.
Proving fault for a wrongful death
A wrongful death lawsuit is functionally similar to a personal injury claim. The difference is that the victim does not survive his or her injuries. The claimant in a lawsuit must prove the negligent party caused the death in question through some action, either an act of negligence or an intentional tort such as an act of violence. Proving negligence involves four elements.
The plaintiff’s Chicago wrongful death attorney must prove the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased. This generally involves proving the defendant was in some way involved in the cause of death or in a position to cause death.
Breach of Duty
Next, the plaintiff’s attorney must prove the defendant breached this duty of care in some way. This could be by direct action, such as speeding through a red light. This could also be by inaction in a situation; another reasonable person in the same situation would have acted differently to prevent the death in question.
The plaintiff’s attorney must then prove the defendant’s negligence resulted in measurable damages and/or observable injuries to the plaintiff and show the extent of those damages. The damages in these claims can apply to those sustained by both the deceased and his or her loved ones filing the claim.
Finally, the plaintiff’s attorney must prove causation. A plaintiff’s attorney must prove the defendant’s negligence was the direct cause of the plaintiff’s damages rather than some other cause. The plaintiff’s attorney may also prove that the death in question would not have occurred but for the defendant’s negligence.
In the event a person dies from criminal activity such as an armed robbery, homicide, or domestic abuse, the victim’s family may pursue a suit for civil recovery. The offender will also face criminal prosecution from the state. Evidence involved in the criminal case may come into play during the civil trial.
It’s vital for plaintiffs in this situation to remember that even if a defendant avoids criminal conviction, the standard of proof is lower in a civil case, and recovery through a wrongful death case is still possible.
Multiple liable parties
Illinois upholds a comparative negligence law. This means multiple parties can potentially share liability for wrongful death or any other type of civil injury.
For example, if a negligent driver causes a car accident and then the victim receives negligent medical care and dies, his or her surviving loved ones potentially have grounds for legal action against both the negligent driver who caused the accident and the negligent medical professional that provided inadequate or irresponsible care.
Illinois also upholds that a plaintiff may incur liability if a case investigation reveals the plaintiff contributed to his or her damages in any way. For example, if the deceased person in a wrongful death claim contributed in any way to the fatal event in question, the claimants may face a reduced settlement to reflect his or her degree of fault.
Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit?
The Illinois Wrongful Death Act requires the personal representative of a deceased individual’s estate to file a lawsuit on behalf of the deceased. Unless the deceased named a specific individual to act as his or her personal representative, Illinois law allows family members such as the surviving spouse or adult child of a deceased individual to file a wrongful death claim. A parent may also file a suit for the wrongful death of a child.
If the deceased individual died before naming a personal representative for his or her estate, the court will likely select one of the previously mentioned close relatives to act as the personal representative for the claim.
What is the statute of limitations?
Illinois allows a one-year statute of limitations or time limit for filing wrongful death cases. This year begins on the date of the death in question, but the statute may also allow the claimant to pursue on the grounds of the underlying claim behind the claim. For example, if a death resulting from a personal injury, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is two years. The claimants in this situation would have up to two years to file a wrongful death claim.
Compensation in a wrongful death case
The value of the compensation pursued will vary. Compensation is based on the age of the person, profession, income, number of children, and other factors. The compensation pursued by our Chicago wrongful death lawyers at Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates in Chicago will include the following:
- Cost of medical bills prior to death
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of wages that would have been earned during the lifetime of the decedent
- Pain and suffering experienced by the family due to the loss of a loved one
Illinois wrongful death FAQs
Q: What is the difference between a wrongful death claim and a survival action?
A: Many people mistakenly conflate wrongful death cases and survival actions. A lawsuit allows the estate of a deceased individual to recover compensation for damages to the beneficiaries of the estate. A survival action compensates claimants for damages the deceased would have likely received had he or she survived. This may include pain and suffering and lost earnings incurred between his or her final injury or illness and death.
Q: What are my options if the cause of a loved one’s death isn’t immediately identifiable?
A: Illinois generally upholds the discovery rule. The rule states the statute of limitations may not start until a claimant discovers the cause of death. However, this statute may also start on the date the claimant should have reasonably discovered the cause of death with regular diligence.
Q: Are there limits on the amount of recovery I can receive from a wrongful death claim?
A: Illinois recently struck down the state’s damage caps for medical malpractice claims. Now, no caps or limits exist on the amount of recovery available from most civil claims in Illinois.
Q: Can I file a wrongful death claim if my loved one died from a criminal act?
A: Illinois law does not prevent qualified representatives from pursuing wrongful death claims if the defendant in the claim also faces criminal prosecution from the state. Intentional torts include any intentional criminal activity that leads to the death of the victim. Some common examples of criminal actions that could lead to civil claims in addition to criminal prosecution include armed robbery, vehicular homicide, and fatal vehicle accidents caused by drunk drivers.
Q: How much will legal representation cost?
A: The presumably high cost of legal representation discourages many people from seeking help. At Horwitz Horwitz & Associates, our law firm takes all cases on a contingency fee basis. This ensures no out-of-pocket costs for clients and they only pay legal fees when we win their cases. A contingency fee comes out of the final case settlement or trial award, and the Chicago wrongful death lawyers at Horwitz Horwitz & Associates strive for transparency in all aspects of our billing practices.
Q: Why do I need an attorney?
A: Even if a wrongful death case appears straightforward at first, countless factors can come into play. Various elements can raise questions of liability and fair compensation.
Additionally, the court has strict filing requirements and deadlines for all types of cases. A procedural error can have severe consequences. It may even lead to a judge throwing out a claim before it can even reach the trial phase.
Hiring an experienced personal injury attorney in Cook County can significantly help your claim. An experienced lawyer can prevent procedural missteps that can derail a claim. Choosing to hire a lawyer can also ensure the family’s legal affairs are in good hands so the family can focus on mourning in peace. Attorneys can field correspondence from related insurance companies, handle depositions and interrogatories served to defendants, and help clients with personal finances for the duration of a case.
Q: What are the wrongful death statistics in Illinois?
A: While not every accidental death can be proven in a wrongful death suit, the Illinois Department of Public Health has accidental death data available:
Contact our attorneys today
Our law firm understands that you and your family have suffered tremendous pain, hardship, and negative financial impact. If you believe your family member has died due to the negligent actions of another person or entity, we can help.
Contact us online or call us at (312) 372-8822 to arrange a free case evaluation to discuss your case with a Chicago wrongful death attorney. We can advise you of your rights, the legal issues surrounding these cases, and give you a professional opinion about what to expect.
Other helpful FAQs :
What damages are awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit?