Frequently Asked Questions About Illinois Wrongful Death Claims

After the sudden death of a loved one, families can face not only emotional hardship, but also financial difficulties as unexpected medical bills and funerary expenses render making ends meet a seemingly insurmountable challenge. The problem is even more severe when the deceased was the family's primary breadwinner. No matter what the cause of death - be it automobile accident, construction accident or medical malpractice - these concerns affect families when they are at their most vulnerable and least able to afford it.

At one time, the common law did not allow the families of those who have died as a result of the negligence of another to collect damages for the death of their loved one. Fortunately, this is no longer the case. In Illinois, the families of those who have lost a loved one due to the negligence of another may bring what is known as a wrongful death claim against the responsible party. This claim - essentially the same claim that the deceased person would have had - allows family members to bring claims for medical bills, funerary expenses, lost wages and more, providing families with the help they need to cover quickly mounting bills.

Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim?

Under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act, the next of kin of a deceased person are entitled to bring a claim against a negligent party. The term "next of kin" is a technical one under the statute and may include, depending on the circumstances, the siblings of the deceased, the spouse of the deceased, the children of the deceased, or the deceased's parents.

Even thought the action is brought in the name of the administrator of the deceased person's estate, neither the administrator nor the estate itself has any right to the judgment recovered. Thus, the amount recovered in the suit are not part of the decedent's estate liable to the claims of creditors.

What Must a Successful Plaintiff Prove?

Although each case is unique, a plaintiff must prove the following to be successful in a wrongful death claim in Illinois:

  • The defendant owed a duty to the deceased
  • The defendant breached that duty
  • The defendant's breach caused the death of the deceased

Of course, exactly what the plaintiff must prove - the exact duty owed to the deceased by the defendant, whether the defendant breached this duty, etc. - depends on the specific facts of each case.

What Damages Are Available?

The Illinois Wrongful Death Act seeks to compensate surviving kin for the pecuniary loss they suffered as a result of the death of a loved one. In this context, pecuniary loss for surviving kin is measured by considering characteristics of the deceased such as:

  • Mental and physical capacity
  • The amount the decedent earned each year
  • The amount the decedent was likely to earn in the future for the support of his surviving kin

The value of the pecuniary loss may also include the consideration of intangibles, such as deprivation of companionship and affection of the deceased.

An Attorney Can Help

If you have lost a loved one due to the negligence of another, contact an experienced personal injury attorney. A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer can assess your case and help you get the compensation for your injuries you deserve. For more information, contact an attorney today.