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What must I prove in a wrongful death suit?

If you are an Illinois resident who recently has lost a loved one due to an accident and/or injury caused by someone’s negligence or malice, you may be considering filing a wrongful death action against the person and/or entity who you believe is responsible for your loved one’s death. As FindLaw explains, the personal representative of your loved one’s estate can file a wrongful death claim for many reasons, such as medical malpractice, a vehicular accident, a workplace injury or someone’s criminal behavior.

To prove wrongful death, you will need to prove the following four elements by a preponderance of the evidence:

  1. A human being died.
  2. The decedent’s death was caused by someone’s negligence or intent to cause harm to him or her.
  3. You and other family members are the decedent’s survivors and are suffering economic damage as a result of his or her death.
  4. The decedent’s estate has an appointed personal representative.

Types of damages available

When you are successful in a wrongful death action, the person and/or entity responsible for your loved one’s death must compensate you for the following:

  • The decedent’s medical and funeral expenses
  • The decedent’s pain and suffering from the time of the injury to the time of his or her death
  • Your loss of the decedent’s support; i.e., his or her income had he or she continued to live
  • Your loss of the decedent’s services
  • Your loss of the prospect of inheriting from the decedent had he or she continued to live

In addition, you may be entitled to punitive damages if the actions and conduct of the responsible party were particularly egregious. While this information should not be taken as legal advice, it can help you understand the wrongful death process and what to expect.

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