Illinois, like all states, has laws for wrongful death accident claims. This article discusses critical aspects of the Illinois wrongful death laws, including how wrongful death is proven. For questions about a wrongful death case, our wrongful death lawyer in Schaumburg at SJ Injury Law can help.
Under state law, wrongful death happens when someone dies because of another person’s ‘wrongful act, neglect, or default.’ A wrongful death lawsuit could be filed where the person who died could have brought a personal injury lawsuit if they had lived. Thus, you can think about a wrongful death claim as a variation of a personal injury lawsuit. The injured party cannot pursue their claim in court, so a family member has to step in and file the claim on their behalf.
Some states let the deceased’s family members file the claim. In Illinois, the claim must be filed by the estate’s personal or special representative. If the person who passed away died without a personal representative in their will, the court can name one. The personal representative must pursue the wrongful death lawsuit and handle other critical tasks related to the deceased’s estate.
Most wrongful death claims in Illinois are resolved outside of court. However, if you cannot reach a fair settlement with the defendant and the case goes to court, four elements must be proven:
First, you must prove that the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased. A duty is typically owed to all foreseeable individuals who could be injured by the defendant’s failure to act as a reasonable person would in the same situation. Also, if the defendant’s conduct led to a zone of danger, they are liable for injuries in that zone. For instance, a driver owes a duty of care to other drivers to not violate traffic laws and drink and drive. If the driver got drunk and killed someone, they violated their duty of care.
After showing the defendant owed a duty to the person who died, you must establish that the defendant breached their duty. It is not always simple to prove how the breach occurred, but res ipsa loquitur allows the plaintiff to prove that the defendant breached their duty if you can prove the following:
After showing duty and breach, you must show the link between the defendant’s actions or inactions and the death. First, you must show actual causation, which means the death would not have happened except for the wrongful act. Second, you have to show proximate causation. This means that the death was in the realm of possible harms that could have occurred because of the person’s negligent conduct.
Finally, you must prove that the defendant’s negligence led to damages for you in addition to the person’s death. Justice in a wrongful death lawsuit is represented by financial awards, offering evidence for your damages is vital. Damages that you could receive include:
If the wrongful death claim is successful, the court will provide damages to the survivors or estate. In Illinois, financial damages are provided to the surviving spouse and family according to their dependency level on the deceased person.
Damages in an Illinois wrongful death lawsuit are supposed to compensate the person’s family for the financial losses related to the death and non-economic damages. Some of the damages you could receive in the case are:
A wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within a specific time. The statute for most wrongful death lawsuits in Illinois is two years from the date of death. However, if the person passed because of ‘violent intentional conduct,’ the claim must be filed within five years. Also, a wrongful death lawsuit may be filed one year after the criminal case (if any) is resolved if the person who caused the death was charged with one of these crimes:
Sometimes it is unclear who the correct defendant is in a wrongful death claim. This can happen when filing suit against a business; many corporate franchises and companies could use various names in public that are different from their corporate names.
If you sue the incorrect entity or person, and the statute of limitations lapses, you cannot amend the complaint to add the proper entity, even if you sued the incorrect entity incorrectly. To avoid this problem, speak to a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. They can go over any relevant documents and investigate to find every defendant who could be liable for the person’s death. Suing the correct person or entity is critical to the success of your claim.
Before working with an attorney, you need to know if you have a possible wrongful death claim. To decide if you have a potential case, consider two questions:
If you can answer ‘yes’ to these questions, you could have a claim, and you should call a wrongful death attorney today. Your attorney will inform you of the types of evidence you will need to prove your claim. They also will tell you the potential damages you could receive in a settlement or verdict award. Before you contact an attorney, it can help to collect evidence, such as pictures, witness statements, and police reports. That way, the attorney will have a better idea of what happened.
The success of your Illinois wrongful death claim depends on convincing evidence. Depending on the details of the accident and subsequent injuries, the following evidence could be critical to proving the claim:
Did your loved one pass away in a workplace accident? Your attorney can review the firm’s safety and training records. A review of these records could show that the company did not adhere to proper training and safety methods, contributing to the accident. This would establish negligence by proving that the company did not fully train employees. It also shows the employer owed your loved one a duty of care.
If available, videos and photos could be used to show the accident and how it happened. For example, a red-light video could show how the defendant ran a red light and hit your loved one in a crosswalk. Your attorney can usually obtain video footage as evidence, whether from a red-light camera or surveillance video from a nearby business.
You can work with your attorney to obtain law enforcement’s report about the accident. The report should contain important accident details, including how it happened and, potentially, who was at fault. The report could also contain contact information for witnesses. This evidence could show your attorney how the accident occurred and what led to the person’s death.
Witnesses also can prove a wrongful death occurred by describing what they saw and heard when the person passed away. They also may testify about how your loved one passed away, such as the severity of injuries they suffered.
Your attorney must show that the deceased’s injuries are related to the defendant’s negligence. This can be done with their medical records, which indicate the nature and extent of the deceased’s injuries.
This report could show in a medical malpractice case if a medical error caused the person’s death. The autopsy report could have critical information, such as body photos, a detailed examination of the body, factors that caused the death, and tissue sample descriptions.
The loss may seem overwhelming if you lost a loved one recently because of someone’s negligence. You may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit to obtain damages. Contact our wrongful death lawyer in Schaumburg at SJ Injury Law for help at (847) 434-3555.
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