You prove wrongful death by introducing evidence that establishes each element of the civil tort of wrongful death. Even if the death happened because of someone’s criminal act, wrongful death is a civil lawsuit, so you have to establish all the factors for that cause of action.
In This Article
The Elements of Wrongful Death in Illinois
The Illinois state legislature created the right to sue someone for money damages for the wrongful death of a close relative. 740 ILCS 180 defines what constitutes a valid wrongful death lawsuit in our state.
To win a wrongful death lawsuit in Illinois, you must prove all of these factors:
Your Family Member Passed Away
You cannot have a wrongful death lawsuit unless someone is now deceased. If the person received a physical injury but survived, the legal remedy is a personal injury claim. Even if the victim suffers extreme injuries and requires long-term (or life-long) care, it is a personal injury claim, not a wrongful death lawsuit.
A Wrongful Act Led to Your Family Member’s Passing
The defendant must have committed a wrongful act. Under the law, a wrongful act can be negligence, a defect, neglect, or an intentional act.
Your Loved One Passed Due to Negligence
The wrongful act must be the thing that caused the death of the injured person. Upon proving this, you could secure a settlement or judgment to help you recover financially after losing your loved one.
This can be a tricky factor to prove. Even if the defendant confesses to committing a negligent action, you might let slip to the insurance company that your loved one had a pre-existing condition. Your lawyer can connect your loved one’s death to the defendant’s action (or inaction).
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How to Prove the Elements of Wrongful Death
The evidence you will need to establish the existence of the required factors for a wrongful death case will vary from one lawsuit to another. The facts of your case will determine what evidence you need. Your attorney might use many different kinds of items in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Prove Your Loved One is No Longer With Us With a Death Certificate
An official death certificate provides a great deal of useful information for your case. A death certificate shows the date and time of a person’s death, which can be helpful if there is a question about the statute of limitations. Also, the document should note the official cause of death, which will be necessary in a wrongful death case.
Police and Accident Records Can Show That a Wrongful Act Occurred
It can be more challenging to show that the defendant committed a wrongful act than to show that the injured person died. We could introduce the police report to show that the defendant committed a moving violation and harmed your loved one.
Additional possible sources of evidence include:
- Eyewitness testimony
- Security camera footage
- Testimony of the defendant
- Statements made by your family member before he died
- Accident reconstruction expert witness testimony
You might have other factors you need to prove in your wrongful death lawsuit to recover compensation for the loss of your loved one.
How a Wrongful Death Case is Different From a Criminal Charge
When a person dies because of someone else’s conduct, the at-fault party might get charged with a crime. Sadly, the decedent’s survivors sometimes do not realize that they can file a civil action for financial compensation, even when there is a criminal case pending. The criminal case does not take away the right of the family to hold the defendant financially liable for their losses.
The family cannot force law enforcement to proceed with the criminal case. The criminal case is entirely separate from the wrongful death civil lawsuit.
File a civil tort lawsuit while the criminal case is going on
The American legal system requires a lot of proof to convict someone of a crime or win a civil lawsuit. It is possible to win a wrongful death case even if the defendant does not get convicted of murder or manslaughter, though. The defendant might actually be guilty of a crime but enter into a plea bargain with the prosecutor or avoid a criminal conviction in some other manner.
You do not have to wait until the criminal case is over to go forward with your wrongful death lawsuit. Also, as long as you have the evidence to prove your civil wrongful death claim, it does not matter if the defendant does not get convicted of the crime.
The Statute of Limitations Limits How Long You Have to File
In most wrongful death claims, you only have two years from the date of the death to file a lawsuit seeking compensation for your losses under 740 ILCS 180/2. When the death happens because of a violent criminal act or a minor child is a potential beneficiary of the case, you might have a longer time limit, though.
If you miss the deadline for filing your lawsuit, Illinois law will prevent you from ever pursuing the guilty party and holding him financially responsible for what he did to your loved one and your family.
One of the many benefits of working with a wrongful death attorney from the beginning is that you do not have to worry about things like filing deadlines. You can focus on yourself and your family instead.
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You can call The Kryder Law Group, LLC, at (312) 223-1700 today for a free consultation. We treat our clients with compassion and respect, and we understand what you are going through at this time. We work to get our clients the compensation they deserve to rebuild their lives.