A family can pursue a lawsuit under the theory of wrongful death that demands compensation. However, they cannot do so directly.
According to state law, only the decedent’s personal representative has the standing to serve as a plaintiff in these cases. An individual gains status as a personal representative through the probate court process.
Additionally, these lawsuits can only demand compensation for surviving spouses and next of kin. Because of this unique concept under the law, family members pursuing wrongful death cases sometimes speak with attorneys.
Who Can Pursue a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
State law places strict limitations on which parties have the ability to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. We call this ability standing. Only parties with standing can file complaints in court that demand compensation.
According to 740 ILCS 180/2, the only party with the standing to bring a wrongful death case to court is the decedent’s personal representative. A person becomes a personal representative as the result of the probate process. A decedent may name this person in a will, or the court may appoint a representative on its own.
Because of this, family members cannot sue for wrongful death on their own accord. However, working in tandem with a personal representative could still result in these lawsuits appearing in court.
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Who Does a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Benefit?
While families cannot directly sue wrongful death, the lawsuit’s sole purpose is to bring them compensation. According to 740 ILCS 180/2, these lawsuits can bring any compensation that a jury finds appropriate. Specifically, the statute lists the following as acceptable compensation:
- Mental suffering
Also, these lawsuits will demand compensation for economic losses. These typically include medical bills, funeral costs, and lost wages from an earner now being deceased.
The parties who may collect this compensation are limited. Under the law, a surviving spouse and next of kin will share the payments. It is up to the court to determine which percentage of the award will go to each party. It is only if a decedent dies without a spouse or next of kin that a wrongful death lawsuit can benefit the remainder of the estate.
If Your Loved One Was Partially at Fault for Their Injuries
If your family member was partly to blame for the accident that led to their death, the personal representative assigned to their case could secure damages. You could end up with damages as long as your loved one is determined to be a lesser liable party than the other party involved in the case.
Your lawyer will utilize evidence like blood alcohol tests, traffic camera footage, police accident reports, and eyewitness testimony to prove that the accident was not primarily the fault of your loved one.
How Long Does a Personal Representative Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Even if a personal representative decides to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a family, there is still a limited time to act under the law. 740 ILCS 180/2 enforces the state’s statute of limitations for wrongful death cases.
It provides that it is only appropriate to bring these cases to court within a certain amount of time from the date of death. However, exceptions do apply that allow for an extension.
As a result, personal representatives acting on behalf of families can reach out to a law firm to discuss their case. Wrongful death lawsuits tend to be very complex, and the sooner you call, the sooner your lawyer can get to work.
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Only Personal Representatives of a Decedent’s Estate Can Sue Wrongful Death
There is no doubt that an unexpected death can have a devastating impact on a family. Surviving spouses and next of kin certainly have a right to seek compensation for their economic losses and emotional traumas.
However, state law says that these people cannot sue wrongful death. Instead, they must rely on the decedent’s personal representative to take the lead in pursuing these cases. A personal representative gains their powers through the probate process. This representative pursues wrongful death lawsuits for the sole benefit of family members.
Rely On the Kryder Law Group, LLC for Help After Losing a Family Member
The legal team at The Kryder Law Group, LLC is ready to answer all your questions concerning wrongful death lawsuits. We can work with the estate’s personal representative to pursue liable parties for the compensation necessary to bring stability and comfort to families.
Give us a call today at (312) 223-1700 for a free consultation. As always, if we do not collect compensation for a family, there is no cost for our services. Reach out when you are ready to learn more about what you can do after losing a loved one to an accident caused by negligence. Call today, as there is a team member waiting to hear your story.