What Qualifies As a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

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The Illinois Wrongful Death Act determines what qualifies as a wrongful death lawsuit in our state. 740 ILCS 180 says that an eligible party can file a wrongful death lawsuit to recover their losses when a negligent or intentional act causes the death of a close relative.

How the Statute Defines Wrongful Death

Illinois law provides a legal remedy for the survivors when a person’s death results from the action of another person. In other words, a wrongful death lawsuit is similar to a personal injury lawsuit.

If the decedent had survived, they could have brought the lawsuit against the person who harmed them. Instead, certain individuals can sue the responsible party.

The wrongful act that resulted in the death of the decedent could be:

  • Accidental, as in a collision caused by negligence
  • From neglect, as in nursing home mistreatment
  • Intentional, as in a criminal act like murder

In some situations, the wrongful death of a person can result in both criminal prosecution and a civil wrongful death lawsuit.

The criminal case seeks to hold the defendant liable for his actions with a conviction and sentence of incarceration. The civil wrongful death lawsuit pursues monetary damages for the wrongful loss of life and how that death affected close family members.

Who is Eligible to Sue for Wrongful Death?

The personal representative of the deceased person has the right to file the wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the surviving spouse and next of kin. The statute interprets next of kin to include an adopting parent and an adopted child the same as a natural parent and a natural child, respectively.

If a representative is not named prior to the death, the court can appoint a representative, usually a surviving spouse or child.

Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Illinois

The jury is allowed to award whatever damages they feel are fair and just, including:

  • The financial losses caused by the death
  • The grief, sorrow, and mental suffering of the surviving spouse and next of kin

The court will distribute the money in proportions based on percentages of dependency. To perform this exercise, the court will evaluate the total number of people who had been dependent on the decedent’s financial resources and assign percentages of dependency to each individual.

Let’s say that the court awarded $1,000,000 to the surviving spouse and two minor children. If the court found the surviving spouse to be 50 percent dependent and each child 25 percent dependent, the court could apportion $500,000 to the surviving spouse and $250,000 to each of the minor children.

When the decedent has no surviving spouse or next of kin, the court can order that the money recovered from the defendant will pay the hospital, medical expenses, and personal representative’s litigation and estate administration expenses, with some limitations. The hospital and medical expenses must be for the last illness or injury of the decedent.

How Much Time You Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Illinois

In Illinois, the amount of time you have to file a wrongful death case depends on whether the death was the result of a violent action or some other wrongful conduct.

Also, when a child under the age of 18 is a next of kin, that individual can have a different amount of time to file a wrongful death lawsuit than if he was an adult. The rules that establish how much time people have to file lawsuits are called statutes of limitations.

The Typical Time Limit for Wrongful Death Cases

In most situations, the statute of limitations for wrongful death in Illinois is two years after the death, according to 740 ILCS 180/2. For example, if a person gets killed instantly in a car crash, the clock starts running on the day of the accident. If the person lingers in a coma for a year after the collision before dying, the deadline will start to run on the date of the death.

When a violent criminal act causes injury and death, the statute of limitations can be longer than in a negligence case. If the death happens within one year of the injury, the deadline can be five years from the date of death.

The Consequences of Missing the Deadline

Being unaware of the statute of limitations in a wrongful death lawsuit can destroy your case. If you miss the deadline, the law will forever bar you from going after financial compensation from the person who hurt and killed your loved one.

When dealing with the catastrophic injury and death of a close family member, it is easy to lose sight of how much time passes.

Work With The Kryder Law Group, LLC on Your Wrongful Death Lawsuit

When you work with a wrongful death attorney, you can focus on dealing with your grief and rebuilding your life without having to worry about these legal issues. The Kryder Law Group, LLC can answer your questions about what qualifies as a wrongful death lawsuit and seek justice for you and your family.

You can call us today at (312) 223-1700 for a free, no-obligation consultation.

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