Chicago Wrongful Death Attorneys

Chicago Wrongful Death Attorney

Losing a loved one in an accident is an unimaginable experience and one of the greatest tragedies that anyone can ever endure.

The pain, grief, and sense of loss can be paralyzing. As lawyers who represent family members of wrongful death victims in Chicago, IL, we know the consequences all too well.

However, it is precisely because of the toll of wrongful deaths that we are so passionate about helping spouses and next of kin fight for just compensation. If someone else is to blame for your loved one’s death, we want to help you hold them accountable and recover the largest possible settlement or verdict for your loss. While no amount of money can undo what’s been done, if you are entitled to compensation under the law, we can help you stand up for your legal rights.

What Constitutes a Wrongful Death?

A wrongful death occurs anytime someone dies in a situation where they would have been entitled to pursue a claim for personal injury had they survived the accident or altercation. This includes not only situations involving negligence or willful misconduct, but deaths resulting from defective products and dangerous premises as well. Some common examples of accidents, incidents, and fatal injuries that can give rise to claims for wrongful death include:

How Wrongful Death Claims Work in Illinois

In Illinois, surviving spouses and next of kin are entitled to file claims directly against the responsible parties. Unlike other states, Illinois does not require family members to pursue compensation by filing a claim on behalf of their loved one’s estate. However, wrongful death claims often coincide with “survival” claims, which are brought on behalf of the estate in order to recover for the decedent’s losses prior to death. This means that spouses and next of kin can file wrongful death claims under Illinois law for their own:

  • Anguish and grief
  • Funeral and other death-related expenses
  • Loss of companionship and consortium
  • Loss of future income and benefits
  • Pain and suffering

In appropriate cases, spouses and next of kin can also seek punitive damages.

Recover Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Damages established under 740 Illinois Consolidated Statute § 180 include:

  • Grief
  • Sorrow
  • Mental suffering
  • Hospitalization or any hospital services in connection with the last illness or injury of a deceased person up to $450
  • People furnishing medical or surgical services in connection with the last illness or injury up to $450
  • Costs and expenses related to administering the estate and prosecuting or compromising an action, including reasonable attorney’s fees up to $900

Other damages may include:

  • Any financial support a deceased person would have provided to their family over the course of their lifetime
  • Loss of any benefits or gifts heirs would have been likely to receive from the deceased person during the deceased’s lifetime
  • The reasonable value of household services a deceased person would have provided
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Loss of the deceased’s protection
  • Loss of affection
  • Loss of society and companionship
  • Loss of moral support
  • Loss of guidance and training
  • Loss of sexual relations

While they are rarer than the economic and non-economic damages often provided in wrongful death cases, some cases can also involve punitive damages. The intention of the punitive damage award is not so much to compensate a victim as it is to punish a negligent party for particularly egregious, reckless, or intentional conduct.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Chicago?

Under 740 Illinois Consolidated Statute § 180/2, every wrongful death action must be brought by and in the names of the personal representatives of a deceased person. Any amount recovered in such an action is for the exclusive benefit of the surviving spouse and next of kin of the deceased person.

755 Illinois Consolidated Statute § 5 provides that the next of kin typically includes the surviving spouse and the deceased person’s children.

Timeline to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Chicago

740 Illinois Consolidated Statute § 180/2(d) provides that a party must commence a wrongful death action within two years of the death of a person, but an action against a defendant arising from a crime committed by the defendant in whose name an escrow account was established under the “Criminal Victims’ Escrow Account Act” can be commenced within two years of the establishment of such an account. A wrongful death claim can also be brought one year after the completion of a criminal case when a person who caused death is facing criminal charges for any of the following crimes in relation to the death:

  • First- or second-degree murder
  • Reckless homicide or involuntary manslaughter
  • Reckless homicide or involuntary manslaughter of an unborn child
  • Voluntary manslaughter or intentional homicide of an unborn child
  • Drug-induced homicide

Proving a Wrongful Death Claim in Chicago

A wrongful death lawsuit will involve a family member needing to prove that a defendant’s act was responsible for the person’s death. An act can be either negligent or otherwise wrong.

The four elements a person must satisfy to prove a wrongful death claim in Chicago include:

  • The defendant had a duty to the decedent
  • The defendant failed to fulfill their duty
  • The defendant’s negligence or lack of action caused the decedent’s death
  • The death has resulted in damages

Chicago Wrongful Death Laws

The Illinois Wrongful Death Act is under 740 Illinois Consolidated Statute § 180. This act holds that whenever the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act, negligence, or default, and an act, neglect, or default is such as would, if death had not ensued, have entitled the party injured to maintain an action and recover damages, then and in every case the person who or company or corporation which would have been liable if death had not ensued, will be liable to an action for damages, notwithstanding the death of the person injured. No action can be brought under this Act if a decedent had brought a cause of action with respect to the same underlying incident or occurrence involving a settlement or judgment.

This law gives surviving family members the right to file wrongful death claims and recover financial compensation they need to carry on with their lives after the wrongful death of a loved one. The damages are those that are suffered by the next of kin rather than the decedent.

The Illinois Surviving Act is in 755 Illinois Consolidated Statute § 5. The act provides that a surviving spouse of a deceased resident of Illinois whose estate with administration in Illinois is allowed a sum of money that the court deems reasonable for the proper support of the surviving spouse for the nine months after the death of a decedent in a manner suitable to the condition in life of the surviving spouse and to the condition of the estate as well as an additional sum of money the court deems reasonable for the proper support during that period of any minor children of the decedent who reside with a surviving spouse at the time of a decedent’s death. An award cannot be less than $20,000, together with an additional sum not less than $10,000 for each such child.

An award must be paid to the surviving spouse at such time or times, not exceeding three installments, as a court directs. When a surviving spouse dies before the award for his support is paid in full, the amount unpaid will involve payment to their estate.

Who Can Be Sued For Wrongful Death in Chicago?

The parties that can be held liable for a wrongful death will vary depending on the cause of a person’s death:

  1. In many motor vehicle accident claims, including car crashes, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and bus accidents, it is often a negligent driver who is accountable although there may be occasions in which other parties such as vehicle manufacturers, maintenance companies, or vehicle owners (when drivers were operating as a condition of employment) are liable.
  2. In cases of deaths caused by animals, then animal owners could be liable. In medical malpractice cases, then various healthcare providers or their employers could be responsible.
  3. Nursing home abuse or neglect deaths can lead to claims against nursing homes, staff members, or administrators. For on-the-job deaths, then employers themselves could become liable.
  4. When a person dies because of a defective product, a family could have a claim against a product manufacturer, retailer, or distributor. If a person dies after being shot by the police, you could be filing a claim against the police department.

Most Common Types of Wrongful Death Cases in Chicago

According to the 501(c)(3) organization Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute (IIHS-HLDI), there were 1,087 fatal crashes in Illinois in 2020 causing 1,194 deaths. The 2021 Medical Professional Liability Claims Study by the Illinois Department of Insurance found 2,198 death claims.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 7,616 deaths caused by accidents in 2021 as well as 1,472 caused by assault or homicide. The University of Illinois Chicago reports that between 10 and 20 people are killed each year by law enforcement, and 60 to 108 fatalities in police interactions since 2015.

How Much is a Wrongful Death Case Worth in Chicago?

A wrongful death settlement or judgment can vary widely depending on a number of factors. For example, your claim could see significant impact from a victim’s age, income, medical expenses, household services provided, defendant liability, and pain and suffering.

How Can The Best Chicago Wrongful Death Lawyer Help With Your Claim?

A lawyer with Malman Law is going to be able to assist you in filing a wrongful death claim by first conducting a thorough independent investigation into your loved one’s death. We will be able to secure all of the evidence necessary to prove that another party was at fault for your loved one’s death and then be able to use this evidence to argue the at-fault party should be held liable for various damages.

Our attorney is also going to be able to negotiate with an insurance company responsible for the negligent party in your case. You need to understand that an insurer could very well reach out to you before you have even had a chance to consult with a lawyer and they may offer you a lump-sum settlement, but do not think that you have an obligation to accept this offer.

Many insurance companies extend decidedly lowball offers in hopes of closing cases at bare minimums, and you need to understand the tremendous risks of accepting such offers. Even when amounts seem sufficient for covering many of your existing bills, there could be considerable future expenses you have not accounted for and accepting a settlement will close your case and leave you unable to pursue any further compensation from the negligent party.

Most importantly, a lawyer is going to be able to explain all of your legal rights to you. When you are working with an attorney, you will never be left on your own to try and determine any course of action because the lawyer will be able to take the lead and help guide you to every next step of appropriate action.

We Can Help You Fight for Maximum Compensation

Given the complexity of wrongful death claims in Illinois, family members interested in pursuing compensation are strongly encouraged to seek competent legal representation. Without an experienced lawyer on your side, you are likely to receive far less than you are owed, and if you settle with the insurance companies you may be barred from pursuing any additional claims.

The distinction between filing a direct claim as opposed to filing a claim on behalf of the estate is an important one. First, this means that any damages recovered go straight to the spouse or next of kin. Second, it means that the recovered amounts are not subject to claims by the deceased victim’s creditors. Third, since wrongful death claims compensate family members for their own personal losses, they do not preclude survival actions (which provide compensation for the decedent’s losses) from being filed on behalf of the estate as well.

Many wrongful death cases involve severe injuries

Many wrongful death cases involve severe brain and spinal cord injuries. These injuries are exceedingly common in serious collisions, falls, and other accidents – and they often have tragic consequences. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 30 percent of all injury-related deaths result from traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), and 92 percent of victims of penetrating traumatic brain injuries die as a result of their injuries. At Malman Law, we have particular experience helping clients recover compensation for injuries and deaths resulting from spinal cord injuries and TBIs.

At Malman Law, we have several decades of experience representing the families of wrongful death victims in the Chicago area. If you choose to work with us, our attorneys will make sure that you receive the full amount of compensation you deserve.

If you feel that a loved one was the victim of wrongful death, please contact our offices as soon as possible. While it may feel overwhelming to seek compensation through a wrongful death claim, our injury lawyers are highly skilled in all types of accident cases, including those resulting in wrongful death. We have the skills and experience that you need to help with the claim. Don’t go it alone – Illinois state law is different than many other states, in that the spouse or next of kin can file a direct claim, instead of filing a claim on behalf of the deceased’s estate. This distinction can often be of help to our clients as they seek compensation for damages.

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