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.
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.
There are thousands of fatal accidents in the US every day. Some of these tragedies result in wrongful death lawsuits, including:
Car accidents are the most common reason for wrongful death lawsuits. This is because so many Americans drive every day. Most car accidents are due to the negligence of at least one driver. Common reasons for fatal accidents are speeding, distracted driving, and reckless driving.
If the crash happened because of a road condition, the local government can sometimes be liable in the lawsuit.
Most healthcare professionals are highly skilled. But sometimes, they make errors that lead to patient deaths. Sometimes a medical mistake happens when the doctor cuts corners, don’t diagnose a condition, or misses a deadly one.
The most common type of medical malpractice lawsuit is misdiagnosis or not diagnosing a condition. Errors during surgery also are the subject of many wrongful death actions.
Jobs with higher risk, such as construction and manual labor, have a greater incidence of workplace death. However, wrongful death can happen in an office or even outside the office building.
A recent example is when a medical professional was ordered to work several 12-hour shifts. As a result, she was killed in a car accident due to exhaustion. Her family successfully sued the hospital for wrongful death.
Most common examples of accidents, incidents, and fatal injuries that can give rise to claims for wrongful death include:
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.
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 a 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.
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:
In appropriate cases, spouses and next of kin can also seek punitive damages.
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.
In a wrongful death lawsuit, you can hold people or entities accountable for losing your loved one. Who you sue for the loss depends on the case circumstances.
For example, if another driver runs a red light and kills your loved one in an intersection, you would probably sue the driver for wrongful death. However, if the driver was working for a delivery company at the time of the accident, it may be possible to sue his employer.
Some wrongful death cases may involve a defective automotive part. For example, if the brakes failed on your husband’s car and he died in a crash, your attorney will consider suing the car maker or brake manufacturer.
Your Chicago wrongful death lawyer will carefully consider who can be held accountable in your case.
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:
Damages established under 740 Illinois Consolidated Statute § 180 include:
Other damages may include:
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.
It is always difficult to say what the average Illinois wrongful death case is worth. The facts of the case will greatly influence its value. No two Illinois wrongful death cases are the same.
Your wrongful death attorney will work with their financial and economic experts to assess the case to determine a fair case value. Critical factors are:
The insurance companies involved in the case must consider fair compensation for what the decedent would have offered their family if they had lived a full life. Depending on these factors, a settlement for wrongful death can range from tens of thousands of dollars to millions.
Illinois Statute 740 ILCS 180 states that wrongful death is a person’s death that results from someone else’s negligence or wrongful conduct. Therefore, if the deceased would have filed a personal injury lawsuit if they had lived, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit on their behalf.
The four elements a person must satisfy to prove a wrongful death claim in Chicago include:
The parties that can be held liable for a wrongful death will vary depending on the cause of a person’s death:
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.
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.
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.
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.