When is Death Considered “Wrongful” in Illinois?

Friday, October 28, 2022

When is Death Considered “Wrongful” in Illinois?

Written by Malman Law, reviewed by Steve J. Malman.

Death is never easy to accept. If you lost a loved one due to a preventable accident, you and your family could be entitled to monetary damages. Contact a skilled wrongful death lawyer to learn more. 

Some deaths are not preventable. Other deaths occur because someone else acted negligently. If you lost a loved one under the latter circumstances, you have the right to compensation. Perhaps a drunk driver took the life of your family member, faulty safety equipment at work failed to prevent their death, or maybe a surgeon that was going to save their life ended up committing medical malpractice. Whatever the situation surrounding the death of your loved one, contact experienced Chicago wrongful death lawyers to learn more. No amount of money will ever bring your loved one back, but it can help ease the stress of life moving forward.

What is a Wrongful Death Claim?

Under Illinois law, wrongful death occurs when a wrongful act or neglect causes someone who could have filed a personal injury lawsuit to die. For example, if someone suffered injuries in a car accident arising from negligence or willful misconduct of another driver, they could file a personal injury lawsuit. However, if their injuries lead to their death, a personal representative can file a wrongful death claim on their behalf. Any funds recovered can be used to pay for funeral/burial expenses, and family members can also be compensated for the emotional loss of their loved one. 

Types of Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Illinois

When a loved one dies, the family has two options in filing a wrongful death lawsuit. They can seek financial compensation under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act or Survival Act.

According to the Illinois Wrongful Death Act 740 ILCS 180/1, a person’s death is considered to be a wrongful death when it is caused by another person’s “wrongful act, neglect, or default.” A lawsuit under the Wrongful Death Act is brought on behalf of the deceased’s spouse, children, or next of kin.

In contrast, the Illinois Survival Act allows family members to recover damages on behalf of the deceased. A survival action enables the deceased’s estate to recover for expenses such as lost earnings, medical bills, physical disability compensation, and even property damage. Any monetary award allows the next of kin to cover incurred expenses from their family member’s passing.

In Illinois, a wrongful death lawsuit must be brought by the deceased’s personal representative. If the estate is being probated, the personal representative must follow certain procedures with the probate court.

Statutes of Limitations

Wrongful death lawsuits under the Wrongful Death Act and Survival Act must be filed within two years of your loved one’s death. Under normal circumstances, if a wrongful death suit is brought to court after the two-year mark, then the family will be ineligible to recover.

The statute of limitations places a deadline on when legal action can be taken. While the Survival Act only allows families to recover for two years after the incident took place, claims under the Wrongful Death Act must be filed within two years of the loved one’s date of death. Many times, the date of the incident and the date of death may be several weeks or months apart from each other. This can be confusing, especially if your family member survived the traumatic event, then ultimately succumbed to their injuries after a lengthy period of time. 

However, there are several exceptions to this rule that would increase the amount of time available to begin a lawsuit. If the death was the result of violent intentional conduct, the deadline can be extended if the defendant is charged with:

  1. First-degree murder;
  2. Intentional homicide of an unborn child;
  3. Second-degree murder;
  4. Voluntary manslaughter of an unborn child;
  5. Involuntary manslaughter or reckless homicide;
  6. Involuntary manslaughter or reckless homicide of an unborn child; or
  7.  Drug-induced homicide;

Then, legal action may be taken up to five years of your loved one’s date of death in accordance with the Wrongful Death Act and five years of the date of the wrongful incident for the Survival Act.

Compensatory Damages

The family seeking compensation on behalf of their loved one may be eligible to receive the following compensation:

Economic damages

  • loss of income or financial support
  • medical expenses
  • loss of inheritance (loved one would have kept saving money if they lived)
  • cost of domestic services
  • funeral and burial expenses

Non-economic damages

  • Loss of companionship or consortium 
  • Loss of emotional support
  • Emotional Distress
  • Loss of guidance
  • Pain and suffering

There is no cap on damages in Illinois for wrongful death lawsuits.

Common Illinois Wrongful Death Accidents

Although a wrongful death doesn’t usually stem from an “accident” but rather a preventable incident arising from negligence, here are the most common causes of wrongful death accidents in this state: 

  • Traffic accidents – Most traffic fatalities can be attributed to negligence, such as distracted driving and drunk driving. Family members can hold a negligent, distracted, or intoxicated driver financially responsible for causing an accident that took the life of their loved one.
  • Job-related accidents – Common workplace accidents include falls from ladders and scaffolds, being hit by falling objects or flying debris, fires, explosions, and even motor vehicle crashes. An employer can be held liable if a death occurs because they did not provide adequate safety equipment or thorough safety training or violated other federal or state safety regulations.
  • Medical malpractice – Sometimes, a medical provider’s negligence or wrongdoing causes a patient to lose their life. Common medical malpractice circumstances include misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose, delayed diagnosis, anesthesia errors, surgical errors, and drug errors.No matter the negligent cause of your loved one’s death, a compassionate wrongful death attorney can help you recover damages on behalf of their estate and your family.

Contact Our Wrongful Death Lawyers

If you lost a loved one because of the negligence of another person or party, you don’t have to travel this road alone. You have legal rights, and a wrongful death attorney can help you as you navigate one of the most difficult times of your life. Receive your free no-obligation consultation with the compassionate wrongful death lawyers at Malman Law today by calling (312) 629-0099 or using our online contact form.

Steve Malman

Malman Law’s founder Attorney Steven Malman has over 30 years of experience handling personal injury, nursing home, medical malpractice, truck accidents, car accidents, premises liability, construction, and workers’ compensation cases in Chicago, IL.

Years of experience: +30 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active and authorized to practice law—Last Registered Year: 2024

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