Recovering for the untimely loss of a loved one in Illinois

If you have lost a loved one because of the careless conduct of someone else, you may be feeling anything in the spectrum of rage to grief. Aside from your feelings, you may have also suffered financially because of the death. Although nothing can bring your loved one back to life, the economic losses that you suffered may be recovered under Illinois law in a wrongful death lawsuit.

When is this lawsuit appropriate?

Wrongful death is different from some other legal actions in that it is controlled entirely by statute-specifically the Illinois Wrongful Death Act. Under the act, a wrongful death lawsuit may be filed following the death of someone else caused by the negligence, recklessness or carelessness of another party. The responsible party does not have to be a natural person; in some cases, a corporation or government agency may be held liable for the death. Because negligent behavior is a key component of this type of lawsuit, wrongful death is often filed following fatal events such as medical malpractice, car and truck accidents, workplace accidents or defective products.

Sometimes, the conduct of the party responsible for the death is also criminal in nature (e.g. drunk driving). In these cases, the party's criminal proceedings are handled separately. Since wrongful death is civil in nature, the outcome of the criminal proceedings does not affect the right to recover compensation or file this type of lawsuit.

Who is eligible to recover?

Illinois law limits recovery in wrongful death lawsuits to certain parties. Most of the time, recovery is limited to the decedent's spouse and children. However, in cases where the decedent was unmarried without children, the parents may potentially recover.

The court distributes all compensation recovered in the lawsuit to the eligible parties based on each party's dependence on the decedent's support. The court has wide discretion to do this based on the facts and evidence presented at trial.

Which losses may be compensated?

Under Illinois law, litigants in a wrongful death lawsuit may seek recovery of several types of economic (i.e. based on quantifiable losses) and noneconomic losses. These losses include:

• Funeral and burial expenses

• Medical bills

• Emotional anguish

• Loss of income

• Loss of companionship or parental guidance

In addition to these losses, the court may award punitive damages if the responsible party's conduct was intentional or egregious. The purpose of this type of damages is not to provide compensation for a loss, but to punish the responsible party for their conduct.

If you have lost a loved one due to someone else's negligent behavior, it is important to learn more about your legal options. The experienced personal injury attorneys at Pfaff, Gill & Ports, Ltd. can investigate the circumstance surrounding your loved one's death to find and preserve vital evidence of negligence. Once this has been done, they can work on your behalf to hold the responsible parties accountable for their roles in the loss of your loved one.