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Winnebago County wrongful death lawyersLosing a spouse, parent, child, or sibling is tragic regardless of the circumstances. However, when a person’s death is caused by the reckless or malicious actions of another party, the loss is even more heartbreaking. If you have lost a loved one in an incident involving drunk driving, medical malpractice, a defective product, nursing home neglect, or another situation involving negligence or wrongdoing, you may wonder what your legal options are. In many cases, a wrongful death claim can help hold the at-fault party accountable for the death while also recovering compensation for the losses incurred by the death.

Understanding Illinois Wrongful Death Laws

In Illinois, a wrongful death is one that is caused by wrongful act, neglect, or default. A wrongful death claim is a civil claim filed by the personal representative of the deceased person. This is often the deceased person’s spouse, parent, or adult child. Wrongful death claims can help families collect compensation for a death which was caused by intentional acts or acts of negligence. Damages are paid to the surviving spouse and next of kin. The statute of limitations for Illinois wrongful death claims is typically two years from the date of the death. However, this limit may be extended in some situations.

Types of Damages Available for a Wrongful Death

There is no amount of money that could ever truly compensation someone for the loss of his or her loved one. However, a wrongful death claim can help a grieving family reduce the financial burden caused by the death. Depending on your particular situation, you may be entitled to compensation for:

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Rockford wrongful death lawyersDriving under the influence of alcohol is a major problem in the U.S., as well as throughout the world. More than 10,000 people lost their lives in drunk driving accidents in the United States in 2018 alone. It is estimated that alcohol impairment is a contributing factor in nearly a third of all U.S. fatal auto accidents. Despite strict laws regulating alcohol use behind the wheel and numerous public campaigns educating drivers about the risks of driving while intoxicated, drunk driving accidents continue to occur. If you have lost a loved one in a drunk driving accident, you may be left in complete financial ruin. Although no amount of money could make up for your loss, you may be able to receive financial relief through a wrongful death lawsuit.

Illinois Laws Regarding Wrongful Death   

According to the Illinois Wrongful Death Act, a wrongful death is defined as a death caused by “a wrongful act, neglect or default.” When someone is killed in a wrongful death accident, a representative of the deceased person, often a spouse or other relative, may bring a wrongful death claim against the responsible party. Through this claim, the surviving loved ones of the deceased person may be able to receive compensation for their losses.

Many wrongful death and personal injury claims are based upon the defendant’s alleged negligence. This means that in order for a claimant to receive compensation, the claimant and his or her attorney must prove that the defendant’s negligent actions caused the injury or death. However, when a claim involves a crime such as driving under the influence or reckless driving, the criteria for proving the defendant’s fault is different. Individuals who cause others to be harmed or killed as a result of unlawful activities may be considered “negligent per se,” which means that a presumption of negligence is created.

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Rockford wrongful death attorneysMore and more Americans are requiring the long-term intensive care that a nursing home, assisted living, or rehabilitation facility offers. Unfortunately, many of these facilities are struggling to keep up with the influx of residents. Thousands of nursing homes across the country are understaffed or are staffed by employees who are not adequately trained. Sometimes these inadequacies lead to nursing home resident neglect and abuse. In extreme cases, these instances of neglect and abuse can be deadly.

Nursing Homes Have a Duty of Care

In personal injury law, the phrase “duty of care” refers to a responsibility that a party has to another party. Nursing home facilities and staff have an obligation to provide residents with a reasonable level of care which includes protecting residents from harm and maintaining a safe environment in the facility. When a nursing home fails to uphold this duty of care, the facility and/or staff may be legally accountable for injuries or deaths that result from this negligence.

Determining When a Death is a Wrongful Death

Nursing home residents are often elderly and suffer from many different cognitive and physical ailments. Because of this, deaths within a nursing home are not rare. Sometimes a nursing home resident passes away because it was simply his or her time. However, poor care can also lead to residents’ deaths. Many wrongful death suits are a result of negligent care or major nursing home staff mistakes.

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Winnebago County wrongful death lawyersA wrongful death suit is a beneficial legal tool which family members of a deceased person can use to collect compensation. Illinois law explains, "Whenever the death of a person shall be caused by wrongful act, neglect or default, and the 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." If you have lost a loved one due to the negligence of another party, read on to learn about wrongful death claims in Illinois.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

In Illinois, only the personal representative a deceased person can file a wrongful death claim. The personal representative represents the deceased person’s estate. He or she can be a close relative of the individual who passed away such as a spouse, parent, or adult child. If the deceased person, or decedent, did not appoint a personal representative before he or she passed away, the court is authorized to make this decision.

Is a Wrongful Death Claim a Criminal Matter?

Many people misunderstand the difference between a criminal case and a wrongful death claim. Wrongful death suits are civil claims, meaning they do not take place in criminal court. Wrongful death lawsuits only address liability in terms of financial damages. Criminal cases are brought by the state or federal government, not by a personal representative. Often, wrongful death cases occur along with criminal cases, but a criminal prosecution is not necessary in order to pursue a wrongful death claim in civil court.

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Rockford wrongful death attorneyWhen someone dies as a result of another person’s negligence or misconduct, the decedent’s family may sue for "wrongful death." This claim is separate from any criminal charges such as murder or assault which may have been brought against the defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit. A person can also be found liable for wrongful death even if no criminal charges were ever filed against that person. A wrongful death lawsuit can be a highly beneficial legal tool for families of victims who wish to pursue financial compensation for their loss.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit and When?

The personal representative of the victim’s estate, called the “special representative,” is the only one who can bring a wrongful death suit. This representative is most often a close family member. In order to have a valid wrongful death case, several criteria must be met. Firstly, someone must have died. The death must have been caused by another’s negligence, such as when a drunk driver kills a pedestrian, or through intentional harm. Another requirement is the survival of family members who have experienced damages as a result of the death.

What Types of Damages are Considered in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

The damages surviving family members can recover compensation for include medical expenses, the deceased’s lost wages, the value of the services that the victim would have provided, and funeral and burial expenses. Additionally, a wrongful death lawsuit can help recover compensation for the deceased’s person's mental and physical pain and suffering. Damages can also include losses relating to the non-financial, emotional benefits the victim provided their family. For example, the loss of the nurturing and care a parent would have provided to his or her children can be considered recoverable damages. Loss of companionship and love as well as loss of consortium, the losses a widowed spouse experiences, can all be included in a wrongful death lawsuit. Damages can also include the mental suffering and grief suffered by the surviving family members.

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