Many people may be familiar with the term “ wrongful death,” but what exactly does that mean? The legal term is associated with a civil action in which damages are sought against a party for causing a death. It is important to note that this type of claim is different than a criminal charge or conviction for the same death. This type of legal action allows a deceased individual’s family members to recover compensation for their losses caused by the death and its impact on them. There are many incidents that could involve the untimely or wrongful death of a person. For example, a vehicle crash, construction accident, medical malpractice, or nursing home neglect or abuse can all cause fatalities.
Who Can Seek Damages for a Wrongful Death?
Depending on the situation, various relatives may bring a wrongful death claim against the negligent or at-fault party. Compensation can include damages for grief, loss of income, and mental anguish to the surviving family members. Damages are distributed by the court according to the relatives’ level of dependency on the deceased person based on the circumstances surrounding the case, which a judge will review.
The individuals who typically seek a wrongful death claim include:
- Spouse of the deceased
- Parent of the deceased (minor child)
- Adult child of the deceased
Specific documentation and evidence are typically required in these cases include medical records, police reports, witness testimony, death certificate, in addition to verification of a connection between the victim and the defendant.
Illinois Laws Pertaining to Wrongful Death
In a wrongful death claim, liability for the accident will be declared through monetary compensation. This is unlike a criminal conviction, which would impose prison time or fines on an offender. According to Illinois law, a wrongful death claim must be filed within one year of the date of the person’s death, or whichever is the later based on the statute of limitations. Here are a four elements that must be proven in order to win this type of civil action:
1. Breach of Duty: One of the key factors in proving wrongful death is that the responsible party had a duty of care toward the victim. For example, a driver must obey the rules of the road and drive safely at all times. Otherwise, he or she may cause a fatal car accident. The plaintiff has to prove that the defendant’s breached this duty through reckless or negligent actions.
2. Negligence: The plaintiff must be able to prove that the defendant was careless or reckless, and his or her negligence resulted in the victim’s death.
3. Causation: Separate from the breach of duty, the plaintiff must be able to establish that the defendant’s negligence directly caused the victim’s death.
4. Damages: The plaintiff must show quantifiable damage generated as a result of the victim’s death, such as funeral costs, loss of protection, loss of inheritance or potential income, medical expenses, as well as pain and suffering.
Contact a DuPage County Personal Injury Attorney
Regardless of the victim’s age, an unexpected or premature death can be devastating to his or her family members. In certain cases, a negligent party may be held liable for damages to the victim’s loved ones. Filing a wrongful death claim can bring comfort to a family, but it can also be a complicated process. That is why it is critical to consult with a knowledgeable Wheaton wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible. Attorney David W. Clark, P.C. has more than 20 years of experience securing favorable outcomes in all kinds of personal injury cases. Call our office today at 630-665-5678 to schedule your free consultation.