Whether your loved one passed away due to a car accident, medical malpractice, a construction site accident, or for another negligent reason, understand that you can seek justice for your loved one against the at-fault party.
The law is known as wrongful death and includes any death caused by negligence, wrongful act, or breach of the standard of care by another party. If you want justice for your loved one, you should hire an experienced Chicago wrongful death lawyer to handle your case. But what does a wrongful death lawyer do?
Explain Your Legal Rights
When you hire a lawyer, the first thing they will do is explain your legal rights. Wrongful death laws are complicated, and every state handles them differently. Your attorney will have the best understanding of Illinois’ wrongful death laws.
Your attorney will analyze the facts of your situation and will either be able to advise you immediately or will conduct an investigation to determine whether you have legal grounds to file a wrongful death claim. Your attorney will also explain the difference between a wrongful death claim and a survival action. Both types of claims are usually pursued in a death case.
In Illinois, a personal representative must file a wrongful death suit on behalf of the deceased person. In many cases, this personal representative is the executor of the will (if the deceased left a will).
Before pursuing your case, your lawyer will walk you through the process of filing and prosecuting a wrongful death lawsuit as well as who will be legally entitled to receive a settlement or award. They will also inform you of any other critical legal facts, such as a possible statute of limitations or possible defenses to the claim.
Investigating Your Case
The wrongful death investigation process is complex. Sometimes, the defendant may attempt to cover up their wrongful conduct. Medical records may be altered to protect a hospital or doctor in a medical malpractice claim. Other times, evidence may be difficult to obtain, including the statements of witnesses who do not wish to cooperate or video surveillance footage that may be difficult to obtain.
When you hire a skilled Chicago wrongful death attorney, they can get to the bottom of what happened and who can be held legally responsible. They do this by undertaking a thorough investigation of your case.
What types of evidence will your lawyer obtain during the investigation? Common examples include:
- Police reports
- Witness statements
- Surveillance footage
- Medical records
- Expert witness reports
When you meet with Chicago lawyers during a consultation, you should provide any evidence or witness information you have.
Ultimately, your attorney will need to establish legal liability in order for the claim to be successful. Your lawyer does not have to prove the defendant committed a criminal act, but any broken laws will only strengthen your case.
For example, let’s say you are filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the defendant for killing your loved one in a car accident. Any proof of a criminal act, such as driving under the influence (DUI), will add to the strength of your case. Driving under the influence is also a negligent act, making this a cause for a wrongful death suit.
Understand that intentional conduct is not necessary to win a wrongful death suit. For example, if your loved one’s doctor or nursing home staff was negligent but did not act maliciously, you can still recover compensation in a wrongful death claim.
In order for your case to be successful, your lawyer must prove causation. This means there must be proof that the defendant’s reckless, negligent, or intentional conduct caused the death of your loved one. This is not as simple as it may sound. It is not enough for the defendant’s actions to be the actual cause of your loved one’s death (although this is not always easily proven). Your attorney must also prove that the defendant’s conduct was the proximate cause, or legal cause, of your loved one’s death. This involves proving things like foreseeability of your loved one’s death and whether as a matter of public policy the defendant should be held accountable for such conduct.
Your wrongful death attorney will also be there to handle the filing of the lawsuit and the litigation process related to your case. Filing the claim alone can be complicated, and your lawyer can explain the process to you. Your attorney will ensure that any important deadlines, such as the statute of limitations, are met to ensure you file within the correct time frame.
Seeking Financial Compensation
Your attorney will seek financial damages from a wrongful death lawsuit. These damages are often both economic and non-economic forms of compensation.
Common economic damages your lawyer can pursue include medical, funeral, and burial expenses as well as loss of income and support. Non-economic damages can include pain and suffering as well as loss of society and affection.
Depending on your case, you may also be able to seek punitive damages. If the defendant exhibited reckless or egregious behavior, punitive damages may be awarded at the court’s discretion. These damages are meant to deter others from acting in a harmful or malicious way.
When a wrongful death lawyer reviews your case, they will evaluate the amount and type of compensation you are entitled to. Any damages will be awarded to the surviving spouse and next of kin.
Ideally, your attorney can resolve a settlement outside of court. However, there are times when not all parties agree. This means your lawyer will have to represent you in court. This brings us to our next point.
Going to Trial
If the defendant does not offer adequate compensation prior to the trial date in your case, your attorney can take your case to trial. Your experienced Chicago wrongful death lawyer will litigate your claim before a jury to give your case the best possible chance for success.
Why You Need a Wrongful Death Lawyer
Attempting to navigate the complexities of a wrongful death case on your own without an experienced wrongful death attorney is like attempting to perform surgery on yourself to remove a cancerous tumor. It should not be attempted!
Your lawyer’s experience and knowledge are significant factors in the success of your case. A skilled wrongful death attorney will know how to preserve your rights, how to gather and present all of the evidence needed to win your claim, and how to best negotiate a fair settlement.
You also should not choose just any personal injury attorney. Your lawyer should have a history of handling wrongful death claims with proven results.
If you are still hesitant about contacting a wrongful death attorney in Chicago, know that most personal injury lawyers offer a free consultation. During this phase, your potential attorney will discuss the information of your case and provide any advice. From here, you can decide if you want to pursue this claim.
Are You Looking for a Chicago Wrongful Death Lawyer?
There are many wrongful death lawyers in Chicago, but not all have the experience to give your case the best chance of success.
If you are looking for a Chicago wrongful death lawyer, our skilled and experienced attorneys are ready to fight for you. Our legal team can review your unique case to determine if you have the legal grounds to file a wrongful death claim.
Contact us today, and we can review your case for free.