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Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Illinois

Casey Woodruff
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Having a family member pass away as a result of someone else’s carelessness is a tragic act, and the law gives victims and their families the ability to recover for such a terrible occurrence. While no wrongful death lawsuit can bring a deceased family member back, they can accomplish some small measure of justice, as well as provide much needed closure.

In Illinois, there are two options for pursuing a lawsuit after a person dies as a result of negligence. The first option is the Illinois Survival Act. This Act, part of the larger Illinois Probate Act, gives victims’ estates the right to bring negligence claims after their death. The second option is the Illinois Wrongful Death Act. The Wrongful Death Act allows the deceased’s next-of-kin to bring a lawsuit for the harm they suffered as a result of the death. Ordinarily, claims are brought under both of these Acts together.

The Illinois Survival Act

The Illinois Survival Act represented a major departure from the law that had existed before it. Prior to the Act’s passage, people’s claims for negligence died with them. This produced an unusual legal system in which a person could recover damages for carelessness that injured them, but not for carelessness that resulted in death.

The Survival Act changed that by giving the estate the right to pursue claims on behalf of the deceased. This requires the family to open an estate, a legal process in probate court. When that happens, the court will appoint an executor of the estate. This executor can then pursue a claim for negligence on behalf of the victim. This will allow the estate to receive compensatory damages for the deceased, which includes medical bills, lost wages, and compensation for the victim’s pain and suffering.

The Illinois Wrongful Death Act

The Illinois Wrongful Death Act is a closely related act that allows victims’ family members, usually children or spouses, to bring a lawsuit for the harm that they themselves suffered as a result of their parent or spouse’s death. In order to succeed on this claim, the family members must show that the defendant had a duty to use reasonable care not to harm the decedent, that the defendant breached that duty, and that the breach of that duty resulted in the death of the victim, which caused harm to the plaintiffs.

If the family members can show this, then they are entitled to damages designed to compensate them for the loss of their family member. These damages are designed to take into account both monetary and non-monetary harms that resulted from the victim’s death. For instance, a wife may receive compensation both for the wages she will no longer have access to from her husband’s job, as well as for the loss of her husband’s companionship. Importantly, in cases where these Wrongful Death Act claims are brought alongside Survival Act claims, courts are likely to ensure that the total damages do not include double payments, such as a payment both to the estate and the surviving spouse for lost wages.

If one of your loved ones has recently passed away as a result of someone else’s carelessness, contact an Aurora wrongful death attorney today. The experienced lawyers at Woodruff Johnson & Evans are here to help you through this difficult time.

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