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Changing Wrongful Death Law in Illinois

Casey Woodruff

gavelIs two years enough time for a family to understand that they are eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit and to get the claim filed? According to a recent repor tfrom WSIU Public Broadcasting, a lawmaker in Illinois is working to change the way victims have access to information about wrongful death cases and to extend the two-year statute of limitations so that the clock starts ticking from the time at which evidence of a wrongful death is discovered. How will this impact Illinois residents who believe that the passing of a loved one may have been a wrongful death?

Background Information About “Molly’s Law”

The proposed legislation that aims to shift the way wrongful death claims work in our state is the result of a violent death that occurred in March 2012. At that time, Molly Young died as a result of a gunshot wound to her head. The State’s Attorney concluded that “there wasn’t enough evidence to determine if the death was an accident, a suicide, or a homicide.” However, Larry Young, the father of Molly, believe that his daughter was a murder victim. How does the proposed legislation relate to this case?

Larry Young has been fighting to get information about his daughter’s death, specifically police records. Last month, the Illinois Attorney general’s Office ordered the Illinois State Police to release this information to Young. He hopes that this information may help him to prove that his daughter’s death was in fact the result of a homicide. However, the Illinois Wrongful Death Act precludes him from filing a wrongful death lawsuit. To be sure, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of the death. The proposed legislation aims to change that time limit, along with other significant issues surrounding access to information.

The legislation was introduced by State Rep. Terri Bryant, and it is named “Molly’s Law” in connection with the death of Molly Young.

Proposed Changes to the Illinois Wrongful Death Act

If this legislation passes, what changes will it bring about? According to the WSIU Public Broadcasting report, the bill would to do the following:

  • Change the statute of limitations so that families will be able to file a claim within “two years from when evidence is discovered indicating a wrongful death may have occurred,” rather than two years from the date of the death;
  • “Add teeth” to Illinois’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), making it easier for families to access records surrounding their loved ones’ deaths; and
  • “Increase penalties for government bodies that willfully and intentionally fail to comply with court orders” requiring the release of information.

When a loved one dies and close family members have difficulty accessing records concerning the death, it can be difficult—and sometimes impossible—to have the information necessary to file a wrongful death claim within two years of the incident. The legislation aims to allow family members such as Larry Young to have two years to file once they get the evidence they need to support a wrongful death lawsuit, even if more than two years have passed since the date of the death.

Contact a Wrongful Death Lawyer in Illinois

If you have questions about filing a wrongful death claim, an experienced Illinois wrongful death lawyer can assist you. Contact Woodruff Johnson & Evans to discuss your case.

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