With millions of people in the Chicagoland area going about their work, education, errands, and recreation each day, the risk of a serious accident or injury is high. The fact that more of these incidents do not occur is a testament to the care that Orland Park residents and their neighbors take to avoid foreseeable harm to others.
Yet not everyone takes this care all the time. When a person or business fails to use due care to prevent harm, serious injuries can result. The most catastrophic of these situations can prove fatal.
If someone you love paid the ultimate price for another’s negligence, don’t wait. Talk to an experienced Orland Park wrongful death attorney today. The legal team at Briskman, Briskman & Greenberg is here to help.
What is a Wrongful Death Claim?
In Illinois, a personal injury claim allows an injured person to seek compensation if another person’s negligence caused their injuries. In other words, if one person’s failure to take due care causes harm to someone else, the injured person can seek compensation for their losses.
A wrongful death claim is a type of personal injury claim. In a wrongful death case, the injured person’s injuries have proven fatal. As a result, the injured person is no longer able to bring their claim to court. Instead, the injured person’s surviving family members, their estate, or both bring claims to court.
As with a personal injury case, a wrongful death claim seeks to answer four basic questions:
- Was there a duty to use reasonable care to prevent harm?
- Did the party with that duty “breach” their duty, or fall short of fulfilling it?
- Did the breach of duty cause fatal injuries to the deceased person?
- Are there losses resulting from that death that a court can address through damages?
When these questions can be answered “yes,” a wrongful death claim exists. The deceased person’s surviving family members or estate may recover damages for their loss.
Common Sources of Illinois Wrongful Death Claims
A wrongful death claim can arise in nearly any situation where one party’s negligence causes the death of another person.
In 2021, 1,334 people died in roadway crashes in Illinois, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation. These deaths affected not only drivers and passengers, but also pedestrians, bicyclists, and others who use Illinois roadways. In 2021, for instance, 214 pedestrians lost their lives on Illinois roads and 35 bicyclists died.
Everyone on the roads has a responsibility to take due care to avoid injuring others. When this care isn’t taken, the careless party risks others’ lives.
Medical errors are the third leading cause of death nationwide, according to a 2016 Johns Hopkins study. In Illinois, the most common category of medical malpractice cases is “improper performance,” or failure to adhere to the standard of care during treatment of a medical condition. “Failure to diagnose” is the second most common basis of medical malpractice claims in Illinois.
Failure to diagnose a medical condition can prove fatal. For example, many cancers are treatable only if they are diagnosed early in their formation. When a cancer diagnosis is missed, the disease can spread freely – and by the time it is diagnosed, it may be too late to save the person’s life.
In 2021, 5,190 workers in the US died from on-the-job injuries, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Common causes of workplace deaths included falls, electrocution, and being pinned, crushed, or struck by objects and equipment. Exposure to chemicals, extreme temperatures, and other environmental conditions also resulted in workplace deaths.
Both at work and home, consumers trust that the items they use in daily life are reasonably safe for their intended purpose. When a hidden defect is present, it may violate this trust – and in some cases, claim lives.
Product defects range from dangerous motor vehicle components to hidden heavy metals or poisons in children’s toys. Product manufacturers and designers have a duty to make their offerings reasonably safe for their intended use. If a product can’t be made safe and still do its job, manufacturers and designers have a duty to warn users about the risks involved. Failure to live up to these duties can result in dangerous products appearing on the market – and users may not know the danger exists until it is too late to protect their own lives.
Overall, 7,616 people died from accidental or unintentional injuries in Illinois in 2021, according to the state Department of Public Health. These numbers don’t include those who died of diagnosable medical conditions, some of which may have resulted from medical error. Unintentional injury remains the top cause of death for US residents ages 1 to 44, according to the CDC.
What to Expect During an Illinois Wrongful Death Case
Because an injured person is not available to bring their own wrongful death claim, another party must bring the claim to court. In Illinois, the “next of kin” of a deceased person may file a wrongful death claim.
Illinois law defines “next of kin” to include the deceased person’s closest family members. Usually, these are the deceased person’s surviving spouse and their children, including any adopted children.
If the deceased person has no living spouse or children, their grandchildren may file a claim. If there are no grandchildren, the deceased person’s parents or siblings may file. Nieces or nephews may file a claim only if no spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, or siblings are living.
Typically, the person who files the wrongful death claim is also named as the executor or administrator of the estate. Speak to an experienced wrongful death lawyer if you have questions about who should file the claim.
Time Limits for Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Illinois
Illinois sets a time limit of two years on the filing of wrongful death claims. The two-year period begins to run from the date of death in most instances. If the claim isn’t filed within two years, the court will reject it. For this reason, it’s important to file a wrongful death claim as soon as you can after a death occurs.
Many factors influence how the two-year period is calculated, however. Don’t assume you’re out of time – speak to an attorney who can help you calculate exactly how this time limit should apply in your situation.
Damages in Orland Park Wrongful Death Claims
Like other injury claims, wrongful death claims seek damages to compensate those who have suffered losses as a result of the injury. In a wrongful death claim, both the individual family members and the deceased person’s estate may seek damages. Although these two categories of damages differ slightly, they are typically treated together in one wrongful death claim.
Common types of compensation available to surviving next of kin include:
- Loss of the deceased person’s care, companionship, and support.
- Emotional suffering related to the untimely death of a loved one.
- Lost wages and the value of services the deceased person would still be performing if they were still living.
The deceased person’s estate may also seek damages for certain types of losses, including:
- Funeral and burial expenses,
- Medical costs related to the person’s final illness or injury,
- Pain and suffering the deceased person experienced in their final moments, and
- Other financial losses related to the death.
Damages in wrongful death claims cover both “economic” or financial losses and “non-economic” or personal losses. For example, bills from the funeral home are a type of financial or economic loss, while the suffering that accompanies grief is a non-economic or personal loss. Both types of loss are real, and both deserve compensation.
Nothing can replace your lost loved one. Deciding whether, when, or how to forgive the party that caused their death is deeply personal. A wrongful death case seeks to hold a negligent party accountable for their actions. When another’s negligence results in death, a wrongful death claim places the burden of financial and some non-financial losses where it belongs: On the party that caused the death.
Talk to an Experienced Orland Park Injury Attorney Today
A wrongful death can feel utterly senseless. One day your loved one was happy and healthy; the next, they’re simply gone. Rebuilding your life after such a loss may feel impossible.
Yet there is hope. Illinois law allows surviving family members to seek compensation if their loved one’s life was lost due to someone else’s negligence. Working with a caring and experienced Orland Park wrongful death lawyer can help you secure this compensation, giving you the support and space you need to decide what comes next.
Nothing can replace your lost loved one, but those who caused their death can be held accountable for their actions. To learn more, talk to the legal team at Briskman, Briskman & Greenberg today. We’ll help you understand your legal options and make an informed decision. Call us at 1.877.595.4878 for a free, confidential consultation with one of our attorneys.