When a person’s death is caused by the negligence of another, a representative of the person’s estate or surviving family members may file a wrongful death lawsuit against the person or entity that caused the person’s death. Wrongful death lawsuits are commonly filed over deaths resulting from car accidents, medical malpractice and workplace- or construction-related accidents.
In Illinois, there are two possible types of wrongful death claims. First, under the Illinois Survival Act, any claims that the deceased person may have had against the negligent person or entity may continue. Second, under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act, family members of the deceased person may make a claim to recover for damages they suffered as a result of the wrongful death. Typically, claims under the two statutes are consolidated into one lawsuit.
Claims under the Illinois Survival Act may be brought by the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate. The survival statute does not create a separate cause of action, but it preserves any cause of action that the deceased person may have had against the negligent party at the time of his or her death. The personal representative is the decision-maker for many aspects of the case, and the estate will be the recipient of any recovery. Damages may include pre-death pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages and property damage.
Claims under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act are intended to compensate surviving family members for losses they have suffered as the result of the death of their loved one. Spouses and next of kin may recover pecuniary damages under this type of claim. Although different or multiple family members may have rights in a claim under the Wrongful Death Act, these claims are usually brought alongside a claim under the Illinois Survival Act, so the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate usually handles both claims.
Wrongful death lawsuits can be complex, and there are many legal requirements and time limits that apply. Anyone who has lost a loved one as the result of another’s negligence should consult with an experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as possible.