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Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Illinois?

 Posted on January 23, 2024 in Catastrophic Injuries

Blog ImageLosing a loved one due to someone else's negligence or intentional act is an incredibly painful experience. While nothing can truly compensate you for the loss of a family member, Illinois law allows surviving family members to seek justice and financial compensation through wrongful death claims. A civil lawsuit may be brought by the deceased person's estate or a representative of their surviving family members. An attorney who has experience representing clients in these types of cases can provide guidance on who can pursue a wrongful death claim, the time limits for when a lawsuit can be filed, and the types of damages that can be recovered.

Eligible Family Members

Under Illinois law, certain specific family members are entitled to file a wrongful death claim. These include:

  • The surviving spouse

  • The adult children of the deceased

  • The parents of the deceased

  • If there are no surviving spouse, children, or parents, then a personal representative appointed by the court may file the claim on behalf of other family members who were dependents of the deceased, such as siblings or nieces/nephews.

If multiple eligible parties exist, they will typically join together to pursue a single lawsuit against the person or parties who were responsible for their loved one’s death. Damages obtained through a wrongful death lawsuit will be distributed among eligible family members. 

Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Lawsuits

It is crucial to be aware that there is limited time within which a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed in Illinois. This time frame is known as the statute of limitations. Failure to take legal action within the required time period will likely result in a case being dismissed by the court. In most cases, wrongful death claims must be filed within two years from when the cause of action arose. That is, a lawsuit must be filed within two years after the person’s death. 

In some cases, a longer statute of limitations may apply. If criminal charges were filed against a person who killed someone through intentionally violent conduct, a wrongful death lawsuit may be initiated within five years after the person’s death. Applicable crimes may include murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, voluntary manslaughter of an unborn child, or drug-induced homicide.

Damages in Wrongful Death Cases

When pursuing a wrongful death claim, surviving family members can seek compensation for several different types of damages. These damages are designed to alleviate some of the financial burdens associated with their loss and provide a sense of justice. They may include::

  • Economic damages: This includes medical expenses related to the deceased person's injuries, funeral and burial costs, and loss of the income and benefits that the deceased would have provided for dependents.

  • Non-economic damages: These encompass intangible losses such as pain and suffering endured by the deceased before their passing; grief, sorrow, and mental anguish suffered by surviving family members; and loss of companionship between the deceased and their spouse and other loved ones.

  • Punitive damages: In certain cases where the defendant’s behavior was particularly egregious or willfully reckless, punitive damages may be awarded. These types of damages are less common in Illinois wrongful death claims, but they may be appropriate if a judge or jury determines that a person should be penalized for their wrongful conduct.

Contact a Barrington, IL Wrongful Death Attorney

If you have tragically lost a loved one, and someone else is responsible because they acted negligently or behaved with intent to harm, legal guidance from an experienced lawyer is essential. The compassionate attorneys at Lucas Law have extensive experience handling complex wrongful death cases, and we can provide the support you need during this difficult time. We understand the emotional and financial toll of such a loss, and we are here to pursue justice on behalf of your family.

Contact our Barrington wrongful death lawyers at 847-381-8700 to schedule a free consultation. Let us help you through this challenging legal process while you focus on healing and remembering your loved one.

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