If you lost a loved one in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence or criminal behavior, you may be able to file or benefit from a wrongful death lawsuit in Illinois. A wrongful death lawsuit seeks compensation for the loss of a loved one from the party responsible for the death. Specifically, Illinois law allows these types of cases to be filed when the death is due to a “wrongful act, neglect, or default.” Wrongful death claims can be difficult to navigate, but a wrongful death attorney can help.
If you recently lost a loved one and wonder about whether you can file a wrongful death lawsuit, reach out to the compassionate wrongful death lawyers at Rapoport Weisberg & Sims P.C. We have been providing dedicated legal representation to accident victims and survivors for nearly 40 years. We are ready to put our extensive experience to use to help you with your claim. We can review your circumstances and discuss your rights. You may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit to seek justice and accountability for your loved one. Call us today to learn more. We provide a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your circumstances in a confidential setting.
Parties Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Illinois
In Illinois, the personal representative of the estate files the wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the survivors. The personal representative is typically the executor of the decedent’s estate that they nominated in a will. If there is no will, the court can appoint a personal representative who will have the legal authority to take legal action on behalf of the estate.
Parties Who Benefit from the Filing of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Illinois
While the personal representative files the legal action, this is typically for the benefit of others. The Illinois Wrongful Death Act says that wrongful death claims are for the “exclusive benefit of the surviving spouse and next of kin” of the decedent.
The term “next of kin” refers to the family of the nearest relation to the decedent. Therefore, the person or persons who can receive compensation under a wrongful death lawsuit depends on the family structure. In most cases, next of kin refers to the following family members:
However, more distant relatives may stand to inherit if these individuals did not survive the decedent.
Additionally, the Illinois Wrongful Death Act specifically states that adopted parents and children are next of kin and should be treated the same as natural parents or children.
What If There Is No Surviving Spouse or Next of Kin?
The Illinois Wrongful Death Act provides stipulations in case the victim left behind no surviving spouse or next of kin. In these cases, compensation goes to the following parties:
- The supplier of hospitalization or hospital services necessitated by the decedent’s last illness or injury, up to $450
- The supplier of medical or surgical services necessitated by the decedent’s last illness or injury, up to $450
- Representatives who have covered costs and expenses of estate administration, up to the reasonable value of hospitalization, hospital service, medical services, surgical services, and attorney fees
Can More Than One Person File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Illinois?
Only the personal representative can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Illinois. If there is more than one personal representative, the action should be brought in the names of all of the personal representatives.
Can More Than One Person Receive Compensation for a Wrongful Death Claim?
Yes. Illinois law specifically states wrongful death compensation is for the surviving spouse and next of kin. Therefore, more than one person stands to benefit from a wrongful death claim.
When wrongful death compensation is awarded, the court apportions the award to the surviving spouse and next of kin based on the percentage of dependency of each person on the decedent based on the total dependency of all people who stand to benefit. It is in the court’s sole discretion how to distribute the awarded compensation.
Can a Sibling Recover Compensation for a Wrongful Death Claim?
It depends. Siblings may be included in the definition of “next of kin.” The Illinois Wrongful Death Act allows the surviving spouse and next of kin to benefit from wrongful death claim compensation. However, whether a sibling will actually stand to benefit from compensation derived from a wrongful death claim depends on several factors, such as:
- Whether the decedent was married at the time of their death
- Whether the decedent had children
- Whether the sibling relied on the decedent for financial support
- The other living relatives in the decedent’s life
When Should a Wrongful Death Claim Be Filed?
Illinois has strict guidelines about when a wrongful death claim must be filed. These guidelines generally provide for two years to file a lawsuit against the responsible party, however special circumstances can make that time limit shorter or longer. That is why it’s vital that you contact a wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible. Additionally, there may be evidence that can be lost or destroyed if a lawyer does not take immediate steps to preserve it. There may be witnesses to the events that led up to your loved one’s death who may have valuable information to share and who can provide statements while their memory is fresh.
FAQs About Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Illinois
What Types of Damages Can Be Recovered in a Wrongful Death Case?
In a wrongful death case, the personal representative pursues compensation on behalf of the decedent’s surviving spouse and next of kin. These damages may include compensation for economic losses, such as funeral and burial costs, lost financial support, and the loss of services the decedent would have provided had they survived. They can also include compensation for your grief, sorrow, mental suffering, and other intangible losses. An experienced wrongful death lawyer can help pursue compensation on your behalf.
How Can a Wrongful Death Lawyer Help?
A wrongful death attorney can tend to your legal claim while you focus on your grief and your family. An experienced lawyer can help by:
- Answering any questions you have about filing a wrongful death claim or your rights
- Investigating the accident that led to your loved one’s death and who is responsible for it
- Filing insurance claims to seek appropriate compensation
- Gathering evidence to establish liability and your financial losses
- Advising you whether a settlement offer provides fair compensation for your losses
- Recommending whether to take your case to court to pursue the justice and compensation you deserve
What Is the Process of Filing a Wrongful Death Claim?
The process of filing a wrongful death claim usually involves first trying to resolve your case through an insurance claim or settlement. If that does not work, you can file a lawsuit, which requires the following:
- The preparation and filing of a petition that sets out the facts, how the defendant’s actions led to your loved one’s death, and your demand for appropriate compensation
- The preparation and filing of a summons that notifies the defendant of the pending legal action
- Legal service on the defendant of the petition and summons
After the defendant is served, they will have an opportunity to respond. Your lawyer can assist throughout the litigation process and demand the justice you deserve.
Will I Have to Go to Court if I File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Most personal injury cases, including wrongful death claims, are ultimately resolved through an insurance settlement or other negotiated settlement. Even if a lawyer has to file a lawsuit to convince the insurance company you’re serious about the case, your case may still settle before trial. However, whether you have to go to court or not will depend on factors that are very specific to your case. An experienced wrongful death lawyer can explain the likely outcome of your case after an investigation is underway.
Reach Out to Our Compassionate Wrongful Death Lawyers for Help with Your Claim
If you lost a loved one because of someone else’s carelessness or intentional misconduct, you deserve justice and accountability. Our compassionate wrongful death lawyers understand that no amount of money can ever replace your loved one. But a wrongful death claim may help you feel a sense of peace of knowing that you held the responsible party accountable for their actions.
If you would like to discuss your legal rights and options, contact Rapoport Weisberg & Sims P.C. for a free and confidential consultation.