If a loved one has died because of someone else’s negligent behavior, the survivors may be able to bring a wrongful death claim. These lawsuits potentially provide a number of different types of compensation for the family and can help ease the financial burden of losing a close family member. However, there are several elements that have to be met before a jury can award survivors the compensation they deserve. An experienced Chicago wrongful death attorney can explain your legal options.
In many ways, a wrongful death lawsuit is like a personal injury lawsuit, with the primary difference being that the victim has died from his or her injuries. Like a personal injury lawsuit, a wrongful death claim is based on the negligent acts or omissions of the at-fault defendant. The required elements are similar in both types of lawsuits.
Qualifying for a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
To qualify for an Illinois wrongful death lawsuit, the eligible survivors must be able to prove the following:
Duty of care
This means that the defendant owed a duty to act with reasonable care so as to not cause harm to the deceased victim. A simple example is a driver’s duty to drive safely and obey traffic laws. Sometimes the duty of care arises out of a defined relationship, like that between doctor and patient. A doctor owes a duty to practice medicine with care and to follow his or her training and education in doing so.
A breach means that, by some negligent act or omission, the defendant violated the duty of care he or she owed to the deceased victim. Using the above example of driving, a breach might be speeding or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A doctor or other healthcare professional could commit malpractice, and thereby breach the duty of care, by failing to ask a patient about any allergies he or she had. A breach is not just a mistake, but an unreasonable one in light of the circumstances.
This element requires showing that the defendant’s breach of duty caused the victim’s death. It’s important to provide a factual link between the defendant’s negligent acts or omissions and the death of the victim. An intervening event could potentially complicate this element. An example might be if the defendant causes the victim to get into an automobile accident, but during emergency surgery, the doctor commits a mistake. While this doesn’t necessarily absolve the defendant driver of liability for the accident, it will make proving causation more challenging.
There must be quantifiable damages that the deceased victim’s surviving family members have suffered. The damages in a wrongful death lawsuit might include the following:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of protection
- Lost potential earnings and income
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of companionship
- Emotional support
If the deceased’s surviving family members pursue a claim under the Illinois Survival Act, they may be entitled to damages that the deceased victim would have claimed if they have survived. This may include medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost earnings.
As mentioned above, only certain survivors are qualified to bring a wrongful death claim. The plaintiff has to be a personal or estate representative of the deceased. Beneficiaries follow intestate succession, which may involve:
- A surviving spouse
- A parent
- An adult child of the deceased
- A court-appointed estate representative
Contact Our Chicago Wrongful Death Attorney
Like personal injury claims, wrongful death lawsuits could involve potentially substantial sums of money. If a close family member has died because of another person’s irresponsible actions, you deserve to know your legal rights. Call the wrongful death attorneys of Hale & Monico today.