The loss of a loved one in a fatal accident is a difficult time and made worse when it occurs because of someone else’s negligence. A loved one’s untimely death may leave you and your family wondering how to get support and recover from financial losses.
A wrongful death action seeks financial compensation from the negligent party for the family’s losses. Your family may take legal action with the help of an experienced Illinois wrongful death attorney.
The personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Nessler & Associates can build your legal claim for fair compensation to ease the financial burdens on your family. We can guide you through the legal process and handle settlement negotiations with the responsible party and the insurance company as you deal with the grieving process.
What Constitutes a Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death accidents can occur for many reasons. These are the most common:
In 2021, over 1,219 people died in fatal crashes in Illinois. Distracted driving, speeding, and impaired driving contribute to these fatalities. For example, a drunk driver that runs a red light and hits another vehicle head-on may result in the wrongful death of the other driver. The surviving family members can hold the at-fault party responsible for causing the fatal accident.
In Illinois, 41% of all workplace fatalities were related to transportation incidents in 2020. The second-most frequent fatal workplace accident in 2020 was falls, slips, and trips. An employer can be held liable if they fail to provide adequate safety equipment, resulting in an employee’s death.
Medical malpractice is defined as a medical professional’s negligence or wrongdoing in medical care resulting in a patient’s death. Medical negligence includes errors in surgery or prescribing medication and misdiagnosis. Surgical errors can range from operating on the wrong part of the body to leaving surgical instruments inside the patient.
Prescription drug errors include prescribing the wrong dose and failing to warn about the side effects or interactions with other drugs, resulting in a fatal injury. A misdiagnosis could lead to the patient not receiving treatment or dying from an incorrect treatment plan.
If your family has suffered a death because of a dog attack, you may bring a wrongful death claim against the dog’s owner. The dog’s owner may be held liable for damages if their negligence caused the attack, such as failing to restrain a known-dangerous dog.
In Illinois, an owner whose dog attacked a victim without provocation on a property where the victim was legally permitted is strictly liable for all civil damages.
It is best to contact a wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible. They can properly evaluate your case and preserve your rights. Your lawyer can discuss if you have grounds for a wrongful death claim and discuss your legal options.
What is a Wrongful Death Claim?
You may file a wrongful death claim when a death occurs because of another individual or entity’s negligence, recklessness, or wanton behavior. This type of claim awards monetary damages to surviving family members. The family may be entitled to compensation for the loss of companionship and loss of income.
What Qualifies as a Wrongful Death Claim
The elements necessary to bring a wrongful death claim include:
Duty of care: You must prove the duty of care owed by the at-fault party to your loved one. For instance, you have to show the driver had to obey traffic laws and was responsible for keeping everyone safe.
Breach of duty of care: After establishing the duty of care from the responsible party, you also need to prove it was breached. You will have to confirm that the at-fault party didn’t obey the rules of the road.
Causation: The at-fault party breaking the law or breaching their duty of care is not sufficient proof of their negligence. Their actions must have been directly responsible for the wrongful death. There are various ways of proving this, such as evidence of negligence or witness testimony that proves the negligent driver’s actions, such as drunk driving or texting while driving.
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
In Illinois, the Wrongful Death Act allows the deceased’s personal representative to bring a wrongful death suit. This representative may have been named in their will.
If the deceased person did not designate a personal representative in their will, a court appointment must be made before a wrongful death case can be filed. Eligible family members who have suffered damages because of the wrongful death of a loved one are eligible to file a claim.
Eligible claimants for a wrongful death claim go in this order:
- The surviving spouse
- Court directed legatees
- Children and grandchildren
- The deceased person’s parents, if there is no surviving spouse or children
- Siblings of the deceased person
- Nearest next of kin
The law treats adoptive parents and children the same as biological relatives.
What Damages Are Awarded in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
You may recover damages for your economic losses and other intangible losses related to your loved one’s death. The wrongful death damages include:
- Medical expenses from the time of your loved one’s injury until their time of death, including those incurred during treatment for injuries sustained before their unexpected death
- Funeral expenses and burial expenses
- Loss of financial support, including lost wages and benefits
- Loss of consortium, meaning the loss of society, companionship, and intimate relations the deceased would have had with their spouse
- Loss of services for education, instruction, and moral instruction the deceased would have given his surviving children
- Survivors’ mental suffering, grief, and sorrow
A wrongful death lawyer can help calculate damages in a wrongful death claim. They will also help you understand Illinois’s wrongful death laws and who can file a wrongful claim in court.
What Does a Wrongful Death Lawyer Do?
Your attorney can give you legal counsel on recovering maximum compensation after thoroughly analyzing the facts surrounding your loved one’s death. They can help you prepare a claim, negotiate with the at-fault party, and file a lawsuit if the case does not settle quickly.
Your lawyer can investigate on your behalf
A wrongful death attorney begins by investigating the cause of the death. They look into the circumstances of your loved one’s passing and your legal right to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
They can contact witnesses, review photos and video footage of the accident, and look through police reports to get the information needed to file a wrongful death claim. They also look into determining your eligibility to file a wrongful death claim under state law and the available damages.
A wrongful death lawyer can file a lawsuit on time
Wrongful death cases are distinct since they may require a personal representative. You also have to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Illinois within two years of your loved one’s death. This means that you may have to hire an attorney who can file the lawsuit on your behalf.
If a wrongful death lawsuit is not filed within the statute of limitations, the plaintiff will lose their right to bring the case. Personal injury lawyers specializing in wrongful death lawsuits understand the legal procedure and different wrongful death claims. A wrongful death attorney will know how to file a lawsuit on time and preserve your rights.
Legal counsel provides expert negotiations
Negotiating a personal injury claim with an insurance company can be daunting. Insurance companies have lawyers who are trained to be tough negotiators. They try to get you to settle for less than you deserve, and they may use aggressive tactics during negotiations.
A personal injury lawyer specializing in wrongful death claims has extensive experience negotiating with insurance companies, so they know how they work and think. They know how to handle responsible parties and insurers when they try to delay giving you compensation or deny it altogether.
If the insurance company refuses compensation, your attorney can file a wrongful death lawsuit in your court on your behalf. An attorney can answer questions about legal issues surrounding wrongful death claims and guide you through the court process.
You can determine a fair settlement with the help of an attorney
Your attorney can help you calculate a fair settlement. Typical wrongful death settlement amounts vary widely, and you need strong evidence to back up your claim.
Having an experienced attorney build your case shows the insurance company or courtroom what your loved one went through before their death. They can discuss the impact of your family’s loss.
What Should I Ask a Wrongful Death Lawyer?
Before choosing an attorney to handle your wrongful death claim, meet with them through an initial consultation. This consultation is a chance to learn more about your right to compensation, the viability of your claim, and the legal process for wrongful death lawsuits in Illinois.
The questions below can help you get the most from your initial consultation with your wrongful death lawyer.
What is your experience handling wrongful death cases?
Although many lawyers practice personal injury law, not all have experience in wrongful death claims. There can be a great deal of complexity in wrongful death cases, especially if there is a dispute over eligible claimants or the liable party tries to avoid accepting responsibility.
The more experience they have with the types of cases like yours, the better equipped they will be to represent your interests. Ask the lawyer about the past number of wrongful death claims and their outcomes.
Working with an experienced lawyer who has advocated for their clients and has a proven track record offers you a better chance of receiving compensation than an attorney with mixed results in wrongful death cases.
Are you handling my case personally?
You can ask the lawyer who handles your claim details in an initial consultation. Some attorneys may take on a case and assign it to a junior associate. When you seek the help of a wrongful death lawyer, you have the right to know who is representing you.
You want to make sure you’re getting updates on your claim promptly, so it’s worth asking about their preferred communication style and frequency. They can let you know how they communicate with you, whether through phone calls, emails, video calls, or in-person meetings.
Do I have a strong case for a wrongful death claim?
If you believe someone is responsible for your loved one’s death, you can discuss your knowledge of the events leading up to your loved one’s passing. Present any evidence you possess to the lawyer, such as police reports, photos, videos, and pay stubs from before the untimely death of your loved one.
Your lawyer can then determine whether filing a lawsuit would benefit your family. They can guide you on how best to proceed with filing paperwork with the local courts. They can also discuss the monetary value of your claim based on the initial evidence.
How long will my wrongful death case take?
While you don’t need a detailed timeline of the legal process, having a general idea of what can happen can ensure your claim is filed within the two-year statute in Illinois. The attorney can discuss future meetings with them, deadlines for gathering documentation and evidence, and expected court dates.
A Wrongful Death Lawyer Can Help You Seek Justice
Having a wrongful death lawyer from Nessler & Associates can be an invaluable resource after your loved one’s untimely passing. We focus on handling any legal issues that may come up during this challenging period in your and your family’s lives.
For a free case evaluation, contact our law firm today at (800) 727-8010.