Wrongful Death Attorneys Serving Chicago, Oak Park, Rockford, & Other Areas in Illinois
The Chicago wrongful death lawyers at Coplan + Crane have a hard-earned reputation for excellence in helping families who have lost a loved one due to negligence. When a loved one dies because of someone else’s reckless behavior, the flood of emotions family members feel can be overwhelming – shock, grief, anger, resentment, and helplessness. It’s hard enough just getting by day to day. Trying to figure out how you will manage financially in the long term can be too much for many people.
We know how devastating it can be to lose a family member in an accident. You shouldn’t face your hardships alone. Our compassionate attorneys are here to listen to your story, explain your options, and help you find the best way forward for your family.
If you’ve lost a spouse, child, or parent in an accident caused by someone else, your family has the right to seek compensation for both financial and emotional challenges that arise. Through a wrongful death claim, Illinois families can pursue compensation for lost wages, end-of-life expenses, and more.
With offices in Chicago and Oak Park, our experienced Chicago wrongful death lawyers are committed to helping individuals and families dealing with the aftermath of the wrongful death of a loved one. We’re proud of our track record for obtaining large, often multi-million-dollar verdicts and settlements for our clients. Contact Coplan + Crane online or at (312) 982-0588 for a FREE case evaluation. We serve clients from Chicago, Oak Park, Rockford, and other areas in Illinois.
What Is Considered Wrongful Death in Illinois?
In Illinois, wrongful death is legally defined as a death that results from the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another party. Wrongful death claims are typically brought by the surviving family members or the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate.
The Illinois Wrongful Death Act (740 ILCS 180) governs these claims and allows certain family members, such as spouses, children, and parents, to seek compensation for the losses they have suffered due to the death of their loved one. Damages can include financial losses, such as medical expenses and lost wages, as well as non-economic losses, such as loss of companionship and emotional distress.
Here are some common scenarios that may lead to a wrongful death claim in Illinois:
- Car Accidents: If a loved one dies due to the negligence of another driver in a car accident, the surviving family members may file a wrongful death claim. This can include cases of reckless driving, impaired driving, or other forms of negligence on the road.
- Railroad Accidents: Wrongful death claims can arise from fatal accidents involving trains, whether due to derailments, collisions, or other incidents. Negligence on the part of the railroad company or its employees may be grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Workplace Accidents: Fatalities resulting from workplace accidents can lead to wrongful death claims. This includes incidents such as construction accidents, falls, equipment malfunctions, or other work-related incidents where negligence plays a role.
- Medical Malpractice: If the death of a person is caused by the negligence or malpractice of a healthcare professional, such as a doctor, nurse, or hospital staff, the surviving family members may pursue a wrongful death claim.
- Birth Injuries: In cases where a child sustains fatal injuries during childbirth due to medical negligence, a wrongful death claim may be pursued. This could include situations where healthcare providers fail to adhere to appropriate standards of care during delivery.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Illinois?
In Illinois, the right to file a wrongful death claim is granted to certain individuals who are considered “statutory beneficiaries” under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act. The following parties are generally eligible to file a wrongful death claim:
- Surviving Spouse: The surviving spouse of the deceased person is typically the first in line to file a wrongful death claim in Illinois.
- Next of Kin: If there is no surviving spouse, the next of kin, such as children or parents, may have the right to file a claim. The order of priority is usually children first, then parents.
- Personal Representative of the Estate: If there are no surviving spouses or next of kin, the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate may bring a wrongful death action.
- Dependent Next of Kin: If the deceased person left no surviving spouse, children, or parents, certain dependent relatives, such as siblings or other relatives who were dependent on the deceased, may have the right to file a wrongful death claim.
The right to file a wrongful death claim is exclusive to the statutory beneficiaries, and the court will generally look to these individuals in the order specified by the law. Additionally, if the deceased person had a will specifying a different personal representative, that representative would typically take precedence in filing the claim.
Each case is unique, and the specific circumstances can vary. If you lost a loved one due to someone else’s wrongdoing, it is in your best interest to speak with the Chicago wrongful death lawyers at Coplan + Crane right away. We can provide you with accurate guidance based on the specific details of your situation.
How Long Does a Wrongful Death Claim Take?
The duration of a wrongful death claim can vary significantly and is influenced by various factors. Some of the factors that can impact the timeline include:
- Complexity of the Case: Cases with complex legal or factual issues may take longer to resolve. For example, cases involving multiple liable parties, extensive investigations, or intricate legal questions might require more time.
- Investigation Period: The time it takes to investigate the circumstances surrounding the wrongful death can impact the overall duration of the claim. Gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and consulting experts may extend the investigative phase.
- Negotiations and Settlement Attempts: If the parties involved are able to reach a settlement agreement, the process may be quicker than if the case goes to trial. Negotiations can take time as both sides work to agree on fair compensation.
- Court Scheduling: If the case proceeds to litigation, court availability and scheduling can affect the timeline. Courts often have busy dockets, and obtaining a trial date may take time.
- Disputes and Appeals: Disputes between parties or the possibility of appeals can extend the duration of a wrongful death claim. If the case is appealed, it could add several months or even years to the process.
- State Laws and Regulations: Each state may have different rules and procedures governing wrongful death claims. The specific legal requirements and timelines in the jurisdiction where the claim is filed will influence the overall duration.
Given these variables, it’s challenging to provide a specific timeframe for a wrongful death claim. Some cases may be resolved in a matter of months through settlement, while others might take several years, particularly if the case goes through the full litigation process. It’s important to consult with a Chicago wrongful death attorney who can provide more tailored information based on the specific circumstances of your case.
Potential Compensation in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
In an Illinois wrongful death lawsuit, survivors may seek compensation for “pecuniary loss,” a term defined by the Illinois Court System as encompassing losses such as money, benefits, goods, services, and society. When determining potential damages in a wrongful death claim, the court operates on the initial presumption that the survivor(s) “has incurred significant pecuniary loss due to the death.”
Put simply, in cases where a person’s death results from another party’s negligence, the court assumes that the survivors have experienced financial losses and may be eligible for damages. These damages aim to recompense the plaintiff—the survivor—for their losses.
In a wrongful death lawsuit, the potential compensation, often referred to as damages, aims to provide financial relief to the surviving family members for the losses they have suffered due to the wrongful death of their loved one. The types of compensation that may be sought in a wrongful death case can include:
Economic damages in a wrongful death claim refer to the financial losses suffered by the survivors as a direct result of the death of their loved one. These damages are tangible and quantifiable losses that have a direct impact on the survivors’ finances. Common examples of economic damages in a wrongful death claim include:
- Medical Expenses: Reimbursement for the reasonable and necessary medical expenses incurred for the treatment of the deceased person’s final injury or illness.
- Funeral and Burial Expenses: Compensation for the costs associated with the deceased person’s funeral, burial, or cremation. This may include expenses such as the casket, cemetery plot, and memorial services.
- Lost Earnings: Compensation for the financial support the deceased person would have provided to the family had they survived. This can include lost wages, bonuses, and other forms of income.
- Lost Benefits: If the deceased person had employment-related benefits, such as health insurance or retirement contributions, the survivors may be entitled to compensation for the loss of these benefits.
- Household Services: If the deceased person contributed to the household by providing services such as childcare, housekeeping, or home maintenance, the survivors may be eligible for compensation for the value of these services.
Non-economic damages in a wrongful death claim refer to intangible losses that do not have a direct monetary value but are nonetheless significant and impactful on the survivors’ lives.
Non-economic damages are often more subjective and challenging to quantify than economic damages, as they involve emotional and personal elements. Calculating these damages generally requires the knowledge and skill of an experienced wrongful death lawyer.
Common examples of non-economic damages in a wrongful death claim include:
- Pain and Suffering: Compensation for the physical and emotional pain and suffering experienced by the deceased person before their death.
- Loss of Companionship: Damages awarded for the loss of the emotional support, guidance, and companionship that the deceased person provided to their family members.
- Loss of Consortium: Compensation for the negative impact on the surviving spouse’s relationship, including the loss of marital companionship, intimacy, and support.
- Mental Anguish: Damages to address the emotional distress, grief, and mental suffering endured by the survivors due to the wrongful death.
- Loss of Enjoyment of Life: Compensation for the diminished quality of life experienced by the survivors as a result of the death of their loved one.
Illinois recently made a significant change to its Wrongful Death Act through House Bill 219, signed into law by Governor J.B. Pritzker on August 11, 2023. This update expands the scope of punitive damages in wrongful death cases, allowing personal representatives of a deceased person, as well as the surviving spouse and next of kin, to seek punitive damages. Prior to this, punitive damages were typically only available when the plaintiff was alive.
The legislative shift was prompted by a 2009 Illinois Supreme Court ruling (Marston v. Walgreen Company) that limited the availability of punitive damages after the death of the original plaintiff. House Bill 219 addresses this limitation, granting surviving family members the right to pursue punitive damages without a set limit on the recoverable amount.
It’s important to note that there are exceptions to this expansion. Punitive damages are not applicable to legal malpractice actions, medical malpractice actions, and actions against state and local governments. The amendment applies to actions filed on or after August 11, 2023. This change signifies a notable improvement in the ability of surviving family members to seek punitive damages in wrongful death cases, addressing prior restrictions identified in court decisions.
Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in Illinois
In Illinois, the general statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit is typically two years from the date of the person’s death. However, there are important considerations and exceptions that can extend this time limit. If you have lost a loved one due to negligence or intent, it is crucial to consult a Chicago wrongful death lawyer promptly to discuss your legal options.
Even if the statute of limitations has seemingly expired, there are specific exceptions outlined in the Illinois Wrongful Death Act that may allow surviving family members to file a lawsuit.
Common situations where the statute of limitations might be extended include:
- Medical Malpractice: If medical malpractice led to the death of a loved one, the lawsuit must generally be filed within two years from the date of death. However, the time limits might be extended if the cause of death is not discovered until after the initial expiration.
- Defective Product: If a defective product caused a loved one’s death, an extension to the statute of limitations might be available if the cause of death is determined after the initial time limit has expired.
- Motor Vehicle Accidents: If the surviving family member was a minor when a motor vehicle accident occurred, this might be grounds for extending the statute of limitations.
- Workplace Negligence: If a loved one’s death was caused by workplace negligence, and this negligence is not discovered until after the expiration of the limitation, an extension might be possible.
Determining the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims can be complex. An experienced attorney at Coplan + Crane can assess your case and explore legal options and case law under the Wrongful Death Act that might extend the time limit, ensuring that you have a clear understanding of your rights and potential courses of action.
There’s too much at stake for your family to try to handle all the negotiations and paperwork involved with a wrongful death case. You could try to deal with everything yourself or with a less-than-experienced attorney. But be aware that you will probably be negotiating with insurance companies and their lawyers. And in most cases, they’re focused on one thing: making sure your family gets as little money as possible.
That’s not right. That’s why we work so tirelessly for families dealing with a wrongful death lawsuit. It’s not about the money. It’s about justice, about holding people accountable for their actions. Someone did something to cause your loved one’s death, whether it was medical malpractice, a drunk driver or a workplace injury caused by a third party. They need to be held responsible.
Don’t leave your future to chance. Demand justice. Contact the Chicago Wrongful Death lawyers at Coplan + Crane today online or at (312) 982-0588 for a FREE case evaluation. We proudly welcome clients from across Illinois, including Chicago, Oak Park, and Rockford.