Illinois law defines wrongful death as harm to another that is caused by the negligence or fault of the wrongdoer resulting in death of the injured party. The law allows an individual’s loved ones to sue on his or her behalf for injuries suffered by the deceased individual because that person can no longer pursue a claim against the wrongdoer. This broad definition covers a variety of actions, from medical malpractice to car accidents, and even violent criminal acts. Filing a lawsuit is just the first step in a long process to recovery, but it is also the first step to holding the responsible party accountable for their actions. It is the hope behind personal injury and wrongful death statutes that news of monetary awards will deter future actors from negligent and careless behavior.
Statute of Limitations
Under Illinois law, a plaintiff has two years following the death of their loved one to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This time limitation is governed by law and cannot be extended except in limited situations. For example, if a child loses a parent or guardian their statute of limitations does not begin to “start running” until after they reach the age of majority. What this means is that once a child reaches the age of 18, the age of majority in Illinois, he or she will have two years in which to file a wrongful death claim against those who caused the death of their loved one.
Illinois law also provides for the families of victims to recover damages, or monetary compensation, from any party whose actions contributed to or caused the death of a loved one. Under the law, it does not matter if the death of the individual was caused by criminal activity or civil negligence, all responsible parties may be named in a lawsuit seeking damages. This group includes corporations and businesses, and naming them is very common in medical malpractice or workplace injury actions.
Under the law, a jury will listen to the evidence against all parties and determine an amount that is deemed to be “fair and just compensation” to account for actual losses as well as less tangible losses such as grief or mental suffering. Illinois law uses a theory of contributory negligence when determining how much each party must pay to a victim’s family or other recovering party. Essentially, this means that even though there is a finding that the victim was partially at fault for the injury that led to his or her death, that will not absolve other wrongdoers of their liability. The statute specifically accounts for this scenario and states that the contributory negligence of the victim or beneficiary “shall not be a defense” but any damage award will be reduced by that percentage before being awarded to the plaintiff. For example, if the deceased individual was killed by a car as he or she was crossing the street, the defendant could present evidence to show that the pedestrian was partially at fault (i.e. not in a crosswalk or walking against the ‘do not walk’ sign) and the damages award could be reduced by the court.
If your loved one has been injured by someone else’s wrongful act or omission, call the Law Offices of Robert T. Edens, P.C. today. Our Barrington attorneys have years of experience with Illinois’ wrongful death statutes and can help you start on your path to recovery. We understand that no amount of money can replace what you have lost. However, we also understand the importance of holding wrongdoers accountable under the law.