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What Recovery is Available When Someone’s Negligence Turns Fatal?

If someone's negligent behavior has caused the death of someone you love, you are likely feeling a range of emotions from sadness to anger and frustration. In addition to your feelings, you may have also suffered financial losses because of the death. If faced with this situation, you may wonder what your recovery options are. Fortunately, Illinois law provides residents with the option of recovering the multiple economic and noneconomic losses suffered because of the death by filing a wrongful death lawsuit.

When is This Type of Recovery Available?

Wrongful death is a legal action where your rights are controlled by statute. Under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act, this type of lawsuit is appropriate when a person's negligence, carelessness or recklessness causes someone else's death. Of course, wrongful death is not available solely against individuals; corporations and government agencies can potentially be held liable for the death in certain situations. As the lawsuit requires the death to be caused by negligence or carelessness, it is often filed following fatal events such as car accidents, medical malpractice, defective products, environmental contamination and workplace accidents.

At times, the behavior of the party responsible for the death rises to the level where he or she may face criminal charges. If this occurs, the criminal issues are handled in a separate legal proceeding. Whether the person is convicted or acquitted of the charges does not affect your ability to file a wrongful death lawsuit or the right to recover compensation.

Who is Eligible to Recover?

Under Illinois law, only certain parties may recover compensation for wrongful death. In general, only the decedent's spouse and children may recover damages in most cases. However, if the decedent was unmarried and without children, the parents may recover.

Any compensation recovered is distributed to the parties based on their dependence on the support of the decedent. Since determining this is not an exact science, the court has fairly broad discretion to decide how the compensation is to be distributed. It does this based primarily on the facts and evidence presented at trial.

What Losses are Compensable?

Illinois law allows eligible parties to recover compensation for a variety of economic and noneconomic losses such as:

  • Loss of future income
  • Medical, burial and funeral expenses of the decedent
  • Loss of companionship
  • Emotional anguish
  • Loss of parental guidance

Aside from the above categories of loss, if the responsible party's conduct in causing the death was egregious or intentional, in some cases punitive damages may also be awarded. This type of compensation is not based on any actual loss you suffered, but is instead awarded to punish the responsible party.

Although wrongful death may seem straightforward, it is often an uphill battle to prevail in this type of lawsuit, as it involves complicated issues of proof. To ensure the best possibility of success, it is advisable to only attempt this endeavor with the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney.

Client Reviews
Shawn Collins is a very talented lawyer, as are all the attorneys on his team. I've known and worked with Shawn for more that 30 years. Not only is he a top notch technical litigator but his communication skills are second to none. If anyone I know is ever in need of an attorney, Shawn is my very first recommendation. He gives very solid advice that goes beyond the law. He is someone you can trust to tell you the truth so you are not lead astray in the complex legal world. You really can't find a better advocate. E.M.
We were incredibly satisfied with our experience with The Collins Law Firm. We worked closely with Ed Manzke and found that he had a personal touch and truly got to know us in addition to being knowledgeable and effective in his field. The caring and individual attitude helped us tremendously throughout the entire process and we always felt like our case was in safe hands. We would highly recommend The Collins Law Firm for both its stellar work and dedicated employees. M.A.
My father recommended The Collins Law Firm to me after watching Shawn Collins and Ed Manzke at trial representing Lisle residents against Lockformer. For years, he told us courtroom tales about Shawn and Ed, citing their incredible skill as trial lawyers and how they put the huge Lockformer legal team to shame. So when my son was the victim of a wrongful death, they were my first and only choice. I can't say enough to truly express how grateful I am to The Collin's Law Firm for all that they did for me and my family. This amazing team advocated for me in my darkest moments, surpassing my expectations in every way. I will be forever grateful to Shawn and Ed. K.D.
I have worked with Rob, Shawn and The Collins Law Firm team in connection with both complex business transactions and litigation over the past several years. Shawn is far and away the best business litigation attorney I have worked with. Rob has been our lead attorney on M&A and corporate restructures, and he has delivered each time, and on time. I would highly recommend Rob to get the deal done! W.D.
Rob has been our out-side General Counsel for ten years. As a business with a global presence, it is important that we have the very best legal representation. Rob and the team have guided us through litigation battles, negotiating and drafting our important business contracts, and advising us in our business strategies. He has a great team of lawyers working with him. M.F.