Losing a loved one is never easy, but losing someone because they were the victim of a crime is devastating. While the criminal who caused their death may face criminal prosecution, that alone may not provide the closure your family craves or the financial compensation you need to move forward. In these situations, filing a wrongful death lawsuit in the civil courts may be an option.
Lately, there has been a lot of news coverage of the wrongful death lawsuit being brought by the family of a man stabbed to death outside a Fulton River District bar. The family is suing both the suspected stabber and the bar where the fight that escalated into the stabbing began. Public interest in the case continues to grow, and the Stein & Shulman team has been getting some questions from other families of crime victims wondering if they too should be suing someone for wrongful death.
In this blog post, we will go over some wrongful death basics, but we urge anyone in the Chicagoland area who suspects their loved one’s death was wrongful to reach out to our experienced team of attorneys. It is impossible to judge whether your family may be able to seek compensation and closure based on a blog post alone, and we would welcome the opportunity to assist you over the phone or in person.
What makes a death “wrongful?”
The death of a loved one always feels wrong, so what makes some deaths “wrongful” while most others are not? Here in Illinois, a wrongful death is one that is caused by the recklessness, carelessness, or negligence of another person. In order to hold such irresponsible people accountable, our laws allow the personal representative of the estate of the wrongful death victim to file a civil lawsuit seeking compensation for the victim’s surviving spouse and next of kin.
Let’s unpack that a little bit
In order for a death to be considered wrongful, it must have been caused by the reckless, careless, or negligent acts of another person. These are all legal terms, but they boil down to the fact that there is someone out there who behaved so badly they caused your loved one’s death.
A wrongful death lawsuit can only be brought by the personal representative of the estate of the victim. A personal representative is someone named in the deceased person’s will, or appointed by the courts if the deceased person died without a will. It is the personal representative’s job to act on behalf of the deceased person’s estate, and that includes filing lawsuits.
When a personal representative files a wrongful death lawsuit, he or she does so on behalf of the deceased person’s estate, but the living people who can benefit from the suit are the deceased person’s surviving spouse and next of kin. Under Illinois law, next of kin are “blood relatives” in existence at the time of the victim’s death who would take property if the victim had died without a will — typically children, but if the victim was not married and had no children the victim’s parents and/or siblings.
How does this relate to the criminal prosecution?
A wrongful death lawsuit filed in response to a crime may involve the same people and the same evidence, but it is a completely separate case. Even if no criminal charges are filed, or the person who caused your loved one’s death is acquitted of all charges, you may still seek compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit.
Contact the experienced Chicago-area wrongful death team at Stein & Shulman.
If this blog post has left you with more questions than answers, that’s normal. Wrongful death lawsuits are complicated, and each case is different. If you suspect your loved one’s death was wrongful, please contact the Stein & Shulman team to schedule a free consultation where we can talk about what our team may be able to do to help your family get closure and compensation.