When a loved one dies, everything feels wrong. It doesn’t seem right that the rest of the world can keep moving forward when your whole world is crumbling. It feels wrong to get up, go to work, and keep living your life without your loved one at your side.
We get it. We too have grieved loved ones gone far too soon, which is why we are sensitive about how strange the legal term “wrongful death” comes across. It seems to imply that some deaths are fair or good, when that is not what it means at all. Here in Illinois, a wrongful death is a death caused by the recklessness, carelessness, or negligence of another person. When such a death occurs, the irresponsible parties can be held legally accountable for their actions.
Although no amount of money can bring your loved one back from the grave. Financial compensation may help you gain some closure, and alleviate some of the financial pressure you are facing so you have room to grieve.
Stein & Shulman’s experienced and compassionate team of wrongful death attorneys has helped numerous families in the Chicagoland area cope with the loss of a loved one, and seek the compensation they needed in order to move forward.
What makes a death “wrongful?”
Under Illinois law, only a death caused by the reckless, careless, or negligent acts of another person, business, or governmental body is considered a wrongful death. Our firm has handled wrongful death cases all around the Chicago area involving:
- Fatal trucking accidents
- Head-on vehicle collisions
- Motorcycle accidents
- SUV rollovers
- Bicyclists struck by motor vehicles
- Runoff road accidents
- Pharmacy malpractice errors
- Pedestrian vehicle collisions
- Construction site accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
- Industrial accidents including explosions and fires
- Deaths from occupational illnesses like mesothelioma
- Vehicle crashes involving buses
- 15 passenger vans and SUVs involved in rollover accidents
- Falls from ladders and other elevations, and
- Fatal dog bites.
However, this is just a list of examples. If one of these scenarios does not describe what happened to your loved one, don’t be discouraged. If you suspect your loved one would be alive today but for the irresponsible behavior of someone else, you should consider contacting our experienced team of attorneys. It is impossible to judge whether your family may be able to seek compensation and closure through internet research alone. The Stein & Shulman team would be honored to listen to your family’s story, and provide an honest assessment of the case so you can decide how to move forward.
Who can bring a wrongful death lawsuit?
Although we have been talking about the ability of a victim’s loved ones to seek justice, under Illinois law the only person who can bring a wrongful death lawsuit is 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 the power to hire an attorney and file a wrongful death lawsuit.
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, the victim’s spouse and children are the ones who are compensated, but if the victim was not married and had no children, the victim’s parents and/or siblings may be eligible for compensation. The judge overseeing the case will determine how to split up the money based on the relationship of the victim to the surviving family members.
Is bringing a lawsuit worth the hassle?
Bringing a wrongful death lawsuit is emotionally taxing. You are going to be asked to relive your loved one’s death multiple times as the case progresses. Whoever serves as personal representative will need to deal with a lot of questions from attorneys, and be tasked with providing mountains of paperwork. In the thick of things, you may wonder if all the heartache is worth it.
Only you can decide if the benefits will outweigh the burdens. This is something we often discuss with potential clients during an initial consultation, and we are happy to have a more in-depth discussion offline, but here is a brief rundown of what your family can expect to gain by filing a lawsuit.
The most tangible benefit is money. Losing a loved one can be almost as difficult financially as it is emotionally. While the amount of money a stake varies case by case, compensation generally includes:
- Medical expenses incurred before the victim died
- Compensation for pain and suffering the victim endured before death
- Burial and funeral expenses
- Direct economic losses – including lost salary and benefits
- Compensation for family members who have lost the affection, love, companionship, and support of the victim, and
- Compensation for the grief, sorry, and mental suffering of the family.
It may seem impossible to put a dollar amount on something like grief, but it is something the court system is forced to do all of the time. As attorneys, it is our job to gather evidence that maximizes the amount of money our Chicago area clients can claim, and back it up with examples of what has been done in other cases. This is one of the reasons we urge the loved ones of victims to work with experienced attorneys. We know what arguments and evidence work in our Chicago area courts.
The other major benefit loved ones can get from filing a wrongful death lawsuit is closure. Maybe the state will file a criminal case and seek to convict the person who killed your loved one, but oftentimes that never happens. Filing a wrongful death lawsuit will hold the defendant accountable, and may allow you to get the closure you and your family deserve.
Contact Our Chicago Wrongful Death Attorneys Today
Under Illinois law, a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within one or two years of the date of your loved one’s death. The exact amount of time you have to act will vary based upon the underlying facts of the case, but it is best to speak with an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
If you believe your loved one would be here today if they hadn’t been killed by the negligent, careless, or reckless acts of someone else, our wrongful death attorneys at Stein & Shulman are ready to help. Please contact us today so we can discuss your options.