Civil liability for wrongful death is imposed when a person or entity engages in negligent or other wrongful conduct which results in death. Surviving family members may be entitled to compensation from those responsible. Wrongful death can happen from a variety of personal injury accidents, including automobile accidents, premises liability, medical malpractice, nursing home negligence, and other areas of personal injury law.
Wrongful death is a legal term (used in the civil, rather than criminal, system), referring to one person causing the death of another. The “cause” may be specific actions or a failure to act (negligence). The person killed is referred to as the “decedent.” Wrongful death suits are filed to collect compensation for the financial and emotional losses incurred because of the death.
For an individual (defendant) to be found responsible for the death of the decedent, it must be proved that the defendant’s actions lead directly to the death. Put another way, in must be proven that without the actions of the plaintiff, the death would not have occurred. If these conditions are met, the amount of time between the defendant’s actions and the decedent’s death is of no consequence.
In some cases, it can be shown that the decendent contributed to his/her own death, through dangerous or reckless behavior, by refusing medical care, or through some other means. Depending on the state, this may influence the outcome of the case or at least the awarding of damages.
Wrongful death suits must meet the same criteria as other civil suits: proof of a duty between defendant and decedent, proof of breach of duty, proof of damage resulting from the breach.
Damages in a wrongful death case are assessed to compensate family members and other survivors for their loss. There are a number of ways in which this “loss” is figured.
The first is the direct expense of medical and funeral costs. This is easily quantified and proven.
Future earnings and benefits are determined by attempting to anticipate lifespan and career earnings.
Loss of companionship attempts to quantify the emotional loss of the death. While this is a subjective experience and therefore does not lend itself well to empirical measurement, it is a very important area of compensation.
Finally, in some cases, puntative damages may be awarded. Unlike the damage areas already listed, puntative damages are aimed at punishing the defendant for his/her actions, rather than compensating for a loss. Typically, puntative damages are only awarded in cases involving intentional or grossly negligent actions.
Chicago Wrongful Death Attorneys
Even though you are in the middle of the grieving process, you should not wait to hire an attorney if the death resulted from the kind of accident where evidence can disappear. For example it only takes one good rain to wash away skid marks. When you hire an Illinois wrongful death lawyer to represent your family, they will analyze the facts of the collision to determine whether it makes sense to deploy and expert collision reconstructionist to the scene and they will take photos to lock down evidence. Typically we also send letters warning the at fault parties not to allow evidence to “disappear”, which protects the client in case it later does.
Do not make a snap decision on which lawyer to hire. You should interview at least three lawyers in person before you make a decision. Ask the lawyer bluntly whether they have actually filed and litigated wrongful death cases and what the results were. These cases can lead to significant jury awards and unfortunately, some lawyers will be less than honest in an attempt to get your business.
The Chicago Wrongful Death Attorneys of The Allen Firm help clients across Illinois and Wisconsin. Contact our experienced lawyers if you or someone you know has legal questions regarding a wrongful death case. We offer free consultations.