Trust A Firm That
Puts Your Needs First
Request Free Consultation

Chicago Wrongful Death Attorney

Request Free Consultation

Losing a loved one is not just emotionally devastating. It often brings severe financial loss to every family member concerning their future well-being, job opportunities, and quality of life. If your family member was taken too soon because of someone else’s negligence, you may be able to pursue compensation for your loss through a wrongful death claim.

At Smith LaCien LLP in Chicago, our personal injury attorneys understand how to get results in these complex and emotional cases. We have recovered more than $2.5 billion for victims of negligence in Illinois. We take pride in providing supportive, caring, and dedicated representation during this difficult time.

What is Wrongful Death?

Illinois law describes “wrongful death” as occurring when a person’s death occurs directly due to another party’s neglect, wrongful act, or default of duty. Careless or reckless actions that cause another’s death may also result in wrongful death lawsuits. If the deceased could have filed a personal injury claim had they not died as a result of their injury, then the deceased family members can file a wrongful death claim through an appointed representative. The most common wrongful death claims resulting from:

  • Car accidents, truck accidents, and pedestrian accidents
  • Medical malpractice
  • Workplace accidents
  • Defective products
  • Nursing home or daycare deaths
  • Premises liability
  • Dog attacks
  • Criminal behavior

An appointed family member may file a wrongful death lawsuit regardless of whether or not there are also criminal charges pending or a criminal conviction in the case. While a criminal conviction requires proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, civil actions like a wrongful death claim require a much lower bar of proof. Plaintiffs must show by a “preponderance of the evidence,” which means proving that it’s more likely than not that the death wouldn’t have occurred if not for the defendant’s negligence, wrongdoing, or recklessness. A Chicago wrongful death lawyer can help you with this.

chicago wrongful death attorney

Chicago Wrongful Death FAQs

Examples of Defendants in Wrongful Death Cases in Illinois

Defendants in wrongful death claims vary depending on the type of accident or incident that caused the loved one’s death. Some common defendants in Chicago wrongful death cases include the following:

    • Negligent or reckless drivers
    • Doctors or other healthcare providers who made medical errors or were negligent while treating the deceased, leading to the death
    • Employers or negligent co-workers
    • Nursing home facilities
    • Daycare centers
    • Manufacturers of a defective product
    • Dog or animal owners

While in some cases, city or government entities may have caused a loved one’s death, many of these agencies have immunity from wrongful death lawsuits, or the state may have caps in place for damages. A wrongful death attorney in Chicago can help with navigating immunity laws in Illinois. Similarly, medical professionals and hospitals have teams of attorneys on their side, so making sure that you have an experienced team of Chicago medical malpractice attorneys on your side is crucial to any wrongful death claim.

Proving a Wrongful Death Claim in Illinois

Wrongful death lawsuits in Illinois require the family representative to prove that the at-fault person in the accident owed a duty of care to the deceased person. For example, drivers owe others on the road a duty to follow traffic laws and drive in a safe manner with regard for others on the road. A doctor owes a duty of care to their patients to treat them with the highest standard of care in a manner that another reasonable doctor would under the same circumstances. Proving wrongful death requires showing the following:

  • That the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased person
  • That the at-fault person breached their duty of care through an act of negligence, recklessness, or wrongdoing
  • That the breach of duty directly caused the injury that resulted in the person’s death
  • That the surviving family members have suffered damages as a result of the loss of the loved one

Experienced wrongful death lawyers understand how to collect and present the evidence to prove the above points in a wrongful death lawsuit in Chicago or the surrounding area.

Compensation for Wrongful Death Can Ease the Burden

While no amount of money can bring your family member back, compensation can help with certain areas of your life. There may be remaining medical bills to pay. Funeral expenses are not cheap. Perhaps the person who died was supporting you or other family members financially, and you are now stuck figuring out how you’ll maintain your lifestyle. This is where our personal injury lawyers can help. We will fight tirelessly during a wrongful death claim for the damages your family is owed.

As your wrongful death lawyer, we will do our best to deliver the desired outcome. These cases can be difficult, not just emotionally but legally, which is why experience matters. We are well-versed in the Illinois Wrongful Death Act (740 ILCS 180), which requires us to prove that the death of your loved one was caused by another person’s negligence. Additionally, we must be able to show the damages that were suffered due to the loss, such as any medical bills incurred prior to death, funeral expenses, and lost wages, as well as non-economic damages. Wrongful death claims can be brought by the surviving spouse or next of kin, with some exceptions depending on the situation.

Typical compensation for damages in wrongful death claims includes:

  • Medical expenses for the deceased prior to death
  • Funeral and burial costs
  • Lost wages or earnings for the remainder of the years the deceased would have worked
  • Lost benefits, including medical insurance and retirement income
  • Loss of consortium (the loss of a physical and emotional connection to a spouse, as well as loss of their companionship, and/or the loss of support, affection, love, and guidance for any surviving children)
  • Loss of instruction, morality teaching, and education by a deceased parent
  • Grief, anguish, and emotional trauma

While some states place caps on the amount a family can receive from a wrongful death lawsuit, Illinois does not. 

Monetary compensation can’t bring a lost loved one back, but it can relieve financial worries so loved ones left behind can focus on recovering from their loss and grief.

Can I Gain Punitive Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Chicago?

Unlike some states, Illinois does not allow loved ones of the deceased to sue for punitive damages. While the injury victim themself can gain punitive damages in cases of willful wrongdoing and egregious misconduct in order to punish the at-fault person and deter repeat behaviors in a personal injury case, Illinois law states that this right to recover damages belongs only to the person who was harmed but not to the estate the person leaves behind if they die as a result of an injury caused by another.

While family members can’t sue for punitive damages in a wrongful death lawsuit, there are many other non-economic damages available, such as mental anguish and grief.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

If a person dies as a result of a wrongful or negligent act that gave rise to a personal injury lawsuit, their personal representatives would be entitled to file a wrongful death case  on their behalf. In some cases, death may not be the immediate result of the wrongful or negligent act. However, if the victim dies before any personal injury case is instituted or resolved, their personal representatives will be entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

While many states automatically allow a spouse, parent, or adult child of the deceased to file a wrongful death lawsuit, Illinois law uses only a court-appointed family representative. This process requires a family member to open an “estate” for the deceased person to begin the probate process. The court then uses the probate process to appoint a personal representative for the estate. This executor can then file a wrongful death lawsuit. In most cases, if the deceased loved one left a will, the court chooses the person named as executor in the will as the family representative for the wrongful death process. If there is no will, the court typically chooses a close family member, such as a spouse, adult child, or parent. If the deceased had none of these close family members living, the court could choose a sibling or more distant relative. The court may choose civil partners or domestic partners. In some cases, they could also appoint a non-related close friend as the representative if that friend is named as executor in the will.

The representative may receive compensation for any associated costs before distributing the compensation from a wrongful death claim to the appropriate family members.

Who Benefits from the Damages Recovered?

Damages recovered are distributed by the court in which the lawsuit is tried or by the circuit court if damages are recovered through a settlement. The sum recovered is divided among the victim’s surviving spouse and next of kin, according to the level of their individual dependence on the victim.

The victim’s next of kin is defined by the Illinois Probate Act of 1975. Next of kin includes children, parents, siblings, grandparents, nieces, nephews, and other close-blood relatives.

If the victim died with no surviving spouse or next of kin, the damages would be distributed among one or more of the following persons:

  • Any person responsible for any hospital bills associated with the victim’s last illness or injury;
  • Any person who provided medical assistance associated with the victim’s last illness or injury;
  • The victim’s personal representative, to cover the costs and expenses associated with administering the victim’s estate or pursuing the legal action for wrongful death, including legal fees.

Non-family members may also be entitled to a share of the damages recovered if they are named beneficiaries of the victim’s estate.

When to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Generally, a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within two years after the death of the victim. However, if the victim died as a result of a violent intentional act such as an assault, the lawsuit must be filed within five years, or within one year after the final outcome of the criminal case if the defendant was charged with murder or manslaughter.

These time limits, also known as the statute of limitations, are part of our legal system to ensure that every person accused of wrongdoing gets a fair chance to put up a defense. The ability to gather evidence is eroded by time. As time passes, records are lost, memories fade, or witnesses may relocate and become unavailable to assist in the case. These situations can be just as detrimental to the victim’s case as they are to the defendant. To allow your lawyer enough time to put together a compelling case, you must act quickly. If your loved one died as a result of another person’s wrongful conduct, the wrongful death attorneys Smith LaCien LLP can help you get the compensation to which you are entitled.

Types of Accidents that Lead to Wrongful Death Claims

Motor vehicle accidents are one of the most common causes of wrongful death cases. Our Chicago car accident attorneys have handled many fatal car accident cases, as well as fatal truck, motorcycle, bicycle, and pedestrian claims. Negligent drivers who were texting, drunk, speeding, or engaging in any other careless behavior should be held accountable when they take someone’s life. Reaching out to a Chicago pedestrian accident attorney can help ensure accountability for their actions.

Our law firm also handles wrongful death claims involving falls. These include slip-and-fall accidents, which in some cases may result in a fatality. It also includes falls from heights such as those at construction sites. Other causes of wrongful death claims include medical malpractice, product defects, airplane accidents, and train accidents. Regardless of who or what type of accident caused the loss of your family member’s life, if there was negligence involved, you may have a legal course of action to recover compensation for the loss.

Wrongful Death vs Survival Action

The state of Illinois provides two avenues for recovering damages after the death of a loved one due to the negligence or wrongdoing of another person or entity. A wrongful death action or survival action. While wrongful death claims focus on the family’s losses, a survivor action focuses on filing a personal injury-style lawsuit on behalf of the person who died, based on what they would have done had they survived. For example, a survival action could include damages for the pain and suffering the person experienced from this injury before they died. Basically, the deceased person’s right to a personal injury lawsuit doesn’t die with them, but instead, a representative of the person’s estate files the suit on their loved one’s behalf.

Call for a Free Consultation with a Trusted Lawyer

Our experienced, dedicated attorneys promptly and thoroughly investigate our cases to preserve evidence, determine fault, and assess liability on behalf of injured individuals and the families of those killed in trucking crashes. Smith LaCien’s lengthy history of representing victims of personal injury, medical malpractice, and wrongful deaths has resulted in more than $2.5 billion in verdicts and settlements and over 100 cases of results of at least $1 million.

It is best to address wrongful death cases as soon as possible. We understand that it can be difficult to focus on a legal case at this time in your life. Let us take the legal burden off your shoulders as you mourn the loss of your loved one. We offer free, no-obligation consultations to accident victims and families of those who have died due to an accident or medical malpractice. We handle cases on a contingency basis, which means you don’t pay us anything unless we obtain results. To learn more about how we can help, call us at (312) 509-8900 or contact us using our online form.

Free Consultation

"*" indicates required fields

*required fields