When someone dies as a result of the negligence or legal fault of a person or a corporation, this loss of life is called a wrongful death.
More and more, I hear fellow personal injury lawyers say, “My firm focuses on personal injury and wrongful death cases.” Truth be told, wrongful death cases fall under the “personal injury” umbrella. I think many lawyers may just have big egos and to say “I handle wrongful death cases” just sounds “sexier” than, “I handle personal injury cases.”
Simply put, a wrongful death case involves fatal injuries where a personal injury case does not. When someone dies as a result of the negligence or legal fault of a person or a corporation, this loss of life is called a wrongful death. The most common wrongful death cases involve automobile accidents such as car and truck crashes.
When someone dies as a result of another person’s negligence, this can be grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit. Usually, a wrongful death lawsuit is initiated by the immediate family of the decedent, such as the spouse and/or children. In order to succeed in a wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove that the death of the victim was caused in whole or mostly by the negligence of a certain party or parties. In most wrongful death litigation, an insurance company defends and financially covers the responsible party or parties up to a certain dollar amount.
Some may ask, “Why file a wrongful death lawsuit since nothing we do can bring back a loved one?” This is true. That would be the ultimate justice if a lawsuit could do that. However, by filing a wrongful death lawsuit, loved ones are be able to recover some of the financial losses (such as medical bills, funeral bills and lost future earnings) as well as damages for grief, loss of society and companionship.
When a loved one dies, understandably, often the last thing the loved ones want to think about is a lawsuit. However, it is important to understand that evidence may need to be preserved immediately. It is important to realize that Illinois has a time limit for filing wrongful death cases. While the law is generally fair, if a plaintiff who has a valid wrongful death claim fails to file a wrongful death lawsuit by the statutory deadline, then he or she will lose their right to sue. The argument that “We needed time to sort things out and grieve” will not be successful.
While almost always emotional, a wrongful death case is a remedy for a family who wrongfully loses a loved one. A wrongful death case may help an already grieving family obtain the compensation that they often need and certainly deserve.