Losing a loved one is never easy. When that loss is the result of a preventable accident, like a motor vehicle crash, it can be heartbreaking for the family. There is no way to adequately describe the grief and anger that comes from knowing that someone's negligence, intoxication or distraction cost the life of your loved one. Whether or not that other driver faces criminal charges, surviving family members should carefully consider the option for a wrongful death lawsuit.
When someone dies as the result of a wrongful act, neglect of default of another, Illinois law allows surviving family members to to seek damages from the person responsible for the death. While it's common to spend weeks or even months working through grief, don't put off considering this lawsuit for too long. Survivors usually only have one year from the date of death to file a wrongful death claim.
Who can file a wrongful death claim and for what?
Illinois limits who may file a wrongful death lawsuit after an unexpected death. In most cases, the spouse or children of the deceased will be the ones who bring the lawsuit. In cases where there is no spouse, adult children can file a claim. When minor children die, their parents can also file a claim.
A wrongful death claim can seek compensation for damages for the losses relating to the death. That could include medical expenses, funeral costs, lost wages and loss of companionship. In some cases, the people filing the suit can also seek damages relating to their mental suffering as a result of the loss.
Civil court offers justice when criminal court cannot
In some cases, there may be evidence that the person caused the crash, but not enough to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. That can mean that someone who causes a death either never faces criminal charges or ends up declared "not guilty" of criminal wrongdoing in the death. These situations can leave you angry and feeling like you experienced a miscarriage of justice.
Thankfully, wrongful death lawsuits allow you to pursue justice and hold the person accountable for his or her decisions and actions. The burden of proof is lower in a civil case, meaning that the same evidence that could not secure a conviction can be adequate to result in compensation for your family.
Although no amount of compensation can ever make up for what your family has lost, winning a lawsuit can provide you with a sense of justice after your loss. It can also help protect your family from the often devastating impact of losing a family member. If someone did something illegal or made a mistake that cost the life of your loved one, a wrongful death lawsuit could be a proper response.