Wrongful Death Defined
Wrongful death is when an individual or a group of people cause the death of someone else, either willfully or by a negligent act. If the family or legal beneficiaries feel wrongful death occurred, then they may commence a wrongful death action against the party or parties they feel are responsible. The process of a wrongful death suit is often difficult and long.
The Specifics and History of Wrongful Death Suits
Laws carried over from England to the United States known as Common Law used to forbid a wrongful death suit. The last 100 years saw a dramatic change in stance regarding this type of suit. Wrongful death suits fall under the area of Tort Law, and there are wrongful death laws in every state in the country now. By falling under Tort Law, wrongful death suits are dictated by statutes, and every state has different statutes for wrongful death claims. The function of the statutes is to define what surviving parties are allowed to legally make a wrongful death claim. Some state statutes also determine the cap at how much can be awarded in damages if a wrongful death suit is successful. There are some states that have no limit on how much can be awarded for damages, such as Illinois, which states that the jury can award whatever damages are thought to be fair and just compensation for the losses resulting from the wrongful death.
Medical malpractice, accidents resulting in death, products malfunctioning and even criminal charges include some great examples behind the rationale for a wrongful death suit. It may seem odd for criminal charges to fall underneath the umbrella of examples, but the O.J. Simpson case is a great example. Although he was acquitted of murder, he was still sued for wrongful death by the parents of Ron Goldman. People and companies like product manufacturers can be sued for wrongful death, but government agencies can also be sued. A good example of a government agency facing a wrongful death suit would be a police department. Police departments are frequently sued for deaths occurring during arrests or altercations.
Common Examples of People Allowed to File Wrongful Death Suits
Someone has to represent the deceased in court in the event of a wrongful death suit to claim injury and financial damages from the death. It is usually defined as real parties in interest such as an executor of the estate, but statutes vary for each state.
The following is a general list of people who are allowed to file a wrongful death suit depending on statutes: immediate family members, distant relatives, a life partner, a financial dependent, someone believing they were going to be married to the deceased, someone believing they were in a marriage-type relationship (putative spouse), people who suffer financially from the death, or parents of a fetus.
In Illinois, it’s more specific: the personal representative of an estate is the one who may file a wrongful death suit. This is often a spouse, a parent of a deceased child, or the adult child of one who is deceased. If there is no representative to an estate as chosen by the deceased, the court may appoint one following the death.
Classifications of Damages
There are three types of damages awarded. The first type is economic damages, which consist of the financial losses suffered by the plaintiffs resulting from the death. Non-economic damages can’t be classified as easily, but are often some sort of compensation for the pain experienced from the loss of a loved one. Finally, punitive damages are essentially a financial punishment to the respondent.
Chicagoland Wrongful Death Attorneys
If you believe you have a case for a wrongful death lawsuit and you live in Chicago or the surrounding areas, contact Theisen & Roche today. Our experienced lawyers can help your family fight for damages resulting from a wrongful death. Call (888) 845-7241 or fill out an online form for a consultation.