Losing a loved one is an emotionally painful experience. Losing a loved one because of someone else’s carelessness, only adds to the pain. Children and surviving spouses are eligible to sue and recover damages under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act.
Wrongful death is the legal term that describes the death of someone that results from someone else’s wrongdoing, negligence, or intentional action. Common situations include death from: medical malpractice, car or truck accidents, workplace accidents, dangerous property conditions, and drunk driving. Death can result from the conduct of a person, corporation, or municipality.
Sometimes the conduct of the responsible party in causing the decedent’s death may be a criminal offense. However, criminal charges being filed does not affect the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Also, if the responsible party is found guilty or is acquitted of the criminal charge does not influence the outcome the lawsuit, because it is a civil matter with different standards of proof.
If a husband is killed after being hit by a drunk driver, the wife can still file a wrongful death lawsuit against that person; even if prosecutors choose not to file criminal charges against the driver.
Further, if the wife files a wrongful death lawsuit against the drunk driver and wins, the driver will not face prison time because of the lawsuit. Instead, the judge in a civil lawsuit can order the driver to pay monetary damages.
Under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act, parties may recover financial compensation for losses such as:
- Funeral and medical expenses
- Loss of financial support
- Loss of inheritance
- Emotional distress
- Loss of companionship and parental guidance
- Punitive damages (in limited cases)