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Your rights as a survivor to bring wrongful death claims

An unexpected accident that claimed the life of your loved one can leave you reeling with shock and struggling to adjust. Many people wind up so consumed by their grief that they overlook their rights and options in the aftermath of a fatal incident.

If the death of your loved one is the result of someone else's mistake or crime, your family may have the right to hold that person accountable for the financial and practical consequences of your terrible loss. Illinois' wrongful death statute empowers surviving dependents and family members to bring civil action against someone who causes the death of another through wrongful actions or negligence.

What kind of compensation can people request?

One of the first questions people often have about wrongful death cases is how much compensation they can legally seek. After all, if your goal is to penalize someone who hurt your family and took the life of someone you love, you want to maximize the impact of your actions.

Illinois allows you to seek compensation for any provable financial losses related to the death. Those kinds of losses could include:

  • the cost of medical care prior to death
  • the cost of a wake, funeral and burial
  • loss of the income generated by the deceased
  • loss of practical support, such as household work
  • emotional distress on the part of survivors
  • loss of companionship or guidance
  • loss of inheritance

Some of these are more straightforward considerations than others. You will likely have medical bills proving how much you paid, as well as records of what the funeral service and burial cost. Placing a value on someone's support as a spouse or parental guidance is more difficult but not impossible. Much like practical concerns handled by the deceased, such as care for the house or vehicles, you can compare what the cost would be if you purchase those same services from a professional.

Grief can last for years, so don't wait for it to fade

Processing the emotional impact of the loss of a loved one in a tragic wrongful death scenario can take many months or even years. Too many people put off dealing with practical concerns until they feel like they have control over their grief. Waiting too long could leave you unable to seek compensation, as Illinois does limit how long you have to file a lawsuit.

In most cases, you should file a wrongful death lawsuit within a year of the date of death. In some cases, where law enforcement or investigators uncover fault for the death long after the fact, you may be able to bring a suit within a year of learning of someone's responsibility for the death.

Sometimes, when there is another legal matter involved, that statute of limitations may be the one that applies to the family's right to seek wrongful death compensation. Only an attorney can advise you of what exact limitations apply in your case.

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