Few things can be more difficult than dealing with the personal and financial consequences of a loved one’s untimely death. Chicago provides some measure of relief to those grieving their loss through the avenue of a wrongful death lawsuit.
If another person or entity negligently, recklessly, or intentionally caused the death in question, you may be able to bring a civil suit against them to recover for the harms that you and your family have sustained. However, this opportunity does not last forever, and it is imperative that you act quickly to avoid missing critical deadlines.
For a free case review with our experienced Chicago wrongful death lawyers, call Rhatigan Law Offices at (312) 584-5378 today.
What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Chicago?
Wrongful death lawsuits are a path for the estate and family members of the deceased to recover compensation from the party responsible for causing the death. To have grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit, the defendant must have caused the death through a “wrongful act.”
A wrongful act could be borne out of negligence, recklessness, malpractice, or intentionally harmful conduct. The wrongful act does not need to actually be an affirmative action, and a party’s failure to act where they ought to have may constitute a wrongful act for the purposes of a lawsuit.
If this is confusing, it may be helpful to think of a wrongful act as the type of behavior that might create grounds for a personal injury lawsuit if the victim had survived the accident. For instance, if a driver blows a red light and causes an accident at an intersection that injures another person, the injury victim could file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver that caused the accident and recover from their insurance provider. If the victim did not survive the injuries that the accident caused, there is still cause for a wrongful death lawsuit.
Differences Between a Wrongful Death Lawsuit and Criminal Prosecution
If a loved one recently suffered an untimely death because of the conduct of another party, there may be pending criminal charges against the at-fault party that stem from the same incident. However, it is important that you do not confuse the two or assume that the criminal case alone will suffice for your recovery.
Criminal cases are brought by the government and tried by the assigned prosecutor. Their goal is to secure a conviction that may include fines or jail time. However, the fines do not ordinarily go to the family of the deceased, and while a jail sentence may provide some closure, it will not satisfy your family’s need for financial comfort to help you cope with your loss.
Criminal cases are also subject to a higher burden of proof than civil cases. To secure a criminal conviction, prosecutors must prove the charges “beyond a reasonable doubt,” while a wrongful death lawsuit only requires proof “by a preponderance of the evidence.” In other words, a jury in a criminal trial must have near certainty to convict a defendant, whereas a jury in a wrongful death trial must only be convinced that the defendant was substantially more likely than not responsible for wrongfully causing the death.
Practically, what this leads to is many people who have valid wrongful death claims deciding not to file their case or getting discouraged by an adverse verdict in a criminal case. You are well within your rights to bring a wrongful death claim before, during, or after criminal charges have been brought, and you are more likely to win your case than the government is to win theirs.
Filing and Recovering Damages from a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Chicago
Each state has different rules for who is responsible for actually filing the wrongful death lawsuit, as well as how damages are apportioned and distributed amongst the estate and family members.
In Illinois, the personal representative of the deceased’s estate (also referred to as the “executor” of the estate) is the party responsible for actually filing the lawsuit, though it is both acceptable and advisable to have the help of a Chicago wrongful death attorney. The executor may be named by the deceased in their will. However, if the chosen individual does not wish to serve as executor, or if deceased did not specify an executor or died without a will, a court may appoint someone to serve as executor.
When a wrongful death lawsuit is successful, Illinois law dictates that damages be paid to the deceased’s surviving spouse and next of kin according to their level of dependency on the deceased, as determined by the court. In other words, the court has fairly broad discretion in determining where the compensation goes for a wrongful death claim. The best way to get a realistic idea of how much your case may be worth is to tell your story to a dedicated Chicago wrongful death lawyer.
How Our Wrongful Death Attorneys in Chicago Can Help You
Nothing can quite prepare a person for the death of a loved one. It can be even harder when that loved one was the victim of wrongful death. While dealing with the fallout of a wrongful death in the family can be extremely difficult, our wrongful death attorneys can guide you on what steps you should take to ensure your rights and the rights of the deceased are protected.
Victims have a right to recover compensation when their loved one has been taken from them because of the wrongful acts of another person. However, meeting the challenges of recovering compensation in a wrongful death case can be stressful at a time when you are mourning. Fortunately, our team can help you with every aspect of your case, from filing your lawsuit to taking your case through trial, if necessary. Our wrongful death attorneys know what evidence to gather and how to handle insurance claims that are unwilling to pay you what your case is worth. Reach out to our compassionate wrongful death attorneys to get the legal help you deserve.
What Happens When You Call Our Chicago Wrongful Death Attorneys
When you call our wrongful death attorneys in Chicago, you can expect to receive a free case consultation where we can discuss the details of your case to determine if you have a valid wrongful death claim and who the liable parties are. Our attorneys will take as much time as necessary to explain the legal process and answer any questions you might have. We can also discuss the potential outcomes of your case based on the specific circumstances of your loss. From there, we can determine how best to proceed with your claim and what steps we will take to ensure you recover the compensation you are entitled to.
Our experienced wrongful death attorneys will help you meet all the requirements to recover damages. This includes obtaining a copy of your loved one’s death certificate and help to identify all survivors that might have a right to file a wrongful death lawsuit too. We will also gather evidence and prepare your complaint so your lawsuit can be filed promptly. During litigation, we can still negotiate with the insurance company and review your coverage, and any settlement offers you receive for your loss. Importantly, we can help accurately calculate your damages so that you do not miss out on the vital compensation you will need since your loved one has been taken from you.
Evidence Our Chicago Wrongful Death Attorneys Will Use
Proving a wrongful death case is often challenging since the type of incidents that cause a wrongful death are usually serious. In most cases, a great deal of evidence will need to be gathered and submitted to prove that another party was responsible and that you are entitled to damages. One of the most important pieces of evidence our wrongful death attorneys can help you obtain is the deceased’s death certificate. A death certificate will usually contain a wealth of information that could be useful in your case, including the date and time of the victim’s death. It should also include the official cause of death determined by the medical examiner.
Many other forms of relevant evidence will likely be used in your case. Police accident reports often prove useful when proving a wrongful death case. Police reports will typically contain observations made by the investigating police officers and the parties and witnesses they spoke with during their investigation. This can be incredibly helpful when trying to locate witnesses to testify in your case later.
Our team will also investigate the scene of the accident to determine if nearby businesses or homes had surveillance cameras that might have captured footage of your loved one’s accident. Depending on the circumstances of your case, we can also obtain expert witnesses to testify on your behalf, like an accident reconstruction expert.
If the person responsible for the wrongful death is facing criminal prosecution for their conduct, you might need to wait to file your civil case. However, a criminal trial will work to uncover other evidence, and a conviction in a criminal matter might serve as evidence itself. Our wrongful death attorneys can help you gather the evidence you need to build the strongest case possible.
How Our Attorneys Handle Insurance Companies in a Wrongful Death Case
It is no secret that insurance companies are notoriously difficult to deal with when attempting to recover compensation, especially when grieving the loss of a loved one. Further, insurance companies are not below taking advantage of individuals facing the worst time in their lives by making lowball offers to resolve cases quickly. Our wrongful death attorneys are aware of the games insurance companies play and can ensure they do not attempt the same in your case.
If an insurance company reaches out to you, it is strongly recommended that you speak with our team before making any statements. Once represented by legal counsel, all communications from an insurance company will be required to go through our office. An insurance company should only be speaking with you once you and your attorney have decided that it is in the best interest of your case. Our wrongful death attorneys can prepare you on what questions you might be asked and how best to represent your case when being interviewed by an insurance company.
Most importantly, we can review settlement offers made by the insurance company. If you are represented by legal counsel, you stand a much better chance of receiving a settlement offer that is fair and accounts for the full range of your damages. If the insurance company refuses to offer what you deserve, we can file a lawsuit immediately to let them know you are serious about recovering compensation. Our wrongful death attorneys can protect your rights so that an insurance company does not take advantage of you during this difficult time.
Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Chicago
While it may be difficult to contemplate legal action in the wake of a loved one’s untimely death, it is important that anyone who may have a valid wrongful death claim consider how the statutory window for filing applies to them. Courts take these laws seriously, so if you miss your window, you will be left without the ability to recover from the responsible party.
Generally, wrongful death claims in Chicago and the rest of Illinois must be filed within two years of the date of death. However, there are specific exceptions that apply when the death was caused by “violent intentional conduct.”
The window for these types of cases runs for five years. Additionally, if the government files criminal charges against the defendant based on the same incident, the window may extend for up to one year from the date that the criminal case was completed. However, this is only available where the charges include first or second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, or drug-induced homicide.
In any case, it is in your best interest to act as soon as possible to preserve evidence and get the financial compensation you deserve sooner rather than later.
Discuss Your Wrongful Death Claim with Our Chicago Wrongful Death Attorneys Today
You can receive a free initial case assessment when you call the Chicago wrongful death lawyers with Rhatigan Law Offices at (312) 584-5378.