Chicago Wrongful Death Attorney

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.

The first step in your recovery is calling the experienced Chicago wrongful death lawyers at Rhatigan Law Offices, by which you can receive a free initial case evaluation. Reach out to us by calling (312) 578-8502 today to learn more.

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.

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) 578-8502.