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Wrongful death and wrongful death claims - the basics

Many accident victims and their families understand that they can and should be compensated for losses associated with their preventable injuries, but many are unfamiliar with how wrongful death guidelines may apply to them and their case. Not only are wrongful death claims intended to compensate families for the financial and emotional hardships related to the avoidable loss of a loved one, but they also serve as a method to hold liable parties accountable for their actions.

Innocent people sustain serious and fatal injuries in accidents every day across the country. According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, the state has seen 190 crashes with 205 fatalities so far this year. In all of 2014, there were 849 crashes and 928 deaths. While many of these incidents are unexpected and unavoidable, others are due to people’s mistakes and actions.

According to Black's Law Dictionary, a wrongful death is one caused by someone's negligent or willful act or omission. A wrongful death lawsuit is filed by the victim's family or representative who are entitled to compensation for expenses, loss of income, loss of companionship and the emotional impact of the loss of a loved one.

In Illinois, a death is wrongful if it is the result of "a wrongful act, neglect or default." The same definition applies to personal injury claims for damages. State law does not, however, allow a plaintiff's survivors to "double down": That is, if the plaintiff has filed a personal injury claim and dies before it is resolved, the plaintiff's family or representatives may not then file a wrongful death claim. One or the other, but not both.

We'll explain more in our next post.

Source: West's Smith-Hurd Illinois Compiled Statutes Annotated, Wrongful Death Act (740 ILCS 180/0.01 et seq.) via WestlawNext

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