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An Overview of Wrongful Death Claims

Personal Injury Law and Gavel

Losing a family member is one of life’s most difficult challenges, and it can be even worse when the death is the fault of another person’s negligence. The law provides a remedy in these situations in the form of civil damages for the survivors of the deceased. These claims are known as wrongful death claims and are brought by the family members of the deceased so they can recover damages for their own losses stemming from the death.

Wrongful death claims are separate and distinct from criminal murder or manslaughter charges, although a wrongful death claim often accompanies or follows a criminal prosecution. Although they are based on the same events, there are a few key differences between these types of actions. A murder or manslaughter charge is brought by the government, while a wrongful death claim is brought by the family of the deceased. The remedy in a murder or manslaughter case is incarceration or probation, while the remedy in a wrongful death case is monetary damages. In a murder or manslaughter case, the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt, while the burden of proof in a wrongful death claim is a preponderance of the evidence. Thus, it is often easier for family members of the deceased to recover damages through a wrongful death claim than to obtain a criminal conviction.

Wrongful death Law in Illinois

The Illinois wrongful death statute is codified at 740 ILCS 180,1 and reads:

Whenever the death of a person shall be caused by wrongful act, neglect or default, and the act, neglect or default is such as would, if death had not ensued, have entitled the party injured to maintain an action and recover damages in respect thereof, then and in every such case the person who or company or corporation which would have been liable if death had not ensued, shall be liable to an action for damages, notwithstanding the death of the person injured, and although the death shall have been caused under such circumstances as amount in law to felony.

In other words, a wrongful death claim can be brought against a defendant if the defendant’s actions would have entitled the deceased to recover damages if he or she had not died as a result of the defendant’s actions or omissions.

The Illinois statute requires that a wrongful death action be brought by a personal representative of the deceased, such as the spouse of the deceased, a parent of a minor child who is deceased, or an adult child of the deceased. The action must also be brought within the time limit set by the statute of limitations set by the underlying cause of action, or within one year of the deceased’s death, whichever is later.

Although no amount of money can return a loved one, juries in wrongful death cases have great latitude in determining the appropriate amount of damages for the deceased’s representatives. For example, a jury can award damages for tangibles, such as loss of income, and intangibles, such as grief, sorrow, and mental suffering. The major guiding principle for juries in wrongful death cases is that the compensation be fair and just.

Contact a Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer 

If a family member has died and you believe you may have a wrongful death claim, please contact the Chicago wrongful death attorneys at Abels & Annes, PC, for a free consultation by calling 312-924-7575.


Ehline, Michael. “Los Angeles Wrongful Death Attorneys Experts.” Ehline Law Firm Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. April 02, 2017. Accessed May 12, 2017.

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