Accidental deaths are the third leading cause of death in the United States. Annually, more than 167,000 people die and another 39.5 million seek medical care because of unintentional injuries. Many of these deaths happen because of another person’s actions, whether deliberate, accidental, or due to negligent behaviors. When a loved one dies unexpectedly, you may suddenly find yourself facing a mountain of household expenses and medical bills. In instances of death caused by negligence, it is possible to recover these losses in a wrongful death claim.
What is a Wrongful Death Case?
A wrongful death claim is a civil action brought by the family or the estate of a person who died because of the negligence or intentional actions of another person. This type of claim can also be brought against parties like companies or organizations. The victim may die at the scene of the incident or at a later date as a result of their injuries. Once the injured party has passed away, his or her survivors can pursue compensation directly from the negligent party or from that party’s insurance company. This is the best way for surviving family members to recover damages caused by a wrongful death, including medical bills, funeral costs, loss of future wages, and pain and suffering.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
A representative of the accident victim or a representative of their estate can file a wrongful death claim on behalf of eligible survivors. According to the Wrongful Death Act, surviving children and spouses can recover compensation for their loss. If the deceased has no children and no spouse, a relative like a sibling or parent may be eligible to recover compensation. The lawsuit itself is filed in the name of a representative (known as the special administrator) of the decedent’s estate, although multiple family members can seek compensation simultaneously.
Types of Wrongful Death Cases
Wrongful deaths can be filed for any death that was caused by negligence or a wrongful act. They can also be filed for deaths resulting from a criminal act, but for the sake of this article, we will focus on claims that stem from personal injuries. Some of the most common reasons wrongful death claims are filed include:
- motor vehicle accidents
- medical malpractice
- workplace incidents
- injuries caused by products
- injuries caused on someone’s property
Motor Vehicle Accidents
The U.S. experienced over 36,000 motor vehicle accident deaths in 2019 alone. And when you consider that human error is a contributing factor in 94% of serious collisions, it is clear why we are all required to carry auto insurance. Some of the most common negligent behaviors are texting and driving, speeding, and drunk driving. Accidents involving commercial vehicles like trucks can be especially deadly because of the size difference between trucks and passenger cars. Further, motorcyclists are at an even greater risk of death due to a collision for the same reasoning and because they have little or no protection. When a motor vehicle collision causes a fatal accident, the driver, business, or some other third party (like a manufacturer) may be held liable for the wrongful death. Sorting out liability in these situations can be a complicated task. And when money is involved, it is almost always disputed. An experienced attorney can help to sort out who is at-fault so that you can receive proper compensation for fatal injuries.
Medical malpractice is another common reason that people need to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Some 80,000 deaths occur each year due to misdiagnosis in the United States. When you take into account other instances of malpractice, like birth injuries, botched surgeries, and prescription errors, it is clear how medical malpractice can lead to wrongful death lawsuits.
Both federal and state laws require Illinois employers to maintain a safe work environment for employees to avoid injuries on-the-job. This can include keeping the workplace clean, providing the right equipment, training staff, and hiring qualified personnel. Even when all of these safety measures are provided, accidents still happen and there are often negligent third parties involved. Proving liability of a third party when an employee dies on the job often requires a detailed investigation. That’s why attorneys are instrumental in navigating these cases.
Product Liability Cases
Defective products place unsuspecting consumers in harm’s way. Some especially hazardous defective products include faulty car parts, unsafe medical devices and medications, and unsafe household appliances and batteries. Even products that are well made can be deadly if the manufacturer fails to warn the consumer about potential dangers. If a manufacturer knowingly allows an inadequate product to go to market or fails to warn the public about a known issue, they may be held responsible for any deaths that results.
Premise Liability Incidents
Property owners must exercise reasonable care to prevent injuries from happening. When they fail to fulfill this responsibility, accidents like a slip and fall could lead to a visitor’s death. To some, this may sound extreme, but a fall can easily lead to death for vulnerable populations. This is why laws exist that require property owners take reasonable care to prevent injury on their premises. A wrongful death attorney can help to demonstrate that the property owner was responsible for your loved one’s death and help you to seek compensation.
What Damages Can Be Recovered from a Wrongful Death?
Economic damages are monetary losses associated with a death or injury. One example is the medical expenses your loved one accrued prior to their passing away. This often includes the cost of hospitalization, diagnostic testing, surgeries, rehabilitation, and medications.
Economic damages can also include funeral expenses and the loss of support that the accident victim provided. As a survivor, you can pursue compensation for the financial contributions that your deceased loved one provided before their death. This is most common in situations in which a spouse loses their only source of income.
Coming to terms with a wrongful death is not easy. In fact, 25% of surviving spouses develop depression and anxiety within the first year of the loss. Spouses also endure loss of consortium, the loss of the intimate relationship shared with the deceased. Deaths certainly take an emotional toll on children as well, whether they are minors or adults. Because of this, Illinois courts have outlined a way for spouses and children to seek compensation for both direct financial losses and damages for emotional distress, loss of earning capacity, and loss of consortium.
As the name suggests, punitive damages are meant as a punishment against the at-fault party. They are meant to dissuade the same party or similar parties from committing similar negligent acts in the future. Punitive damages are reserved for situations in which the liable person’s behavior is exceedingly reckless.
Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney
If you’ve lost a loved one due to another party’s negligence, Abels & Annes can help you to seek compensation for their death. We will review the facts of the wrongful death in detail to make sure all of your damages are accounted for so that you can receive the maximum available compensation for your loss. While no amount of money will suffice for the loss of a loved one, wrongful death claim compensation will help you and your family grieve and cover the costs related to your relative’s death. For a free initial case evaluation, call us at 312-924-7575 or contact us online.