Filing a Wrongful Death Claim After a Fatal Car Accident

Losing a loved one in a fatal car accident is a truly harrowing experience that no one can imagine experiencing, yet it happens nearly 100 times a day across the country. To make the difficulty of trying to grieve and collect oneself after such a tragedy even worse, the laws surrounding wrongful death claims can be frustratingly intricate to anyone unfamiliar with their state’s rules. Illinois is no exception, as our attorneys from McHargue & Jones, LLC in Chicago can tell you.

To hopefully let our clients and community members gain some confidence and peace of mind after losing a loved one following a motor vehicle accident, we would like to take this time to outline some of the key details of Illinois’s wrongful death and car accident laws everyone should know. If you have more questions afterward – or if you know you would like our help with filing and managing a wrongful death claim – please contact us online or dial (312) 487-2461.

Is Illinois a No-Fault State?

The first question that we need to address is whether or not Illinois uses a “no-fault” rule for car accidents and related insurance claims. The answer is no.

In Illinois, the fault for a fatal car accident is established after thoroughly researching available evidence. The more liability that is placed upon a party in the crash, the more they can be held financially responsible for the resulting damages. If your loved one lost their life in a car accident that was entirely not their fault, then a consequent wrongful death claim can demand damages without any reduction due to shared liability.

How Much Can Be Rewarded in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

When a loved one passes away in a fatal car accident, your finances can be devastated. Medical bills, vehicle replacement costs, the wages the deceased would have earned in their life, and more can all add up quickly to a rickety financial situation. It is natural to wonder how much you could stand to collect through a successful wrongful death lawsuit. Will it be enough to get your family back on their feet again?

In Illinois, there is no cap on damages in a wrongful death lawsuit that is not filed for medical malpractice. If a case goes to court, then the jury is instructed to assign damages that are deemed “fair” based on both economic damages and noneconomic damages. In a personal injury claim, economic damages are financial damages that can be tracked on a bill or receipt, like the cost of final medical care for the deceased. Noneconomic damages are more abstract forms of damages, such as the grief experienced by surviving family members. Yes, in Illinois, noneconomic damages in a wrongful death claim can factor in the emotional trauma and loss of companionship experienced by the deceased’s family, which may contribute significantly to the total damages demanded in the claim.

Who Receives Compensation in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Illinois only allows the personal representative of the deceased’s estate to file a wrongful death lawsuit within one year of the deceased’s date of passing, not the day they were injured or fell ill. If there is no personal representative named in the deceased’s estate plan, then the court can appoint one. Typically, an appointed representative will be closely related to the deceased.

However, the personal representative that files the wrongful death claim does not necessarily have a claim to any compensation. If damages are recovered through a settlement or verdict, then the finances are paid to the surviving spouse with a noticeable majority in most cases. Others who may receive a portion of the damages are any next of kin, who received damages based on their dependency on the deceased.

Some damages are paid directly to the deceased’s estate. For example, burial and funeral costs are usually paid out of the estate’s expenses, and damages awarded for those purposes would go back to the estate itself.

Remember: If you have more questions about filing a wrongful death lawsuit following a fatal car accident in Illinois, you can dial (312) 487-2461 to speak with our attorneys from McHargue & Jones, LLC in Chicago.

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