Wrongful Death & Fatal Car Accidents
A fatal car accident can be an overwhelming tragedy. A car crash is traumatic under just about any circumstances, but when you add the grief and pain of losing someone you love, the stress becomes unimaginable.
You’re coping with that loss and what it means for your family, your fears about the future, and the heartache of your loved one’s absence while also having to deal with the bureaucracy of insurance claims, estimates to repair or replace your car, and getting a rental car so that you’ll continue to have transportation.
You also may be recovering from your own injuries and trying to figure out how to pay your medical bills. Then there are the costs of funeral arrangements for your family member and worries about how your family’s finances will be affected by the loss of your loved one’s contributions to the household.
You’re probably feeling anger at the person who caused the auto accident that resulted in your family member’s death. You want justice for your lost loved one and for your family, and you want some reassurance that your family’s financial future will be provided for in your loved one’s absence.
Wrongful Death Act
Illinois has a statute that holds the responsible person liable when your loved one is killed in a crash. The Wrongful Death Act at 740 ILCS 180/ says that the surviving spouse or next of kin of a person who dies through someone else’s negligent or wrongful actions can file a lawsuit to recover from the person, corporation or all other potential responsible entities.
The Act does not specifically allow for punitive damages, however, they may be available under other theories of the law if you can establish willful and wanton or grossly negligent conduct. The Act does allow a jury to award you possible payment for:
- The value of the lost economic contributions from your deceased family member, including the lifetime value of wages he or she would have earned
- The loss of your relationship with your family member
- The loss of services your loved one performed for your family
- Your grief and suffering because of the loss
If your family member’s death wasn’t immediate, and he or she sustained injuries from the crash that required medical care before he or she passed away, 755 ILCS 5/27-6 says that you may be able to have medical expenses or other personal injury damages related to the crash paid by the person who was at fault. The concept of this law, called the Survival Act, is that your family member may have had a personal injury claim if he or she had survived, and that claim is preserved for you and your family so that you don’t have to carry the burden of the cost of medical care such as surgery or a hospital stay between the time of the crash and when your loved one passed away.
How a Lawyer Can Help
The idea of a wrongful death lawsuit can be a lot to take in when you’re grieving the loss of someone close to you. You’re likely feeling a whirlwind of emotions related to the car crash and its aftermath, and an experienced Chicago wrongful death attorney can offer objective advice to help you and your family make decisions about how to move forward. A lawyer can discuss with you what type of claims may be available to you, and help you negotiate with insurance companies and their attorneys to achieve a settlement. An experienced Chicago wrongful death lawyer also can walk you through the process of filing a lawsuit and the likelihood of all possible outcomes.