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Wrongful Death of an Elderly Person

We try to prepare ourselves for losing our parents, grandparents, or elderly spouses as they age and succumb to illness or the degeneration that comes with time. We know that the death of our elderly loved ones is inevitable, but when we lose an elderly family member to an accident or an act of professional malpractice, that can be just as shocking and incomprehensible as the death of someone younger.

Senior citizens make up the fastest-growing segment of the population in the United States. As people age, they lose bone density and muscle mass that can leave the elderly much more vulnerable to injuries suffered in auto collisions, falls, or other types of accidents than a younger person might be. A younger person might walk away from an accident that leaves an elderly person with serious or even fatal injuries.

Elderly people also can be vulnerable to the institutions we rely upon to care for them in their final years. There are a growing number of people entering nursing homes or assisted living facilities, where they may fall victim to abuse or neglect. One survey of nursing home residents conducted found that an astounding 44 percent said they had been abused and 95 percent said they had been neglected or witnessed neglect, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse. A 2009 article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that nursing home residents who experienced even modest abuse had a 300 percent greater risk of dying than those who do not experience abuse.

If you have lost an elderly family member and believe that someone else caused your loved one’s death, our experienced Illinois wrongful death attorneys can help you determine whether you might have a claim for monetary damages.

Wrongful Death Damages

The Illinois Wrongful Death Act (740 ILCS 180) allows you to file a lawsuit as the next of kin of a person who died as a result of someone else’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional action. The death could be the result of an accident such as a car crash or a slip-and-fall, or of medical malpractice such as a botched surgery or incorrect diagnosis. The statute allows you to make a claim for recovery of monetary damages that may include:

  • Loss of Economic Support — This includes the loss of any economic contributions your loved one made to your family, such as lost income. Even if the person was no longer working, a surviving spouse may have a claim for lost income if you relied upon your loved one’s non-transferable retirement benefits.
  • Loss of Society — This includes the loss of your relationship with your loved one. That might mean the loss of companionship of a parent, or the loss of a sexual relationship with a spouse.
  • Grief and Mental Suffering — This includes the emotional hardship you’ve suffered as a result of your loss. As a practical matter, these damages tend to be harder to obtain.

Survival Action Damages

If your loved one was injured and died some period of time later, you may have a claim under the Illinois Survival Act (755 ILCS 5/27-6) for payment of medical bills resulting from the injury, funeral costs, or any other personal injury damages that your family member might have been able to obtain if he or she had survived and made a personal injury claim. For a survival action to be successful, you have to be able to prove that your loved one’s death was caused by the injuries suffered in his or her accident or act of malpractice.

Wrongful Death and Nursing Homes

It’s tragic when a loved one is trusted to the care of a nursing home or assisted living facility, and then dies as a result of abuse or neglect. There unfortunately are many forms of nursing home neglect and abuse that may lead to the death of an elderly family member:

  • Dehydration and malnourishment
  • Bed sores
  • Use of sedatives or physical restraints
  • Falls
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Improper medical care
  • Lack of supervision

In addition to the Wrongful Death Act, the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act (210 ILCS 45/) includes a provision that allows you to make a claim for your attorneys fees in addition to any other damages awarded by a jury as the result of abuse or neglect by a nursing home or other long term care facility.