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When Is a Fatal Accident Considered a Wrongful Death?

 Posted on February 13,2024 in Personal Injury

Blog ImageThere are many situations where people may act negligently and put others at risk, and in some cases, these actions may lead to dangerous accidents that result in fatalities. When a fatal accident takes place, a victim’s surviving family members may be able to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit and recover financial compensation for their loss. An attorney who has experience representing grieving family members can ensure that a wrongful death claim will be handled correctly.

Negligence and Wrongful Death

In order to receive compensation for a wrongful death, certain elements must be proven:

  • Duty of care: The party who is accused of causing a person’s death had a legal duty to act in a reasonable manner towards the deceased.

  • Breach of duty: The party failed to fulfill their duty of care through negligent or intentional actions.

  • Causation: The breach of duty directly caused or significantly contributed to the fatal accident.

  • Damages: The surviving family members have endured financial and emotional losses as a result of the death.

The most common basis for establishing wrongful death in fatal accidents is negligence. Negligence occurs when someone fails to exercise proper care, resulting in harm to others. For example, if someone runs a red light and causes a car accident that leads to fatalities, they may be held liable for wrongful death due to their negligent behavior.

Intentional Actions Leading to Wrongful Death

While negligence is the most common basis for wrongful death claims, intentional actions can also result in fatal accidents that are considered wrongful deaths. These cases often involve criminal acts such as homicide, assault, or other forms of intentional harm.

If a person intentionally causes the death of someone else through their actions, it may be possible to pursue a wrongful death claim against them in civil court in addition to any criminal charges that may apply. While criminal charges and penalties focus on punishment for the offender, a wrongful death lawsuit seeks compensation and justice for the surviving family members.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Under Illinois law, specific people have the right to file a wrongful death claim:

  • The surviving spouse of the deceased

  • The children of the deceased

  • The parents of the deceased, if they were dependents or if the deceased was a minor

  • Other family members or next of kin who were dependents of the deceased

A representative of the deceased person’s estate will typically pursue a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the surviving family members. The statute of limitations for wrongful death cases is two years, and a personal representative must file a claim or lawsuit within two years after the person died.

Damages Available in Wrongful Death Cases

When pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit, there are various types of damages that can be sought:

  • Economic damages: These include medical expenses leading up to the fatality, funeral and burial costs, loss of financial support the deceased would have provided to their family members, and loss of benefits a family would have received, including health benefits, retirement benefits, or inheritances.

  • Non-economic damages: These are intangible losses such as pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and the grief and sorrow experienced by surviving family members. Placing a monetary value on these losses is not always easy, but compensation can ensure that family members will have the resources they need to move on following the tragedy they have experienced

  • Punitive damages: These damages may be awarded in cases where the defendant's actions were particularly egregious or intentional. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant and deter others from engaging in similar behavior.

Contact Our Will County Wrongful Death Attorney

If you have lost a loved one in a fatal accident, Flaherty Law, LLC can help you understand your legal options. Our Plainfield wrongful death lawyer can help you determine who was responsible, and we will work to ensure that they will be held to account for the negligence or intentional actions that caused your family to suffer a tragedy. To learn how we can help you recover the compensation you deserve for the death of your loved one, contact us at 815-577-7500 and schedule a free consultation.

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