Wrongful death cases are a particular type of personal injury case. In order to recover, you must show that the defendant was at fault in causing the death. Wrongful death suits may have an emotional element that is not present in other personal injury cases where the injured party survived the accident, but in the end, the survivors of the wrongful death accident are seeking to obtain compensation for the loss of their loved one. There are often other goals: to change how things are done, to obtain recognition of the wrongfulness of the conduct, to hold others accountable, but in the end, the only thing that a wrongful death suit can do is provide compensation for the survivors.
In order to obtain compensation for the surviving next of kin, there has to be a means of paying that compensation. In almost all cases, the only source of that compensation will be insurance held by the at-fault parties. Sometimes, the at-fault party is a large, solvent entity with the resources to pay compensation, but in virtually all cases the primary (often sole) source of compensation is insurance, and there are times when the amount of compensation that can be obtained is the limit of the insurance coverage. Unfortunately, there are cases where the amount of the insurance coverage is very low. For example, the state minimum for automobile liability insurance is $20,000. If there is a car accident with a driver who carries the state minimum of insurance, that may be all of the compensation that is available, no matter how great the losses are.
The reason that the insurance policy limits may cap the amount of compensation that can be recovered is that most people or businesses simply do not have the assets to help fund a settlement or pay a judgment after the case goes to trial. Before a judgment is entered after the end of a trial, a person cannot be forced to help fund a settlement. After a judgment is obtained following a trial, if the amount of the judgment exceeds their insurance coverage, then you can attempt to force them to hand over assets in a collection proceeding. When this happens, the likely response from the defendant is to declare bankruptcy. Declaring bankruptcy automatically stops any collection efforts, and any further payment on the judgment will have to approved by the bankruptcy court. The odds of recovering any significant portion of the judgment after a bankruptcy are slim indeed.
One thing that we do as experienced Chicago wrongful death lawyers is to conduct a thorough investigation to identify any potentially liable persons or entities and any potentially available insurance coverage to make sure that the families of the deceased are able to obtain the full measure of compensation due to them.
It is also important to understand that insurance does not cover all wrongful death cases. Insurance is intended to cover people for accidental injuries. This means that insurance does not cover intentional acts by the person holding the insurance policy. The reasoning behind this is that having insurance coverage for intentional acts would allow people to settle any dispute they wanted with their fists without any financial consequences. This means that when someone dies as a result of an intentional or criminal act, there may be no insurance coverage available. As experienced personal injury lawyers, one thing that we do when faced with the possibility of there being no insurance coverage is analyze the coverage issue very closely before deciding whether to proceed with the case or not.
You should also understand that the intentional acts exclusion in insurance policies only applies to the person committing the intentional act and that there may be another person or theory available which results in insurance coverage. Experienced personal injury lawyers bring that kind of expertise to the table when faced with a difficult situation where there may be no insurance coverage.