Even though it’s impossible to put an accurate value on the life of a human being, a wrongful death lawsuit is the instrument used by the civil court system in Illinois to compensate the family members of people who have lost their lives due to the recklessness or negligence of another person, company, or entity.
Wrongful death lawsuits are common in fatal auto accidents. For example, parents can file this type of lawsuit against a driver who caused a crash that killed their daughter. Or a son could do the same against a driver that killed his parents. Similarly, a husband can file suit on behalf of his wife if she was killed in a wreck caused by someone else.
It’s even possible for wrongful death lawsuits to be filed on behalf of someone who has not yet been born – namely, if an accident results in the death of a pregnant woman’s fetus. Illinois law relating to wrongful death states in part…
The state of gestation or development of a human being when an injury is caused, when an injury takes effect, or at death, shall not foreclose maintenance of any cause of action under the law of this State arising from the death of a human being caused by wrongful act, neglect or default.
In plainspeak, the statute reads that the neither age of the fetus nor the fact that the baby has not yet been born disqualifies someone from bringing a wrongful death lawsuit on its behalf.
However, in order for this type of lawsuit to be successful, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the event in question (such as an auto accident) led directly to the death of the fetus. This causation is far from assumed; in fact, the Illinois Supreme Court addressed a case of this nature back in 2008. In Williams v. Manchester, a woman who was less than 11 weeks pregnant was injured in an auto accident; and although her fetus was fine, her pelvis and hip were broken. In order to safeguard the health of the fetus, medical personnel couldn’t take X-rays of the fractures, so they couldn’t surgically repair the woman’s bones. The woman was told that she would have to remain bedridden until delivery and still might not walk properly again despite post-birth surgery – so she chose to abort her pregnancy. She then sued for wrongful death, but the state supreme court ultimately ruled against her.
If you have any questions about whether an auto accident adversely affected the health of your fetus, you should contact a qualified auto accident attorney as soon as possible.
We are pleased to offer a FREE book which Mr. Doyle has written to assist families of victims of wrongful death accidents. In it, we answer many of the basic questions that families have concerning their rights in a very difficult situation. To obtain a free copy of the wrongful death book, either follow the link, click on the image on the right side of this page, or call our office at (312) 263-1080 to request a copy of the book.