Losing a loved one to a fatal accident caused by another’s recklessness or neglect can leave your family struggling to get by, both emotionally and financially. If you are considering filing an Illinois wrongful death lawsuit after such an accident, you need to have a basic understanding of the process of filing a wrongful death lawsuit as well as who might be the beneficiaries of the lawsuit so that you can begin to discuss your legal options.
Survivor Action vs. Wrongful Death Action
An Illinois wrongful death claim can result in two different types of compensation: survivor action and wrongful death action. Survivor action is compensation that passes to the estate, and can include medical expenses, compensation for pain and suffering and compensation for lost wages that your loved one experienced before death. If the deceased had a will, the survivor action will be distributed according to the will’s stipulations. If your loved one did not leave a will, the estate will fall under the jurisdiction of the Statute of Intestate Descent and Distribution.
Unlike the survivor action, the wrongful death action benefits only the “next of kin” as defined by Illinois law. Wrongful death compensation can include compensation for future lost wages as well as grief for those determined “next of kin”.
Filing an Illinois Wrongful Death Claim
Not just any family member can file an Illinois wrongful death claim. If your loved one had a will, the will should stipulate who is the executor of your loved one’s estate. This can be one person, several people or an institution such as a bank. If there is no will, a person will be appointed to be an “Independent Administrator” or “Special Administrator” for the estate. The executors or administrators are the only ones who can make the decision to file an Illinois wrongful death claim.Illinois Wrongful Death Claim Beneficiaries
Illinois defines “next of kin” in a very narrow manner. Unfortunately, this narrow legal definition can leave other bereft relatives without any compensation for their loss beyond what the estate and survivor action offer.
You might think of qualified “next of kin” as a series of tiers. The first tier consists of a spouse and children. If the decedent didn’t have a spouse or children, the compensation passes to the next tier which consists of parents, brothers and sisters. If the wrongful death victim doesn’t have a spouse, children, parents or siblings, the compensation passes on to other surviving relatives as designated by law. Once a survivor is determined to be “next of kin,” other relatives who are at the next level do not get any right to recover, no matter how severe their losses are.
The law is not always fair. For example, if the deceased didn’t have a surviving spouse or children, an estranged brother may be legally entitled to a share of the wrongful death settlement even if the brother hadn’t had a relationship with his sibling for years.
Illinois Wrongful Death Claim & Common Law Marriages
Some states recognize common law marriages but Illinois is not one of them. Therefore, if you have been in a long-term relationship with the person who died as a result of a fatal accident and your loved one did not have a will, Illinois does not recognize you as a relative and you won’t be able to be designated as “next of kin.” In addition, if your partner left a will and you weren’t listed as a beneficiary, you won’t receive compensation from any part of the estate.
Illinois Wrongful Death Claim and Settlement
Tragedy can bring both the best and the worst out of people. When a large wrongful death settlement goes to next of kin, other family members may feel that the decision is unjust. However, this is dictated by Illinois law, not by individual family members.
If you feel that you were unjustly treated in a wrongful death settlement, consult with a qualified Chicago wrongful death lawyer. While you may not have any legal recourse, you should at least ensure that you were treated legally throughout the proceedings. If you were intentionally or unintentionally left out of the settlement, your lawyer can explain what options you do have.
Hiring a Chicago Wrongful Death Lawyer
Losing a loved one to a tragic and preventable accident carries with it an emotional toll that can quickly become overwhelming when funeral costs and medical bills come pouring in, especially if your family relied on the income of the deceased as your main source of financial support.
If you have lost a spouse, parent, or other family member because of neglect, you may be entitled to receive compensation from those responsible to help your family get back its feet after your loss.
With so much going on during this emotional time, it’s best to have the help of an experienced Chicago wrongful death lawyer. The Law Offices of Barry G. Doyle, P.C. have been helping the families of accident victims get the compensation they need and deserve to move on with their lives. Contact us today for a free case evaluation – (312) 263-1080