As a starting point, you must hire a lawyer to file a valid wrongful death suit. Illinois court rules do not permit a person who is not a licensed attorney to file a lawsuit on behalf of the estate of a deceased person. Any lawsuit filed on behalf of the estate of a deceased person by a person who is not a licensed attorney is considered a nullity. In fact, there was a recent decision issued by the Illinois Appellate Court where a wrongful death lawsuit was filed by a lawyer on behalf of the estate of his mother. The lawyer had let his registration lapse, and the trial court dismissed the lawsuit as a nullity. The Appellate Court ruled that the trial court properly dismissed the lawsuit as a nullity because even though the person who filed the lawsuit was an attorney, he was not licensed at the time the suit was filed.
Besides just filing the lawsuit, experienced wrongful death lawyers do the following things:
• Investigate the accident, including:o Obtain police reportso Obtain witness statementso Obtain photographs of the places, persons, or objects involvedo Obtain documentation to support survival and wrongful death claim damageso Identify witnesses to support survival and wrongful death claim damages• File suit and serve the defendants with suit papers• Files responses to motions to transfer venue• Analyzes and responds to affirmative defenses• Attends multiple status and case management conferences• Prepares and answers written discovery• Files motions to compel the defendant to answer written discovery• Presents the plaintiff for deposition• Takes multiple depositions • Meets with witnesses• Analyzes insurance coverage issues• Responds to pre-trial motions to dismiss and for summary judgment• Obtains and analyzes medical records• Doctor depositions• Analyzes case for settlement potential• Engages in settlement negotiations and/or mediation• Selects and hires well-qualified liability, medical, and/or damages experts• Identifies and discloses trial witnesses for all aspects of trial• Presents experts for deposition• Reviews defendant trial witness disclosures• Takes depositions of defendant expert witnesses• Selects and prepares compelling trial exhibits• Conducts pretrial focus groups• Prepares all cooperative witnesses for testifying• Prepares for questioning all other witnesses• Prepares pretrial evidentiary motions and researches anticipated defense motions• Issues notices to appear and subpoenas for trial witnesses• Prepares jury instructions• Prepares questions for jury selection• Prepares opening statements and closing and rebuttal arguments• Argues pretrial evidentiary motions• Conducts jury selection• Gives opening statement• Puts on case in chief• Responds to defense case in chief• Offers rebuttal evidence• Participates in a jury instruction conference• Gives closing argument and rebuttal argument• Prepares judgment order based on jury verdict• Prepares and/or responds to post-trial motions• Handles appeals to Appellate Court and/or Illinois Supreme Court, if needed• Enforces judgment• Disputes questionable claimed liens• Verifies the correct amount of liens• Disburses money to client, beneficiaries, and lienholders as required• Provides full accounting of all money from verdict or settlement to the client