When your family has experienced the unexpected loss of a loved one because of a fatal accident due to neglect, you may need to consider filing an Illinois wrongful death lawsuit. A Chicago wrongful death attorney can help your family with this process and work toward recovering damages for your loss.
The Family is Typically Priority #1
When the deceased has immediate family such as a spouse or children, they are typically the first choice of legal authority to file an Illinois wrongful death lawsuit, especially in the absence of a will. The person or entity that has legal authority to file an Illinois wrongful death lawsuit is known as the “administrator of the estate.”
In theory, more than one person can serve as the administrator, but it is encouraged that a single person acts on behalf of the estate of the deceased. This is especially important with families, as the administrator has to make decisions that can cause argument among family members.
The family members not acting as administrator are still involved in the Illinois wrongful death lawsuit process as beneficiaries. They are the individuals either determined by the court or specifically named in the will to receive the compensation from the division of the deceased’s estate, as well as any settlement received from the lawsuit.
Responsibilities of the Administrator of the Estate
The administrator is the person who handles the filing and decisions related to the Illinois wrongful death lawsuit. They are responsible for:
- hiring a Chicago wrongful death attorney;
- furnishing documentation for the court;
- appearing at trial and all necessary court hearings;
- representing the interests of the beneficiaries of the deceased and informing them of the case progress;
- making decisions regarding prosecution and settlement of the case;
- presenting a settlement agreement and distribution order;
- distributing the final settlement in accordance with court order; and
- filing proof with the court that the settlement has been disbursed.
These are serious responsibilities and in some cases-especially when the deceased has no close immediate family-the appointed administrator may be a non-relative or even a company, such as a bank.
You will also have to determine if you are lawfully permitted to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Illinois. In the state of Illinois, only the executor of the will is permitted to file the wrongful death claim on behalf of the beneficiaries. The executor is usually established in the will of the deceased, but in the event that your loved one did not create a will prior to their passing, an estate administrator will be chosen by the court.
The executor of the estate is the only person who can file an Illinois wrongful death claim and the only person who can accept or reject any settlement offer.
The executor is different than the beneficiaries, who are the ones that will receive any settlement obtained through the wrongful death claim. The executor may also be one of the beneficiaries, who are defined as the “next of kin” in the Illinois Wrongful Death Act. In order, the beneficiaries of an Illinois wrongful death claim include:
- The victim’s spouse and/or children;
- If the victim has no living spouse or children, the proceeds go to parents and/or siblings; or
- If the victim has no living spouse, children, parents, or siblings, other relatives may then be determined as next of kin.
Survival Actions and Wrongful Death Lawsuits
A survival action is a separate type of claim within the context of a wrongful death claim that covers issues that affected the victim after the accident bur prior to their death. Unlike the beneficiaries that are “next of kin” from the wrongful death portion of the lawsuit, any funds recovered through the survival action go into the deceased’s estate which means any proceeds will be distributed according to the deceased’s will.
Damages awarded in a survival action claim include:
- Pain and suffering of the deceased prior to their death;
- Lost wages between the accident/cause and the victim’s death;
- The victim’s medical expenses prior to their death; and
- Any disfigurement or disability the victim sustained prior to death.
Since these damages directly affected the victim, unlike the damages in a wrongful death lawsuit that affect the victim’s next of kin, the estate must file the survival action and any proceeds become property of the estate. This type of legal action follows the same logic as a personal injury claim. The survival action sues the liable party for the same damages that a personal injury claim would have if the victim had lived through their resulting injuries.
Hiring a Chicago Wrongful Death Lawyer
A Chicago wrongful death lawyer at the Law Offices of Barry G. Doyle, P.C. can talk to you about the types of compensation that you and your family might be entitled to after the loss of a loved one. If you are coping with the loss of a spouse or family member after an Illinois accident, contact us today for a free case evaluation – 312-263-1080