Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Illinois?

Posted in: Wrongful Death

The loss of a loved one is one of the most devastating life events you may ever experience. If you have lost a loved one because of the wrongful actions or negligence of someone else, you can file a  wrongful death lawsuit to hold that person (or corporation) responsible. However, not just anyone who was close to the deceased person can file a wrongful death claim. In all states, including Illinois, the individuals who are allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit are determined by state statute.

Strict rules apply when filing a wrongful death lawsuit. You should contact a lawyer if you believe that you may need to file a wrongful death lawsuit to discuss your case. Our attorneys at Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. have the experience necessary to demand justice for your family. Filing a lawsuit can help your family deal with costs associated with the death of a loved one and hold the parties responsible for the death accountable. Contact our office by calling (217) 528-9955 for a free consultation.

Illinois Wrongful Death Claims

In Illinois, a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed by the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate or their next of kin. The personal representative may be named in a will. If no personal representative was named in an estate plan, a court may appoint one. When deciding which person should serve as a personal representative, a court will typically consider a close relative such as:

  • A spouse of the deceased;
  • An adult child;
  • Parents of the deceased, if the person was a minor at the time of death; or
  • A sibling

Who Can Receive Proceeds From a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Only certain individuals can receive the proceeds from a wrongful death settlement or jury verdict. The Illinois Wrongful Death Act states that the proceeds of a wrongful death claim should go to the surviving spouse of the deceased and their next of kin. If a person dies with no surviving spouse, the proceeds of a wrongful death lawsuit will be divided by a court among the person’s next of kin.

Adopted individuals are considered the same legally as biological parents and children. If you are an adopted child, for example, you have equal rights to bring a wrongful death lawsuit after a parent’s death as any siblings who are biological children of the deceased parent.

Expenses that are directly associated with the death may be paid directly to the estate. This includes medical debts and funeral expenses. Compensation for these expenses is separate from the compensation loved ones may receive for loss of companionship of their loved one. A relative who is eligible to file a wrongful death claim may also be eligible to file a “survival” action, which is based on the pain and suffering of the deceased related to the death and lost wages they would have earned during their lifetime.

Unfortunately, not everyone who has been affected by the loss of a loved one can claim proceeds in a wrongful death action. If you were not married to your partner, you will not be considered next of kin for the purposes of filing a wrongful death claim. Illinois is not one of the states that recognizes common law marriage, so even if you paid bills with your partner, acted as a married couple, and lived together for many years, you may be out of luck when it comes to filing a wrongful death claim. If you have children with your deceased partner, however, you can seek legal advice on behalf of your minor children.

State law also prohibits anyone who caused the death of a loved one from benefiting from the death through inheritance or through a wrongful death claim. Illinois, like many other states has “slayer statutes” which prohibit any relative who committed murder from benefiting from their criminal conduct.

There are time limitations for filing a wrongful death case. You must file a wrongful death lawsuit within five years from the date of the death or within one year from the conclusion of any criminal proceedings if your loved one died as a result of murder, manslaughter, or drug-induced homicide as defined by Illinois state law. Do not wait until the last minute to speak to a lawyer about filing a lawsuit. Wrongful death claims can be quite complex because they may involve multiple responsible parties and require analysis by expert witnesses.

Consult an Illinois Wrongful Death Lawyer

If you are considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit, contact our office for more information. Even though it may seem like there is nothing you can do to fill the void that is left by the loss of a family member, filing a lawsuit can help hold those responsible accountable and discourage others from repeating similar conduct. After a careful analysis of your case, the attorneys at Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. can help advise you regarding the next steps to take. Contact our office by calling (217) 528-9955 or our online contact form.