First, let's cover what exactly a Wrongful Death Lawsuit is. Most simply, it's a civil lawsuit (not a criminal case) brought against someone legally responsible for another person's death due to wrongful conduct or negligence. If the person would have been entitled to damages as part of a personal injury claim if the death had not occurred, a wrongful death claim can be filed to collect damages on their behalf. So, what do you need to know?
1. WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIMS CAN BE DUE TO INTENTIONAL OR NEGLIGENT ACTIONS.
Wrongful death covers personal injuries that result in a death, primarily due to a person' or entity's wrongful conduct or negligence. It includes medical malpractice, car accidents, product liability, intentional killings and more. The burden of proof for wrongful death is similar to what is required for a personal injury claim.
2. WHY WOULD SOMEONE FILE A CLAIM FOR WRONGFUL DEATH?
The purpose of wrongful death is to compensate families. If someone has died and would have been entitled to a personal injury claim, surviving family members may receive damages on the deceased person's behalf and to cover the costs of their own losses. Damages may include medical bills associated with the death, funeral costs, lost wages, and monetary values associated with grief, sorrow and mental suffering.
3. WHO CAN FILE A CLAIM?
It varies by state, but is usually the next of kin or the "personal representative" of the person who died. In all states this includes immediate family members including spouses, children and parents of unmarried children. In Missouri, this can also include grandchildren, siblings or a "personal representative".
4. A WRONGFUL DEATH ACTION CAN BE FILED EVEN IF A CRIMINAL CASE IS ALSO BEING FILED.
A wrongful death claim is a civil suit filed by the personal representative of the deceased person. In contrast, a criminal case is filed by the state or federal government. The resulting cases have different burdens of proof and are independent of each other. Both can be brought to the court based on the same death. Civil suits and criminal cases have different expressions of determined liability or guilt: civil suits may result in the payment of monetary damages while criminal cases may result in incarceration.
5. CLAIMS MUST BE FILED WITHIN THE TIME LIMIT.
Like many other types of claims, there is a time limit to file a wrongful death lawsuit. In Missouri, any wrongful death lawsuits must be filed within three years of the person's death. In Illinois, time limits vary based on the specific type of case. All wrongful death cases have at least one year and potentially more. Contact an experienced attorney to find out how Illinois statutes may impact your claim.
Law surrounding wrongful death claims vary, so if you think you may be entitled to monetary damages after the death of loved one, contact the Eason Law Firm today. Your first consultation is always free and we are happy to answer any questions you may have.