Few events in life are as devastating as losing a loved one. When a family member dies, it throws normal life into chaos. The emotional turmoil of grief alone can be extremely difficult to bear. Unfortunately, many families also have to deal with the financial impact of their loss. Funeral and burial expenses, end-of-life medical bills, and other costs can completely overwhelm you when dealing with your loved one’s death.

While no amount of money can make up for your loss, you may be able to pursue compensation if your family member’s death was the result of someone else’s negligence or misconduct. To learn more about filing a legal claim, call an Oak Lawn wrongful death lawyer today.

Legal Definition of Wrongful Death

Determining whether an accident-related fatality is legally considered a wrongful death can be complicated, and not all accident-related fatalities are wrongful deaths.

According to the Illinois Wrongful Death Act (740 ILCS 180/0.01), a wrongful death is “any death caused by wrongful act, neglect, or default.” In other words, if someone’s misconduct causes a fatality, that death may be considered “wrongful”. Many wrongful deaths are the result of an accident involving negligence. Sometimes, criminal misconduct results in a wrongful death. In such cases, the at-fault person may be both criminally and civilly liable for the wrongful death.

How is a Wrongful Death Action Different from Other Personal Injury Cases?

The primary difference between a wrongful death case and other personal injury claims is who receives the settlement at the end. In a wrongful death case, the court awards damages to the heirs of the decedent to compensate them for the loss of their loved one. In personal injury cases, the damages are compensatory, meaning that they are meant to make up for what was taken away by the negligence of the at-fault party. They are usually paid to the plaintiff. It is common for these cases to settle out of court if the offer is reasonable.

Additionally, these cases typically involve two separate court filings. The first would be the wrongful death case itself, which is the estate of the deceased person bringing a legal case against the party who was legally responsible for the decedent’s passing.

The second type of filing is a probate case. The probate court handles legal issues involving people who have passed away. Despite an individual’s death due to another’s negligence, the probate court still has jurisdiction to address many of the issues that arise involving the deceased’s estate.

Surviving Families’ Legal Rights

The Illinois Wrongful Death Act dictates who can file a wrongful death lawsuit. According to this law, the deceased’s spouse has first priority for filing a claim. If there is no surviving spouse, the deceased’s next-of-kin, such as their child or their parent, can file the lawsuit with an Oak Lawn wrongful death attorney. Oak Lawn families can file a wrongful death lawsuit seeking compensation for:

  • Funeral expenses
  • The deceased’s medical expenses
  • Loss of financial support
  • Loss of companionship and love

Does a Wrongful Death Claim Affect a Life Insurance Claim?

Many people buy life insurance policies to help ease the financial burden their family may face upon their death. When the insured’s death is a wrongful death, their family may not know whether a legal claim would impact their life insurance claim.

Wrongful death lawsuits do not preclude life insurance beneficiaries from receiving their insurance payout. However, some insurance policies do have exceptions when death is the result of medical malpractice or specific third-party actions. For example, a life insurance policy may have an exception for death caused by an aviation accident.

If the deceased died in a plane crash due to the pilot’s negligence, their family may not be able to file a life insurance claim. But, they would still likely be able to file a wrongful death claim. Additionally, receiving a life insurance payout does not bar a surviving family member from seeking compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Let an Oak Lawn Wrongful Death Attorney Assist Your Family

If you believe your loved one’s death was the result of another person’s negligence, you may be able to seek financial compensation in court. Speak with an Oak Lawn wrongful death attorney now to learn more about your legal options. Call today for a free consultation.