Wrongful Death

In the most serious of cases, personal injuries can turn deadly. In fact, over half of all cases handled by Crossroad Legal involve the wrongful death of an injured person. Whether it is a nursing home resident who has succumbed to their wounds and months or years of neglect and abuse, or a fatal car wreck, we’ve seen some of the most horrific fatal injuries, and we know exactly how to pursue compensation for the families of those who have died due to the carelessness of others. But when a death is involved, insurance companies and the large corporations they represent will fight back hard. They rarely go away without a fight. Here are some key details you need to understand if you’ve lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence or reckless behavior.

What is a Wrongful Death Case?  Simply put, when negligence kills someone, it’s a wrongful death. There are two ways to pursue damages in these cases. One is through a Wrongful Death Action, which is a statutory action that allows the next-of-kin of a decedent to file a lawsuit for their own loss of a loved one. The other is a Survival Action, which is filed by the decedent’s estate for the injuries that the decedent would have been able to claim had he or she survived. So, in short, we generally file both types of claims, but not always. Wrongful death claims “belong” to the loved ones who lost the person, and Survival Actions “belong” to the deceased person’s probate estate, to be disbursed according to state law or their will, if applicable.  This process is different from state to state, but in Illinois, unless the person died instantly with no suffering or pain at all, both claims will be filed.

Who is the Plaintiff in a Wrongful Death Case?  Following a 2011 Illinois Appellate Court decision, it has long been held that if there are both Survival and Wrongful Death Actions to pursue, a probate estate must be opened, and the Administrator or Representative of that estate must be listed as the plaintiff to pursue compensation for not only the estate, but also all next-of-kin and heirs.  Keep in mind these may be different individuals or entities, depending on whether the individual has a will or not. Some people leave a part of their estate to churches, charities, non-relative friends and colleagues, or even political organizations. None of these people or entities would be entitled to recover for wrongful death, because they cannot claim that they lost a family member, as is required by statute. However, they can claim damages under the Survival Action, because they have a right to certain portions of the estate through the will. In either case, the Representative of the Estate is responsible for retaining counsel, pursuing the claim, and litigating the matter. He or she is also responsible for accepting or declining settlement offers.

Who Gets the Money After a Settlement or Verdict?  This is a follow-up to the question of who can file the lawsuit, because it is not always the same as those who can receive from the lawsuit. Any funds distributed by the courts or through settlement pursuant to Wrongful Death must be divided among the surviving next-of-kin. These are generally surviving spouses, children, parents, or even siblings. It depends largely on the person’s family tree. But these amounts are not set in stone and may be argued about at a formal hearing, following a trial or settlement. As for funds received as part of the Survival Action (for conscious pain and suffering, as well as medical bills incurred during life), it will go off of how the will or the person’s trust – if applicable – dictates. If neither of these exists, the pool of individuals who receives compensation through survival claims, will look a lot like the same pool of people who are compensated for wrongful death. In general, family members are the ones who may claim compensation.

Types of Damages Available.  The types of damages available under both types of claims are as follows:

            For Wrongful Death Claims, surviving family members may claim:

  • Loss of society
  • Loss of consortium
  • Emotional and Psychological Distress
  • Final Expenses Incurred

For Survival Claims, the heirs of the estate can claim:

  • Pain and suffering of the decedent
  • Medical bills and expenses incurred during life of the decedent
  • Lost wages of the decedent
  • Property damages incurred by the decedent
  • Any other related expenses of the estate, including funeral bills and so forth

To get the most compensation and ensure that your rights are protected, it is always best to work with a local southern Illinois wrongful death attorney who can assist you in navigating the system from start to finish. You will almost certainly have a probate matter established, as well as a civil lawsuit. At Crossroad Legal, we cover 100% of the expenses relating to pursuing your case upfront, and we are only reimbursed those expenses from the final settlement or verdict recovered on your behalf. We do this because we know that most people – especially those who have just lost a loved one – do not have the financial resources to go toe to toe with big corporations and their insurance companies. We bear the financial risk for our clients, and we pursue justice to help you move forward. Nothing can ever replace a loved one, but monetary compensation can make it easier to move forward, pay for expenses, cover medical bills, and help children who have lost a parent. So, I you’ve lost a loved one due to someone else’s carelessness, do not hesitate to call 24/7 or find us onlinev. We’re available to take your call, and we don’t charge for consultations. We are only paid if we collect compensation on your behalf.

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    All consultations are free of charge.  Effective July 1, 2023, our office performs all initial consultations via phone or video chat, as we find this allows us to help people who may not be able to travel after their injuries. However, in-person appointments may be scheduled in advance. Our firm does not do walk-ins, as we cannot guarantee that the attorney will be in the office at that time.  Please see our “Crossroad Pledge” for more information about how Crossroad Legal is different than other firms you may have seen.