When someone in Illinois is killed as a result of the wrongful or negligent actions of others, certain surviving family members can file wrongful death lawsuits against the responsible party or parties. Wrongful death claims can be filed even though criminal cases might also be pending and provide a way for family members to hold the responsible party accountable for their actions even when they are found not guilty in their criminal cases.
Understanding wrongful death claims
Wrongful death claims are civil actions and have a lower burden of proof than criminal cases. Since they fall under Illinois’s civil law, wrongful death actions can proceed in civil court at the same time that a criminal case might be pending. Under Illinois law, only certain surviving family members are entitled to file wrongful death claims, including the decedent’s surviving spouse or next of kin. If there are no surviving family members, the medical providers that provided care to the victim and the estate can file claims.
When claims must be filed
Illinois has a statute of limitations for wrongful death claims that works like a deadline. In general, wrongful death claims resulting from negligence must be filed within two years of the date of the victim’s death. The deadline for filing a lawsuit is five years after the deceased person’s death or one year following the defendant’s conviction for one of the following offenses:
- First- or second-degree murder
- Intentional homicide of a fetus
- Voluntary or involuntary manslaughter or reckless homicide of a fetus
- Drug-induced homicide
- Involuntary manslaughter or reckless homicide
People who do not file wrongful death claims before the statute of limitations expires will likely have their claims dismissed by the court. This means that missing the filing deadline could result in not being able to recover damages for the losses they suffered as a result of their loved one’s death. Family members have the right to file wrongful death claims because Illinois recognizes that they should be able to hold negligent or wrongful actors responsible and recover compensation for the losses they have sustained because of their loved one’s death. However, the state does have a deadline, making it important for people to follow it to preserve their rights to recover damages.