Losing a loved one is never easy, whether they died peacefully at home, surrounded by family, or were lost in a tragic accident. Any death results in heartache, legal headaches, and an empty space in one’s life that can never be filled. However, the situation is far more devastating should your loved one be taken far too soon as the result of someone else’s negligent actions. In this circumstance, it’s possible to pursue monetary damages through a wrongful death lawsuit. Today, we’ll discuss what a wrongful death lawsuit is, how they are proven, and what those working with a qualified Chicago personal injury attorney can expect from pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit.
Wrongful death lawsuits are civil cases that can be filed when negligence caused a death
First, let’s note that wrongful death lawsuits, like other personal injury lawsuits, are civil cases, meaning that they do not result in criminal prosecution. The purpose here isn’t to send a person to jail for their negligence, but to recoup monetary losses that occurred to the family as a result of the death of their loved one. Wrongful death cases can be brought about when death occurs as a result of many different causes: construction accidents, car wrecks, product failures, and even violent crimes.
The bereaved family can file a wrongful death lawsuit in conjunction with a criminal case, as there are different standards and outcomes for these types of lawsuits. Civil cases have lower standards of proof: one must only show a “preponderance of evidence” in the plaintiff’s favor, while in the criminal case, guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
As with other personal injury lawsuits, there are several factors which must be proven to win a settlement
There are several components to successfully arguing a wrongful death lawsuit. The first is that the defendant had a duty of care to the deceased person. This may make it sound as if the deceased person and the defendant had to know each other or be engaged in some sort of contract, but that’s not always the case; rather, it can mean that the defendant had the duty of acting in a responsible manner that would not reasonably result in the death of another person. For example, anyone who operates a motor vehicle has a “duty of care” to the others on the road: to drive at a reasonable speed, to be of clear mind, and to pay close attention to the road while they drive.
The second component is that the defendant breached that aforementioned duty of care by acting negligently or recklessly. This breach differs in every case, because every “duty of care” is slightly different. A skilled Chicago wrongful death attorney will be able to demonstrate that the defendant did not act in accordance with well-known standards of behavior in the given situation, and therefore that they breached that duty of care to the deceased person.
Thirdly, it must be proven that the decedent died as a direct result of the defendant’s reckless or negligent behavior. This might seem straightforward, but it’s not always so: for example, if someone died after surgery, it may not have been the fault of the surgeon, but a result of a pre-existing condition or an infection that was beyond their control. This is why it’s essential to work with a qualified attorney who can find the direct link between the defendant’s actions and the decedent’s death.
Finally, it needs to be proven that the plaintiff – the one that is filing the lawsuit – suffered as a result of the decedent’s death. This may be very obvious, such as if the decedent was the primary breadwinner and the plaintiff is their spouse, but it might not always be straightforward. For example, if a parent dies and their estranged child files a wrongful death lawsuit, it may be difficult to prove that they were directly impacted by the death of their parent.
Compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit is meant to help offset the financial costs of a person’s death
If a wrongful death lawsuit is argued successfully, the defendant will be forced to provide compensation that is set by the court. This settlement can include a number of components, all of which are meant to help the decedent’s surviving family members pay for the costs of the person’s death.
Some of these factors can include medical bills from before the death, funeral costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering. The pain and suffering component, which is unique to personal injury lawsuits, is meant to help give the family of the deceased some form of compensation for the loss of companionship. While money can never replace a person, there are ways that this compensation can assist the family in moving on, such as moving homes if the person died in their current house, or getting therapy for the trauma of losing their loved one.
No one wants to lose a loved one, but if you do, it’s essential to reach out to a qualified Chicago wrongful death attorney to assist you in receiving justice for the loved one, and to provide compensation that will help you move forward with your life.