CHICAGO, IL – Losing a loved one in a car accident is a painful, traumatic and excruciating experience for the surviving family members. Not only do you have to face the emotional pain that comes with losing a loved one, but you may also deal with financial hardships resulting from the unexpected loss. When another driver’s negligence contributes to an untimely death, a family can file a wrongful death claim to seek justice and compensation for the damages.
Wrongful death claims vary from state to state
Wrongful death laws differ from state to state meaning that the specific rules and requirements governing your claim will depend on the state where the accident occurred. For instance, some states may impose caps on the damages awarded in wrongful death cases, while others may require claimants to follow specific procedural requirements.
A skilled wrongful death lawyer can explain the laws that apply in your particular case and how they can affect the outcome of a claim or possible lawsuit. Discussing the local statutes and regulations in a case can help you know what to expect. Laws that can affect your case include the deadline for filing your claim, the specific elements of negligence you must prove and the types of damages you may recover.
You’ll want to hire a lawyer who is familiar and understands these rules because even minor mistakes or oversights can lead to the dismissal of your case or a reduction in the compensation you receive.
Consulting a wrongful death attorney
Given the complexity of wrongful death laws and the variations between jurisdictions, consult with a local attorney with prior experience handling wrongful death claims. The wrongful death lawyers at the Dinizulu Law Group will help you navigate the legal process, ensuring that your claim adheres to the relevant statutes and regulations while also vigorously advocating to maximize your chances of recovering damages for your loved one’s death.
Wrongful death statute of limitations
Each state has its statute of limitations that dictate the time frame within which you must file a wrongful death claim. The time limits typically range from one to three years from the date of the decedent’s death. In some states, the clock begins from the time of the misconduct leading to the death.
Missing the deadline that the statute of limitations sets can have severe consequences for your wrongful death claim. In most cases, the court will dismiss your claim, which means you lose the opportunity to recover any damages for your loved one’s death. Given these implications, you must act promptly and consult with an attorney as soon as possible to avoid losing your legal rights.
Establishing negligence for a wrongful death lawsuit
To succeed in a wrongful death claim, you must prove the defendant was negligent in causing the death of your loved one. Negligence requires establishing four key elements: breach of duty, duty of care, causation and damages. Your attorney will help guide you through these elements and gather the necessary evidence to support your claim.
- Breach of duty of care occurs when the defendant fails to uphold the legal obligations to act in a reasonably safe and prudent manner. For example, a driver who speeds, disregards traffic signals or drives under the influence of alcohol breaches their duty of care to others.
- Causation in a wrongful death means proving that if the defendant had acted responsibly, your loved one would not have died. A wrongful death lawyer can help you gather proof to establish causation and support complex claims.
- Gathering evidence to prove negligence may include obtaining police reports, witness statements, accident scene photographs, medical records and expert opinions. A lawyer can also analyze this evidence to identify a legal argument that supports your claim, increasing the likelihood of a favorable outcome.
- Damages in wrongful death claims is intended to compensate the surviving family members for their loss. These damages fall into two categories: economic and non-economic. Economic damages cover quantifiable losses including medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, and loss of income and support. Non-economic damages compensate for non-tangible losses such as pain and suffering, loss of companionship and emotional distress.
Parties involved in wrongful death claims
A wrongful death claim may involve various parties due to the impact of the untimely death of your loved one. As you navigate through the wrongful death claim process, it will help you to know how each part can affect the process and outcome of your claim:
- The personal representative of the deceased’s estate is the person who typically files a wrongful death claim. This individual is responsible for ensuring the settlement of the deceased’s debts, taxes and overseeing the distribution of assets to the appropriate beneficiaries. In many cases, the deceased will name the personal representative; however, if it doesn’t, then the court will appoint a suitable person.
- Common eligible family members include spouses, children and parents of the deceased. In some cases, siblings, grandparents and other relatives may be eligible to claim damages depending on the circumstances and state laws.
An experienced wrongful death lawyer will help guide you through the complex legal process and ensure you receive fair compensation for your loss. They will help you understand your rights, gather evidence, calculate damages, negotiate with insurance companies and navigate the court system.
Hiring an experienced attorney with a background in representing clients in wrongful death claims will increase the likelihood of a successful outcome and alleviate some of the stress and burden associated with pursuing legal action after losing a loved one.
Insurance coverage for wrongful death accidents
Insurance policies often play a significant role in wrongful death claims, as they can be a source of compensation for surviving family members. It’s important to review all applicable insurance policies, such as those covering the deceased, the at-fault party and other relevant parties.
An example of policies that may cover losses includes life insurance, homeowner’s insurance and auto insurance. An experienced wrongful death attorney will help you understand the coverage available and how it can impact your claim.
Potential limitations and exclusions
Insurance policies have limitations and exclusions that can affect the compensation available in a wrongful death claim such as some policies not covering certain types of accidents or damages, or having a policy limit that caps the compensation they pay out during a claim.
Working with a skilled lawyer who can thoroughly review and analyze the insurance policies involved is essential to determine any potential limitations or exclusions that may impact your case. Furthermore, a wrongful death lawyer can help you determine if there are other avenues to seeking justice and damages against the parties responsible, including a civil lawsuit.
Negotiating with insurance companies
Dealing with insurance companies can be a challenging process. Insurance adjusters often deny or minimize claims, leaving families without the compensation they deserve.
An experienced wrongful death lawyer can negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf to work towards a resolution that protects your rights and reflects fair compensation in light of the loss you have endured. Your lawyer will handle all communications and documentation while helping you navigate any disputes that may arise during the process.
How can an expert witness help in a wrongful death claim?
Expert witnesses can benefit you in wrongful death claims since they provide specialized knowledge and expertise to help establish negligence, causation and damages. They can offer critical insights and testimony that may affect the outcome of your case.
You may need various types of qualified, credible and experienced expert witnesses to support your wrongful death claim. Your attorney will work to identify and retain the appropriate expert witness(es) to ensure relevant and persuasive testimony.
Wrongful death settlement negotiations and litigation
When pursuing a wrongful death claim, you may have the option to settle the case out of court or proceed to trial. Each option has its pros and cons. Your attorney will discuss which route is best suited for your claim.
Settlement negotiations can lead to a quicker resolution of your claim, but you can receive less money through settlement than a successful trial.
On the other hand, going to trial offers the possibility of a higher reward; however, it comes with increased costs, potential delays and inherent uncertainty around the outcome.
Contacting a skilled wrongful death attorney in Illinois
Contact the skilled attorneys at the Dinizulu Law Group if your friend or family member has become a victim of wrongful death. We always offer a free initial consultation. If we take on your case, our attorneys work on a contingency fee basis meaning we get paid for our services only if we recover money for you.
Call our lawyers today at (312) 384-1920 to advocate on your behalf.