When a loved one dies due to the wrongdoings or negligence of someone else, it is not uncommon to feel a deep sense of sadness and yearn for some form of justice. This is why the State of Illinois makes it possible to sue for wrongful death in an effort to obtain compensation for lost companionship, medical/funeral expenses, lost wages, and more.

Here we’ll go over some of the basics surrounding wrongful death claims in Illinois including how long they typically take to settle.

How Long Does it Take to Settle a Wrongful Death Claim?

As a general rule, an Illinois wrongful death suit can take 2-3 years from start to finish. There are some exceptions to this rule because there are a number of factors that can prolong such a case:

  • Insurance companies: Insurance companies are one of the most significant roadblocks in a wrongful death case because they are responsible for paying out money to settle claims. At first, they might try to push a low settlement offer to the family of a deceased. However, if you decide to reject the offer and move forward with a case, these large companies will slow the case down to a crawl.  They will do whatever it takes to prolong it so they can hold onto their money for as long as possible. 

  • Courtroom delays: In nearly every instance, bureaucracy is the enemy of efficiency. While normal court procedures can be lengthy on their own, it becomes especially true if a defendant refuses to admit wrongdoing and takes advantage of the system to slow the case down. Refusal to admit wrongdoing can lead to lengthy discovery events like taking depositions, retaining expert witnesses, issuing subpoenas and reviewing thousands of pages of records.

  • COVID-19: The coronavirus pandemic has been a significant ‘wildcard’ in every aspect of our lives, and court cases are no different. Even with the COVID-19 vaccine being more widely distributed, trials are not being regularly scheduled as of yet.  Insurance companies are motivated to settle cases that are set for trial, so without firm trial dates on the books, settlements are stalled. 

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit in Illinois?

Many states allow any family member of the deceased to file a wrongful death claim. But under Illinois law, a wrongful death action must be brought by a “personal representative” of the deceased victim. In most cases, the personal representative will be an immediate family member such as a spouse, a parent or an adult child.

What to Prove to Successfully Win a Wrongful Death Case

As we’ve outlined above, insurance companies will do anything  to avoid paying full value for a wrongful death case. This is why it’s so important to have an experienced wrongful death attorney at your side, fighting for your rights and building a solid case that will result in the highest recovery possible. Here are the main points you have to prove in court in order to win a wrongful death case:

  • Negligence: first and foremost, you need to prove that there was, indeed, wrongdoing on the part of the defendant. For example, a driver who fails to keep a proper lookout and rear ends you is negligent. In the medical malpractice context, a nurse who administers the wrong medication is negligent because he/she violates the standard of care.  To read more in depth about negligence, check out our recent article on How to Prove Negligence.

  • Breach of duty: the next thing to prove in court is called breach of duty. This refers to the explicit or implied obligations that come with various services and activities. For instance, a doctor has a duty to provide reasonable care to their patients; giving the wrong medication or botching a surgery that causes a death could be seen as breaching that duty. In the same vein, all motorists have a duty to follow traffic laws and act responsibly on the road. Causing a fatal car crash while breaking said laws can be argued as a breach of that duty.

  • Causation: Once negligence and breach of duty have been proven, the next step is proving causation. Causation is a technical term that shows a breach of duty causes or contributes to the death of a person. As long as the defendant’s breach of his duty is a proximate cause of the injury or death, you have proven causation.

  • Damages: damages in this context are monetary awards. Because monetary awards are the main goal of wrongful death suits, you need to prove that the defendant’s actions caused loss. There are two types of damages – economic (e.g. medical bills, lost income, etc.) and non-economic (loss of normal life, pain and suffering, etc.). 

Brian Lewis is Here to Help You Win Your Wrongful Death Claim

Whether you’ve been injured or have lost a loved one due to someone’s negligence, Brian Lewis is an experienced Chicago wrongful death attorney who has helped families achieve justice since 1997. He will walk you through every step of the process, lifting the burden off your shoulders and giving you the knowledgeable representation that you and your loved ones deserve. Brian’s litigation experience and passion to hold people accountable have allowed him to win more than $100 million in damages throughout the course of his career.

Give Brian Lewis a call today if your loved one has passed away or has been injured due to someone else’s negligence.