What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

wrongful death lawsuit
Winstein, Kavensky & Cunningham LLC Blog July 19, 2021

What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 173,040 people were killed in 2019 due to unintentional injuries stemming from slip and falls, drug poisoning, car accidents, fires, drowning, and other accidents. This is in addition to 19,141 deaths attributed to intentional homicide.

Many times, accidental deaths are truly accidental in that they are not caused by the intentional wrongdoing of another person or entity. In some cases, however, another person’s actions (or inaction) can be directly responsible for someone’s death. In such a case, the family members of the deceased may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault party. A successful wrongful death claim can result in being awarded significant financial compensation.

What Constitutes Wrongful Death in the Quad Cities?

Each state has its own statutes regarding wrongful death claims, but how Illinois and Iowa define wrongful death is essentially the same. 

Illinois Compiled Statutes 740 ILCS 180/1 (also known as the Wrongful Death Act) defines wrongful death as the death of a person caused by a “wrongful act, neglect or default”. Iowa Code section 633.336 also defines wrongful death as simply as a “wrongful act” that leads to death. Both states liken the concept of a wrongful death lawsuit to that of a personal injury lawsuit the victim could have pursued if they had been merely injured instead of killed.

So what exactly is a wrongful act? Well, families of a decedent can pursue a wrongful death claim in the Quad Cities on the basis of negligence or recklessness (i.e., a motor vehicle accident or dram shop claim), intentional acts (including murder, assault, etc.), or medical malpractice.

Wrongful death lawsuits may also be filed for deaths related to:

Although both Illinois and Iowa define wrongful death similarly, you should note that who is eligible to file a claim and the kind of damages for which you may be compensated can differ between Illinois and Iowa. You should consult with a personal injury lawyer to get a better understanding of these possible limitations.

What Damages Are Awarded in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Damages refer to the losses sustained by a decedent’s estate or family in a wrongful death lawsuit. If your case is successful, you may be awarded compensation for some or all of the economic and noneconomic damages listed below.

Economic Losses

  • Lost wages, benefits, and future earnings
  • Medical bills and end of life care
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Loss of financial support to the decedent’s spouse, child, or dependent

Non Economic Losses

  • Pain and suffering of the decedent
  • Grief, sorrow, and mental suffering of the victim’s spouse or next of kin
  • Loss of consortium (i.e., loss of companionship or sexual relationship)
  • Loss of instruction, education, or parenting to the decedent’s children

Who Gets the Money in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

There are certain restrictions on who may qualify to receive compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit. In both Illinois and Iowa, a wrongful death claim must be filed by the personal representative of a decedent’s estate. If your loved one did not appoint a personal representative prior to their death, the court may appoint one. Often, the personal representative is a spouse, parent, or adult child. 

As for who actually gets to keep the compensation awarded from a wrongful death settlement, this also depends on what kind of estate planning the decedent had completed prior to their death. If there is a will, the money from a wrongful death suit will be split up according to the decedent’s will.

If they did not have a will, the money from a wrongful death lawsuit in Illinois could go to a spouse, child, sibling, parent, grandchild, or some combination thereof depending on their unique circumstances.

In Iowa, laws are stricter about who can file a wrongful death claim aside from the administrator of the decedent’s estate. This generally only includes a spouse, minor or adult children, or the parents of a deceased minor or adult child. 

How Do You File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in the Quad Cities?

If you have lost a loved one due to negligence, recklessness, violence, or medical malpractice, it is quite possible that you and your family are eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible party. However, it is important that you act quickly.

The statute of limitations to file a wrongful death claim in Illinois is just two years from the date of the victim’s death (up to five years if the death was caused by violent, intentional conduct). In Iowa, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of death. For medical malpractice claims in Iowa, you have two years from the date you reasonably discover that the death was due to malpractice.

To pursue a wrongful death claim, you will need to file legal documents that set the process of a civil lawsuit in motion. This includes a complaint or petition and a summons to notify the defendant. From there, the process requires many additional legal actions, and may take several years to complete.

How a Wrongful Death Lawyer Can Help

Filing a wrongful death lawsuit can be a long and difficult process, especially when you try to do it on your own. An experienced Quad Cities wrongful death lawyer can shoulder that burden and help you navigate the intricate legalities and nuances of a civil lawsuit to make this process much easier on you and your family, both mentally and emotionally.

Hiring an attorney can also increase your chances of receiving a favorable outcome and higher compensation for your losses. At Winstein, Kavenksy, and Cunningham, LLC, our attorneys have a combined 120 years of experience representing the varied legal interests of clients in the Quad Cities, including personal injury and wrongful death cases. Our legal team has the skill, focus, and perseverance required to build a strong claim backed by evidence.

To find out more about how WKC Law can help you, contact us directly to schedule a free consultation about your specific case. We’ll review your case details at no cost, and with no obligation to hire us. 

Call us today at (309) 794-1515, fill out this form, or connect with a live representative online right now. The consultation is free, and there’s no fees unless we make a financial recovery on your behalf. Contact us today!

The information on this blog is for general information purposes only. Nothing herein should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.