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General Misunderstandings About Wrongful Death Cases

Tue 31 Oct, 2023 / by / Personal Injury, Wrongful Death

Wrongful death lawsuits are claims that are brought if a person dies because of alleged negligence or misconduct. Although many people know that there is a legal avenue in the event of wrongful death, there is some confusion about how these cases work and how an individual can be compensated. Here are some things you may not know about wrongful death lawsuits that could cause you to not receive full compensation for your personal injury

The only compensation that I can get in a wrongful death lawsuit is for the funeral expenses.

It is true that you can receive funeral expenses from a wrongful death lawsuit. However, you can get many more damages, too. Think about all of the expenses that your family has incurred since this tragedy. You probably have significant medical bills stemming from the accident. That deceased person, if employed, was contributing income and financial support. There are also non-monetary costs as well, such as loss of companionship and the emotional distress you are facing. These are all things that a judge or jury will consider when deciding to award damages. Your verdict or settlement may be significantly higher than just the funeral expenses. 

You need to file a wrongful death claim immediately after somebody dies.

No, you do not need to file a wrongful death claim right after somebody dies. There is enough time built into Illinois law that you can grieve your loved one without having to jump right into a court case. However, there is a statute of limitations to file the case. In Illinois, you have two years to file a wrongful death claim. It is important to contact an attorney as soon as you are emotionally able to in order to start the process. Even if the suit is filed in time, the more time that goes by, the more challenging it might be to get key evidence. For instance, nurses who worked at the hospital may have changed jobs. Your own recollection of events could be cloudy. Even if you are not ready to file a suit, you can get ready by writing down what happened and collecting medical records. 

You can only bring a wrongful death lawsuit if it was the result of medical malpractice.

It is true that medical malpractice–which is defined as when a medical professional does or does not do something that deviates from the standards and causes injury or death to a patient–can cause wrongful death. However, wrongful death lawsuits are not limited to instances of medical malpractice. Wrongful death claims can arise out of many different situations where negligence or misconduct causes a fatal injury. This could include things like an incident at work, use of a defective product, unsafe food, or car accidents, just to name a few.

Wrongful death is the same thing as murder.

Wrongful death and murder are not the same thing. Yes, in both cases, a human being has died. Legally, they are completely distinct. Murder is a charge that can only be brought by the state of Illinois. It is a criminal charge and if found guilty, the person may need to serve time in jail. Wrongful death suits, on the other hand, are civil lawsuits that are brought by the family of the deceased person. Although the family can seek monetary compensation, they cannot ask for jail time for the other party. 

After a criminal conviction, a family can receive damages from the criminal court.

There are times when both civil and criminal cases are filed for the same conduct. Sometimes, a person’s conduct warrants criminal charges. Even if that person is found guilty, that does not mean that the judge cuts a check to the family. Criminal courts decide guilt or innocence–that’s it. If a family desires compensation, they will need to file a civil lawsuit.

Anyone can file a wrongful death lawsuit for anyone else.

Although you might feel that the family could get compensation for a wrongful death lawsuit, you do not have standing to bring a lawsuit unless you are a personal representative. If the deceased person died with a will, then whoever is named as the executor typically is the personal representative. Things are more complicated if the person dies without a will. In that case, the court will generally appoint someone to be the personal representative. 

People who file wrongful death lawsuits just want to get a big payday.

This is typically the farthest thing from the truth and one of the biggest stereotypes of wrongful death lawsuits. When people lose a loved one, particularly in a traumatic and unexpected way, the last thing that they want to do is hire a lawyer and file a lawsuit. Still, they do so because they need to move forward with their lives. One of the ways that they can heal is by getting those outstanding medical bills and other expenses paid. That is not a payday–that is getting compensation for losses that the family should have never had to incur. Additionally, families might file a wrongful death lawsuit to hold a party accountable. If no criminal charges can be filed, or if a criminal court finds a party not guilty, then this might be the family’s only avenue to get justice for their deceased loved one. Getting a judgment will cause a person or institution to reevaluate their policies and practices to ensure that no other family will have to suffer such a traumatic loss. 

Contact a Compassionate Wrongful Death Attorney Today

Those dealing with a wrongful death are facing one of the toughest emotional times of their lives. In that grief, they may lose sight of becoming compensated. Delegate that responsibility to a compassionate wrongful death attorney. They will walk with you, help you understand your options, and do what they can to maximize the damages that you receive.