The Chicago personal injury lawyers at Morici, Longo & Associates spend a substantial amount of their practice on wrongful death cases. Whether the death resulted from an automobile collision, on a construction site, or as a result of a defective product, recovery is based upon the Illinois Wrongful Death Act. The statute provides specific classes of recovery; i.e. damages, for the benefit of specific individuals based upon their relationship with and dependency upon the deceased. They include spouses, children, parents, and/or siblings.
In Illinois, most lawsuits for personal injury are brought according to principles of common law negligence and an Illinois wrongful death action is a negligence-based concept. Unlike ordinary negligence though, wrongful death actions are based upon a statute created by the legislature.
Whether someone is killed in a trucking accident, a railroad injury, a construction site, or during another act of negligence, a representative steps into the place of the deceased to bring the action. The representative is responsible for acting as the plaintiff in the lawsuit and eventually is required to show the heirship of the deceased, the assets of the estate, and the dependency of the heirs and others relative to any recovery.
What Damages Can Be Recovered for Wrongful Death?
The Illinois Wrongful Death Act was originally quite narrow in its scope and limited in the recoveries permitted. Through case decisions, and in some cases, amendments to the statute, the types of damages able to be recovered, and the classes of individuals entitled to recovery, has been expanded over the last 50 years. Recovery currently can be obtained for the widow and next of kin, including surviving children. Parents can recover for the loss of a minor child and for the loss of an unmarried adult child. Siblings can recover for proven losses when a brother or sister is killed. Presently it is also possible, under certain circumstances, to recover for the wrongful death of an unborn child if the fetus was viable at the time of the negligent act and injury.
The types of damages that can be recovered by survivors have similarly been expanded. Not only can survivors recover for the actual monetary losses they sustained as a result of the death, such as a loss of earnings or loss of financial support given directly to the survivor, but also for loss of society and the grief, sorrow and mental suffering they experienced as a result of the death.
“Loss of society” has been held to have a very broad meaning and has been the subject of extensive litigation over the past decades. Our law states that a jury can determine the loss of society experienced by the survivors including “the mutual benefits that each family member receives from the other’s continued existence, including love, affection, care, attention, companionship, comfort, guidance, and protection.” The measure of these damages is left to a jury to determine based upon the evidence presented during the course of the trial. In the case of children left surviving, the loss of a parent includes the loss of the instruction, moral training, and superintendence of education that the child would have received from the deceased parent. Loss of society has been recognized as a “pecuniary injury” which means that it can be expressed in monetary terms. In some relationships, there is a presumption of a pecuniary loss. In some cases, if it is able to be proven, the loss of a sibling to society is an appropriate element of damage. In specific cases, Morici, Longo & Associates attorneys have made substantial recoveries on behalf of the loved ones of a deceased. One such case involved a recovery for a widow and adult daughter of an HVAC technician who was killed as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning while at work. Trial lawyer Lisa M. Longo said, “It was clear that Defendant’s dangerous product caused the death.” Another was for the death of a 21-year-old son living at home with his mother, stepfather and two minor siblings. A case currently pending revolves around the death of a 44-year-old woman in a highway accident caused by a negligent truck driver and the losses experienced by her four young adult children. All of these recoveries were made possible by the Illinois Wrongful Death Act and were based upon losses of society and pecuniary support suffered as a result of the death.
Recent Expansion to the Illinois Wrongful Death Act
In recent years, a further expansion, one which was long overdue, has been made for the grief, sorrow, and mental suffering sustained by the decedent’s survivors as a result of his or her death. Attorney James J. Morici, Jr., managing partner of Morici, Longo & Associates notes “Losses caused by the death of a loved one are extremely personal and go far beyond the deceased’s earning capacity and support of family.” Morici adds, “It was very reasonable for our Illinois legislature to recognize the importance of grief, sorrow, and mental suffering as an element of damage added by an amendment to the Wrongful Death Act in 2007.”
Need Help with a Wrongful Death Claim? Contact Us Today
The lawyers at Morici, Longo & Associates spend extensive time with our clients and the surviving family members in recounting the many instances where the decedent provided guidance, companionship, love, affection, care, and support to various family members. Our firm uses such devices as family photographs, holiday videos and, even under certain circumstances, video recordings of the family members during the grieving process. Many times, family members need to be helped with their emotional distress by professionals such as psychologists and psychiatrists. Many need to take time from their own jobs and sometimes need to be medicated to help deal with the extreme emotional losses they have sustained.
If you have had a loved one killed as a result of the negligence of others, please contact the wrongful death lawyers at Morici, Longo & Associates at (312) 779-0366 for a free consultation.