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Understanding the Wrongful Death Act in Illinois

The Wrongful Death Act of Illinois, 740 ILCS 180/1, 180/2 was created to allow a cause of action or lawsuit brought in the name of a personal representative for the benefit of a widow, next of kin, and heirs, to recover for their pecuniary injuries and damages. In Prendergast v. Cox the Court held that a surviving spouse or lineal next of kin, the law presumes substantial pecuniary damage arising from the relationship alone.

Pecuniary Damages include money, goods, and services received by the next of kin of the deceased. Damages can include loss of consortium by the surviving spouse.  In the event of loss of a child the damages can include the loss of the minor child’s society by the parents.  Unlike damages claims for physical injuries, for a Wrongful Death pecuniary damages from the death of an adult, in determining pecuniary loss, a jury may consider the evidence of the following:

  • What money, benefits, goods, and services the decedent customarily contributed in the past;
  • What money benefits, goods, and services the decedent was likely to have contributed in the future;
  • The decedent’s age, sex, health, physical and mental characteristics;
  • The decedents habits of industry, sobriety, and thrift;
  • The decedent’s occupational abilities;
  • The grief, sorrow, and mental suffering of the next of kin;
  • The relationship between the lineal next of kin and the decedent

Where there are surviving children pecuniary value includes the instruction, moral training, and superintendence of education the children would have received from the decedent.

Wrongful Death claims are subject to a Statute of Limitations, meaning a lawsuit must be filed within the required time limit. The Wrongful Death Act requires that the lawsuit be filed within 2 years after the death in most cases.  Effective January 1, 2017, an Amendment to the Act will become effective reflecting the language that such actions against a defendant arising from a crime committed by the defendant in whose name an escrow account was established under the “Criminal Victims’ Escrow Account Act” the lawsuit shall be filed within 2 years after the establishment of such account.  An action may be brought within 5 years after the date of death if the death is the result of violent intentional conduct or within one year after the disposition of the criminal case under specific criminal conduct charges. PA 99-587.

When dealing with the loss of a loved one, it is essential that the next of kin have caring, knowledgeable, and thoughtful lawyers, who will answer when you call. You should be able to call your lawyer at any time with questions about the law and about your case.  The lawyers at the Chicago personal injury law firm of Kurasch & Klein, Ltd have successfully handled many wrongful death cases.  They believe that families who have suffered a terrible tragedy, such as the loss of a loved one, deserve to not only have lawyers who fight for their rights and are willing to pursue all of the damages to which they are entitled, but to also have lawyers who will talk to the families, explain the law, and take the time to answer calls, to answer questions, and to hold the client’s hand as much as needed throughout the emotional process.  With over 70 years of combined experience, our lawyers fight for client’s rights and provide the knowledge and information you need.  When you entrust our lawyers with your family, we treat you like you are our family.