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Chicago Wrongful Death Lawyers

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Chicago Wrongful Death Attorneys

Losing a family member is never easy, but suffering such a loss as the result of someone else’s negligence can be shattering to a family.

In an instant, someone you love is gone – and that loss was preventable.

The Lamber Goodnow legal team is sensitive to these types of issues. Wrongful death cases are complex and tragic, and our Chicago team, including the lawyers at our partner firms have decades of experience advocating for families.

chicago Wrongful Death Lawyers

Wrongful Death Cases

If you’ve suffered such a loss because of the negligence of another person, or a company, you may have the right to seek financial compensation in a wrongful death claim or lawsuit. Although a monetary award cannot reverse the loss of your loved one, financial recovery in a legal setting can help you with these issues:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages and/or monetary contributions to the family
  • Funeral expenses
  • Pain, suffering and emotional distress
  • Loss of love, companionship, affection and moral support

Although this compensation cannot bring your loved one back, it can help you cope with the loss and begin to rebuild your life. Depending on the circumstance of the accident or incident, our team might also be able to recover punitive damages.

Unfortunately, these types of cases are too common and far too many families suffer from the sudden loss of a family member. For example, the CDC says that nearly 9,000 people have died from poisoning in Illinois since 2000, and more than 30 people in Cook County have died in accidents involving heavy machinery.

All of these accidents – whether it’s an auto accident or a poisoning, or a workplace fatality – need investigation by experts.

Discuss Your Case With An Attorney Now


FAQs: Wrongful Death Lawyers Chicago

Q: What is wrongful death?

A: Wrongful death is a person’s death caused by the “wrongful act, neglect, or default of another.” 740 Ill. Comp. Stat. 180/1 and 180/2.

Under common law, when a husband, who was supporting his family, died, there was no action for the financial loss that was suffered by his wife or children.[1] Therefore, in 1853, the Illinois General Assembly enacted a law permitting compensation for a family of a person that was killed by a wrongful act.[2] The law was called the Wrongful Death Act.

Illinois’s Wrongful Death Act provides a cause of action for economic (financial) and non-economic (pain and suffering, loss of consortium) losses suffered by the spouse and next of kin of a person whose death was caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another. 740 Ill. Comp. Stat. 180/1 and 180/2.

“Under the Wrongful Death Act, actions are brought by and in the name of the “personal representatives”[3] of the deceased person for the exclusive benefit of the surviving spouse and next of kin.” 740 Ill. Comp. Stat. 180/2.

The Wrongful Death Act defines next of kin as “blood relatives of a decedent who would have taken the decedent’s property if he or she had died intestate.”[4] This includes parents, adopted and illegitimate children, siblings and the children of predeceased siblings and grandchildren.[5] The personal representatives “must bring a single action on behalf of the class of beneficiaries to avoid multiple lawsuits.”[6] 

Q: Who is entitled to bring a wrongful death claim under Illinois law?

A: “Under the Wrongful Death Act, actions are brought by and in the name of the “personal representatives”[7] of the deceased person for the exclusive benefit of the surviving spouse and next of kin.” 740 Ill. Comp. Stat. 180/2.

The Wrongful Death Act defines next of kin as “blood relatives of a decedent who ould have taken the decedent’s property if he or she had died intestate.”[8] This includes parents, children, siblings and the children of predeceased siblings and grandchildren.[9]

Q: How long do I have to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Illinois?

A: An action under the Wrongful Death Act must be filed within two years after death, when the personal representative of the deceased knew or should have known that the death was caused wrongfully. 740 Ill. Comp. Stat. 180/2.

Q: What is the difference between a criminal wrongful death case and a civil wrongful death case?

A: A criminal case arises when the local, state, or federal government seeks to punish an individual for an act that has been classified as a crime. A civil case, however, is brought by private individuals or corporations and has to do with a dispute over the rights and duties that individuals legally owe to each other. The burden of proof is higher in a criminal case (beyond a reasonable doubt), and the penalty imposed is a criminal sanction such as imprisonment. However, in a civil case, the standard of proof is lower (a preponderance of the evidence) and the defendant will typically have a monetary judgment entered against them.

Q: What types of damages can be recoverable in a wrongful death lawsuit?

A: Under the Wrongful Death Act, a jury may award pecuniary damages that it deems “a fair and just compensation with reference to the economic (financial) and non-economic (pain and suffering, loss of consortium) damages resulting from such death.” 740 Ill. Comp. Stat. 180/2.

In order to measure economic damages, a jury may consider money, services and goods the decedent would have contributed to the family.[10]  This amount would be based on what the decedent contributed in the past, what they earned in the past, what they were likely to earn in the future, the amount spent for personal expenses, the decedent’s age, health, habits of industry, sobriety, occupation, gifts, and benefits.[11] Once the jury considers all of these, they could award damages for medical expenses, past and present wages, benefits, burial expenses and other specific economic losses.

Furthermore, the jury may consider non-economic damages; such as if a decedent left a child, the jury could consider “what instruction, moral training, and superintendence of education he might reasonably have been expected to give his child had he lived.”[12]  The jury could also consider loss of society and loss of consortium.  Under loss of society, a child could recover damages based on the value of a deceased parent’s “companionship, guidance, advice, love and affection.”[13] Under loss of consortium, a spouse may recover damages based on “the benefits that would have been received from the continued life of the decedent.”[14] This includes the value of the decedent’s companionship and conjugal relations.

Q: How do you establish fault of the other party in a wrongful death lawsuit?

A: In order to establish fault of the other party in a wrongful death lawsuit you must prove the party caused the underlying tort (the wrongful act). In most wrongful death cases the underlying tort is negligence.

In Illinois, negligence is defined as “the failure to do something which a reasonably careful person would do or doing something which a reasonably careful person would not do.”[15] In order to prove negligence the plaintiff (injured person) must prove: (1) that the defendant owed a duty of care; (2) that the defendant breached that duty; and (3) that the breach caused the plaintiff’s harm.[16]

Q: Is a lawsuit always necessary?

A: Not all wrongful death disputes result in a lawsuit being filed.  Your attorney may draft a demand letter, which presents facts about the wrongful death in order to persuade the at-fault party to provide adequate compensation. The demand letter is sent to the at-fault party, or their attorney (if they have retained an attorney) with supplemental documents, which the party will analyze and then respond with their settlement offer.

Q: What if an unborn fetus dies?

A: Under Illinois law, an unborn fetus must have been viable before death in order to bring a wrongful death lawsuit.[17] A fetus is considered viable if it can exist separate and independent of its mother.[18] However, there is no cause of action for the wrongful death of a nonviable fetus,[19] for a pregnancy terminated by an abortion,[20] or when the physician or medical institution did not know and had no reason to know that the woman was pregnant.[21]

    Q: How much will it cost me to file a wrongful death suit?

    A: Filing a wrongful death suit may be very difficult because the family is trying to cope with the death of a loved one.  Although this is an extremely stressful time, the good news is that Lamber Goodnow team does not charge an upfront fee in wrongful death cases that we take on.  Our personal injury team works on a contingency fee basis, which means that there is no fee or costs for our clients unless we secure a financial recovery for you.

      Our Process

      When you contact us, we’ll work with you to determine the best course of action for your claim. We’ll analyze your situation, the circumstances of your  loss, the liable party or parties, and advise you of your rights. Depending on the case, you might have a variety of claims that you can make. We’ll also help assess liability.

      Our team has extensive experience handling these delicate matters. We’ve worked on cases involving vehicle fatalities, poisoning, product defects, fire, workplace accidents, and general negligence. Each of these types of cases requires special skills and knowledge – knowledge that our team has displayed for decades.

      Our team will investigate all aspects of your case. We’ll examine what happened, who was involved, where negligence existed, who is liable, and what should have been done to protect your loved one.

      Why You Need an Attorney

      Wrongful death cases can be complex – and they always occur during someone’s worst days. No family is ever prepared to investigate a wrongful death case, which is why it’s so important to have someone fighting on your behalf.

      Before you agree to any settlement or even speak to a third-party (such as an insurance company), it’s important to get the advice of an attorney. We take these matters seriously and will efficiently and thoroughly investigate your case. Our personalized approach means you’ll be informed, but also taken care of while we work to get results.

      The No-Fee Promise

      There are many things that set our Chicago team apart, but one of the biggest aspects is our No-Fee Promise. If you hire us, you won’t pay us any fees – no costs, nothing – unless and until we recover funds for you. It’s that simple. We won’t hassle you with statements and bills while you’re rebuilding your life. Instead, we’ll fight for you.

      To get started, Call us at (312) 697-1498, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to schedule a no-obligation consultation with one of our attorneys. We’ll listen to your situation, answer your questions, and give you an assessment of your options. Your consultation with us is free, and you’re under no obligation to hire us.

      [1]  Li Petri v. Turner Constr. Co., 36 Ill. 2d 597, 224 N.E.2d 841 (1967).

      [2]  1853 Ill. Laws at 97.

      [3]  740 Ill. Comp. Stat. 180/2. “Personal representative” has been interpreted to mean the administrator or executor of the deceased’s estate.

      [4]  Morris v. Dawson Nursing Center, 187 Ill. 2d 494, 719 N.E.2d 715 (1999).

      [5]  Id.

      [6]  Pasquale v. Speed Prods. Eng’g, 166 Ill. 2d 337, 361, 654 N.E.2d 1365, 1378 (1995).

      [7]  740 Ill. Comp. Stat. 180/2. “Personal representative” has been interpreted to mean the administrator or executor of the deceased’s estate.

      [8]  Morris v. Dawson Nursing Center, 187 Ill. 2d 494, 719 N.E.2d 715 (1999).

      [9]  Id.

      [10]  Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions (civil), Nos. 31.04, 31.05, 31.06.

      [11]  Allendorf v. Elgin, J & E. R. Co, 8 Ill. 2d 164, 133 N.E.2d 288 (1956) (decedent’s likely earnings and health); George B. Swift Co. v. Gaylord, 229 Ill. 330, 82 N.E. 299 (1970) (age); Flynn v. Fogarty, 106 Ill. 263 (1883) (amount decedent had contributed in the past); Exchange Nat’l Bank v. Air Ill., Inc., 167 Ill. App. 3d 1081, 522 N.E.2d 146 (1st Dist. 1988) (decedent’s prospect for an increase in future earning); Hudnut v. Schmidt, 324 Ill. App. 548, 58 N.E.2d 929 (3rd Dist. 1944) (occupation); Williams v. Rush-Presbyterian St. Luke’s, 387 Ill., App. 3d. 77, 326 Ill. Dec. 590, 899 N.E.2d 1241 (1st Dist. 2008) (jury may consider age of the decedent); Clarke v. Medley Moving and Storage, Inc., 381 Ill. App. 3d 82, 319 Ill. Dec. 125, 885 N.E.2d 396 (1st Dist. 2008) (the jury may consider gifts, and benefits).

      [12]  Goddard v. Enzler, 222 Ill. 462, 78 N.E. 805 (1906).

      [13]  Hall v. Gillins, 13 Ill. 2d 26, 147 N.E.2d 708 (1958).

      [14]  Elliott v. Willis, 92 Ill. 2d 530, 442 N.E.2d 163 (1982).

      [15]  IPI (Civil) No. 10.01 (2006 ed.).

      [16]  Widlowski v. Durkee Foods, 138 Ill. 2d 369, 562 N.E.2d 967 (1990).

      [17]  Chrisafogeorgis v. Brandenberg, 55 Ill. 2d 368, 304 N.E.2d 88 (1973).

      [18]  Id.

      [19]  Green v. Smith, 71 Ill. 2d 501, 377 N.E.2d 37 (1978).

      [20]  Light v. Proctor Community Hosp., 182 Ill. App. 3d 563, 538 N.E.2d 828 (3d Dist. 1989).

      [21]  740 Ill. Comp. Stat. 180/2.2.

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      "My wife and I had occasion to use Mr. Lamber and his staff for a legal matter. The entire staff was wonderful. They kept us informed of every step and communicated quickly and effectively as things changed or progressed. We would highly recommend Mr. Lamber and his staff to anyone needing legal advice or assistance. They had a very high level of integrity and professionalism. It's too bad there are only 5 stars for their rating. They are excellent."

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      "I just got rear-ended today, but I'm thankful I found this firm. They take care of you in general, and if you don't make enough to cover your costs, they back you up 100%. Stephanie Ramos gave excellent and kind customer service by getting me in motion with the whole process. Attorney Donn Coolidge gave me the rundown of the situation very clearly, and I'm looking forward to working with him. I fully recommend this firm!"

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      Chicago, Illinois


      141 West Jackson Boulevard #4219
      Chicago, IL 60604