Personal injury laws throughout the U.S., including those in Missouri and Illinois, hold people responsible for wrongs they commit. If someone behaves in a careless and negligent way and causes harm, the victim can sue the careless person. In some cases, however, the careless person causes such severe harm that the victim dies as a result. Under very early laws (before the 1850s), this used to mean that the wrongdoer could get away with negligence since the surviving family members of the victim weren’t allowed to sue. Wrongful death laws changed all that.
Today, eligible family members in Missouri and Illinois can bring a wrongful death lawsuit against a defendant who caused a relative’s death through wrongful or careless actions. A wrongful death lawsuit is a case brought by the family members to recover compensation for their losses. Representatives of the deceased’s estate can also bring another type of lawsuit called a survival action, which is a lawsuit to recover the damages that the deceased would have been able to obtain if he or she had lived.
In many cases, a lot of money is at stake in wrongful death or survival actions since there are many losses suffered when someone dies. It is extremely important to seek legal assistance from a qualified Missouri, Illinois or Kentucky wrongful death lawyer.
At The Cagle Law Firm, we have extensive experience representing clients in both wrongful death and survival actions. We will fight for your rights to recover the maximum compensation available to you under the law to help you get justice for your lost loved one and for the devastation that the death caused your family. Call us today at (800) 685-3302 or fill out our online contact form for a free consultation.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits and Survival Actions
Wrongful death and survival actions can arise in a number of different situations. Whenever someone passes away as a result of intentional wrongdoing or negligence on the part of another person or company, there is the potential for a wrongful death lawsuit.
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death or Survivor Case?
Survival actions, or actions that are brought on behalf of the deceased to recover for things that the deceased would have been able to sue for, are typically brought by the executors of the victim’s estate. Essentially, the surviving family members continue to pursue a lawsuit the deceased could have brought if he or she were still alive. These lawsuits can include damages for things like medical bills and pain that the deceased endured before dying from the injury.
Wrongful death actions, on the other hand, are intended to compensate the family members for their own losses suffered as a result of the death. The family members must be closely related to the deceased. There are specific definitions of eligible family members under both Missouri and Illinois laws. For example:
- Section 537.080 of the Missouri Revised Statutes indicates that a wrongful death action may be brought “by the spouse or children or the surviving lineal descendants of any deceased children, natural or adopted, legitimate or illegitimate, or by the father or mother of the deceased, natural or adoptive.” The statute also goes on to state that if there is no one on this list who can sue for wrongful death, the brother or sister of the deceased may be able to sue, or a stand-in plaintiff (called a plaintiff ad litem) may be appointed by the court.
- Section 750 ILCS 180 of the Illinois Code indicates that “Every … action [for wrongful death] shall be brought by and in the names of the personal representatives of such deceased person, and, except as otherwise hereinafter provided, the amount recovered in every such action shall be for the exclusive benefit of the surviving spouse and next of kin of such deceased person.” Cases in Illinois have defined “next of kin” to refer to people who would inherit the deceased’s property under the law if the deceased died without a will.
Essentially, this means that a spouse or children are usually eligible to sue for wrongful death. However, the spouse or children must have actually suffered some kind of measurable loss as a result of the death. In other words, they had to have been receiving financial or emotional support or companionship that they now do not have.
What Types of Damages Can Be Recovered for Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death damages paid to the surviving family members can include:
- Wages and income that would have been provided by the deceased to the family member filing the action. These damages are based on the deceased’s salary at the time of his or her death, the expected number of working years remaining in his or her life and, in some cases, the actual financial contributions that the deceased was making to the person suing.
- Loss of companionship or loss of consortium. These damages compensate the family member for no longer having his or her loved one. The court may look at factors such as how close the deceased was to the person bringing the action, what kind of person the deceased was and what education or emotional support he or she would have provided to the surviving family members if not for the death.
Wrongful death damages can be extremely difficult to calculate, so it is essential that you have an experienced Illinois, Missouri or Kentucky lawyer helping you with your case and assisting you in proving the damages you suffered.