The O.J. Simpson trial is, perhaps, the most famous wrongful death case in the legal world. The retired football player was sued for wrongful death after he was acquitted in his criminal trial. The case was successful, and Simpson was ordered to pay $33.5 million. Wrongful death occurs when a third party causes an untimely loss of life due to negligence, omission, or sheer willfulness. Wrongful death cases deal with complex medical data and obscure evidence, so it’s best to approach them by hiring a wrongful death attorney. A lawyer will improve the odds of maximum compensation by focusing on five elements.
Every state approaches wrongful death in its way. In some states, only the victim’s spouse and dependents can file a case, but in others, the right is extended to grandparents and siblings. Illinois’ wrongful death act allows only the surviving children and spouse to file a suit. That doesn’t tell the whole story, though. If the victim had no living children or a spouse, siblings and certain other family members can file a claim. You are, however, only eligible if you were financially reliant on the deceased. Your lawyer will determine your eligibility based on the Illinois Probate Act of 1975.
Deadly car crashes account for many wrongful death cases, but other scenarios affect your eligibility. A doctor might fail to diagnose a disease in good time. An employer might fail to repair damaged equipment. A supermarket might forget to use signage to indicate a slippery floor. Assaults, accidental poisonings, and product liability can qualify for a wrongful death suit, as can murder and manslaughter.
In short, you may have a case if the at-fault party had a duty of care toward the deceased. Only then can your lawyer establish whether the defendant breached that duty, so this stage is crucial to your compensation. Your lawyer will also need to prove that the breach of care directly caused a death. Establishing liability requires powerful evidence and skill. The burden of proof lies firmly on your shoulders.
Wrongful death compensation is based on both economic and non-economic damages. While the law strongly focuses on financial dependence, several other forms of compensation can be incorporated into your case. A lawsuit can cover costs like:
- Medical bills
- Lost benefits
- Funeral costs
- Psychological suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Lost earnings.
Loss of consortium refers to a loss of companionship and comfort. Your relationship with your spouse has wide-ranging effects on your happiness. Your lawyer will try to prove that the death deprived you of the emotional benefits of your relationship. Your compensation might also include loss of household services, future income, and care. Determining these damages can be challenging, so professional analysis is a necessity. This will consist of the life expectancy of your loved one as well as the costs of inflation.
4. Punitive Damages
Wrongful death suits fall under civil law, but compensation is often awarded punitively to hold the responsible party accountable. If the defendant’s actions were reckless and intentional, the courts might add punitive damages to your other claims as punishment. Many states place an upper limit on punitive damages, but Illinois does not. Your lawyer must prove that the defendant intended to harm or exercised “wanton and wilful misconduct.” Only 30% of cases seeking punitive damages are successful, largely because they require the plaintiff to achieve an additional burden of proof.
5. Preponderance of Evidence
Illinois uses the “preponderance of evidence” as its evidentiary standard. In simpler terms, you must convince the court that there is a 50% or higher chance that the claim is legitimate. Even the slightest evidence can tip the scale in either direction, so your lawyer must refine your case with the utmost precision.
If you’re grieving a loved one, you probably lack the resources to cope with the intricacies of such a case. Proving a wrongful death can be nuanced and complex, but your odds of success will rise if you have an experienced legal team to help.
Published by HOLR Magazine.