Wrongful Death and Survival Claims in Illinois
When a loved one dies it is always a traumatic experience. When the death is the result of an accident or injury the family is left with many questions and it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction.
Consider Hiring an AttorneyAn attorney experienced in wrongful death and survival actions knows the rules inside and out. There is normally no fee for consulting an attorney in these type of cases, and an attorney can answer questions like: Which relative has the right to hire an attorney? What are the steps before a suit can be filed? Does a Last Will and Testament have any impact on a suit? How are funds from any suit distributed? What if there is no Will? What happens with unpaid medical bills? All of these questions, and almost every other question you have can be answered by an experienced attorney in these type of cases.
Wrongful Death vs. Survival ActionUnderstanding the difference is important because it impacts what the survivors receive. The easy way to think of these two concepts is that Wrongful Death compensates those left behind, while a Survival Action compensates the deceased's estate "as if" he or she had survived. Very simply, the law used to prohibit all suits once a person died. In Illinois, the legislature passed the Survival Act to cure this defect. So, if a person sustained an injury and then died his or her estate can prosecute an action "as if" the person was still alive. Wrongful Death looks compensates for the loss to the survivors. If a young boy or girl loses a parent in an accident the children have suffered a tremendous injury. If mom or dad dies at age 81 or 82, the impact on the children is much less.
Does It Matter?The short answer is 'Yes". Many times medical bills and other expenses are filed as liens against a lawsuit. These liens can be substantial. However, liens cannot apply to the proceeds of a wrongful death claim, as the proceeds are only to compensation the survivors and have no relation to medical bills or expenses. How the proceeds of a suit are allocated can also be impacted. For example, in a Survival Action the proceeds are distributed according to the decedent's Will. A Wrongful Death Action proceeds are divided according to 'degree of dependency".