The Illinois wrongful death statute of limitations is two years from the date of your loved one's death. But there are some exceptions that may apply.
If you have lost a family member due to someone else's negligence and are considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit, contact our Chicago wrongful death lawyers as soon as possible. An experienced wrongful death attorney can handle all aspects of your wrongful death case and ensure no deadlines are missed.
What Is the Statute of Limitations in a Wrongful Death Claim?
The statute of limitations in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit determines how long you have to file a claim. If you do not file your claim before the statute of limitations runs out, you cannot move forward with a claim—which means you may not be able to recover compensation for the death of a loved one, even though another party's negligence may have caused their wrongful death.
What is Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death is the legal term used to define a death that was caused by another person's negligence, carelessness, disregard, or misconduct.
Common circumstances that result in wrongful death cases include:
- Automobile accidents caused by a distracted or impaired driver
- Medical malpractice
- Personal injuries
- Workplace injuries
- Violent intentional conduct
- Nursing home abuse or neglect
In cases of wrongful death, family members or the deceased person's estate may be able to recover compensation for damages under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act or the Illinois Survival Act.
Illinois Wrongful Death Act vs. Illinois Survival Act
The Illinois Wrongful Death Act is a law that helps the surviving spouse or surviving family members of a wrongful death victim in Illinois seek compensation for damages they suffered due to the death of their loved one, such as emotional suffering and loss of income.
The Illinois Survival Act allows the estate of wrongful death victims in Illinois to seek compensation for damages the deceased person could have claimed had he or she survived the wrongful act that led to their death, such as lost wages or other lost earnings, medical expenses, and damages to personal property.
Illinois Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations
According to Illinois law, the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim is slightly different under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act and the Illinois Survival Act. The Wrongful Death Act's statute of limitations is two years from the victim's death or two years from the time of learning the cause of the victim's death.
The statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit under the Survival Act is two years from the time of the wrongful act that led to the victim's death.
The statute of limitations is extended to five years in wrongful death cases involving murder, manslaughter, or other acts of violence. If the wrongful death was the result of violence, you may also have the right to file a claim up to one year after the criminal court case concludes.
If the wrongful death victim's death isn't immediate, or if it was the result of a violent act, the timeline can be confusing. Our team of Chicago wrongful death lawyers can review the circumstances of your loved one's death to determine if you are still eligible to file a wrongful death case.
When Should I Call a Chicago Wrongful Death Attorney?
Losing a loved one in any type of accident can feel devastating. Losing a loved one in an accident due to someone else's wrongful conduct can feel even more challenging to manage and get over. Your family may need to go through a period of immense adjustment as you learn how to deal with the loss of your loved one—not just the emotional distress, but also working out the practicalities of replacing your loved one's income and the services they provided the family.
With so much to handle, it comes as little surprise that sometimes, time may get away from you. You may find the statute of limitations on your wrongful death claim coming up before you know it. Even if the Illinois statute of limitations has passed, a Chicago wrongful death attorney can review the specific details of your case to determine whether you still have time to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
What Happens if I Do Not File a Chicago Wrongful Death Claim Before the Statute of Limitations Expires?
If you fail to file a claim before the Illinois wrongful death statute of limitations expires, the liable party will refuse to pay any compensation for the loss of your loved one, and you may not receive any compensation for your losses. The statute of limitations helps prevent people from coming in long after an accident to file a claim.
In some cases, a lawyer may identify exceptions to the statute of limitations that will allow you to file your claim despite the time that has passed since your loved one's death.
If you believe you have a wrongful death claim in Chicago, even if the statute of limitations has passed, contact a lawyer as soon as possible.
Why Should I Contact a Lawyer After Losing a Loved One in Chicago?
You lost a loved one to someone else's negligence. That means you may have a lot on your plate: dealing with funeral and burial arrangements, figuring out how to manage the tasks your loved one used to take care of, and managing the many bills and expenses that may come your way. However, while managing the rest of those challenges, you should make time to talk to a lawyer about your loved one's death as soon as possible as you may have grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit.
Working with one of our experienced Chicago wrongful death lawyers early after losing a loved one can offer several key advantages.
A lawyer can help collect evidence about your loved one's death
The sooner you start looking for evidence about your loved one's accident, the more evidence you will likely collect, and the easier it may prove to access that essential evidence. The evidence your lawyer collects can establish who caused your loved one's death and, in some cases, what compensation you might have the right to recover for it.
However, as time goes on after the accident, your lawyer may find it much more difficult to access that essential evidence.
The site of the accident may get repaired. Suppose, for example, that your loved one died because of property damage: a fall down a damaged flight of stairs or a damaged ceiling that fell.
While the company that owns the property may block it off to conduct its own investigation, afterward, it may repair the area and get everything back up and functioning as soon as possible. Your lawyer may find it much more difficult to find evidence directly from the site if considerable time passes after the accident.
Video footage of the event, if it exists, may end up deleted. Sometimes, the company may deliberately delete that footage to cover up its involvement or prevent further evidence collection.
In other cases, however, footage may end up deleted entirely accidentally. Most companies do not keep their security footage for more than 30 days unless they have reason to store specific footage. You may lose that footage altogether if you have not started the claim process.
Witness memory of the event may fade. Witness memory may fade quickly after traumatic events, like an accident that led to death. Witnesses' minds may rewrite what they observed, or their memories may grow hazy and uncertain over time. The loss of those memories may make it much more challenging to establish what took place during the events that led to your loved one's death.
While witnesses may still offer to speak with you and provide vital information, piecing together a complete account of what took place may present challenges.
Working with a lawyer soon after losing your loved one, on the other hand, can streamline the collection of that essential information to help build a stronger wrongful death lawsuit.
A lawyer can help you deal with the insurance company if the insurance company approaches you
Sometimes, the insurance company may try to allow time to run out on the statute of limitations. The insurance company may hope that your family will not see adequate evidence that their covered party caused your loved one's death, or it may hope that you do not know about your right to pursue a wrongful death case.
In other cases, the insurance company may reach out to you soon after your loved one's death, especially if the insurance company has seen any indication that your family plans to move forward with a wrongful death claim or your loved one started a personal injury claim before their death. The insurance company may want to work toward a fast settlement offer.
You may hear that the insurance company just wants to settle the claim as soon as possible for your benefit. However, the insurance company may also have something else in mind: decreasing the settlement you will eventually receive as much as possible. If your family accepts a low initial settlement offer, you may accept much less than you deserve to compensate for your loved one's loss.
You cannot go back later and request additional compensation for the loss of a loved one.
When you work with one of our experienced Chicago wrongful death attorneys, on the other hand, we can help you determine how much compensation your family may deserve for the loss of your loved one, including:
- The loss of your loved one's income.
- The loss of the services your loved one usually performs for the family, including child care or elder care, taking care of the house, making repairs to the home and vehicles, or taking care of the cooking.
- Funeral and burial expenses.
- Compensation for the suffering your family faced because of the loss of your loved one.
In addition, a lawyer can help you look at the final expenses your loved one may have faced, including medical costs and your loved one's pain and suffering. Then, the lawyer can help you deal with the insurance company as effectively as possible.
A lawyer can provide impartial support and advice as your family discusses your options in a Chicago wrongful death lawsuit
Dealing with a wrongful death claim can be very difficult for many families. You may need to decide how much compensation you plan to pursue and how you plan to distribute the funds from that claim.
In many cases, more than one family member may file and make decisions about a wrongful death claim. You may need to ensure that you remain on the same page regarding your negotiations. How much compensation does the family plan to ask for? When might you accept a settlement offer?
Your lawyer can also help offer an impartial view about how to divide the funds from a wrongful death settlement or court award in Chicago. Your family can file only one wrongful death claim for the loss of your loved one, even though multiple parties may have the same right to file a claim.
You will need to decide between yourselves what you want to do with those funds. Your lawyer can help all family members get on the same page about the distribution of those funds, which may eliminate arguments and frustration during a difficult time.
A Chicago, IL Wrongful Death Lawyer Can Help
If you lost a loved one in Chicago due to the negligence of another party, do not let the statute of limitations run out, preventing you and your family from getting the compensation you both need and deserve.
By working with a Chicago wrongful death lawyer, you can ensure that you meet vital filing deadlines that will help provide your family with much-needed funds as you work to rebuild after losing a loved one.
Contact a Chicago wrongful death lawyer to discuss your rights and start moving forward with your claim.