According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, a 27-year-old man was arrested and charged in the death of a two-year old girl who was walking with her great-grandmother to a daycare center when she was killed. The driver ran through a stop sign and although the great-grandmother tried to protect the toddler, she “sprung” from her arms. Car accidents involving pedestrians can cause serious injuries and, as we can see from this tragic case, even death. Families of loved ones who have been killed by the negligence of another may be entitled to bring a wrongful death claim. A local Chicago injury attorney can help you with the process of preparing your case, with competence and compassion, in order to achieve the best possible settlement under the circumstances.
In order to state a claim for wrongful death, the plaintiff must allege that the decedent was killed as a result of the negligence (or some other liability) on the part of the defendant. In most cases, the plaintiff is a surviving dependent or beneficiary of the decedent. There are differences between bringing a civil claim (for wrongful death) versus a criminal prosecution. One of the more important elements refers to the standard of proof needed to succeed in the action. A family bringing a wrongful death claim in the United States typically need only prove their case by a “preponderance of the evidence” as opposed to the standard “beyond a reasonable doubt” that is applied in most criminal cases. The difference in the standards of proof usually makes it easier for a family to seek retribution via a civil tort action against the person who negligently causes the death of a family member.
In this case, the police charged the driver with the following items: aggravated DUI in an accident causing death, aggravated DUI/no valid driver’s license, driving while never being issued a license, reckless homicide/construction zone, and operating a vehicle without insurance. Later, the police reported that the driver’s blood alcohol level was more than three times over the legal limit. The criminal charges against the driver will not prevent the family of the decedent from bringing a wrongful death claim against him as well. The two actions may proceed simultaneously.
In a wrongful death suit, the family may seek compensation for economic damages such as lost wages and funeral expenses. As recently as 2007, the Illinois Wrongful Death Act (the “Act”) was amended to allow plaintiffs to also sue for non-economic damages such as grief, sorrow and mental suffering. Because of this change, there is some speculation that wrongful death cases involving young children and the elderly can see the greatest increase in damage awards due to the extent of the family’s tragic grief and sorrow. Many believe that the amended Act will result in fairer awards for victims’ families.
Wrongful death cases are usually devastating and arise quite suddenly. Families may need time to cope with the tragedy they are now confronting. When they are ready, family members are encouraged to contact a local injury attorney with experience handling such cases.