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Four Essential Elements of a Wrongful Death Case

Posted on October 11, 2022

Successful wrongful death claims hinge on proving the negligence of another individual, entity, or company. There are typically four elements that need to be in place in order for a claim to be successful and for the personal representative and the survivors to recover the compensation they are entitled to. Here, we want to discuss the four elements that need to be in place in order for a wrongful death claim to be successful in Illinois.

1. Duty of Care

The first element that must be established for a successful Illinois wrongful death claim is proving that the person who allegedly caused the injury or death (the defendant) owed a duty of care to the deceased individual. Establishing this duty of care revolves around examining the type of situation at hand. The duty of care will look different depending on the type of claim.

For example, property owners have a duty to ensure the safety of any person who has a right to be on their premises. This duty includes regular inspections and maintenance, cleaning up spills, not leaving dangerous chemicals around, etc. The duty of care that drivers owe to others on the roadway is different than the duty of care property owners owe patrons. For example, drivers have a responsibility to operate their vehicles safely and within the confines of traffic laws.

2. Breach of Duty

After establishing that a duty of care was owed by the defendant to the deceased individual, the plaintiffs will need to show that the defendant somehow breached their duty of care. Once again, the breach of duty will look different depending on the type of case.

A property owner could breach their duty of care if they fail to adequately establish barriers around a pool in order to keep children away from the area. A driver will likely have breached their duty of care to others if they operate while impaired by alcohol or drugs or while distracted by a phone or another device.

There are various ways that defendants can breach their duty of care, and sometimes, they breach their duty of care in multiple ways.

3. Causation of the Incident

After establishing that there was indeed a breach of duty between the plaintiff and the defendant, it must be shown that this breach is what actually caused the deceased’s injuries or death. Sometimes, this is as simple as showing the insurance carrier or jury that the breach occurred and that there was no other way that the deceased would have sustained their injuries and died had it not been for the breach.

However, sometimes, causation is not as clear as this. There are times when a breach of duty occurs and this breach may not necessarily have led to the death. There are times when individuals lose their lives due to another cause that occurred at the same time as the breach of duty.

4. Damages

Lastly, after establishing that the breach of duty did indeed cause the death, it must be established that the plaintiff suffered some sort of monetary loss as a result of the incident. This can include lost earnings the deceased would have provided had they survived, the loss of society, love, and companionship the deceased would have provided, funeral and burial expenses, and more.