How are Damages Divided Among Family Members in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
When a person loses their life due to the careless or negligent actions of another individual or entity, surviving family members may be able to recover compensation for their losses. However, there can be complications if a wrongful death claim is successful, particularly when determining how any settlement or jury verdict is divided among family members.
Who Can File a Claim?
Unlike in other states, family members of the deceased are not the ones who file a wrongful death lawsuit in Illinois. In this state, the personal representative, sometimes referred to as the executor, of the deceased person’s estate is responsible for filing the wrongful death claim in civil court. In the event that the individual passed away without appointing a personal representative in their estate plan, the court will be responsible for appointing the representative.
What Type of Compensation is Available?
There may be various types of compensation available to surviving family members and the estate of the deceased. These damages are designed to provide compensation not just for financial losses associated with the death but also for more immeasurable losses incurred by the family. Some of the possible damages awarded for a successful wrongful death claim in Illinois include the following:
- The loss of financial support and wages the deceased would have provided
- A loss of consortium damages, which covers the loss of companionship, society, and sexual relations the deceased would have had with their spouse
- The loss of education, instruction, and moral training the deceased would have provided to surviving children
- Compensation for survivors’ mental suffering and anguish
Wrongful Death Settlement Distribution
Wrongful death compensation is designed to provide closure and monies to the deceased individual’s survivors and their estate. In Illinois, the damages are paid to the deceased’s surviving spouse and next of kin based on their level of dependency on the deceased, as determined by the court.
There are several factors that the court will examine when determining how money is divided between the surviving spouse and the deceased’s children. When determining how to divide the wrongful death settlement, the court will look at how much each family member was financially dependent on the deceased. Some of the factors that the court will use to determine financial dependence will include:
- The age of the deceased
- The income and earning capacity of the deceased at their time of death
- The expected earning capacity of the deceased at a future date had they lived
- The age of the deceased’s surviving family member
- The surviving family member’s relationship with the deceased
When you work with a skilled wrongful death lawyer, you will have an advocate ready to help every step of the way. An attorney can help not only the personal representative of the deceased’s estate but also the family when working to understand how compensation will be distributed. It is important for the personal representative of the estate to file the claim as soon as possible. There is a two-year statute of limitations for wrongful death claims in Illinois, which means any claims filed beyond this two-year limit will be dismissed.