If someone you care about deeply has recently passed away, the pain and anguish that you feel is often unbearable. Those feelings can often be compounded when the death itself was the result of negligence of one sort or another at the hands of another individual or entity. This is why Illinois has quite a few statutes on the books governing how damages are awarded in wrongful death cases. If the individual who has died leaves behind a widow or some other immediate family member, a case may certainly be made that damages should be awarded. However, this is a complex legal situation that requires a lawyer working on your side.
What About the Loss of a Minor Child?
The case Ferraro v. Augustine, decided in 1964, stipulates that the wrongful death of someone leaving behind a direct lineal kin indicates financial loss because of the passing. An example would be a wife losing years of future earnings because of a husband’s untimely death. The question becomes whether or not damages are to be awarded when a minor child is the victim of a wrongful death. In such a case, there is not a loss of earnings that can be presumed to impact another party. However, it is assumed that the parents will suffer a pecuniary injury based upon the death.
In Illinois, there are several legal precedents and examples that define situations by which parents are entitled to damages from the wrongful death of a child. One of those situations involves a fetus that died prior to be born. In such a situation, damages are possible if it can be proven that the fetus was still healthy and viable prior to the action be undertaken that directly led to its death.
A Bit of History
The law in Illinois did not provide for damages to be awarded in a wrongful death case until the passing of the Illinois Wrongful Death Act. Up until that time, the responsibility for personal injuries expired when the victim actually died. This would all change in 1974 when a verdict in Murphy v. Martin Oil Company was rendered by the Illinois Supreme Court. It was at this time that survivors of victims of a wrongful death case should be compensated.
What Needs to be Proven?
While one would think that the presumption of substantial pecuniary loss would be easy enough to prove, this is not always the case. At trial, it will need to be shown that the individual claiming damages actually has a close personal relationship with the person who has died. This is often done via witness testimony, making the matter quite easy to rule upon. However, there are times when other witnesses will testify that the two parties in question were actually estranged.
Thee Loss of Society Damages Provision
In Illinois, loss of society damages are permitted in cases involving a wrongful death. This claim is typically strengthened when third parties testify about how close the family was prior to death. These third party individuals are not related to the family, but can testify as to what they have seen in terms of the interactions between the parties involved in the wrongful death claim.
There are others ways that a close bond between the victim and family members can be established. Examples of this include electronic correspondence, letters that have been written by various parties, birthday cards, and photos. This illustrates that wrongful death claims in Illinois related to loss of society are possible if the relationship can be proven to the jury. The jury is typically responsible for deciding the amount of monetary damages to award.
What is Pecuniary Loss
In Illinois, pecuniary loss is defined to include financial loss, benefits, goods, society, and services. The jury will typically receive these items in their list of instructions. As such, it is up to the jury to examine the facts of the case and determine the extent to which each of these items constitute damages being awarded to the plaintiff. The loss of society, for example, speaks to the grief and sorrow that a parent feels at the wrongful death of a fetus that was not yet born. Mental suffering will also be taken into account. The jury will weigh everything that was presented at the trial to determine what damages, if any, are allowed for under Illinois law.
You Need Legal Representation
If someone in your direct lineage is the victim of a wrongful death, you may have a claim to damages under Illinois law. It is important to have a lawyer working on the case for you in order to make sure all of the facts are accurately presented at trial. This is how you can ultimately be awarded the damages that you are entitled to.