Elements of a Wrongful Death Case

Wrongful Death | February 10, 2021

Wrongful death lawsuits can arise anytime somebody loses their life due to the careless, negligent, or intentional actions of somebody else. These cases can be challenging, and family members are often left wondering how to proceed with their situation. It is strongly encouraged that family members of those wrongfully killed seek assistance from a qualified Chicago wrongful death attorney to help with their case. Here, we want to discuss how hard it is to prove a wrongful death claim as well as the elements of a successful wrongful death case.

The Elements Needed for a Successful Wrongful Death Claim

Wrongful death cases in Illinois arise in various ways. Anytime somebody loses their life due to the actions of others, the surviving family members or the estate of the deceased may be able to file a lawsuit to recover compensation. Some of the most common causes of wrongful death in Chicago include car accidents, workplace accidents, defective product accidents, criminal activity, premises liability accidents, etc.

There are four basic elements that need to be present in order for a plaintiff to win a wrongful death case. These four elements include the following:

  • Duty of care. Surviving family members or the representative of the estate will need to establish that there was a duty of care between the defendant and the person wrongfully killed. A duty of care will look different depending on the circumstances. For example, drivers on the roadway owe a duty of care to every other driver and passenger around them, and their duty of care revolves around operating their vehicle safely. A doctor owes a duty of care to their patient, meaning that they must provide their services within the acceptable standards of care for their field.
  • Breach of duty. After a duty of care has been established, it will need to be shown that the defendant somehow breached their duty to the deceased. For example, if a driver on a roadway ran a red light because they were intoxicated, this constitutes a breach of duty of care.
  • Causation. In addition to proving that the defendant somehow breached their duty toward the deceased, it needs to be shown that the defendant’s actions actually caused the death.
  • Damages. Finally, the death of the victim must have led to some sort of quantifiable damages. This can include hospitalization costs, medical expenses, funeral and burial expenses, loss of future income or potential earnings, as well as more immeasurable losses, including pain and suffering of the family, loss of guidance and companionship, loss of consortium, etc.

Related: What Is the Difference Between Wrongful Death and Survival Action?

Proving Wrongful Death In Illinois Can Be Difficult

There typically needs to be a significant amount of proof in order for a claim to be successful. The exact type of proof needed in these cases will vary depending on the circumstances of the wrongful death claim. In general, the following constitutes some of the most common types of evidence gathered for these lawsuits:

  • Photo or video surveillance of the cause of death
  • Company safety records
  • Property owner safety records
  • Vehicle “black box” data
  • Police reports
  • Criminal evidence (such as blood alcohol test results)
  • Statements from eyewitnesses

A skilled Chicago personal injury attorney will be able to use their resources and legal expertise to conduct a complete investigation into the case in order to obtain the evidence needed to prove liability.

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