Where a family member or someone close to you dies as a result of the carelessness or recklessness of another, it is important to contact the best wrongful death lawyer you can find. An experienced wrongful death attorney can investigate the factual circumstances surrounding the accident or malpractice, and also consult you regarding your legal rights.
One question often arises, which family members sometimes feel uncomfortable asking: Who may recover damages (i.e. monetary compensation) for a wrongful death settlement or verdict? In Illinois, the answer is governed by two statutes: (1) the Wrongful Death Act; and (2) the Probate Act.
The Illinois Wrongful Death Act, 740 ILCS 180/2, allows certain designated family members to recover for their own “pecuniary injuries” suffered as a consequence of the death of the decedent, which include damages for “grief, sorrow and mental suffering.” Still, the amount recovered in any wrongful death action “shall be for the exclusive benefit of the surviving spouse and next of kin of such deceased person.” Surviving spouse is self-explanatory.
The meaning of the term “next of kin” is defined by the Illinois Probate Act to include blood relatives, such as a decedent’s parents and siblings (including half-siblings). However, where a decedent’s survivors include a spouse, the decedent’s parents and siblings are not “next of kin” within the meaning of the Wrongful Death Act. Furthermore, neither parents nor siblings are entitled to recover under the Wrongful Death Act when a decedent leaves surviving children. In addition, a decedent’s grandchildren, but not the decedent’s siblings, are “next of kin” entitled to recover under the Wrongful Death Act.
However, where the decedent leaves no spouse, children or grandchildren, the decedent’s parents are considered the “next of kin” entitled to recovery under the Act. The Wrongful Death Act considers adoptive parents and children the same as natural parents and children. However, foster parents may not bring an action for the wrongful death of a child.
For a free consultation with a Chicago wrongful death attorney at Passen & Powell, call (312) 527-4500.