Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations
Each state defines the amount of time individuals can file a lawsuit for wrongful death based on the statute of limitations. Wrongful death lawsuits can be filed by beneficiaries and surviving family members to obtain financial compensation for the death of a loved one killed through negligent actions of others. Failing to file the lawsuit within the limited time frame voids all future opportunities to obtain financial recompense for losses.
Individuals that sue responsible parties for the premature death of a loved one are governed by the state statute of limitations based on exactly when it begins. In most incidences, the time limit begins at the moment of the loved one’s death. However, under certain circumstances, the clock can begin running from the time of discovering the cause of the loved one’s death, which might be significantly later.
Filing As Soon As Possible
Sadly, losing a loved one often creates an upsetting, stressful time for all those that are dealing with grief, sorrow and heartache. However, because of the negligence statute of limitations and the rules on discovery, it is essential to file a wrongful death lawsuit as soon as possible. Once the time limit has expired, there are only a few exceptions to validate a claim.
In Illinois, the statute of limitations restricts a lawsuit filing within two years of the loved one’s date of death. Any claims filed after that date will likely be refused by the court. Experienced attorney specializing in wrongful death cases can answer any specific questions concerning deadlines for filing a suit in Illinois court.
Losing a loved one brings with it a huge emotional toll to the survivors who often become overwhelmed with the financial calamity brought on by the death. Extensive medical bills and funeral expenses often start pouring in just a few weeks after the burial. If the family relied on the earnings of the decedent, they likely lost their main source of support.
If the claim is filed within the time allowed in the statute of limitations, spouses, children and other beneficiaries can file for compensation on three different kinds of damages – economic, non-economic and sometimes punitive.
Surviving family members and beneficiaries often suffer severe economic damages due to the loss of the financial contributions once provided by the victim. Economic damages can include:
- Hospital, medical, and funeral expenses associated with the death
- Loss of all future expected earnings of the decedent
- Loss of benefits including medical coverage and/or pension plans
- Loss of inheritance due to premature death
- The loss of services and goods once provided by the victim
Even though non-economic damages are less tangible than economic damages, they often have significantly more value to the survivors. These types of damages include:
- The survivors’ pain, suffering and mental anguish
- The loss of nurturing, training, advice, guidance, care and protection once provided by the decedent
- The loss of companionship, society, consortium, love and passion once provided by the deceased
In some cases, juries award punitive damages to heirs and beneficiaries as a way to punish the defendant for their extremely bad conduct. Punitive damages are not always available, especially when the defendant is a government agency. However, in some situations, treble damages (equaling three times actual damages) might be awarded against deaths occurring from abuse in nursing homes.
It is essential to remain aware of the timely restrictions involved in the statute of limitations. In some scenarios, the clock will not begin ticking until the “date of discovery,” when the harm was first identified. A later date of discovery might involve a medical doctor inaccurately diagnosing a condition that might not be discovered until many years later. Often times, the court begins running the clock on the statute of limitations based on when the patient learned of their condition.
The only way to ensure survivors involved in a wrongful death claim have the opportunity to file a lawsuit is to submit all paperwork before the expiration of the statute of limitations. A reputable attorney that specializes in wrongful death cases can guide surviving beneficiaries through the complex legal process.