In Illinois, the law limits who can file wrongful death lawsuits to certain categories of people holding different relationships with the decedents. It is important for family members to understand who can file a lawsuit when their loved ones have died as the result of someone else’s negligent or wrongful acts. If lawsuits are filed by the wrong plaintiffs, the correct ones must substitute into the lawsuits in order for them to proceed. If a rightful plaintiff does not substitute himself or herself in the lawsuit, the claim may be dismissed. Wrongful death lawyers may help families to determine who the rightful plaintiffs are before filing the lawsuits in order to avoid potential problems.
In Illinois, only the personal representative of the decedent’s estate is allowed to file a wrongful death claim. The personal representative is allowed to be the spouse of the deceased person, a deceased minor’s parent, an adult child of the deceased person or another next of kin. If a personal representative was not named by the deceased victim in a will, then the court may appoint someone to serve as the personal representative of the estate. It is that person’s responsibility to manage the estate and to also file the wrongful death claim. If another family member files a lawsuit, the personal representative must step into the case or it may be dismissed. If the personal representative fails to file a wrongful death claim within the statute of limitations, the ability to recover damages for the decedent’s death may be permanently barred.
Wrongful death lawsuits must be filed no later than one year after the victim’s death or according to the statute of limitations for the underlying claim. If the incident that happened involved a personal injury claim, the statute of limitations could be up to two years from the injury date. Because the underlying statute of limitations begins to run from the date of the injury, it is possible for the claim period to run out before the person succumbs. In this case, the personal representatives may not be able to file claims if the decedent lived for a few years before succumbing but never filed a personal injury lawsuit. Wrongful death lawyers advise families to file claims as soon as possible to avoid statutes of limitations problems so that their abilities to recover damages will remain.