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Punitive Damages Now A Possibility In Illinois Wrongful Death Cases

On Behalf of | Personal Injury

Wrongful death lawsuits can serve as a particular kind of response to a family tragedy. People lose a member of their families unexpectedly. They experience emotional turmoil and financial hardship which they seek to remedy through a civil lawsuit.

A successful lawsuit could theoretically provide financial compensation for those left behind after a tragic passing. Illinois has long allowed the pursuit of financial compensation in scenarios where a death results from negligence or misconduct. Both businesses and individuals can face wrongful death litigation that seeks to hold them financially accountable for contributing to someone’s death. Previously, Illinois limited recovery to economic and non-economic damages. A recent change in the law expands the types of compensation available.

Families can now request punitive damages

Economic damages resulting from a death are clear financial losses. Medical bills, funeral costs and the loss of someone’s future earning capacity are all economic losses. Illinois has long allowed families to also request non-economic damages. Those damages may include the grief and loss of companionship experienced by the surviving family members of the deceased.

As of late 2023, plaintiffs in wrongful death lawsuits can now also see punitive damages. Ever since Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed House Bill 219 into law, the wrongful death statute in Illinois has expanded to include punitive damages.

This expansion only applies to wrongful death lawsuits. Punitive damages are now an option in lawsuits related to medical malpractice, legal malpractice or personal injury lawsuits against state or local government authorities. There is no established limit on punitive damages included in the current law.

Punitive damages are different because they serve as a punishment for the defendants. Instead of providing economic relief, punitive damages serve as a penalty for the business or individual responsible for a recent tragedy.

The courts can award damages in an appropriate amount based on the circumstances. The more egregious the misconduct or negligence, the greater the likelihood of the courts awarding a generous amount of punitive damages to those left behind after a tragedy.

Understanding changes in Illinois law can benefit those considering a wrongful death lawsuit. Those who seek the maximum amount of compensation can diminish their own losses while creating consequences for the party at fault.