Illlinois Wrongful Death Laws

Illinois Wrongful Death Act can be found in Chapter 740 of Illinois statutes.  Pursuant to 740 ILCS 180/1, when the death of a person is caused by wrongful act, neglect or default, and the act, neglect or default is such as would, if death had not ensued, have entitled the party injured to maintain an action and recover damages in respect thereof, the person who or company or corporation which would have been liable if death had not ensued, shall be liable to an action for damages.

The action for damages can be maintained by and in the names of the personal representatives of such deceased person[i].  The amount recovered as damages shall be for the exclusive benefit of the surviving spouse and next of kin of such deceased person.  The jury may award such damages as they shall deem a fair and just compensation with reference to the pecuniary injuries resulting from such death, including damages for grief, sorrow, and mental suffering, to the surviving spouse and next of kin of such deceased person.  The amount shall be distributed by the court to each of the surviving spouse and next of kin of the deceased in the proportion, as determined by the court. 

If the deceased person left no surviving spouse or next of kin entitled to recovery, the damages shall be distributed to the exclusive benefit of the following persons, or any one or more of them:

a) to the person or persons furnishing hospitalization or hospital services in connection with the last illness or injury of the deceased person, not exceeding $ 450;
b) to the person or persons furnishing medical or surgical services in connection with such last illness or injury, not exceeding $ 450;
c) to the personal representatives, as such, for the costs and expenses of administering the estate and prosecuting or compromising the action, including a reasonable attorney’s fee.  In any such case the measure of damages to be recovered shall be the total of the reasonable value of such hospitalization or hospital service, medical and surgical services, funeral expenses, and such costs and expenses of administration, including attorney fees, not exceeding the foregoing limitations for each class of such expenses and not exceeding $ 900 plus a reasonable attorney’s fee.

The action shall be commenced within 2 years after the death of such person.  However, if a person entitled to recover benefits is, at the time the cause of action accrued, within the age of 18 years, s/he may cause such action to be brought within 2 years after attainment of the age of 18[ii].

The trier of fact shall first determine the decedent’s contributory fault and recovery of damages shall be barred or diminished accordingly.  The trier of fact shall then determine the contributory fault, if any, of each beneficiary on behalf of whom the action was brought:

1) Where the trier of fact finds that the contributory fault of a beneficiary on whose behalf the action is brought is not more than 50% of the proximate cause of the wrongful death of the decedent, then the damages allowed to that beneficiary shall be diminished in proportion to the contributory fault attributed to that beneficiary. The amount of the reduction shall not be payable by any defendant.

2) Where the trier of fact finds that the contributory fault of a beneficiary on whose behalf the action is brought is more than 50% of the proximate cause of the wrongful death of the decedent, then the beneficiary shall be barred from recovering damages and the amount of damages which would have been payable to that beneficiary, but for the beneficiary’s contributory fault, shall not inure to the benefit of the remaining beneficiaries and shall not be payable by any defendant.

The trial judge shall conduct a hearing to determine the degree of dependency of each beneficiary upon the decedent.  The trial judge shall calculate the amount of damages to be awarded each beneficiary, taking into account any reduction arising from either the decedent’s or the beneficiary’s contributory fault[iii].

[i] 740 ILCS 180/2

[ii] Id

[iii]  Id


Inside Illlinois Wrongful Death Laws