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Are Punitive Damages Recoverable in a Wrongful Death Action?

Lawyers for Wrongful Death Cases in DuPage County and Lake County

In the state of Illinois, punitive damages are generally not available in a wrongful death lawsuit. Punitive damages are intended to punish a person or entity for wrongdoing and to deter others from engaging in the same behavior, but they are usually reserved for the victim, not the victim’s surviving spouse or next of kin.

The Illinois legislature recognized the importance of wrongful death lawsuits by enacting the Wrongful Death Act (740 ILCS 180) in 1853. The Act has been amended over the years, but it still allows the surviving family members of deceased victims to recover damages associated with a death caused by the “wrongful act, neglect, or default” of another party.

In many types of personal injury cases, an injured victim may recover punitive damages in addition to any other recoverable damages. Punitive damages are designed to punish a party’s negligence or wrongful act and to deter similar behavior in the future. As a general rule of law, punitive damages are only available to the injured victim, and they do not survive the victim’s death. The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that the only way punitive damages may be awarded after a victim’s death is in cases where the statute on which the wrongful death suit is based expressly allows the recovery of punitive damages.

Helping Illinois Families Understand Their Rights

At Salvi & Maher, L.L.C., our skilled attorneys know that wrongful death claims can be confusing and overwhelming. It can be difficult to know for sure what your options are for collecting compensation. If you have lost a loved one due to another party’s negligence or wrongful acts, contact our office to get the help you need. Call 847-662-3303 for a free consultation today. Our firm represents families in Wheaton, Waukegan, Richmond, Lake County, DuPage County, and throughout Northern Illinois.

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