As of August 2023, Plaintiffs Can Recover Punitive Damages in Wrongful Death Lawsuits
In Illinois, a recent change in the wrongful death statute will allow plaintiffs to recover punitive damages in wrongful death lawsuits. While punitive damages were recoverable in other forms of personal injury lawsuits, our state was among a handful that did not allow punitive damages in wrongful death lawsuits. The new rule will allow plaintiffs to file gross negligence or willful misconduct claims against defendants who deserve to be punished for committing some form of gross negligence.
What is gross negligence under Illinois law?
Negligence occurs when one individual does not provide a level of care to another individual that they would be expected to receive themselves. As an example, car accident lawsuits generally involve allegations of negligence. As an example, a driver who is doing 10 mph over the speed limit and causes an accident would have committed ordinary negligence.
By contrast, gross negligence involves some form of willful misconduct. As an example, a driver who is driving recklessly, racing, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol while they are operating their vehicle shows a careless disregard for the rights and safety of others with whom they are sharing the road.
What’s the difference between ordinary and gross negligence?
It can be difficult for a layperson to understand the difference between ordinary and gross negligence. Gross negligence usually involves some element of willful misconduct that leads to severe injury to another person. As an example, it is unlawful to operate your phone or send text messages while you are driving. Individuals who do this know that they are placing other people in danger. In these cases, they can cause an accident with another individual that leaves them severely injured. That person may be able to file a lawsuit alleging gross negligence against the other driver since they were doing something they knew they should not be doing.
What are punitive damages?
Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are awarded to a plaintiff to punish the defendant for their gross negligence. Such damages can be awarded in several types of personal injury lawsuits. These include car accident cases in which a driver is operating their vehicle recklessly or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. They are seldom awarded in premises liability lawsuits but can be in certain cases.
Prior to August of 2023, punitive damages could not be awarded in wrongful death lawsuits. The general sense of this law is to ensure that grieving families are accurately compensated for their pain and suffering damages related to the death of a loved one. The law makes it possible to accuse a defendant in a wrongful death action of gross negligence. Prior, a survivor claim could not allege gross negligence or willful misconduct in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Talk to a Champaign, IL Personal Injury Lawyer Today
The Champaign, IL personal injury attorneys at Patel Law, PC represent the interests of Illinois residents who have been injured due to negligence, gross negligence, or willful misconduct. Call our office today to schedule a free consultation, and we can begin discussing your allegations right away.