Legal Remedies in Fatal Bicycle Accidents

The Chicago Bicycling Fatality Lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C. represent the victims of cycling accidents in obtaining compensation for damages caused by the negligent, reckless, intentional, or unlawful actions of another. Claims associated with the death of a victim, are vastly different in comparison to claims in which the victim, although injured, survives the incident. Our Wrongful Death Attorneys provide the following for purposes of clarifying the difference between an injury claim and a death claim.

To better understand the distinction between the two, it is helpful to take notice of the manner in which the term ‘victim’ can vary in death claims. In the typical injury suit, the victim is the actual party involved in the accident, or in some cases, such as where the victim is a minor or has suffered catastrophic injury, the victim’s guardian or family members. However, when an accident results in a fatality, the victim, quite obviously, is no longer able to assert a claim on their own behalf. Fortunately, there are two remedies available by which compensation can be recovered following a fatal bike accident: (1) a Survival Action to recover on behalf of the victim’s estate; and (2) a Wrongful Death Action to recover on behalf of the victim’s family.

Given the foregoing, it is much easier to see the variation in application of the word ‘victim’ in an injury claim, in comparison to a death claim. In short, for injury claims, reference to ‘victim,’ generally represents the common meaning of the word, while in death claims, the meaning of the word is extended to include the victim’s estate, as well as the victim’s family. While this concept may appear self-explanatory, the Wrongful Death lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C. take note of the misperceptions that client commonly have in differentiating between death claims in which compensation is being sought for the victim’s estate, and those in which a family member is seeking their own compensation for the loss of the deceased. As such, it is necessary to understand some additional principles regarding survivorship claims.

In a survivor action to recover damages, brought forth on behalf of the victim’s estate, proceeds awarded would go to the estate. Survivor action damages include medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering that the deceased endured prior to death. Consider this type of action similar to one that might have occurred, had the victim survived and asserted a claim on their own behalf—except, instead of going directly to an injured victim, it goes to the estate of the deceased. The victim’s estate, put simply includes, all their assets, minus any debts, that exist at the time of death, or may accrue at a later time. Consequently, disbursement of proceeds awarded as a result of a survival action extending from a bicycling fatality, along with any other assets and debts of the deceased, generally must go through the probate process.

In contrast to claims on behalf of victim’s estate, certain family members of the victim, such as the spouse or next of kin of the deceased, may sue on behalf of themselves for damages incurred as a result of the death, pursuant to Illinois Wrongful Death Act. This type of claim provides compensation to a qualifying family member for pecuniary losses, such as the “grief, sorrow, and mental suffering,” sustained as a result of the death. In this case, any damages awarded are intended solely for the benefit of the plaintiff that has asserted a claim for their own losses. In other words, the award compensates the victim’s family for the loss of the deceased caused by the negligence of another, as opposed to compensating the victim’s estate for the losses they might have recovered had they been alive to assert a claim on their own behalf.

As Chicago bicycle accident attorneys, with decades of practice experience, it is important to note that Survival Actions and Wrongful Death Actions are far more complicated than has been discussed in this brief overview. In addition, every case in unique, and therefore, should be assessed by a qualified lawyer, based upon the individual circumstances involved. At Zneimer & Zneimer P.C., we are not just personal injury attorneys—we are a well-established team of practitioners, and have handled numerous claims involving both bicycling accidents and wrongful death. If you are seeking superior and aggressive legal representation, with a dedication to client needs, contact our Chicago law firm today, at 773-516-4100.

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