A caller to my office was in a relationship with a man for 20 years. They did not have any children together, but he did have kids from a previous relationship. Although they considered themselves to be husband and wife, they were never legally married.
He, sadly, was hit by a car while crossing the street. He was in the hospital for a few days and then died from a blood clot that was not diagnosed in a timely manner. There is a potential wrongful death lawsuit against both the driver for hitting him as well as the hospital that did not diagnose him correctly.
The problem for my caller is that Illinois does not have common law marriage. So she has no right to sue for her emotional and economic loss as she doesn’t have a legal relationship with the man who was her partner for 20 years.
The man’s kids are the ones who have a right to sue and only them. It may not be fair, but Illinois wrongful death law isn’t always about fairness, at least when it comes to who can be compensated for a loss of a loved one.
The kids already have a lawyer and she was hoping to bring a separate lawsuit for herself. Even if she had a right to sue, there can’t be multiple lawsuits for the same action. One person gets designated to represent everyone’s claims.
The fact that his will left everything to her is unfortunately irrelevant. She will get his possessions such as the house that they shared and their joint bank account. A will though does not get to designate who can sue for an accidental or negligent death.
Of course nobody anticipates that they are going to die by accident. That said, if you are in a relationship with someone you’d be best served by getting married if something like this is important to you. If not, they and you risk suffering even worse if something bad happens.
If you have questions about Illinois wrongful death laws or would like our help in finding an attorney or learning if you have a case, please call us any time at (312) 346-5320. All calls are confidential and you can always speak with one of our attorneys for free. We can’t promise you a result, but do guarantee that we will give you honest advice and do whatever we can to help you.