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A drunk driver killed my husband. I read that punitive damages may be available when a person’s death is caused by negligence or wrongful behavior. Are punitive damages available in wrongful death suits in Illinois?

When you file a personal injury case, you can ask for two types of damages: compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are monetary compensation for actual losses. Examples of compensatory damages include payment for medical bills, lost wages, and even pain and suffering.

Punitive damages do not compensate the victim. Instead, they punish the person who caused the injury. A judge can order a defendant to pay punitive damages in order to punish his wrongful behavior and deter others from engaging in similar behavior. In Illinois, the judge also has the right to decide what percentage of the punitive damages is awarded to the victim. Punitive damages are reserved for cases where the conduct was “intentional” and “willful and wanton.” These damages are often awarded in drunk driving injury cases.

However, punitive damages are not available for wrongful death in Illinois. In Illinois, punitive damages must be paid to the victim. Once an accident victim dies, he is no longer eligible for punitive damages. This is true even if the death was unrelated to the accident.

Do you have additional questions about wrongful death in Illinois? Contact the Rockford personal injury attorneys at Hupy and Abraham. We’ll be happy to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case and answer your questions. Call 800-390-6350 to schedule your free consultation.


Jason F. Abraham
Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham