The Chicago Personal Injury Law Blog

When Can You Sue An Employer for Wrongful Death?

When can you sue an employer for wrongful death? After a devastating crash that left three Chicago residents (a wife, husband, and their friend) dead, this question is one of many on the minds of the remaining family members, the Chicago Tribune reports.

All three victims, Won Suk Lim, 56, his wife Jung Ran Min, 50, and their friend, Gwi Rye Kim, 65, were in the same car when a Village of Skokie garbage truck struck the car, promptly engulfing the crushed car in flames. Kim's son, the administrator of her estate, has filed a lawsuit against the garbage truck company.

Here's a general overview of when you can sue an employer for wrongful death:

Wrongful Death

In general, a wrongful death lawsuit alleges that one's death was caused by the negligence or misconduct of another. Usually, the victim's family can sue for wrongful death in order to recover certain types of losses. In this case, the applicable losses may be loss of income and loss of parental guidance.

Usually, a wrongful death lawsuit must contain the following elements:

  • a death caused by another's negligence
  • a family member who is suffering monetary injury as a result of the death, and
  • the appointment of a personal representative for the decedent's estate.

Employer Liability

In this case, Kim's son is alleging that the employer, Village of Skokie, was negligent, possibly in hiring the truck driver. Can Village actually be sued, as opposed to the employee (the truck driver, in this case), though?

Under a doctrine called respondeat superior, employers are vicariously liable for the acts of their employees when those acts occur during the course of employment. This means that if a car crash occurs in a company car, the employer's liability turns on whether or not the employee was acting in the scope of employment. In this case, it could very well be the case that the truck driver involved in the fatal crash was on his or her shift when the accident occurred.

The truck driver has also been employed with the Village of Skokie for about 19 years and was not injured.

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