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Governor Quinn Signs New Legislation that Eases Procedural Burden on Families

Our Chicago birth injury lawyers have worked with many families over the years who have had loved one pass away following their development of a brain injury. Most brain injuries are quite serious-especially those resulting from car accidents and falls-and there always remains the possibility that the injury could prove fatal. When that occurs and the injury was caused by the negligence of another, the surviving family members often seek legal accountability for the wrongdoer. Each legal case that is brought following a death presents a few complications that are different from cases where there is harm but the victim survives. Two different legal claims are often brought in a fatal accident. First, a wrongful death lawsuit is filed where the family members are named as plaintiffs. In that case, the family seeks redress for their own unique loss following the death of their loved one. In addition, a separate legal action is filed in the name of the victim’s estate (by the “special administrator”) which seeks compensation for the actual harm of the victim.

There is another legal complication involved in these types of suits: additional evidence gathering hurdles. When the victim is not around to be involved in the action, it is often difficult to acquire the evidence to prove misconduct than might otherwise exist. For one thing, the victim is not there to explain exactly what happened. In addition, a procedural challenge exists which makes it difficult for family members to obtain the medical records of the loved one. Having access to these medical records to understand the exact harm caused to the victim, treatment provided, and similar issues, is vital in these brain injury lawsuits. In the past, the family members could not simply ask for those necessary records and obtain them. Instead, a separate legal proceeding had to be initiated which “opened” the victim’s estate. This process delayed the litigation and was an unnecessary cost and stress for the involved families.

Luckily, per the terms of legislation signed by Governor Pat Quinn today, families will no longer face those complications. The bill was supported by legislators of both parties and passed both houses of the General Assembly comfortably. The measure, SB 1694, changes the process by which certain individuals can obtain medical records of loved ones after their death. Instead of opening the estate, certain individuals can now file a written request for the records and receive them. According to the terms of the bill, once the measure goes into effect the deceased’s executor, administrator, or agent will be able to submit the written request to the medical record holder and then receive them. If one of those individuals does not exist, then a spouse, adult child, parents or siblings can similarly submit a written request and receive the records without a separate legal proceeding. The writing necessary is minimal, and must simply state the relationship of the author to the deceased and make the specific request.

The loss of a family member is hard enough, and the last things family’s need are unnecessary legal hoops that must be jumped through. Our Chicago injury lawyers understand that these difficult situations are made even worse when the death was caused in any way by the misconduct of another person, business, medical facility, or other party. We have come to appreciate the delicate emotional situation of many of these family members, and all legal changes which can provide even a small ease to their burdens are welcome. It is no surprise that politicians on both sides of the aisle overwhelming approved this measure, considering it provided needed relief to victims at no cost to others. We applaud those involved in this decision, and will help families in need of medical records release use the new legislation to simply at least one part of the process.

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