A Look at the Illinois Dead Man’s Act

Mar 31, 2022

This post takes a look at a law unique to Illinois called the DEAD MAN’S ACT. The Illinois Dead-Man’s Act is a statute that prevents parties to litigation from testifying about their own conversations with a deceased person if that conversation would provide evidence beneficial to the party testifying. The statute has been criticized as antiquated and many believe that the Illinois legislature should repeal the statute.

Details About the Act

In the trial of any action in which any party sues or defends as the representative of a deceased person or person under a legal disability, no adverse party or person directly interested in the action shall be allowed to testify about his or her own behalf to any conversation with the deceased or person under legal disability or to any event which took place in the presence of the deceased or person under legal disability. 735 ILCS 5/8-201.

Exceptions to the Law

There are several exceptions to the Illinois Dead-Man’s Act. The Illinois Dead-Man’s Act will not bar a witness’ testimony in the following situations:

  • If no one objects to testimony that would otherwise be barred by the Dead-Man’s Act, the objection will be waived and the testimony will be admitted into evidence.
  • If anyone testifies on behalf of the executor or administrator of the deceased individual’s estate or the representative of the legally disabled individual regarding a conversation with the deceased or legally disabled individual, or an event that took place in the presence of the protected party, this opens the door for other interested and adverse parties to submit testimony that would otherwise be barred by the Dead-Man’s Act. (735 ILCS 5/8-201(a).
  • If an executor, administrator, heir or legatee (i.e., the beneficiary of the will) of the deceased or disabled individual submits the deposition of the deceased or disabled individual for admission into evidence, other interested or adverse parties are allowed to testify regarding the same matters as those that were admitted into evidence.
  • If a claim or defense is founded on a written record or other document, a witness may testify that the entries in the written record were made by the deceased person if the entries of the deceased person were made in the ordinary course of his or her employment for the witness.
  • The Illinois Dead-Man’s Act does not bar testimony regarding any facts relating to the deceased person’s heirship.

Legal Relevance

Now you may be asking what is the legal relevance of this statute. We’ll consider this hypothetical car accident: An automobile accident at an intersection with a stoplight and both drivers claim to have the green light. If both parties are alive, then both would be able to tell their version of how the accident happened, but if one of the drivers is killed, and the family members of the deceased brought a wrongful-death action, the Dead Man’s Act might preclude the surviving party from testifying that the light was green when he or she entered the intersection even though this would be the best available proof of who ran the red light. It would be essential to investigate and determine if there is another way to prove the case through video evidence of the crash from a Traffic Camera or if there were any eyewitnesses to the crash. It’s extremely important to speak to and retain a lawyer as soon as possible so a thorough investigation can be completed and evidence preserved. Be sure to stay tuned to the Coffman Law blog, as we will continue updating our readers on the latest and most important legal news in the areas of Auto and Trucking laws, Aviation, and more.

About Coffman Law Offices, P.C.

Coffman Law is committed to providing superb legal representation for people who are suffering from severe personal injuries or are dealing with the loss of a loved one due to negligence or misconduct. Coffman Law is a results-driven firm focused on ensuring that clients receive the compassion, attention, and consideration that they need to seek adequate redress for injuries or loss. The firm is led by Owner and Founding Partner Brian Coffman, who has dedicated his career to helping accident victims navigate the legal system and obtain redress for their injuries. If you have been injured or lost a loved one, contact Coffman Law today for a free consultation.