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Who Can File A Wrongful Death Claim In Maryland? (What Families Should Know)

Posted on 03/12/20 by Malloy Law Offices in Wrongful Death

In Maryland, when someone’s negligence causes someone else’s sudden, accidental death, surviving immediate family members may seek damages by bringing a wrongful death claim with the help of a Bethesda wrongful death attorney.

Wrongful death claims in Maryland may arise from traffic accidents or any other act of negligence that leads to accidental death. As you know, hazards are everywhere. Scores of defective consumer items are recalled each year. Medical malpractice has become a top cause of death.

Your pharmacist could mistakenly give you the wrong prescription. Dozens of people die every year in this nation from dog bites. Alcohol-related traffic accidents in the United States still take more than 10,000 lives each year. Almost all of these fatalities are wrongful deaths.

In any family, the unexpected, sudden, and accidental loss of a loved one causes profound anguish. In Maryland, it doesn’t matter how a wrongful death happens; if someone’s negligence caused a wrongful death, that person can be held legally accountable.

Should Your Family Take Legal Action After A Wrongful Death?

Taking legal action cannot assuage your grief after a loved one’s wrongful death, but a wrongful death claim can help the surviving family members pay medical and funeral costs and move forward with their lives positively and constructively, without financial hardship.

Who may file a wrongful death action in Maryland? What kind of compensation is possible? Are there deadlines for filing wrongful death claims? If you’ll keep reading, you will learn what every family in Maryland should know about wrongful death and your family’s rights.

Wrongful death claims in Maryland are meant to compensate a decedent’s estate and/or his or her surviving immediate family members when an accidental death is the result of another party’s negligence.

How Do “Survival” Claims Differ From “Wrongful Death” Claims?

Maryland law allows for two distinct types of legal action after a death caused by negligence: survival claims and wrongful death claims.

Survival claims are brought by the decedent’s estate. Survival claims reimburse an estate for its death-related losses and expenses: burial costs, funeral costs, and final medical bills.

Survival claims also compensate a decedent’s estate for personal damages such as the suffering and pain experienced by the decedent in the wrongful death incident.

Wrongful death claims may be brought by the decedent’s surviving immediate family members, including the parents, spouse, or children. Wrongful death claims compensate those immediate family members for losses such as loss of companionship, loss of financial support, and loss of consortium.

Who Are The Primary And Secondary Beneficiaries?

Precisely who may bring a wrongful death action in this state? In Maryland, the law states that primary beneficiaries may file a wrongful death lawsuit. Parents, children, and the husband or wife of a wrongful death victim are classified as primary beneficiaries.

If there are no surviving primary beneficiaries, the law allows secondary beneficiaries to take legal action. Secondary beneficiaries include any person who was related to the decedent by blood or marriage and was dependent on the decedent at the time of their death.

What Damages Are Available To Surviving Family Members?

The specific monetary amounts and damages available will depend, first, on whether a surviving family member is pursuing a wrongful death claim or a survival claim. Damages in survival claim cases are the damages sustained by the decedent’s estate due to the wrongful death.

Damages in survival claim cases may include burial and funeral costs, the decedent’s final medical bills, property damage compensation in some cases, and compensation for the decedent’s personal suffering and pain.

Damages in wrongful death cases are the damages sustained by the decedent’s surviving family members. These damages may include compensation for lost wages, lost earning capacity, and loss of the decedent’s companionship, guidance, and support.

Is There A Limit To What Surviving Family Members Can Receive?

Maryland imposes limits – “caps” – on non-economic damages in wrongful death cases, the damages that cannot be quantified monetarily with receipts – such as lost companionship or personal suffering and pain.

For wrongful deaths arising on or after October 1, 2019, the cap is $875,000. However, the cap will increase by $15,000 for claims arising on or after October 1, 2020. This cap applies to most wrongful deaths, with the exception of medical malpractice cases.

How Can You Prevail With A Survival Or Wrongful Death Claim?

Wrongful death and survival claim cases in Maryland are similar in many ways to personal injury cases. A plaintiff (the beneficiary who is bringing the claim) and his or her wrongful death lawyer must prove these “elements” of the claim:

1. The defendant – the allegedly negligent party – had a legal obligation or “duty of care” to the decedent.

2. That duty was breached by the defendant’s negligent action or inaction.

3. The defendant’s negligence was a direct cause of the decedent’s death.

4. The losses of the surviving family members are demonstrable, and they should receive damages for the amount they are seeking.

How Is The “Duty Of Care” Defined?

A duty of care is a legal “duty” to others, but the “level” of that care is different in different circumstances. While driving, for example, we owe it to other drivers and pedestrians to drive prudently and safely.

Surviving family members and their wrongful death lawyers must demonstrate that the defendant, by breaching the duty of care, directly caused the decedent’s wrongful death.

Is There A Deadline For Taking Legal Action?

All fifty states have established a statute of limitations – a strict time limit – for bringing wrongful death actions. In most wrongful death cases, the statute of limitations in Maryland will be three years from the date of the wrongful death.

Don’t wait three years. It may be difficult in a time of anguish, but surviving family members need to speak with a wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible after losing a family member.

If you pursue a wrongful death claim, a Bethesda personal injury attorney can determine what happened, identify the party or parties with liability, and advocate aggressively for the rights and interests of the surviving family members until a verdict is rendered or a settlement is reached.

Wrongful death claims in Maryland are usually settled outside of the courtroom when the attorneys meet to negotiate privately. The right Maryland wrongful death lawyer will fight forthrightly and diligently for your family and for the justice your family deserves.