Maryland Wrongful Death Lawyer
When a victim dies in any accident due to negligence or carelessness, certain members of the family, the victim’s dependents and the victim’s estate may be owed damages by the person or people who caused the accident or incident. The victim’s estate and family can file a wrongful death claim with a Maryland wrongful death lawyer to pursue these damages.
Often, an accident is more than merely an accident. Unfortunately, people sometimes lose their lives as a result of someone else’s reckless behavior or deliberate actions. In these cases, two claims typically arise: (1) A wrongful death claim, which represents the harm to the decedent’s loved ones; and (2) A survivor claim, which represents the harm suffered by the victim that she would be able to recover had she lived.
These two causes of action may be initiated by certain members of the victim’s family, his/her dependents, or representative of his/her estate to seek compensation for the wrongful death, which could include compensation for the deceased’s medical bills, their lost wages from the time of the accident up to victim’s death, and funeral expenses, as well as loss of consortium or companionship (for spouses only). Wrongful death claims surround virtually all types of fatal accidents, from simple car wrecks to convoluted medical malpractice cases, and from product liability cases to premises injury cases. Individuals, companies, and sometimes government agencies, can be held liable for acting negligently if you are able to provide there was a duty between the plaintiff and defendant, that duty was breached, and the breach was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. Liable parties may also be held responsible for intentional acts of willful disregard for the public’s welfare. If you have lost a loved one because of another’s negligence, please contact a Maryland wrongful death attorney today for a free consultation.
Wrongful Death Claims in Maryland
Certain Family members and dependents of wrongful death victims are eligible to seek compensation for damages incurred as a result of an accident or incident. A claim is filed on behalf of the surviving victims based on the mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering, loss of comfort, loss of society, protection, marital care, parental care, filial care, attention, advice, counsel, training, guidance, or education and for the loss of companionship, love, and financial support the family members and/or dependents would have received had the victim not died. Only certain family members and dependents may file a wrongful death lawsuit. They are referred to as “beneficiaries.” There are two classes of beneficiaries. Under Maryland law, only a surviving parent, child, or spouse of the deceased family member is viewed as a primary beneficiary in a wrongful death claim. If there are no surviving primary beneficiaries, then and only then can a “secondary beneficiary” try to recover damages under certain, specific circumstances. A Maryland wrongful death lawyer with extensive experience litigating these types of claims is best-suited to explaining the intricacies of who qualifies as a secondary beneficiary, and who does not.
Please note that an adult child over age 21 has complete legal rights to file a survivor’s wrongful death claim for the death of a parent. The same goes for a father or mother in the event of their child’s death, even if the “child” is older than 21. They are not entitled to claim parental care and filial care as elements of damages. Minor beneficiaries – if there is no adult beneficiary – must have their claims filed “ad-litem,” meaning the court appoints (or certifies) a party to act as a representative in a lawsuit on behalf of the minor child. A minor child’s guardian can also bring an action on their behalf.
How are Damages Classified in Maryland?
In many cases, the greatest point of contention in wrongful death civil actions is the value of the damages rightfully due to deceased family members. But before we address that, the following are the types of damages that are available in Maryland wrongful death cases. These damages are often called “non-economic damages” and are classified thusly:
• Mental suffering (of both the deceased victim and surviving family members).This is limited to cases in which a plaintiff can show “pre-impact fright,” which is permissible when it is the proximate result of a wrongful act and it produces a physical injury or is manifested in some objective form. Pre-impact fright is recoverable under a survivor action only.
• Pain and suffering. You can recover damages for the pain and suffering of the deceased victim for the time period from the time of accident to the time of their death, see pre-impact fright above. This too is only recoverable on a survivor action.
• Emotional distress (primarily by the survivors, but not exclusively limited to them.) Sometimes the victim’s anticipated emotional distress at the prospect of imminent death may be awarded. In Wrongful death, you can recover for emotional distress sustained by the victim’s family members referable to the loss of the decedent. In a survivor action you can recover for emotional distress that the victim experienced if you can prove the claim. If there is an instantaneous death, however, there is no survivor cause of action except for medical bills, lost wages before death, and funeral expenses.
Determining which damages may apply – and to what degree – when survivors initiate wrongful death legal actions require the astute skills of a dedicated Maryland wrongful death attorney.
Generally, there is no statutory cap on the amount of economic damages that one can be awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit. This is usually what causes wrongful death damage verdicts to be so large. However, there is a cap on non-economic damages in Maryland. This means that only so much can be awarded for the loss of companionship and support, and for the surviving victim’s family members and the dependents’ pain, suffering, and emotional anguish.
Wrongful Death and Survival Actions in MD
A companion survival action is brought by a representative of the deceased victim’s estate on behalf of the victim. It is designated to the victim’s estate for the pain suffered by the victim from the time of the injury or incident, until the moment of death. Damages awarded in such cases are primarily – but not exclusively — referred to as economic damages because they deal with the actual cost of medical treatment and burial/ funeral expenses. Damages that might be included in a survival action include physical pain experienced by victim before death, pre-impact fright, the agony of the knowing he or she was dying, loss of time and expenses between time of injury and death, and all medical, funeral, and burial service bills.
Both wrongful death action and survival actions are usually filed simultaneously because they rely on the same underlying incident. There are, however, some legal differences which make it imperative that you have an experienced Maryland wrongful death attorney represent you and your family.
Survival actions focus solely on the harm done to the actual victim. The personal representative of the victim’s estate serves as the posthumous agent of the victim. This personal representative is someone – often a family member approved by the courts to handle the decedent’s affairs – or any blood relative or individual, such as an executor, named in the victim’s will. Upon successful recovery either by verdict or settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit, the personal representative distributes the damages among family members pursuant to court order. If the victim did not leave a will, the court will distribute any damages award via Maryland’s laws of “intestate succession” which are statutes that dictate how property passes to family members when someone dies without a will. There may, however, be some exceptions that a qualified Maryland wrongful death attorney can explain in further detail.
Experience in Maryland Wrongful Death Litigation
Like every Maryland personal injury negligence case, survival claims – or wrongful death suits — brought by certain family members and dependents of the decedent must be filed in the court pursuant to strict statute of limitations. This is why it is important to retain an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
If you are reading this page because your family is mourning the death of a loved one due to an accident caused by someone’s negligence or willful intent, please accept our deepest sympathies. Our Maryland attorneys understand the stress and pain that you are suffering and he is here to provide you with compassionate and honest legal advice.
If you feel it is time to seek emotional and financial remedy through a wrongful death lawsuit, please be assured that our lawyers are deeply sensitive to your needs and will respectfully meet with you to discuss your case. Your initial consultation is free and our firm’s employees are available any time of day, seven days a week. Our wrongful death attorneys pledge to fight for full and fair compensation so that you can allow yourself time to grieve the loss of your family member and work to place this painful ordeal behind you.