Maryland Wrongful Death Claims – Speak to an Experienced Attorney
When someone is
fatally injured in an automobile accident, or other circumstances due to someone
else’s negligence, their family deserves to be compensated. When an individual dies because of another’s
negligence, there are actually two separate claims or lawsuits that may be
brought. First, the estate of the deceased
individual may bring a claim for negligence.
Second, the surviving family of the deceased may bring a claim for wrongful
A wrongful death lawsuit
is for the benefit of the wife, husband, parent or child of the deceased
individual. If no one qualifies to bring
a wrongful death due to familial relationship, any individual who was related
to the deceased person by blood or marriage and who was substantially dependent
upon the deceased person may bring a wrongful death claim. Unlike some states, an action for wrongful
death may not be brought by the decedent’s estate.
A wrongful death
claim may not be brought by an individual who is complicit in the death of the
deceased. A wrongful death claim may not
be brought by a parent of a child if the parent has been convicted of a sexual
offense against the child’s other parent.
The wrongful death statute also prohibits a parent or child from bringing
a wrongful death action where the plaintiff has caused the death of the
When there are multiple
beneficiaries for a wrongful death claim, only one action may be brought, but
the damages which are awarded will be divided among the beneficiaries. Because a wrongful death claim is designed to
benefit the family of the decedent, not the estate, it is a separate cause of
action from any claim for injury by the decedent. It may be brought together with a claim by
the decedent’s estate, or separately.
Damages in a wrongful
death claim can include both economic and noneconomic losses. Noneconomic losses include such things as
mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering, loss of society, companionship,
comfort, protection, martial care, parental care, filial care, attention,
advice, counsel, training, guidance, or education because of the loss of a
spouse, a minor child, a parent of a minor child, or an unmarried child who Is
not a minor. Wrongful death claims exist
to compensate the surviving family members for the loss of someone they
loved. Wrongful death actions are
different than survival actions in that survival actions are brought by the
estate of the deceased to recover for the pain and suffering that the deceased
person endured prior to their death.
A claim for wrongful
death must be filed within three years of the death of the injured person. When an individual is killed because of an occupational
disease, the claim must be filed within ten years of the date of death, or
three years after the cause of death was discovered; whichever is shorter. In some cases, a wrongful death claim may be
brought even when other actions, such as negligence, are barred by the statute
One Wrong – Two Claims
When an individual loses
their life because of another’s negligence, be it from an automobile accident, medical
malpractice, or other wrongful conduct, there are two legal claims that may
The deceased person’s estate,
through the personal representative will file a claim called a survival action
for recovery for the injuries that were suffered by the victim. This allows the
estate to be compensated for the pain, suffering, and any economic expenses incurred,
such as the cost of medical treatment, prior to the moment of death. The damages in a survival action are based on
the suffering of the victim who died.
These types of damages include compensation for pain and suffering
before the death, the cost of medical care and the emotional trauma of knowing
that you are about to die. A survival
action may also recover for a person’s final expenses, such as their funeral
and burial expenses.
If the deceased person does not
have an estate, perhaps they died without a will and no heirs, an estate can be
opened specifically for litigation purposes.
This will allow the victim’s family to bring a survival action. The current limit on non-economic damages for
a claim in a survival action is $865,000 (2017). This limit increases, by law, each year on
October 1, by $15,000.
Wrongful Death Action
A wrongful death claim is
brought by the survivors to relatives of the victim seeking compensation due to
the victim’s accident death. The wrongful death statute is designed not to
compensate the injured person, but to compensate the members of their family
who have lost a loved one. Wrongful
death actions provide some financial compensation to family members grieving a
lost loved one. Wrongful death actions
are not derivative of the personal injury claim. This means that a separate case, apart from
any claim by the victim’s estate, can be filed by the family members for the
loss of their loved one.
To prevail on a claim for wrongful
death, the plaintiff must prove (1) the victim’s death; (2) that the victim’s
death was proximately caused by the defendant’s negligence; (3) that the victim’s
death resulted in an injury to the plaintiff (pain, suffering and/or economic
loss); and (4) that the plaintiff is within the category of individuals who are
entitled to bring a claim by statute.
injury claims, wrongful death claims are subject to statutory limits on the
amount that can be recovered. The
current limit on damages in a wrongful death claim is $845,000 (2017). This limit also increases, by law, each year
on October 1, by $15,000. In a wrongful
death claim where there are two or more beneficiaries, the damages limit is
increased to 150% of the standard limit, meaning the current limit is $1,267,500,
regardless of the number of beneficiaries.
Unlike noneconomic damages,
Maryland has no cap on economic damages.
Economic damages consist of medical expenses, whether past or future,
and lost earnings, whether past or future.
Economic damages based on lost earnings will be counted from the time of
the accident. A plaintiff must prove
future lost earnings with reasonable certainty.
How Long do you Have to Bring a Claim?
claims are subject to a statute of limitations.
Like all claims, this is a limit on how long you can wait before filing
a lawsuit to recover. In most personal
injury claims, the plaintiff may bring a lawsuit at any time within three years
of the date of injury.
A wrongful death
claim will be subject to the same statute of limitations that applies to the
underlying cause of the death. If the
death resulted from someone’s negligence, then the wrongful death claim must be
brought within three years from the negligent act. If it results from medical malpractice, it
must be brought within five years from the act constituting the
malpractice. Special rules apply to
minors which may be different than the general limits stated here.
between a general statute of limitations and one for wrongful death is where
you measure from. Thus, if an individual
is injured in a car accident, and later dies as a result of those injuries, the
statute of limitations for negligence, i.e., the survival action, will be three
years from the date of the accident. The
statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim, however, will be three years
from the date of death.
Depending on the circumstances,
there may be other, shorter, limitations on bringing a claim. For instance, a claim brought against the
State of Maryland, or one of its local entities, is subject to the Local Government
Tort Claims Act. This requires formal
notice to the entity within 180 days of the accident. While some provisions are available when this
deadline is missed, its not a chance that you want to take. If a loved one has died due to another’s
negligence, its important to see a lawyer as soon as possible.
Call Today for a Free, No-Obligation Consultation
If a loved one has
been killed as a result of someone else’s negligence, call us to schedule a
free no-obligation consultation. This is
obviously a difficult time for your family.
You can come in and chat with one of our experienced attorneys with no
pressure to make a decision today. We never
charge for a consultation in personal injury cases and we only get paid if we
recovery money for you.
The information contained on this page is provided as general
information and does not constitute legal advice. The experienced attorneys at Baldwin, Briscoe
& Steinmetz, P.C. can assist you if you or a love one have been seriously
injured or killed. Call today to
schedule a free, no-obligation, in-office-consultation for any injury related
claim. The law offices of Baldwin,
Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C. handle accident claims in Maryland and the
District of Columbia.
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