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301-862-4400
22335 Exploration Drive Ste. 2030
Lexington Park, MD 20653
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Maryland Wrongful Death Claims – Speak to an Experienced Attorney Today

        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 death.

        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 other.    

        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 of limitations.

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 result.

Survival Action

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.

        Like personal 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?

        Wrongful death 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. 

        The difference 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.

 

 

The Law Offices of Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C. also offers these services:

Bankruptcy and ForeclosureBusiness LawCivil LitigationCriminal DefenseEmployment, Disability, and Consumer RightsFamily LawGovernment Contracts LawIntellectual Property, Personal InjuryReal Estate, Social Security Disability & Workers’ Compensation and Wills, Trusts, & Estates

 

 

Contact Us

The Law Offices of Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C.

22335 Exploration Drive

Suite 2030

Lexington Park, MD 20653

301-862-4400 Phone

301-862-3009 Fax

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Samuel C.P. Baldwin, Jr., Esq.

Janice Briscoe, Esq.

Richard J. Steinmetz Jr., Esq.

David J. Hebb, Esq.

Sandra Kaufman Jonasen, Esq.


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With an office conveniently located in Lexington Park, The Law Offices of Baldwin, Briscoe & Stienmetz, P.C. serves clients in the counties and cities of Lexington Park, Leonardtown, Hollywood, Mechanicsville, Loveville, Helen, Breton Bay, Chaptico, Charlotte Hall, Golden Beach, Avenue, La Plata, Waldorf, Newburg, Port Tobacco, Port Charles, Solomons Island, Prince Frederick, Chesapeake Shores, Hughesville, Benedict, Nanjemoy, Lusby, Port Republic, St. Mary's County, Charles County, Calvert County, Prince George's County, Southern Maryland.


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