If you have lost a loved one because of the negligent or intentional conduct of another person or company, you might be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Through a wrongful death claim, a surviving family member could seek compensation for the pain and financial losses they suffered because of the death.
In Maryland, the usual beneficiaries in a wrongful death lawsuit are the parents, children, and spouses of the deceased. If they cannot file, other beneficiaries, including siblings, must have been financially dependent on the deceased to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
However, siblings can initiate a survival action, a different type of lawsuit that compensates the deceased’s estate.
At Rice, Murtha & Psoras, we are often asked who is eligible to file a wrongful death claim. Below, our Maryland wrongful death attorney looks at situations where someone could file a lawsuit after their sibling’s death.
If you have any further questions after reading this page, we urge you to reach out to us at our offices at (410) 694-7291 to schedule a free case review.
Overview of Wrongful Death Lawsuits for Siblings in Maryland
When someone is killed because of another party’s negligent or intentional conduct, members of the victim’s family are entitled to seek compensation through a wrongful death claim.
For instance, when a spouse loses their partner in a car accident caused by someone driving under the influence of alcohol, they have the right to sue the drunk driver for their damages.
Our Baltimore wrongful death attorney is available to review the various types of accidents and events that could give rise to a potential lawsuit.
Wrongful death claims come in two distinct categories in Maryland – survival actions and wrongful death actions. While both arise from the same event, they differ in who brings the lawsuit, and the type of damages sought.
Wrongful Death Actions
In a wrongful death action, the claimant is suing for the injuries, both financial and emotional, that they suffered because of the death of their loved one.
For example, the family member of a victim could be awarded compensation for their loss of companionship and support in addition to direct financial consequences such as the deceased’s expected income, lost benefits such as health insurance, and funeral costs.
Our Columbia, MD wrongful death attorney will work closely with you to calculate your damages.
On the other hand, a survival action is brought by the deceased’s estate and is seeking compensation for damages suffered by the deceased themselves.
The significant difference in a survival action is that any monetary award is paid directly to the deceased’s estate.
In most cases, these damages will include any medical bills that the deceased incurred before they died. In addition to the economic losses, the estate is entitled to recover for any emotional and physical pain the deceased suffered due to their fatal injuries.
It can be helpful to think of a survival action as a personal injury lawsuit on behalf of the victim. For example, if your loved one was severely injured in a car accident, they would have incurred medical expenses and other debts.
Additionally, they would be entitled to compensation for their physical pain and emotional suffering. If they die because of their injuries, a survival action allows the estate to recover for damages incurred between the time of the accident and the moment of death, as well as the deprivation of the deceased’s future.
Can I File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit for My Sibling in Maryland?
Typically, a wrongful death claim in Maryland will be brought by a surviving family member of the victim. Under Maryland law, the potential claimants are split into “primary beneficiaries” and “secondary beneficiaries.”
Primary beneficiaries include the surviving spouse of the victim, their children, and their parents. Our Aberdeen wrongful death attorneys can file a wrongful death action or a survival action on behalf of a primary beneficiary.
Whoever brings the wrongful death lawsuit is obligated to use their best efforts to notify other possible beneficiaries of the impending lawsuit and give them an opportunity to add their name as a beneficiary.
Siblings, along with cousins, nephews, nieces, and other relatives of the victim, are considered secondary beneficiaries. In addition to further removed relatives, individuals who were substantially financially dependent on the deceased are included in this category.
Maryland courts state that total dependency exists if an individual subsists solely on income provided by the deceased. However, the courts grant reasonable leeway when applying this standard.
For example, a dependent person will not be deprived of their rights because they occasionally receive financial help from another source.
Maryland Wrongful Death Lawsuits Filed by Siblings
In Maryland, siblings are considered secondary beneficiaries. This means that they are allowed to file a survival action for their brother or sister’s estate. However, there are situations where they are entitled to file a wrongful death action.
In a case where there are no surviving primary beneficiaries, a sibling is permitted to file a wrongful death claim. Additionally, if there are no surviving primary beneficiaries who wish to file a claim, a sibling could then move forward with a lawsuit.
It is important to note that there are other exceptions that could bar someone from being able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. For example, a sibling could not benefit from a claim if they contributed to their brother or sister’s death.
Additionally, some criminal convictions could prohibit a person from filing a claim. If you believe you or another family member is ineligible to bring a lawsuit, contact our Ellicott City wrongful death attorney to review the situation.
Can I File a Survival Action Lawsuit for My Sibling in Maryland?
Under Maryland law, secondary beneficiaries, including siblings, are entitled to bring a survival action on behalf of their loved one’s estate. Survival actions, as mentioned above, serve to benefit the deceased’s estate rather than any of the beneficiaries directly. However, a survival action may indirectly benefit a sibling in some instances.
Damages for successful survival actions are paid directly to the deceased’s estate, where they are distributed just like any other property or assets that the deceased has.
If the deceased has a valid will, the survival action damages will be distributed according to the terms set out in the will. Therefore, if a sibling is named as a beneficiary in the will, they could receive some or all of the damages from a lawsuit.
If the deceased does not have a valid will at the time of their death, they are said to have died “intestate.” This means that all of the deceased’s property and possessions, including compensation for a lawsuit stemming from their death, will be subjected to tax and then distributed according to the Maryland Intestacy Laws.
These laws provide that the surviving spouse receive at least half of the remaining estate, with subsequent distributions going to the deceased children or their parents if the deceased has no surviving children.
Survival actions are typically filed and carried out by the executor of the estate. The executor may be a potential beneficiary, such as a sibling. However, a sibling who wishes to file a survival action on behalf of the deceased does not need to be an executor in order to file.
Can a Wrongful Death Lawsuit and a Survival Action Be Filed at the Same Time in Maryland?
Maryland law does, in fact, allow for survival actions and wrongful death lawsuits to co-exist on the same issue and against the same defendant.
In fact, filing both actions is common practice when a wrongful death occurs. The cases are not tried together and will each require their own procedure.
However, because each type of case serves a different purpose (compensating beneficiaries vs. compensating the deceased’s estate), one will not interfere with the other.
How Much Are You Allowed to Recover in a Maryland Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The specifics of how much you and your family stand to recover from a wrongful death lawsuit depend on several factors. If you are curious about how much your case may be worth, speak to one of our Maryland wrongful death lawyers for a reasoned estimate.
Non-Economic Damages Cap
The law in Maryland places specific caps on non-economic damages for wrongful death lawsuits. Non-economic damages are those that are calculated based on personal factors of the loss, such as pain, suffering, and loss of companionship.
For instance, a wrongful death claim stemming from a car accident in Maryland in 2021, where there is only one beneficiary, will have non-economic damages capped at $845,000.
The cap level varies depending on a few factors, including the number of beneficiaries, the time at which the death occurred, and whether the death occurred as a result of medical malpractice.
One form of damages that you should be aware of when filing your case is punitive damages. Punitive damages are not available in every wrongful death case.
However, when the defendant’s conduct that caused the death was so intentional or reckless that it deserves additional punishment, the court may elect to impose these additional damages.
Punitive damages are most often available in instances of intentional killings, drunk driving accidents, certain product liability cases, or where fraud was involved.
Speak to your Bethesda wrongful death attorney about whether punitive damages may be available for your wrongful death lawsuit.
How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Maryland, like every other state, has laws that limit the amount of time that beneficiaries have to begin their lawsuit. According to the state law, known as the “statute of limitations,” wrongful death beneficiaries generally have three years to file their wrongful death lawsuit.
The clock begins to run on the date of the death. If you miss the three-year window, the court will likely dismiss your case, and you will lose your chance to recover for your loss.
If you are suing a government entity, you may face additional notice requirements that speed up your timeline.
Some limited exceptions do exist to the statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits, such as in cases where the death occurred due to an “occupational disease” or where the defendant engaged in fraud to cover up the cause of death.
However, we strongly recommend that you avoid relying on these exceptions to delay your filing. It is always best to work quickly to assess your case and get your filings in order well in advance of any critical deadlines.
Our Maryland Wrongful Death Attorney Can Answer Your Questions
Losing a brother or sister to an unexpected death is devastating. Siblings often have close relationships, and when one is permanently severed because of another party’s negligence, the emotional distress could be overwhelming.
While the spouse, children, and parents of a deceased individual have a right to file a wrongful death action, a sibling is entitled to bring a survival action on behalf of their loved one’s estate.
Furthermore, there are situations where a sibling could file a wrongful death lawsuit. Our Maryland wrongful death and Maryland personal injury lawyer is available to answer any questions you might have.
Our experienced attorneys can guide you through the process and timeline of your wrongful death claim. If you lost a sibling due to another’s negligence, call Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291 to schedule a free case review.