Losing a family member is difficult in almost any situation, but one lost to vehicular homicide is a terrible fact to accept. While the driver responsible for vehicular homicide will likely be charged with a crime, the victim’s family members can also seek justice in the form of a civil lawsuit.
A victim’s surviving family members can file a lawsuit against the driver in Maryland civil court for wrongful death. If a driver negligently or recklessly caused the death of another person, they can be held liable for damages even if they are not charged with a crime. Damages from a wrongful death lawsuit can include the value of the deceased person’s life and the compensation they could have claimed if they survived their injuries.
If your loved one was the victim of vehicular homicide, our Aberdeen wrongful death lawyers can help you bring the responsible driver to justice. Reach out to Rice, Murtha & Psoras today at (410) 694-7291 for a free case evaluation.
Can a Victim’s Family Take Legal Action for a Vehicular Homicide in Maryland?
Losing a loved one to vehicular homicide is an incredibly painful shock for surviving family members. It is understandable for family members reeling from this kind of tragedy to want justice for their loss. Most people know that a driver suspected of vehicular homicide will usually face criminal charges. Still, a victim’s family can also recover damages in civil court, regardless of whether criminal charges are filed.
How Maryland Defines Vehicular Homicide
Md. Code, Crim. Art., § 2-209 recognizes several different types of vehicular homicide. Essentially, a person is guilty of vehicular homicide if they cause another person’s death while driving in a grossly negligent manner. This means that the negligent driver was aware of the risk of their conduct and consciously disregarded that risk when they caused the accident. For instance, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is usually considered grossly negligent in a vehicular homicide case.
However, a driver can also be liable in civil court for vehicular homicide if they were only negligent in causing another person’s death. With simple negligence, the driver might not have been aware of the risk of death their acts posed but should have been. Fortunately, Maryland law gives surviving family members the right to recover compensation in a civil lawsuit regardless of how the other driver caused the deadly accident.
Wrongful Death Claims and Survival Actions
Maryland allows a victim’s surviving family members to recover damages for losing a loved one in a wrongful death lawsuit. In general, family members closest to the deceased or those who depended on them will be allowed to file a claim for wrongful death. Compensation from a successful lawsuit can cover both economic and non-economic damages that a loved one’s death can cause.
Further, a survival action can also be filed independently of a wrongful death claim to recover damages that the deceased sustained between the time of their accident and the time of their passing. This can include damages like medical bills and lost wages they suffered before they died. Survival actions are filed by the personal representative of the deceased’s estate, not surviving family members. However, the proceeds of a survival action are paid to the deceased’s estate and will typically be paid out in accordance with the deceased’s will or Maryland law. Our Baltimore wrongful death lawyers can review your case to determine if you have a wrongful death claim for vehicular homicide.
Which Family Members Can File a Wrongful Death Claim for Vehicular Homicide in Maryland?
In Maryland, immediate family members typically have a right to file a lawsuit to recover compensation for the wrongful death of a loved one. According to Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. Art., § 3-904(a)(1), spouses, children, and parents of a deceased have an independent right to file a wrongful death lawsuit against a person that caused the death of their loved one through vehicular homicide. While Maryland law gives each family member an independent right to file a claim, a family member must notify others who qualify of their intention to file a claim.
However, Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. Art., § 3-904(b) permits any other person related to the deceased by blood or marriage to file a wrongful death claim if the deceased had no surviving spouse, child, or parent. To qualify under this statute, however, the person filing the claim must show that they were substantially dependent on the deceased while they were living.
Lastly, a personal representative of the deceased’s estate may also file a survival action. A personal representative is usually chosen by the deceased while they are alive and named executor in their will. However, the court will appoint a personal representative if one has not been named, which tends to be a close family member, like the deceased’s spouse. Our Bel Air wrongful death lawyers can help you determine if you have a claim for damages for the loss of your family member.
Damages Available in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit for Vehicular Homicide in Maryland
In Maryland, surviving family members can recover pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages. This essentially refers to the economic and non-economic damages family members suffered as a result of the wrongful death of a loved one.
Economic damages can be awarded to cover damages for funeral and burial expenses. It can also include the loss of financial support that family members would have received had their loved one survived and the loss of inheritance the deceased might have provided the family.
Surviving family members can also claim non-economic damages in a wrongful death lawsuit. These losses are based on the emotional impact your loss has had and typically include compensation for the pain and suffering the deceased could have claimed and the mental anguish suffered by surviving family members. MD. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. Art., § 3-904(d) recognizes several categories of non-economic damages that family members can claim:
- Loss of society and companionship
- Loss of comfort and protection
- Loss of marital care, parental care, and filial care
Our Dundalk wrongful death lawyers can help organize your claim and determine the damages available in your case.
Our Maryland Wrongful Death Lawyers Can Help
If you recently lost a loved one to vehicular homicide, our Owing Mills wrongful death lawyers can help you file a wrongful death lawsuit to recover the compensation you deserve. For a free case review, contact Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291.