A wrongful death can be a devasting loss that comes out of nowhere. While it might be difficult, victims of a recent loss will likely need to consider filing a wrongful death claim for benefits.
Many family members of the deceased might wonder how the proceeds of their loved one’s estate and money recovered in a lawsuit will be divided among the surviving family members. Fortunately, a knowledgeable Maryland wrongful death attorney can be helpful. How wrongful death proceeds are divided depends on your relationship with the deceased. Spouses and children will get first preference, but there are rules providing compensation for other family members.
If your loved one was suddenly taken in an accident, our Maryland wrongful death attorneys can help you understand what proceeds might be available and how they will be divided. For a free case evaluation, call Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291 today.
Who are Wrongful Death Proceeds Divided Among in Maryland?
Depending on who survived the deceased, there could be several beneficiaries who will share wrongful death proceeds. Wrongful death proceeds are essentially divided between a primary and secondary set of beneficiaries. How much you will recover will depend largely on your relationship with the deceased.
First Level of Beneficiaries
The first level of beneficiaries is the family members considered closest to the deceased. These individuals used to be referred to as primary beneficiaries, but that terminology is no longer used in the statute. Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. Art., § 3-904(a)(1) now provides a list of family members that will receive wrongful death proceeds first:
- The spouse
- The parents
- The children
Proceeds will be paid to these beneficiaries regardless of whether they were dependent on the deceased when they were alive.
Second Level of Beneficiaries
The next level of beneficiaries is less defined in Maryland law than the family members listed previously. According to Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. Art., § 3-904(b), if there are no beneficiaries from the first group claiming the proceeds, then certain family members related by blood or marriage might be able to make a claim. A family member would qualify as a beneficiary only if they were substantially dependent on the deceased. Our Baltimore wrongful death attorneys can help you determine if you are entitled to recover wrongful death proceeds after the passing of a loved one.
How are Wrongful Death Proceeds Divided Between Family Members in Maryland?
While many states explicitly lay out the percentage of wrongful death proceeds each family member takes in a claim, Maryland’s rule is a little more complex. Instead of a specified percentage, a beneficiary will receive proceeds based on their relationship with the deceased. Essentially, the more a beneficiary is dependent on the deceased, the more damages they are likely to receive. This includes considering the potential beneficiary’s financial and emotional ties with the deceased. For instance, the wife of a deceased husband would likely receive more of the wrongful death proceeds than a parent that is not dependent on their grown child. Our Bethesda wrongful death attorneys can review your case to see how the potential beneficiaries could impact how the proceeds are divided.
Are There Other Claims I Can File in a Maryland Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Family members could also recover wrongful death proceeds for another type of claim, a survival action. The major difference between a survival action and a wrongful death claim is that the personal representative of the deceased’s estate files a survival action, while family members are responsible for filing their wrongful death claim.
A survival action is intended to compensate the deceased’s estate for the damages they could have been awarded in a personal injury lawsuit had they survived the accident. If damages are awarded in a survival action, the proceeds will go to the deceased’s estate and typically cover damages for end-of-life medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
If the deceased had a will stating how their estate was to be distributed, the survival actions proceeds would be allocated accordingly. If the victim did not leave a will, Maryland’s intestacy laws typically divide the whole estate among the deceased’s spouse and direct descendants, including children and grandchildren. Parents and other family members would only receive proceeds from the estate if no spouse or children survived the victim. Our Glen Burnie wrongful death attorneys can explain the difference between the two types of claims and what might be available in your case.
What Types of Damages Will Be Part of My Wrongful Death Proceeds in Maryland?
Many people who have suffered a wrongful death in their family might not know what damages they are entitled to recover in a Maryland lawsuit. The most common forms of damages are economic, known in the law as pecuniary damages. Pecuniary damages include lost financial support, lost wages and future earnings the deceased would have made, and damages for the contributions the deceased would likely have provided if they had not passed.
The court has a great deal of latitude in determining how much a victim’s pecuniary damages are worth. In a wrongful death case, juries may consider the deceased’s age when they passed, their future earning capacity, and the amount of time the surviving family members would have likely relied on the deceased financially.
Maryland law also allows victims to recover non-pecuniary damages for the wrongful death of a loved one. Non-pecuniary damages are non-economic damages intended to compensate a victim for the emotional harm they have experienced as a result of the deceased’s passing. Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. Art., § 3-904(d) lists several examples of non-pecuniary damages that a jury can award if the circumstances deem necessary:
- Mental anguish
- Emotional pain and suffering
- Loss of society
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of comfort and protection
- Loss of marital care, parental care, and filial care
- Loss of attention, advice, counsel, training, guidance, or education
The amount of pecuniary damages that could be awarded will depend greatly on the facts of each case. Our Owings Mills wrongful death attorneys can help determine a fair calculation of damages in your case.
Our Maryland Wrongful Death Attorneys Can Help
If you lost a loved one in a wrongful death accident and want to know more about the proceeds you could be entitled to, our Rockville wrongful death attorneys can provide you with a free case review today. Contact Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291.