Losing a loved one is never easy. When their death was caused by the negligence or carelessness of another person, company, or institution, the grief could easily be overcome by anger. Certain surviving family members and loved ones are entitled to seek compensation and hold the negligent party accountable through a wrongful death lawsuit.
In some cases, a wrongful death claim could be settled quickly if the defendant and their insurance company act responsibly. Other cases may take longer for a variety of reasons. it is impossible to give an average length of time to settle a claim because every situation is unique.
Below, our experienced Maryland wrongful death attorneys at Rice, Murtha & Psoras discuss some of the factors that will influence the time it takes to settle a claim. If you still have questions or are considering what to do with your wrongful death claim, we urge you to call us at (410) 694-7291 as soon as possible. We offer free case consultations to potential clients who are considering filing a suit or who have already received a settlement offer for their claim.
Wrongful Death Claims in Maryland
A wrongful death lawsuit is similar to any other personal injury lawsuit, except the action is being brought by an eligible individual who was negatively impacted by the death instead of the injured person. Despite that significant difference, to prevail in a wrongful death case, the plaintiff must prove the same elements required in any other lawsuit arising out of negligence.
Our Maryland and Baltimore wrongful death attorneys will have to conduct a thorough investigation into the incident that caused the death to determine who was a fault. Just as in any other personal injury claim, our office will have to prove that there was a duty of care, the defendant breached that duty, the breach caused the death, and the claimant suffered actual damages.
When a wrongful death claim succeeds in court, damages are calculated based on the financial and emotional consequences suffered by the beneficiaries, since they are the ones that will receive them. Specifically, the criteria that go into a calculation of wrongful death damages might include funeral expenses incurred by the beneficiaries, loss of companionship, and replacement of services provided such as childcare. Settlement offers will be compiled with these potential damage values in mind.
Factors that Make a Maryland Wrongful Death Claim Take Longer to Settle
Wrongful death claims arise from various incidents, including medical malpractice, automotive accidents, workplace accidents, and just about any other tragic event that could result in a fatal injury. Depending on the type of case, the time it takes to investigate what happened could take longer.
For example, if your loved one was killed in a multi-car accident, it could take weeks or months to determine how the accident happened. Our Gaithersburg wrongful death attorneys will have to gather evidence, including police reports and witness statements. When the exact chain of events is unclear, an expert might be required to reconstruct the accident to determine liability.
Additionally, calculating the amount of damages survivors are entitled to receive could take some time. Some of the anticipated damages, such as medical bills or funeral and burial expenses, are easy to determine. However, other financial and emotional damages are often disputed. For instance, a surviving spouse could be entitled to the income the deceased would have earned throughout their lifetime. This is not a simple calculation. it involves more than just extending your spouse’s wages for years. An economist or vocational expert could be required to calculate the present-day value of their income and a reasonable estimation of how their career would have progressed. This calculation is often disputed – especially if the deceased is younger.
Expected Steps in a Maryland Wrongful Death Case
A wrongful death claim will follow the same steps as most personal injury claims. Our Glen Burnie wrongful death lawyers will collect all of the required information and evidence to determine a reasonable compensation amount. However, it is unlikely that an insurance company will agree with the figure. At this point, our office will work to negotiate a fair settlement. Unfortunately, in many situations, it is impossible for the two sides to agree to a settlement amount.
Disputes especially occur in cases where the defendant denies that they were at fault for your loved one’s death. If this happens, then our office will have to conduct a lengthy investigation to gather evidence that supports your claim. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the death, this could require questioning dozens of witnesses, collecting medical reports, and gathering expert testimony. it could also be necessary to thoroughly investigate the defendant, including phone records, driving records, toxicology reports, and other evidence relevant to the incident. Establishing liability is often challenging and time-consuming.
During this process, an insurance company may agree to a reasonable settlement. This is more likely if the evidence is overwhelmingly in your favor. However, not all evidence is created equally, and much is open to interpretation. Taking your case to trial is often necessary to obtain a fair settlement offer and the trial procedure could easily take years before you receive a jury verdict.
Can You File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit if You Are Considering Accepting a Settlement Offer?
Your decision to file your official lawsuit in court will not detract from your ability to negotiate and accept a settlement. In fact, taking this decisive action more often than not will increase the size of your settlement. Further, if you are ultimately unable to agree upon a settlement, you will want to have your trial date scheduled on the books so that you can get started on obtaining your recovery through other means.
You have limited time to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Maryland. Most cases must be filed within three years of the date of the death. For this reason and those mentioned above, it is always in your best interest to get started on the official paperwork sooner rather than later, with the help of your Mount Airy wrongful death attorney.
What to Do When You Receive a Settlement Offer for a Wrongful Death Case
In many cases, the responsible party (or, more likely, their insurance provider) will look to reach out to beneficiaries ahead of a case going to trial to see if a settlement can be worked out. You may hear from an insurance claims adjuster sooner than you expect, and they may offer you a settlement agreement upfront.
Everyone reacts to settlement offers differently. Some people’s first instinct may be to take the money on the table, whatever it may be. Others may feel that settling doesn’t achieve a favorable result and that the only way to get justice is through the court system. At Rice, Murtha & Psoras, we urge you to be patient and consider all of your options with a diligent Towson wrongful death attorney by your side.
Settlement agreements can be beneficial to the family of the deceased in several ways. By agreeing to a settlement out of court, beneficiaries get access to their compensation sooner and avoid the stressors and time commitment of a trial. Additionally, a settlement guarantees at least some compensation.
However, defendants and insurance companies in wrongful death claims do not offer settlements out of the goodness of their hearts. Settlement offers, particularly the initial offer, rarely reflect the full value of your case were you to continue to the trial stage. the other party is looking to save money by paying you less in exchange for you giving up your right to sue. You are not obligated to accept a settlement offer, no matter what the other side says.
Remember, you can reject, negotiate, make counteroffers, or accept your settlement agreement at any time up until the court renders a verdict in your case. Many cases are resolved in the days immediately before trial or even the day that the trial stage begins. Our Maryland wrongful death attorneys will help you at every stage of your claim, from filing to settlement negotiation all the way to trial and decision if that is what is required to get the justice you and your family deserve.
The Benefits of Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Maryland
The unexpected death of a family member could place your family in a financially difficult situation. When a family loses support and income, making ends meet could quickly become a struggle. Therefore, it is not uncommon for a survivor to want or accept a fast settlement offer. In many cases, a quick settlement is not possible. However, in situations where an insurance company offers a payment, it might not be in your best interests to immediately accept it.
Insurance companies do not have your best interests in mind – they are concerned about their bottom line. Because they know people are grieving and are dealing with a difficult financial situation, they offer an amount that is much lower than you deserve. Without our experienced Rockville, MD wrongful death attorneys calculating your claim’s value, you have no way of knowing if a settlement offer is fair. A survivor might realize, months or years after accepting a settlement, that the amount does not come close to fully compensating them for their loss. Unfortunately, once you accept a settlement, you are not permitted to seek additional compensation.
How Does Your Settlement Get Processed?
Once the settlement is agreed upon and signed, the defendant or their insurance company will send the settlement amount to your lawyer. Your lawyer will take care of handling any outstanding debts on the settlement money. If you agreed on a contingency fee basis for your legal representation, your lawyer will then withdraw the appropriate amount that you owe under your contingency arrangement and then pass the rest on to you.
Depending on the nature of the damages, what they were meant to cover, and other extraneous factors, this process may take weeks or even up to a month. If you are concerned, you should speak to your Maryland wrongful death attorney ahead of time so that you can get an approximate idea of how long the process will take in your case.
Who Can Receive Benefits from Wrongful Death Lawsuits and Settlements in Maryland?
Maryland law splits up potential beneficiaries from a wrongful death lawsuit into two tiers: primary and secondary beneficiaries. Primary beneficiaries are any surviving spouse, parents, or children of the deceased. These beneficiaries may be named in a wrongful death lawsuit as beneficiaries with no strings attached. You can name as many of these beneficiaries as exist in your lawsuit.
If there are no primary beneficiaries willing or able to recover for wrongful death, the opportunity then extends to secondary beneficiaries. A secondary beneficiary may be a grandparent, grandchild, or sibling of the deceased, to name a few. the secondary beneficiary must also have been substantially financially dependent on the deceased.
These rules do not change if the lawsuit is settled. A settlement agreement is essentially a deal between the plaintiff or plaintiffs (beneficiaries) and defendant (alleged responsible party) where the defendant pays the plaintiffs compensation in exchange for their agreement to waive their right to sue. If you don’t have a right to sue, then you cannot settle your claim. Talk to one of our Aberdeen wrongful death attorneys today about whether you have the opportunity to file or settle a claim after suffering the death of a loved one.
Our Maryland Wrongful Death Attorneys Offer Free Case Reviews
When your loved one is killed because of another’s negligent conduct, you are entitled to seek compensation through the civil courts. Our Edgewood wrongful death attorneys will investigate your claim to build a liability case and determine a just compensation amount. Unfortunately, our office is unable to predict how long it will take to settle. However, you should not hesitate in contacting Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291 to review your legal options.