If you lost your spouse in a car accident, you might not understand your legal rights. If another driver’s negligence caused the accident, you have the right to file a wrongful death claim. In fact, if you lost a family member because of the negligence or intentional conduct of another party, you probably have a reasonable basis to pursue a wrongful death action. At Rice, Murtha & Psoras, we understand the feeling of grief and uncertainty following an unexpected death. Below, our Maryland wrongful death attorney reviews filing a wrongful death claim.
Reasons to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Maryland
The first step in filing a wrongful death lawsuit is calling our Baltimore wrongful death lawyer. Our office has filed lawsuits on behalf of surviving family members for a wide variety of reasons. Unfortunately, people in Maryland lose their lives because of the negligent and intentional acts of other parties. Everything from car accidents to cases of medical malpractice result in fatal injuries. In addition to these two common examples, people are also killed in work-related accidents, slip and falls, or as the result of defective products. In some cases, the defendant is another person but it could also be a company or organization.
Not all deaths are the result of carelessness or negligence. In some cases, a person intentionally harms or kills another person. While these situations often result in criminal prosecutions, the victim’s family is not prohibited from seeking financial compensation, justice, and closure through a civil lawsuit.
Types of Wrongful Death Claims in Maryland
A common first step before filing a lawsuit is for our office to send a demand letter to an insurance company. While legal representation is not required to negotiate with an insurance provider, without our experienced Maryland wrongful death attorney valuing the legal strength of your claim and the amount of your potential damages, you have no way of knowing if a settlement offer is fair. Once you accept a settlement, you are not permitted to seek further compensation through a lawsuit. However, if you cannot resolve a wrongful death claim, filing a wrongful death lawsuit is probably necessary.
Wrongful death claims are divided into two distinct types in Maryland. Our Aberdeen wrongful death lawyers will review your situation to understand which kind of claim would be appropriate. it is not uncommon for our office to file both types concurrently.
A surviving eligible family member could bring a wrongful death action. Through this action, a person will seek compensation for the losses they experienced because of the victim’s death. For example, a spouse could seek financial recovery for their partner’s lost income and more ambiguous damages such as loss of companionship or comfort.
A survival action is brought on behalf of the deceased’s estate. In this type of lawsuit, any compensation awarded is paid directly to the estate. Think of it almost as a personal injury lawsuit being filed for the victim. Damages available in a survival action include funeral and burial expenses, medical costs the victim incurred because of their injuries, and the pain and suffering the victim endured from the incident until their death.
Maryland’s Time Limits on Wrongful Death Claims
The first important thing to understand is that you do not have an unlimited amount of time to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Maryland. In nearly every case, a claim must be filed within three years of the date of death. Maryland’s statute of limitations sets this time limit and the court will most likely dismiss any lawsuit filed beyond three years.
Many wrongful death claims arise after personal injury lawsuits. A person who suffers severe injuries in a car accident or serious complications after a medical procedure is entitled to file a personal injury claim. If they succumb to their injuries and eventually pass away, surviving family members could have a valid wrongful case. A personal injury lawsuit does not preclude a wrongful death claim. it is also critical to understand that the statute of limitations starts at the time of death and not the date of the accident or incident. Should an injured person fail to file a timely personal injury lawsuit, a surviving family member could still file a wrongful death claim.
However, because of the short window of time and the complexity of most wrongful death claims, you should speak with our Frederick wrongful death attorney as soon as possible to discuss the details of your case. By waiting, you not only risk missing important deadlines but vital evidence could also be lost. Not only this, but wrongful death cases can potentially months or years to settle, it’s important to get started soon to ensure you can get the compensation you need.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Maryland?
Wrongful death lawsuits are separated into two distinct categories: wrongful death actions and survival actions. A wrongful death action is filed by a claimant seeking financial compensation for the monetary loss and emotional suffering they experienced because of the death. On the other hand, a survival action is filed on behalf of the deceased’s estate and seeks to recover the damages the deceased endured because of the incident. Who is eligible to bring a claim to court depends on the type of action filed.
Primary beneficiaries are immediate family members, including a surviving spouse, parent, or child. If you are a primary beneficiary, then you are entitled to bring either type of action.
Secondary beneficiaries include more distant relatives, such as siblings, cousins, nieces, or nephews. In most situations, a secondary beneficiary is only permitted to file a survival action. However, if there are no living or willing primary beneficiaries, then a secondary beneficiary could be allowed to file a wrongful death action.
How to File a Maryland Wrongful Death Claim for Negligence
As stated above, wrongful death claims arise from many different situations. the burden of proof is the same as if the deceased lived and was just filing a personal injury lawsuit. Therefore, to prevail in a wrongful death or survival action, the claimant will have to demonstrate the four required negligence elements.
First, the defendant party must have owed the deceased a legal duty of care. For example, a motorist owes other drivers a duty to operate their vehicle safely. However, this is different from the duty of care a surgeon owes their patient.
The defendant must have breached their duty of care. Depending on the circumstances, our Columbia, MD wrongful death attorney will have to prove that the defendant’s conduct deviated from what a reasonable and comparably trained individual would do under similar circumstances. For instance, in a car crash, our office will have to demonstrate that the defendant was texting, speeding, or otherwise driving recklessly. In a wrongful death claim arising from medical malpractice, expert testimony from another doctor will be necessary to prove a breach of duty.
Next, the defendant’s breach must have caused the death. In some cases, there might be intervening circumstances that result in the death of your loved one. For example, someone could suffer severe injuries in a car accident, but their death results from a surgical error. In this case, our Bethesda wrongful death attorney might advise you that the negligent party is the surgeon even though the car accident was the initial cause of the injuries.
Finally, the claimant must show actual damages. These are discussed in more detail below.
Proving Liability in a Maryland Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Wrongful death lawsuits work much the same way as personal injury claims. To prevail in most cases, our Gaithersburg wrongful death attorney will have to prove that another party was negligent and that their negligent conduct caused the death.
To prove negligence in Maryland, a plaintiff must demonstrate four elements – duty of care, breach of duty, causation, and that the plaintiff suffered actual damages. What evidence is necessary to prove these four elements will depend on the facts of your case. Proving negligence in an automobile accident might require our office to review police reports, gather photographs and videos from the scene, and question witnesses. If the death was due to medical malpractice, we would need to consult with other doctors to provide qualified expert opinions.
In addition to proving that the defendant’s actions caused the death of your loved one, our office will need to calculate and substantiate your damages. This could include everything from collecting receipts to working with vocational experts to determine what your loved one would have earned throughout their life.
Available Damages in a Maryland Wrongful Death Lawsuit.
Losses in a lawsuit are expressed in terms of monetary damages. What damages are available will also depend on the type of wrongful death claim that is filed.
In a survival action, the estate is seeking damages for the untimely death. Some typical financial losses include funeral and burial expenses. the estate is also entitled to recover any medical costs associated with the deceased’s injuries. Additionally, the estate could be compensated for any pain and suffering the deceased experienced due to their injuries and before their death.
Damages sought in a wrongful death action are those losses suffered by the deceased’s surviving family member. For example, a spouse’s damages could include loss of companionship and consortium. A surviving child might seek recovery for loss of advice and guidance. Additionally, a family member is permitted to seek financial compensation for the lost wages or other value the deceased provided.
Call Our Maryland Wrongful Death Attorney to Discuss Your Legal Options
When a loved one is unexpectedly killed because of another’s party’s negligent or willful act, the surviving family members are often in shock, angry, and confused. Our Maryland personal injury lawyer provides professional and compassionate representation to those who lost someone they loved. At Rice, Murtha & Psoras, our experienced wrongful death attorneys and staff will thoroughly guide you through the legal process so you understand every step of a wrongful death lawsuit. If you lost a loved one or family member, call (410) 694-7291 to schedule a consultation and review your legal rights.