Maryland Attorney for Wrongful Death in a Car Accident
One of the most dangerous things people do in Maryland is either get behind the wheel of their car or ride along as a passenger. While the automotive industry has made great strides in implementing safety technology, motor vehicle accidents still result in devesting and sometimes fatal injuries. When you lose a loved one or family member because another driver acted recklessly or negligently, you have legal rights and options.
Fatal car accidents can devastate a family, leaving a spouse and children in a state of emotional grief and financial crisis. In the days immediately following a catastrophic accident, a grieving individual might not be thinking about a lawsuit. Our sympathetic attorneys understand how difficult this time is. Our goal is to provide the professional representation you need so you could move forward with your life.
The Maryland attorneys for wrongful death in a car accident at Rice, Murtha & Psoras provide professional and compassionate representation for families that have unexpectedly lost someone due to another party’s negligence. There are no words to describe the unexpected loss of a loved one. While no amount of money will heal the wounds, a settlement or jury award could help a family move forward and avoid financial ruin. If you lost a loved one in a car accident, call our office at (410) 694-7291 for a free consultation.
Wrongful Death Claim Versus Personal Injury Claim and Maryland Car Accidents
Car accidents occur for various reasons. Unfortunately, many car crashes are the direct result of another person’s negligence, including texting while driving, operating their car while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or driving recklessly. A collision between two or more motor vehicles could result in minor cuts to severe injuries. Unfortunately, sometimes the injuries suffered in a car accident are fatal.
When someone is injured in a car accident because of another driver’s negligent conduct, they are entitled to seek monetary compensation through a civil lawsuit. Similarly, when a person is killed in a car accident that was not their fault, their family and estate are permitted to file a claim against the at-fault driver.
Eligible family members, usually a spouse, child, or parent, could file a wrongful death claim. Unlike a personal injury lawsuit, the claimant in a wrongful death action is seeking compensation for how the death impacted their life. Any award granted by a jury or settlement offered by an insurance company would be paid directly to the family member. Our Maryland attorney for wrongful death in a car accident will work with you to establish that another party was at fault and calculate your potential damages.
In addition to a claim filed by a family member, the estate of the deceased is also entitled to file a lawsuit against the negligent party. In Maryland, this type of wrongful death lawsuit is known as a survival action. the significant difference between a survival action filed by the estate and a wrongful death claim filed by a family member is that the estate is seeking to recover for the physical and emotional pain the car accident victim suffered along with any expenses the estate incurred because of the injury and death.
Proving Negligence in a Maryland Wrongful Death Car Accident Case
When a civil lawsuit is filed, a plaintiff must prove the elements of a wrongful death claim before any compensation is awarded. An element is an essential requirement in a cause of action. In the majority of wrongful death cases, our Maryland attorneys will have to demonstrate that another party’s negligence caused the death. Four elements constitute legal negligence and all four must be established. If a plaintiff only demonstrates three of the four, they will not recover any damages.
Duty of Care
A plaintiff must demonstrate to the court that the defendant owed the deceased a duty of care. What is required to prove a duty existed depends on the facts surrounding the accident and death. For instance, if someone was killed in a car accident, the defendant had a duty to operate their vehicle carefully and adhere to the rules of the road. In a wrongful death action arising from a medical malpractice case, a surgeon would have a duty to provide an appropriate standard of medical care.
Breach of Duty
Accidents happen and sometimes they are unavoidable. To be held legally liable for another’s death, the defendant must have breached their duty of care. A breach occurs when a defendant’s behavior deviates from what a reasonable person would have done under the same circumstances. For example, a reasonable driver would slow down in a bad rainstorm if their visibility is limited. If someone is driving cautiously and an accident occurs, their behavior might not constitute a breach of duty. However, if they were speeding in the same weather and caused a fatal accident, then they likely violated the obligation they owed the deceased. Someone does not need to be breaking the law to be found negligent. In this example, if the conditions are poor enough, driving at the speed limit could constitute a breach of duty.
Anyone who has driven knows people violate traffic rules and regulations every day. Therefore, a plaintiff must prove more than just a breach of duty. Our Maryland attorneys would have to establish that the defendant’s breach of duty caused the accident and fatality. In an ordinary personal injury lawsuit, it is sufficient to demonstrate that the defendant’s conduct caused the accident and injuries. However, in a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff must prove that the injuries were also the cause of death. Intervening events could be responsible for a person’s death. For example, if the death occurred because a nurse administered incorrect medicine while your loved one being treated at an emergency room, then holding the driver accountable might be impossible. However, you could still have grounds for a wrongful death claim due to medical malpractice.
Finally, a plaintiff must demonstrate quantifiable damages. the type of damages that a plaintiff will need to prove depends on whether they have brought a wrongful death claim or a survival action. While these two types of actions are explained in more detail below, a wrongful death claim is filed by an eligible surviving family member seeking to recover damages for the harm they suffered, including loss of companionship, advice, and guidance. Additionally, they could recover the income the household lost because of the deceased’s death.
A survival action is filed by a personal representative on behalf of the deceased’s estate. the representative could be appointed through the court or designated in the deceased’s will. Through this action, the estate could seek compensation for funeral and burial costs along with any damages the deceased experienced before their death, including medical expenses and pain and suffering.
Determining Fault After a Fatal Car Crash in Maryland
Figuring out who is responsible after a deadly car accident can not only help to bring those parties to justice, but it can also grant closure to grieving family members and allow them to receive compensation for their loss. Ultimately, it will be up to the courts to deliver the final verdict in terms of responsibility, but a skilled attorney can help you go through your case and determine the likely culprits. Below are a few of the most common parties found to be at fault in cases involving car accidents.
The most common cause of accidents by far, other drivers can make any number of mistakes that can lead to disaster for themselves and those around them. Examining a driver’s actions after an accident is likely to reveal one of several causes of the accident, including:
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Driving while distracted by texting or talking on the phone
- Falling asleep at the wheel due to fatigue
- Adjusting the radio, air conditioning, or any other device in the car
- Acting out of anger or frustration, also known as “road rage”
If the driver who caused the accident was engaged in any similarly negligent or malicious actions, they are almost certainly liable for the death that occurred. A knowledgeable attorney can review the facts of the case and determine whether you have a claim against the other driver.
Local Government Agencies
Though less common, the local government in the area where the accident took place could also be at fault, depending on the circumstances. These agencies are responsible for maintaining the roadways and posting appropriate signage around dangerous or obstructed areas; failure to do either one properly could result in an accident or death. If this is what happened to your loved one, you may be able to file a lawsuit against that organization.
Car Part Manufacturers
It is rare, but sometimes the cause of an accident is the failure of a part to function properly in your car. When this happens, the manufacturer of the car part may be liable, as they are responsible for the quality of the part that they produce. Reviewing the facts of the case with a legal representative, possibly with the aid of an auto expert, can help determine whether a poorly manufactured part might be at fault in the accident.
The Burden of Proof in a Maryland Wrongful Death Claim
When proving each element listed above, the plaintiff must meet the burden of proof. In a wrongful death claim, a plaintiff must establish each element of negligence by a preponderance of the evidence. Usually, a jury will be asked to determine if the evidence presented demonstrated that it was “more likely than not” that the defendant’s conduct caused the death.
It is important to remember that the burden of proof does refer to the quantity of evidence presented. Just because a plaintiff had more witnesses testify during a trial does not mean that they met their burden of proof. Likewise, if a defendant has more evidence, it does not mean that a plaintiff failed to meet their burden. Our experienced Maryland wrongful death attorneys understand it is the quality of the evidence that matters.
Evidence is crucial in a wrongful death case. This is true whether a plaintiff is negotiating with an insurance company or pursuing their case in court. Without evidence, it is impossible to value your damages or the legal strength of your case. If the evidence is firmly in your favor, a defendant is more likely to reach a reasonable settlement agreement. However, if a defendant or their insurance company is refusing to agree to a fair number, then our attorneys are prepared to fight for your just compensation in court.
Damages in Wrongful Death Lawsuits for Maryland Car Accidents
As stated above, there are two types of wrongful death lawsuits that could be filed after a fatal automobile accident. Our Maryland attorney for wrongful death in a car accident will typically file both claims in conjunction with one another. Because one lawsuit is filed directly by the family and the other by the estate, the potential damages available are different.
Wrongful Death Action
When a family member files a wrongful death claim, they are seeking compensation for their emotional loss, mental anguish, and grief associated with the death. Additionally, they are entitled to economic losses, including the wages the deceased would have earned and the value of the domestic services they provided.
Our office will work with financial experts and vocational specialists to calculate what your loved one would have earned over their life. To do this, we will have to consider their age, education, work experience, and career potential. Furthermore, we will work to establish what services that your loved one provided along with a fair market value to replace those contributions. As stated above, any proceeds arising from a wrongful death claim are paid to the family member.
The damages available to the estate of the deceased are slightly different. First, the estate is entitled to recover any financial losses associated with the injury and death, including medical expenses and the cost of the funeral and burial. the estate is also permitted to be compensated for the pain and suffering the victim endured from the time of their injury until their death. it is not uncommon for a car accident victim to succumb to their injuries weeks or months later. Basically, the estate is seeking to recover what the victim could have recovered in a personal injury lawsuit had they not died.
In Maryland, a plaintiff could be awarded any amount to cover their financial losses after a fatal car accident. However, Maryland has imposed a limit on the amount a plaintiff could recover for their noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering. the cap is based on the date of the death and statutorily increases by $15,000 every year. As of 2021, noneconomic damages are capped at $890,000.
Call Our Maryland Attorneys for Wrongful Death in a Car Accident for a Free Consultation
Our Maryland attorneys for wrongful death in a car accident are skilled, experienced, and dedicated to fighting for your rights. the loss of a family member is emotionally devastating. However, it should not become a financial catastrophe. If you depended on your loved one for emotional and economic support, you should be justly compensated when they are taken from you through the negligence of another party. If you lost a family member in a car accident caused by another, call Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291 to schedule a free appointment and review your legal options.