Odenton, MD Wrongful Death Lawyer
When someone’s death is caused by an accident that could have been avoided, you often have recourse to sue the responsible parties for your loss. While a lawsuit cannot bring a loved one back, it can go a long way toward ensuring that justice is served and providing you and your family with financial compensation and comfort in the face of lost wages and support from the deceased.
If you lost a spouse, parent, or another family member to an accident, holding the at-fault parties liable can help you receive damages for medical expenses, lost wages, lost companionship, and other harms. Working with a lawyer is essential to making sure that your case is filed by the right parties and includes a claim for all available damages.
For a free case review on your wrongful death case, call the wrongful death lawyers at Rice, Murtha & Psoras today at (410) 694-7291.
Who is Responsible in a Wrongful Death Case in Odenton, MD?
Determining the right party to sue is an essential step in your case. If your loved one died, it might be obvious who was responsible in some cases. In others, it could be difficult to determine how someone could have been responsible for an accident or how their actions could be legally related to the death.
Wrongful death lawsuits will usually be filed as “negligence” claims. Legally, negligence is when a party’s actions or inactions breach some legal duty owed to the victim, and that breach results in harm to the victim. In the case of a wrongful death claim, this means showing that your loved one only died because the defendant did something they should not have done or because they failed to act when they were legally required to.
As mentioned, what the defendant did wrong is sometimes obvious. For example, our wrongful death lawyers can help you sue a driver who drove drunk or failed to stop at a stop red light and killed your loved one in a car crash. These are common examples of doing something that violates a legal duty – i.e., driving drunk in violation of DUI laws – or failing to do something that violates a legal duty – i.e., failing to stop at a stop sign in violation of traffic laws.
Other cases where liability is somewhat clear is when a loved one is killed by a doctor’s medical mistakes or a company’s manufacturing of a defective or dangerous product.
Cases that are sometimes more difficult to conceptualize often involve injuries on someone else’s property, such as falls from heights, structural collapses, and electrocution. In these cases, the property owner often owes guests a duty to keep the property reasonably safe – and a failure to do so can put them at fault for a guest’s death.
Although we commonly refer to these cases as “accidents,” there are rarely any true accidents; someone is often responsible when someone dies early in an “accident.”
Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim in Odenton, MD
As mentioned, a wrongful death claim is based on negligence. Negligence claims have four legal elements that the plaintiff’s attorney must prove before compensation can be awarded. As applied to the situation of a wrongful death case, the four elements are as follows.
First, you must show that the defendant owed the victim a legal duty. In the case of a fatal traffic accident, this is usually a duty to follow the rules of the road and drive reasonably. In medical malpractice cases, the duty is to follow the applicable standard of care professionals must follow based on the patient’s current situation and medical needs. Other types of claims deal with different types of duties, such as the duty to warn, the duty to render aid, or simply a duty to act reasonably.
Second, you must show that the defendant breached the duty. If they violated the law or failed to act reasonably, this can often satisfy the breach element. Keep in mind that a breach of duty can be an unreasonable action or a failure to take reasonable action required by the legal duty. For example, hit and runs often result in death because the at-fault driver failed to render aid or at least call an ambulance, as they are required to do under Maryland law.
Third, you must show that the defendant’s breach of duty was what caused the victim’s death. If the victim’s death was unavoidable and thus unaffected by the defendant’s wrongdoing, the claim will likely fail. The same is true if they were killed by some intervening cause. However, that might leave another intervening party responsible.
Lastly, you must show there was harm. In the case of a wrongful death claim, that harm is the death itself. However, you can also claim other damages that you and your family suffered, such as ongoing lost wages, funeral and burial costs, and more.
Damages in a Wrongful Death Case in Odenton, MD
Maryland law actually allows two types of claims when someone dies in an accident: a wrongful death claim and a survival action. These cases are usually filed together as one lawsuit, but they technically provide two separate sets of damages to two separate entities or groups.
In a wrongful death lawsuit under Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. Art., § 3-902 and the following sections, the family of a victim can sue for the harm caused to the surviving family members. This typically allows a spouse, parent, or child to receive compensation for both the economic and non-economic damages the death causes them. That can cover things like burial and funeral costs, lost wages, lost companionship, grief, mental anguish, lost household services, and other harms.
In a survival action, the deceased’s estate sues for the damages the victim would have been able to claim in a personal injury case if they had survived the accident. That can include pain and suffering before death, medical bills before death, lost wages before death, and other damages.
Call Our Odenton, MD Wrongful Death Lawyers for Help Today
To receive a free case analysis and more information about filing your case, call the wrongful death attorneys at Rice, Murtha & Psoras today at (410) 694-7291.