Few things in life are as traumatic as losing a loved one. If your family member is killed, it is natural to be distraught. the loss of a family member can put your life on hold. Unfortunately, some people fail to exercise their legal rights until it is too late. it is important to know what is the wrongful death statute of limitations in Maryland. A statute of limitations is legislation that sets out how long you have to bring a claim. Every area of the law in Maryland has a statute of limitations. Although we all know criminal charges are typically brought against people who take the lives of others, wrongful death is a more misunderstood area of the law. Maryland wrongful death lawyer Randolph Rice, from Rice, Murtha & Psoras, explains how long after a wrongful death you can sue in Maryland.
What is Considered a Wrongful Death in Maryland?
A wrongful death action is a civil action in which family members or the estate of the deceased is entitled to compensation for the person who caused the death. the defendant in these cases may not always be a killer in the legal sense. it is possible to bring a wrongful death suit against someone who was not charged in the criminal courts or was found not guilty.
Maryland has had a wrongful death statute since the mid-1800s. the wrongful death code states an action can be bought by or on behalf of a wife, husband, parent, of the child of the deceased.
The law of wrongful death is relatively new. Under common law, inherited from codes developed over centuries in England, surviving family members were not permitted to sue for the death of a loved one.
This meant people who suffered injuries had more rights than the relatives of the deceased. it gave little impetus for railroads, factories, and others to protect workers from fatal accidents and meant there was a legal impetus to kill someone rather than injure them. Maryland rectified the situation in 1852 when the state enacted wrongful death legislation.
How Do I Know If I Have a Wrongful Death Case?
In the case of Mummert v. Alizadeh, the Maryland Court of Appeals defined a “wrongful act” as an act that the deceased would have had a right to file a lawsuit over and seek compensation had they not died. it can be an omission as well as an act such as when a doctor fails to provide adequate medical treatment.
People who bring wrongful death actions often also bring survival claims at the same time. While wrongful death claims are made for the emotional loss to family members, survival claims related to injuries suffered by the deceased including pain and suffering in the time leading up to death, lost wages between the time of the injury and death, and funeral expenses. the statute of limitations is the same as in a wrongful death case.
Examples of Common Wrongful Death Actions in Maryland
People throughout Maryland are injured in preventable accidents. the causes of these accidents are as varied as the people in the state. When the injuries are fatal, you can file a wrongful death action in many instances of the loss of a family member including:
- Deaths in a car, truck, motorcycle, pedestrian or bus or train crash;
- Fatalities due to dangerous conditions in a building;
- Deaths due to chemical poisoning;
- Drugs with fatal side-effects like cancer;
- Medical malpractice, including surgical errors, misdiagnosis, or any other mistake leading to the death of a patient;
- Elder abuse at a nursing home resulting in the death of a patient:
- Fatal industrial accidents in the workplace;
- Deliberate acts like shootings;
- Unnatural deaths in police custody.
If your family member or loved one died in a tragic accident, our Maryland attorney for wrongful death from a car accident, medical mistake, or other cause can help.
What is the Deadline for a Wrongful Death Case in Maryland?
Every state has a statute of limitations that sets forth the specific deadlines for filing a lawsuit. One of the reasons behind a statute of limitations is to ensure defendants are not placed in a situation where they need to defend against allegations after crucial evidence is no longer available.
The wrongful death statute of limitations in Maryland is three years from the date of the death. This is the same time span as the state’s personal injury statute of limitations. In wrongful death claims arising from medical malpractice, there is a discovery exemption. This exemption gives the claimant an extension from the time the negligence is discovered. However, the extension will not exceed five years from the date of death. it is essential to understand that the discovery extension only applies to medical malpractice cases.
Another critical difference between wrongful death claims and ordinary personal injury cases is the general extension applied if the injured person is a minor. For personal injury lawsuits, a minor’s statute of limitations does not begin until they reach the age of 18. This extension does not apply to wrongful death actions.
The statute of limitations is the time limit the law gives you to bring a personal injury tort claim. You lose your right to make a claim if the three years elapse before you file a lawsuit. If you believe your loved one was killed because of another’s negligence, you should speak with our Baltimore wrongful death attorney immediately. Allowing the deadline to pass will prohibit you from pursuing your rights. Additionally, if you hesitate in contacting our office, it will become much more challenging to build a strong case. If you let time pass, crucial evidence could become lost and vital witnesses could become unavailable. Furthermore, even if all the witnesses are found, their memory of critical details is likely to have faded. Prevailing in a wrongful death lawsuit is often heavily dependent on the quality of evidence available.
When Does the Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in Maryland Begin?
The clock starts ticking for the wrongful death statute of limitations at the time of your family member’s death. the personal injury statute of limitations begins when the injury is sustained.
It is not uncommon for two lawsuits to arise from the same incident. For example, your loved one could have been severely injured in a car accident. Because the accident was not their fault, they could file a personal injury claim to seek compensation for their medical expenses and other available damages. If they die because of their injuries while the personal injury claim is pending, or even after it settles, an eligible family member is still entitled to file a wrongful death claim.
It is important to note that the statute of limitations in a personal injury lawsuit does not impact a wrongful death claim. Turning to the above example, imagine the person injured in the car accident failed to file a timely personal injury lawsuit and their case was prohibited because of the statute of limitations. If they should die because of the injuries suffered in the accident, a wrongful death lawsuit is still permissible – as long as it is filed within three years of the date of the death.
Although three years seems like a long time and the period is longer in Maryland than in some other states, it can pass very quickly. It’s important not to wait until the 11th hour to contact a Maryland personal injury lawyer. the attorney will need to gather a lot of evidence before filing a lawsuit. This can be problematic on the eve of the statute of limitations expiring.
What is the Statute of Limitations for the Wrongful Death of a Child in Maryland?
As stated above, if a child is injured in Maryland, the imitations period does not usually start until he or she is 18. This is not the case with wrongful death. the statute of limitations begins as soon as the child dies, the Maryland Court of Appeals has ruled. Losing a child is the most tragic event a parent could experience. it is not uncommon for a grieving parent to not even think that they have a legal right to be compensated for their loss. Our compassionate Maryland wrongful death attorney is dedicated to helping devastated parents fight for their rights.
Unfortunately, many parents lose their children before their lives have truly begun. Birth is a natural yet still dangerous process. You are entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit if you lose a child during delivery. Furthermore, this right extends to the fetus in some cases. In Maryland, parents are permitted to file a wrongful death claim if a fetus would have been viable outside of the mother’s womb. In such cases, the three-year statute of limitations remains. However, because it arises from a medical malpractice claim, parents could have up to five years to file a lawsuit if the doctor’s or hospital’s negligence was not immediately known.
Does an Occupational Disease Affect the Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in Maryland?
The rules are slightly different when an occupational disease such as mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos during employment caused a death. An occupational disease is an illness caused by exposure to any toxic substance in the deceased’s workplace which was contracted during the course of the person’s employment.
If an occupational disease caused the victim’s death, an action shall be filed:
- Within 10 years of the time of death; or
- Within 3 years of the date when the cause of death was discovered, whichever is the shortest.
Wrongful death claims arising from occupational diseases are challenging and complex. Our skilled Maryland wrongful death attorney has the experience and resources to provide your family with professional representation. However, it remains essential to contact our office sooner than later. the statute of limitations is a deadline to protect the defendant; it is not meant to give the plaintiff years to consider thinking about filing a case. If you want to increase the chances of being successful and receiving the compensation you deserve, it is critical to have our office working on your case sooner rather than later.
Talk to Our Baltimore Wrongful Death Lawyer for a Free Consultation
Wrongful death cases are extremely traumatic. Even if the death of your family member was someone else’s fault, you might be wary about filing a lawsuit. People who die as passengers in car accidents in Baltimore are often riding with friends. Family members often do not want to sue a close friend. However, death usually causes incredible financial hardship. It’s important to know about the wrongful death limitations laws and to act quickly with the help of a Dundalk wrongful death attorney. These are complicated cases and the clock is ticking. At Rice, Murtha & Psoras, we take over the difficult work of preparing a claim and give you time to grieve. Please call us for a free consultation at 410-694-7291.