Filing a wrongful death lawsuit for the death of a loved one is incredibly stressful and can mean the difference between being able to go on or missing out on lost income and funeral expenses that could set your family up against financial distress. Making sure you win your case is important, but it is important to plan for what happens if you do not win.
If your wrongful death claim is unsuccessful, you might have a few options. First, you might be able to accept the defeat and move on, potentially getting some compensation from other sources like a life insurance policy. That is likely unacceptable for many families, in which case you might be able to appeal the case. If that fails or is unavailable as an option, you might be able to re-file the case, potentially against a different defendant.
In any case, you should have help from our Maryland wrongful death lawyers when pursuing your initial case or trying to recover a lost case. Call us at Rice, Murtha & Psoras by dialing (410) 694-7291.
What Happens if You Lose Your Maryland Wrongful Death Case?
If you are unable to win your case and other options are not available to appeal or file against a different party, you might be left without the compensation you need. However, a lawsuit is not the only way to recover from the death of a loved one. Many families plan for the contingency that a spouse or parent might pass away from health conditions or accidents that have no grounds for a lawsuit. As such, there might be life insurance or other savings that you have to help your family move on.
Especially if you do not have these sorts of things in place, then it is vital to work with our Baltimore wrongful death lawyers from the beginning of your case. Our attorneys will do everything we legally can to help you gather evidence and build a strong case. In many cases, you only get one bite at the apple, and you cannot afford to work with an inexperienced lawyer or underestimate the power of insurance companies’ legal teams. There will be a lot stacked against you, and you should come out strong in your initial case so that you do not have to even consider what might happen if you lose your claim.
Appealing an Unsuccessful Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Maryland
Depending on the reason that you lost your case, you might be able to appeal the decision, potentially giving you a second bite at the apple in a new trial. Note that appeals are usually based on mistakes of law that led to you losing your case or having it dismissed, but losses can stem from any of the following:
Couldn’t Meet the Burden of Proof
Injury cases and wrongful death cases use a “preponderance of the evidence” standard as the burden of proof. This means the party bringing the case – the plaintiff – must prove it is more likely than not that what they say happened actually happened. If the jury does not believe you to that standard or you are simply missing credible evidence, then you will fail to meet the burden of proof and lose the case.
You cannot appeal a case that you lost on the facts unless there was a legal error that led to that outcome, such as some of the following issues.
If you failed to meet your burden of proof because some evidence that you needed was deemed inadmissible, you might be able to get a new trial on appeal that allows you to use that evidence. In wrongful death cases, the victim is not present to say what happened, so there might be more leeway to rely on secondhand information (e.g., hearsay) and “circumstantial” evidence to prove your case. Judges might make mistakes in questions about these pieces of evidence if they are used to denying hearsay when the speaker could be called into court instead, which is impossible with deceased victims.
Maryland law allows expert testimony from technical, financial, or subject matter experts when it would be helpful to the court. There are rules about what scientific standards must be met, and courts often deny experts who should be rightfully allowed to testify in your case. If you lost your case because your expert’s testimony was barred, you could be able to get a new trial on appeal.
Prejudice and Bias
If the judge or jury was unfairly biased against you, then you should certainly be able to get a new trial. Bias can creep in if the judge failed to properly listen to your objections over jury composition or issues that arose with jurors during trial.
“Prejudice” as a legal term does not always mean discrimination based on race or some other characteristic. Instead, prejudice merely means that something happened to lean the jury away from liking you or your case. A party can be unfairly prejudiced if they are given an unfair time to respond to a filing, if unfair evidence is admitted to paint the victim in a bad light, or through other legal mistakes that occur during the case.
If either bias or prejudice caused you to lose, the case should be overturned on appeal, and you should get a new trial.
Re-Filing a Wrongful Death Suit in Maryland
If you lost your case on a motion to dismiss before the case was even taken to trial, you might actually be allowed to re-file the case. As long as the judge dismissed the claim without prejudice” (a different type of legal “prejudice”), then you are permitted to gather new evidence and file the case again, potentially against the same or different parties.
If you lose your case against one party because the trial revealed them to not actually be at fault, then you might be able to try your case again by filing against the correct party this time. Talk to an attorney about whether this is possible and whether your case will have a better chance of success against a different defendant.
Call Our Maryland Wrongful Death Attorneys Today
For help with a wrongful death lawsuit in Maryland, call the Mount Airy wrongful death attorneys at Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291.