Wrongful death claims give surviving family members access to financial compensation for their loss. If someone dies as the result of malicious intent (murder) or an act of negligence, a wrongful death suit may provide survivors with damages to cover costs including the loss of support and service, medical expenses, and more. After a tragic loss, a wrongful death claim often provides a sense of justice and closure when a criminal action cannot.
Types of Wrongful Death Claims in Maryland
In Maryland, survivors can file two types of wrongful death claims: survival actions and wrongful death actions. A survival action compensates an individual’s estate for losses related to death including medical expenses and funeral costs. Survival action may also compensate the estate for a decedent’s pain and suffering resulting from an act of negligence.
Wrongful death actions directly compensate family members for their losses. The jury evaluates the survivor’s relationship with the deceased individual and relevant evidence to award damages for economic (e.g., lost work and financial support) and non-economic losses (e.g., loss of companionship and guidance). A jury may award punitive damages above and beyond economic and non-economic losses as a way to punish excessively negligent and malicious defendants.
Qualifying Wrongful Death Claimants
Wrongful death laws vary from state to state. In Maryland, the following individuals may file a wrongful death action or a survival action:
- Primary beneficiaries. Living primary beneficiaries who file actions receive the full amount awarded in the claim. These individuals include spouses, children, and parents of the deceased.
- Secondary beneficiaries. If a primary beneficiary does not file a claim, a surviving sibling, niece, nephew, cousin, and other extended family members may file a claim for both living primary and secondary beneficiaries.
Under Maryland laws, wrongful death actions must include all possible beneficiaries, even if the beneficiary does not actively choose to join the action. If you choose not to take part in the action, your participation remains in name only.
The procedures governing wrongful death actions are fairly straightforward, but identifying and including beneficiaries can complicate matters. To satisfy Maryland laws, plaintiffs must make a “good faith effort” to notify all possible claimants of the action.
After the plaintiff notifies all possible beneficiaries, the case moves forward. To prove wrongful death, a claimant must provide evidence of death, the presence of negligence or the intent to injure, and the connection between the defendant’s act and an individual’s death.
Timelines for Wrongful Death Claims in Maryland
Under the state’s statute of limitations, a plaintiff must file a wrongful death claim within three years of the date of death. Wrongful death claims can take as long as any other personal injury claim, including many of the same elements. After meeting with an attorney, a claimant must identify and notify as many beneficiaries as possible before filing the claim in court.
Following the initial filing, several back and forth summons/answers and claims/counterclaims may take place. During the discovery phase of the case, which may take a significant amount of time, each side delivers relevant information. Using information exchange processes including interrogatories, depositions, and other requests, the plaintiff and defendant fine-tune their cases. Many cases then go to negotiations and resolve before moving to trial. If a case moves to trial, the timeline extends once more.
Wrongful death claims take time, but they can hold a negligent or malicious individual liable for your loved one’s death and provide the compensation your family needs to move forward. Because wrongful death claims arise in civil court, a survivor can file an action concurrently with criminal investigations and cases.
Free Consultation from Our Baltimore Wrongful Death Attorney
To learn more about the wrongful death process in Maryland, discuss your case with the Baltimore personal injury lawyer team at the Rice, Murtha & Psoras. Every case is different, and a free consultation may help you understand your ability to file a claim and the time frame for doing so. Contact them today! (410) 694-7291