When someone dies as a result of another person’s negligence or misconduct, the victim’s loved ones may have cause to file a wrongful death lawsuit. A wrongful death case has many similarities to a criminal murder trial, but there is a lower burden of proof. The O.J. Simpson case demonstrated this principal. A criminal jury acquitted Simpson of murder; however, he was found liable for the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman in a civil case and ordered to pay damages to the victims families.
If you believe you have reason to file a wrongful death suit, there are several important factors that your attorney must evaluate.
How to Determine If Wrongful Death Applies
Maryland, like every state, has wrongful death laws on the books. Your first step is determining whether or not a wrongful death claim applies to your situation. Here are some examples of wrongful death scenarios:
- Someone dies as a result of injuries in a car accident where the other driver was at fault.
- A doctor is negligent in caring for someone, and that person dies as a result.
- A corporation manufactures a medication or product that malfunctions in some way, causing someone’s death.
- A government agency fails to exercise appropriate oversight and someone dies as a result of that negligence.
If a person or entity failed to act in a way that a reasonable person would be expected to act, or intentionally acted negligently, it could be considered grounds for accidental death.
Identify Who Has Standing to File a Wrongful Death Claim
In Maryland, there are strict rules about who may file a wrongful death claim. In general, there are two categories of individuals who may qualify: primary and secondary beneficiaries. Both of these categories include relatives who survived the deceased, which is why wrongful death lawsuits are sometimes referred to as survival claims. Here is a closer look at the two types of beneficiaries:
- Primary beneficiaries are the surviving parents, children, and spouse of the person who died. A primary beneficiary may file a wrongful death or survival claim, and any damages are awarded solely to the primary beneficiaries.
- Secondary beneficiaries are the surviving siblings, nieces and nephews, cousins, and other relatives of the deceased. Usually, secondary beneficiaries bring wrongful death or survival claims on behalf of the estate if there are no primary beneficiaries alive or willing to bring suit.
Find Out Who Can Be Sued for A Death
Your Baltimore wrongful death lawyer will help you determine everyone who may be at fault and liable for damages in a wrongful death case. Consider the case of fatal accident involving a drunk driver who was operating a commercial truck. In this example, the truck had faulty brakes and was traveling on a poorly lit municipal bridge. In a case like this, any or all of the following parties may be named in a wrongful death suit:
- The owner of the truck or the truck driver’s employer.
- The owner of the bar where the driver was drinking.
- The bartender who served the impaired driver.
- The truck manufacturer that made the vehicle with faulty brakes.
- The city that was negligent in providing adequate lighting on the bridge.
- The doctor who treated the victim and failed to provide appropriate life-saving care.
Calculate the Amount of Damages in Your Death or Survival Claim
In Maryland, there are several categories that may apply to a wrongful death or survival claim:
- Medical bills for the victim’s final illness or injury
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Property damage costs
- Damages that account for the deceased’s pain and suffering
- The deceased’s lost wages and future income projections
- Damages that account for the loss of the deceased’s care and/or companionship
Maryland caps non-economic damages (damages that cannot be calculated using receipts for actual expenses) in wrongful death suits. For two or more claimants, the cap is doubled, with increases every year.
Check the Statute of Limitations
In Maryland, the law clearly states the time frame when a wrongful death claim may be filed. A Baltimore wrongful death or survival claim must be filed within three years from the date of the victim’s death. It’s important to note that in the event of wrongful death caused by medical malpractice, the statute of limitations runs from the date of death. It does not date back to the time that a misdiagnosis or medial error occurred. Any suits filed more than three years after a victim’s death will be likely thrown out after a hearing.
Know What You Need to Prove in a Maryland Death Case
In order to successfully pursue a wrongful death case, you and your lawyer must be able to prove all of the following things:
- The victim is dead.
- The death can be directly connected to some action or negligence by the defendant.
- The victim’s death caused harm to you, the plaintiff, whether through pain and suffering or actual economic loss.
- You qualify as a beneficiary under Maryland wrongful death law.
- The case falls within the statute of limitations.
Choose an Experienced Baltimore Fatal Death Lawyer
Maryland wrongful death law is not simply a variation of personal injury law. The statutes are based on legal precedents that date back to 1852, when Maryland enacted wrongful death statutes. Therefore, you need to ensure that your Baltimore wrongful death lawyer has the knowledge and experience to successfully pursue your case. You only have one chance to collect damages from the person or persons responsible for your loved one’s death. Attorney Randolph Rice understands that sense of urgency and has the experience necessary to present the strongest possible wrongful death case on your behalf.
If you believe your loved one died as a result of a careless driver, a negligent doctor, or a faulty medication or consumer product, protect your rights and call an experienced Baltimore death lawyer before your window of opportunity expires. The Law Offices of Randolph Rice has been successfully fighting for victims of wrongful death and their loved ones for many years. Mr. Rice, a former Assistant State’s Attorney, is recognized by Super Lawyers, and received a superb ranking by Avvo, a legal consumer website. He will be able to advise you on the particulars of your case and fight to get you the money you deserve. Call him for a consultation today at (410) 694-7291.