Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Maryland?
Maryland law specifically identifies the categories of people who may be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit after the death of a family member. Maryland law divides eligible parties into two categories: primary beneficiaries and secondary beneficiaries.
Primary beneficiaries include a surviving spouse, surviving children, and surviving parents of a deceased individual. A primary beneficiary has first opportunity to file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of themselves and all other eligible primary beneficiaries and on behalf of the deceased individual’s estate. If a primary beneficiary files a wrongful death lawsuit, any award is distributed only to the eligible primary beneficiaries.
Secondary beneficiaries include more distant relatives, such as siblings, cousins, nieces, and nephews. If a deceased individual has no primary beneficiaries, or if no primary beneficiary is willing to file a wrongful death lawsuit, a secondary beneficiary may bring the lawsuit on behalf of all primary beneficiaries (if any) and secondary beneficiaries.
What Do You Have to Prove in a Wrongful Death Case?
Wrongful death is often defined as a fatal injury that is caused by a wrongful act, neglect, or default of another person or entity. Most wrongful death claims arise from fatal injuries caused by accidents, medical malpractice, defective products, and other cases that would otherwise have given rise to a personal injury claim if the victim had survived.
As a result, in a wrongful death case it is necessary to prove that the responsible party either acted intentionally to injure or kill the deceased or acted negligently, and that negligence caused the injury and death.
Intentional conduct is defined as willful, knowing, or reckless. Willful conduct means that an individual intends for their conduct to cause another person’s injury and death. Knowing conduct means that an individual does not intend to cause another person’s injury and death but is aware that injury and death could result from their conduct. Reckless conduct involves acting with a conscious disregard of a substantial risk of another’s injury and death.
If arguing that a death was caused by someone’s negligence, it is necessary to prove that the responsible party owed a duty of care to the victim and breached that duty of care, and that the breach directly and proximately caused the deceased individual’s injury and death, which led to some form of monetary damages.
Compensation in a Wrongful Death Claim
There are potentially many different kinds of compensation that could be available in a wrongful death claim. The law typically divides wrongful death claims into two categories, survival actions and wrongful death actions. Wrongful death claims are intended to compensate the deceased’s immediate surviving family.
Survival actions are brought on behalf of the estate of the deceased person. Compensation for survival actions provides recovery for losses suffered by the deceased person or their estate, including the medical costs of final illness or injury, funeral and burial expenses, and conscious pain and suffering experienced by the deceased individual due to their final illness or injury.
On the other hand, wrongful death actions are brought on behalf of the deceased person’s heirs and surviving family, such as a spouse, children, parents, or siblings. Damages for wrongful death actions compensate surviving family members for losses they suffered as a result of their loved one’s death, including the loss of the deceased’s income and financial support, the loss of companionship, and the loss of support and services to the household.
Maryland law limits non-economic damages (damages that cannot be calculated by reference to objective measures such as bills, receipts, or paystubs) in wrongful death lawsuits at $2 million.
District of Columbia law does not limit the damages that a family can recover in a wrongful death lawsuit. However, surviving family members may not claim damages for things like mental distress, grief, or the loss of their loved one’s affection.
Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Death Claims in Maryland and D.C.
The law imposes a deadline on filing a lawsuit to assert a claim for wrongful death. This time limit is called the statute of limitations. In Maryland, the statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits is three years from the date of death. In D.C., the statute of limitations is two years from the date of death.
If you fail to file your wrongful death lawsuit within the statute of limitations, the court will automatically dismiss your claim without a hearing.
A wrongful death lawsuit can be filed even if the government decides to file criminal charges against the responsible party for the actions that caused the deceased individual’s death. It is not wise to wait until after a responsible party has been charged or convicted of a crime in connection with your loved one’s death.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death in D.C. and Maryland
There are many acts and types of negligence that can lead to a wrongful death. Here are some of the more common causes:
- Motor vehicle accidents – Unfortunately, there are tens of thousands of deaths in motor vehicle accidents across the country each year. When a driver causes a crash because of reckless or negligent conduct, the driver may be liable if another motorist, passenger, bicyclist, or pedestrian is killed.
- Medical malpractice – When doctors, nurses, and other medical staff breach their duty of care to their patients, resulting in the patient’s otherwise preventable death, the patient’s family may have a viable wrongful death lawsuit.
- Nursing home or elder abuse – Older adults can suffer an untimely or wrongful death due to abuse or neglect by people who are directly responsible for their care, either at their own home or in a care facility.
- Dangerous or defective products – The law holds manufacturers, distributors, and retailers liable when their products cause injury and death when products are not safe to use as intended and that they have not provided all appropriate warnings for their use. The family of someone killed by a dangerous or defective product may have a wrongful death claim against the companies who made or sold that product.
- Accidents on dangerous property – Unsafe conditions on someone else’s property may lead to fatal injuries. For example, a defect on the property can lead to a deadly fall, or the failure to provide adequate security can result in someone being the victim of a fatal crime. In these cases, the property owner or operator may be liable in a wrongful death action.
- Workplace accidents – Many people work in hazardous occupations, and even seemingly “safe” workplaces can become dangerous in a blink. When someone other than the employer or a co-worker was at fault, the family of an individual who is killed on the job may have a wrongful death claim.
- Criminal acts – The family of a victim who is killed by a criminal act may be entitled to bring a wrongful death claim against the criminal offender or offenders responsible for their loved one’s death.
If you believe that your relative died due to someone else’s wrongful acts, contact us today to schedule a consultation to discuss your case with our Charles County wrongful death attorney. Our attorney can advise you whether you and your family may have a viable wrongful death claim.
How Our Wrongful Death Lawyers Can Help You
If your close relative was killed due to someone else’s negligence, it is understandable that you and your family are overcome with grief at this incredibly difficult time. But you and your family, as well as your deceased loved one, also deserve justice. Charles County wrongful death lawyer Matt Trollinger can help you and your family seek the compensation and relief that your family deserves.
Our wrongful death lawyer can help your family by examining the facts and circumstances of your loved one’s death to determine what happened to cause the fatal accident. Specifically, he will look to determine the cause or causes of your loved one’s death and identify the potentially responsible parties.
Once he has determined the responsible parties, he can calculate the full extent of losses and build a solid claim for compensation. Our legal team will be prepared to negotiate from a position of strength to seek a full settlement of your wrongful death claim. He will work as efficiently as possible to get your family a full settlement as soon as possible so that your family can get the compensation and justice you deserve to help the healing process move forward.
If settlement of your wrongful death claim is not possible, our wrongful death lawyer is prepared to pursue your claim in court. He will ensure that your case is filed within the statute of limitations and that all court deadlines and filings are met. If your wrongful death case goes to trial, he is prepared to vigorously advocate on your family’s behalf to seek a verdict and judgment in your favor so that your family receives the compensation and justice that you deserve.
Talk to Our Charles County Wrongful Death Lawyer Now
If you have a close relative who was tragically killed due to someone else’s wrongdoing, you and your family deserve compensation and justice. Don’t wait another day to begin the process of seeking the recovery you need to start putting your life back together.
A compassionate, dedicated, experienced wrongful death attorney can help your family successfully pursue a wrongful death claim. Contact Charles County wrongful death lawyer Matt Trollinger today to schedule a free consultation to learn more about your rights and options.