A wrongful death case arises when a person dies due to the wrongful act of another. Maryland law defines “wrongful act” as “an act, neglect or default” which would have entitled the injured party to recover damages if they had not been killed. Wrongful death claims are civil actions made by the survivors of the deceased. Unlike criminal cases, civil actions don’t involve the threat of prison. Instead, they focus on seeking compensation for the survivors’ losses.
A wide range of situations can lead to a wrongful death claim, including but not limited to:
- Car Accidents – A loved one dying due to another driver’s negligence or recklessness can lead to a wrongful death claim. The responsible party is often another driver, parts manufacturer, or a government agency that failed to maintain safe road conditions.
- Medical Malpractice – Medical professionals have a duty of care to their patients, but they sometimes fail to meet this duty and cause someone’s death. Medical malpractice cases often involve surgical errors, misdiagnoses, or improper treatment.
- Workplace Accidents – Employers have a responsibility to ensure a safe working environment for their employees. If they fail to maintain safe working conditions or inadvertently create fatal accidents at the workplace, then they may be liable in a wrongful death claim.
- Product Liability – Virtually every manufacturer, distributor, and seller has a duty to ensure their products are safe. If your loved one died because of a defective product, then your wrongful death claim will likely target one of these groups.
There are many other kinds of wrongful death cases besides these common situations. A qualified wrongful death attorney can guide you through virtually every type of situation.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Maryland?
Under Maryland’s wrongful death statute, the victim’s “primary beneficiaries” are eligible to seek financial compensation. This includes the victim’s parents, children, and spouse. If no primary beneficiaries are alive (or if the victim’s parents are disqualified from filing a claim—which is possible under certain limited circumstances), then “any person related to the deceased person by blood or marriage who was substantially dependent upon the deceased” can file a claim.
Importantly, Maryland’s wrongful death statute allows only a single lawsuit to be filed in relation to an individual’s death. As a result, it is important for all family members who are eligible to seek compensation to file their claims together. At Southern Maryland Law, we have extensive experience helping families meet the state’s statutory requirements, and our lawyers will ensure that your family’s claim is handled appropriately.
What Do I Have to Prove in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
If you want to succeed in a Maryland wrongful death lawsuit, you need to prove several elements:
- Duty – The first element to prove in a wrongful death case is that the defendant had a duty of care or some kind of legal obligation towards the deceased. For example, a driver has a duty of care to drive safely and follow traffic rules to avoid causing harm to others.
- Breach – Next, you must prove that the defendant breached this duty of care. You can prove this element by showing the defendant did not act in a way that a reasonable person would have if they were in the same situation.
- Causation – The third element involves demonstrating that the defendant’s breach of duty directly caused the death of your loved one. Proving this element generally requires expert testimony indicating there was a connection between the defendant’s actions (or inaction) and your loved one’s death.
- Damages – To prove damages, you need to demonstrate that the death led to monetary losses that can be reimbursed. Some specific examples include medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, lost wages, loss of companionship, and emotional distress.
It’s vital to remember that each wrongful death case is unique and complex. Even simple cases require the touch of an experienced wrongful death attorney who understands Maryland law. In addition, a wrongful death lawyer in Waldorf, MD, can help you collect evidence, secure expert testimonies, and calculate just compensation for your case.
What Kinds of Compensation Can I Recover in a Wrongful Death Case?
Under Maryland law, there are several categories of damages available in a wrongful death. Each type is intended to compensate the surviving family members for their losses because of the death of their loved ones. Naturally, the types and amounts of damages can vary significantly depending on the circumstances of the case. However, there are three possible following types of compensation.
The first kind of compensation is economic damages. Economic damages include loss of job earnings and medical expenses. Common examples of economic damages include things like:
- Medical expenses related to the deceased’s final illness or injury;
- Funeral and burial costs;
- Loss of the deceased’s expected future income; and
- Loss of future benefits, such as retirement benefits or medical coverage.
Next up are non-economic damages. These damages attempt to compensate victims for non-monetary losses, such as:
- Pain and suffering endured by the deceased before death;
- Loss of companionship, care, or guidance; and
- Mental anguish and emotional pain.
Finally, there are punitive damages. These aim to punish the defendant for acting with actual malice. Because it is difficult to prove the intentions of the wrongdoer, Maryland courts very rarely award punitive damages.
Remember that there are statutory caps on wrongful death damages in Maryland. Moreover, these caps can change from year to year. To best understand what kind of compensation might be recoverable in your case, it’s crucial to consult with a knowledgeable wrongful death attorney.
How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Maryland?
In Maryland, the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim is three years from the date of death in most cases. If your loved one died as the result of an occupational disease or was a victim of criminal homicide, then your family may have more time to file.
However, in any case, we strongly recommend that you contact us about your claim right away. One of the keys to filing a successful wrongful death claim is being able to prove who is liable. This means that it is important to conduct an investigation as soon as possible.
What Are the Grounds for Filing a Claim for Wrongful Death?
There are numerous potential grounds for pursuing a wrongful death claim in Waldorf. When we investigate your family’s claim, we will be looking for any and all evidence to suggest that someone else may be legally responsible for your loved one’s death. No matter what happened, and even if you are not completely sure what happened, we strongly encourage you to contact us so that we can help you make an informed decision about whether to pursue a claim for wrongful death.
Some examples of common grounds for pursuing wrongful death claims include:
- Car, truck, SUV, and motorcycle accidents;
- Commercial truck (i.e. 18-wheeler and tractor-trailer) accidents;
- Slip-and-fall accidents, trip-and-fall accidents, and falls from heights;
- Workplace accidents and illnesses;
- Medical malpractice;
- Nursing home abuse and neglect; and
- Criminal homicide.
In terms of who is liable for your loved one’s death, the answer will depend on the specific circumstances involved. For example, many fatal auto accident cases involve claims under the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. If the other driver was on the clock at the time of the accident, then his or her employer could be liable as well.
Likewise, in cases involving premises-related accidents, the owner of the premises, the tenant, and the construction company are just a few examples of several potential defendants. As your Waldorf wrongful death lawyers, we will use our experience to hold all liable parties accountable.