The loss of a loved one because of another’s actions is devastating. Although there is nothing that can be done to bring back the person you lost, you may have legal options for obtaining compensation that can help cover some of the losses you are experiencing. Maryland’s wrongful death statute, outlined in Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 3-904, states that the surviving family members of someone who has died from an injury have the right to sue the responsible party. Our Maryland wrongful death lawyers can help you determine if you have a case.
Do I Have a Wrongful Death Case?
Generally, an individual could have a wrongful death case if the deceased could have filed a personal injury lawsuit because of injuries caused by the negligence of another.
However, because the individual died, the surviving family members must file a wrongful death claim to obtain compensation for their losses as well as the losses of the estate.
To have a valid claim, the surviving family members must meet the same burden of proof that the victim would have had to meet if he or she had lived. This means the elements of negligence must be present in your case:
- Duty of Care – The at-fault party had a duty to keep the victim safe and not cause harm. In the case of a car accident, the at-fault party has a duty to drive safely and reasonably.
- Breach of Duty – There must be evidence that the at-fault party breached his or her duty to ensure the safety of the victim. This can include failing to pay attention to the road or driving under the influence.
- Causation – There must be evidence that the victim’s injuries and death were directly caused by the at-fault party’s actions and breach of duty.
There are two types of cases that can be brought in Maryland:
- Wrongful death– This type of lawsuit compensates the family for their losses associated with the death of a loved one. This can include lost income and benefits, loss of emotional support and protection, and lost companionship. These cases are filed on behalf of surviving family members.
- Survival action – This type of lawsuit attempts to compensate the injured person who died through his or her estate. This can include compensation for the victim’s medical bills and pain and suffering. These cases are filed on behalf of the estate.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit?
According to the Maryland wrongful death statute, there are two categories of people who can file a wrongful death claim:
- Primary beneficiary – This includes the spouse, child or parent of the deceased person.
- Secondary beneficiary – If there are no primary beneficiaries, the law says an action can be for the benefit of anyone related to the deceased by blood or marriage who was substantially dependent on the individual.
Any compensation from the case will be distributed to the beneficiaries in proportion to the damages they have suffered because of the wrongful death.
Maryland law requires that everyone who is or may be entitled to compensation based on the above classifications be named as plaintiffs in a wrongful death lawsuit. If the individual does not wish to join the case, he or she will be listed as a “use plaintiff” on the proceedings. If all plaintiffs are not listed, the case can be thrown out.
How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim?
As with any personal injury claim, there are time limits, also known as statutes of limitations, for how long you have to file a legal action. If you miss this deadline, you will not be able to file a lawsuit. Maryland law states that wrongful death lawsuits must be filed within three years of the date of the death.
Dedicated Wrongful Death Lawyers
Maryland’s wrongful death laws are complicated. Because of this it is in your best interest to hire a reputable wrongful death lawyer with experience handling these types of cases. The attorneys at Goldberg Finnegan have decades of experience handling a variety of personal injury lawsuits and are familiar with the many laws and regulations regarding wrongful death claims.
Contact us today for a free, no obligation consultation to find out if you have a case. We work on a contingency fee basis and will not charge any fees unless we recover compensation for you.