What is a Wrongful Death?

In the State of Maryland, when one person’s negligence causes another person’s death, the decedent’s family members can seek compensation by filing a claim for wrongful death with legal assistance from a Silver Spring wrongful death attorney.

A wrongful death claim in this state may be prompted by a fatal traffic accident or any accident caused by negligence that results in an accidental death. Medical malpractice is a leading cause of wrongful death in the United States. Defective consumer products are another leading cause.

Several dozen people are killed each year in the U.S. by aggressive dogs. A pharmacist could make a fatal mistake and sell someone the wrong medicine. Alcohol-related car crashes cause over 10,000 fatalities every year. These deaths are legally considered “wrongful.”

In Maryland, who can bring a claim for wrongful death? What compensation may be available? When should you contact a Silver Spring wrongful death lawyer? Keep reading to learn what families in Maryland need to know about wrongful death and about their rights as survivors.

If You’ve Lost a Loved One, Should Your Family File a Wrongful Death Claim?

In Maryland, claims for wrongful death are intended to compensate the decedent’s surviving, immediate family members and/or the decedent’s estate. For any family, of course, the sudden, accidental, and unexpected death of a family member may cause profound anguish.

If another person’s negligence is the reason a wrongful death happens, that person may be held accountable if the decedent’s family brings a wrongful death claim.

Certainly, no legal action can assuage a family’s grief after the unexpected loss of a family member, but a legal claim for wrongful death can help surviving loved ones pay funeral, burial, and final medical expenses and move on positively into the future without a financial hardship.

What Are “Survival” Claims?

Maryland allows two different legal actions after someone’s death has been caused by someone else’s negligence: wrongful death actions and “survival” actions. A survival claim is brought by a decedent’s estate to reimburse the estate for things such as medical expenses and funeral and burial costs.

A survival claim may also compensate the estate of the decedent for damages that include the physical pain and mental suffering that the decedent experienced at the time of and prior to the death.

In contrast to a survival claim, a wrongful death claim is filed by the surviving, immediate family members – the children, parents, or the spouse of the decedent – to compensate those persons for lost wages, lost future projected earnings, and other damages such as the loss of companionship.

Who May File a Claim?

Who, precisely, may file a claim for wrongful death or a survival claim in Maryland? The answer depends on whether the law in Maryland designates a decedent’s relative as the decedent’s “primary” or “secondary” beneficiary.

Children, parents, and the spouse of a wrongful death victim are “primary” beneficiaries in Maryland. These parties may pursue a claim for wrongful death, a survival claim, or both.

Siblings, cousins, and other related persons are “secondary” beneficiaries under Maryland law. If no primary beneficiary is living, or if the primary beneficiaries choose not to file a claim, secondary beneficiaries may file a claim for both primary and other secondary beneficiaries.

What Can Survivors Recover?

Maryland establishes limits called “caps” on the noneconomic damages that may be awarded to survivors of wrongful death. Noneconomic damages are the losses that can’t be calculated with receipts: damages such as physical pain, suffering, and mental anguish.

In 2023, the cap on noneconomic damages in Maryland wrongful death cases is $920,000. The cap on a survival action is also $920,000. The cap jumps to $1.38 million in wrongful death cases if there are two or more beneficiaries.

The combined cap for noneconomic damages when a wrongful death claim is joined with a survival claim is $2,300,000 as of 2023.

How Do Wrongful Death Claims Prevail?

In the State of Maryland, a survival or wrongful death claim is legally similar to a personal injury claim. A plaintiff (the person who brings the claim) and the plaintiff’s wrongful death attorney must prove the claim’s “elements,” which are:

  1.  The defendant – that is, the party accused of negligence – had a legal “duty of care” to the wrongful death victim.
  2.  That duty of care was breached by that defendant’s passive or active negligence.
  3.  The negligence and the breach of duty were the direct cause of the victim’s death.
  4.  The survivors suffered demonstrable losses and should be compensated for the figure they are claiming.

What is a Duty of Care?

Determining if the defendant owed a duty of care to the decedent is the first step in a wrongful death case. The level or amount of care we owe to one another differs in different situations.

Medical providers, for example, owe patients a duty to provide competent, adequate healthcare. Drivers owe others a duty to drive soberly and safely. Manufacturers of consumer products are obligated to protect consumers from defective and dangerous products.

In wrongful death and survival cases in Maryland, the surviving relatives and their attorney must prove that a defendant, by negligently breaching his or her duty of care to the decedent, directly caused the wrongful death of the decedent.

What is the Deadline for Bringing a Claim?

Every state has a statute of limitations – a hard deadline – for filing a wrongful death claim. For most claims for wrongful death in Maryland, the deadline is three years from the date of the death.

If you are a surviving, immediate family member of a wrongful death victim, do not wait for three years to speak to a Silver Spring wrongful death attorney. It may not be easy, but survivors need to meet with a wrongful death attorney as soon as they can after the loss of a loved one.

If you proceed with a claim for wrongful death, your Silver Spring wrongful death lawyer will determine exactly how the death occurred, identify the liable person or persons, and fight on your family’s behalf until you are compensated with an out-of-court settlement or a jury verdict.

Goldberg Finnegan Provides Effective Representation

If you’ve lost a loved one because someone else was negligent – or if that happens to your family in the future – schedule a free case evaluation with a wrongful death attorney at Goldberg Finnegan by calling our offices in Silver Spring at 301-589-2999.

We have considerable experience representing the surviving family members of wrongful death victims. One of our attorneys will provide personalized advice about your family’s rights and options with no cost or obligation.

If you move forward with a wrongful death claim, you will pay no attorney’s fee until and unless your family is compensated, and the legal team at Goldberg Finnegan will fight aggressively and effectively for the compensation your loved ones need and deserve.