Some accident victims who initially survived a car crash may ultimately pass away if they were too badly hurt. Other injured victims may later die for reasons that have nothing to do with the accident, such as a heart attack. In either of these situations, what happens if a victim had already filed a car crash claim? Do these claims end when the victim dies, or can a surviving family member take it over on behalf of the deceased?
Goldberg Finnegan explains more about what happens if an injured victim dies after filing a car crash claim before it reaches either a settlement agreement or jury-awarded verdict. Our car crash lawyers in Silver Spring are prepared to help if your family member passed away while pursuing an injury claim. Call our law offices to schedule a free initial case review with one of our qualified attorneys. Learn more about your potential options for seeking compensation on behalf of your loved one.
What if a Car Crash Victim Files a Claim Before Passing Away?
In Maryland, if a plaintiff initially survives the crash, but then later dies because of his or her injuries, any personal injury claim the victim has filed will not continue. Instead, surviving family members can seek to hold the at-fault party accountable through a wrongful death claim.
What is a Wrongful Death Claim?
Unlike a car crash claim, a wrongful death claim enables surviving family members to seek damages caused by the victim’s death, including:
- Hospital bills and other medical costs the victim incurred while being treated up until death
- Lost earnings and other financial contributions that would have been provided by the deceased
- Pain and suffering damages up to the state’s most current cap on noneconomic damages
- Loss of parental guidance, marital care and other support the deceased would have provided
- Funeral and burial costs for the deceased victim
- Loss of benefits that the deceased would have received if he or she had survived
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Normally, the primary beneficiaries, such as a spouse, parent or child, are eligible to file a wrongful death claim. Sometimes, however, if there are no primary beneficiaries, a secondary beneficiary may file a claim.
What if the Plaintiff Died for Reasons Unrelated to the Crash?
If an injured plaintiff had already filed a claim, but later passed away for reasons unrelated to the car crash, there is no wrongful death claim. In this situation, family members may only seek a survival action claim.
Who Can File a Survival Action Claim?
A survival action claim is not filed by family members or beneficiaries. Under state law, it is filed by a personal representative of the decedent’s estate on behalf of the victim’s beneficiaries. Typically, this person is named in the decedent’s will – often a spouse, parent or child. If there is no will or no beneficiary listed, a personal representative could be appointed in a probate court. The personal representative essentially takes over seeking compensation on behalf of the deceased plaintiff.
In this situation, only damages related to the car crash may be sought, including:
- Related medical costs the victim was seeking up until his or her death
- Prescription medication needed to help with injuries from the crash
- Lost wages if the victim was unable to work after the car accident
- Property damages sustained in the car crash
- Pain and suffering damages the victim suffered due to the crash
Punitive damages, even if gross negligence occurred, may not be recovered in a survival action. These damages are only intended to punish the defendant, not award the plaintiff.
How Compensation is Paid Out
Compensation in a survival claim is not automatically paid to surviving family members. Instead, it is awarded to the deceased plaintiff’s estate and then distributed to the beneficiaries. Often, however, the beneficiaries are spouses, parents or children of the deceased.
Does Maryland Law Allow Both a Wrongful Death and Survival Action?
Yes, Maryland state law does allow eligible parties to file both a wrongful death claim and a survival action claim on behalf of a deceased plaintiff. This law enables the deceased victim’s surviving family members to seek a wider variety of damages.
Contact a Lawyer for Legal Help
At Goldberg Finnegan, we have been helping families recover compensation on behalf of their loved ones for decades. We have recovered more than $130 million in compensation for injured victims and their families in that time. If you need help after losing a loved one in a car crash, our team of legal professionals is ready to help. Call today to get started. If you delay, you may miss the state’s deadline for filing and your opportunity to recover damages. Although there is no obligation to hire our services, if we represent you, there is nothing to pay up front. We help make legal representation affordable by accepting cases on contingency. We only get paid if we win.