Many times, an accident is not just an accident. Unfortunately, some accidents result in tragedy and people lose their lives because of someone else’s carelessness or negligence. The death of the victim does not always prevent the responsible party from being held accountable for his actions. The family members of the deceased accident victim may still be able to hold a negligent party responsible for the death of their family member through a wrongful death lawsuit.
In the state of Maryland, the Maryland Wrongful Death Statute governs a wrongful death claim. The lawsuit is brought by the victim’s surviving family members on their own behalf. The claim seeks to compensate the family members for the loss of the victim’s life and his or her companionship, love, and financial support that the family would have received had the victim not died. There are only certain people who are permitted to file a wrongful death lawsuit. They are called the “beneficiaries” of a wrongful death claim. Under the Maryland statute, only a child, a parent or a spouse of the deceased may bring a wrongful death claim. If there are no surviving beneficiaries, a secondary beneficiary may be able to recover, but only under certain limited circumstances. It should be emphasized that an adult child over the age of 21 has the full legal right to bring a wrongful death claim for the death of a parent. And similarly, an adult father or mother has the legal right to bring a wrongful death case for the loss of a child, even if the child’s age is greater than 21.
Probably the single most contested aspect of a wrongful death claim is damages. Maryland has interesting rules when it comes to economic and non-economic damages. In a wrongful death claim, damages, in the proper circumstances, can include the loss of future earnings, which are considered economic damages. There is no statutory cap on the amount of economic damages that one can be awarded in a wrongful death suit. This is usually what causes wrongful death damage verdicts to be so large. However, there is a cap on non-economic damages, meaning that the amount of money that can be awarded for things like loss of companionship, love, and support is limited.
A wrongful death claim has a legal twin that also deserves some discussion. It is called a survival action and it is a claim that is brought by the deceased victim’s estate on behalf of the victim. It compensates the victim’s estate for the pain suffered while the victim was dying and up until the moment of death. A wrongful death action and a survival action are usually filed at the same time because they likely address the same set of underlying facts. There are however, some legal differences that will be important to the lawyer handling the case.
The Massey Law Group is experienced in working with individuals and families who have suffered because of the wrongful death of a loved one caused by another. As experienced attorneys, we have represented families who have suffered from wrongful deaths caused by car accidents, medical malpractice, hospital negligence and other traumatic events. If you believe that your loved one died because of the wrongful or negligent actions of another, please call the Massey Law Group at 301-982-4529.