The state of Maryland defines wrongful death as death caused by “an act, neglect, or default, including a felonious act, which would have entitled the party injured to maintain an action and recover damages if death had not ensued.” Essentially, death is considered wrongful if it was caused in a manner that would have enabled the deceased to file a personal injury claim, had they survived the events.
A claim of wrongful death is similar to a personal injury claim. The primary difference is that the family members will bring the claim of wrongful death on behalf of the deceased. While many people immediately think of a car wreck when envisioning a potential wrongful death suit, it is essential to note that the circumstances leading to these claims are broad in scope and certainly not limited to car accidents. Daily, there are many types of fatal accidents, including but not limited to car accidents, medical malpractice, and workplace accidents.
Also, remember that a wrongful death suit is not synonymous with a homicide case and is, in fact, a civil lawsuit rather than a criminal one. When filing a wrongful death claim, you are suing for monetary damages against an individual or company—and while you may also be able to press charges for homicide, these are different types of cases.
Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit?
The family members of the deceased, including their parents, spouse, or children, may file a wrongful death lawsuit. As long as one or more of these is alive, the individual who files the lawsuit must come from that group. However, if no one from that primary beneficiary group remains alive, any person related to the deceased by blood and had some dependence on the deceased may file. This person is recognized as a second beneficiary.
What types of damages exist in wrongful death cases?
The damages typically associated with wrongful death lawsuits usually include what is referred to as deceased claimed losses, which include the compensation for suffering and emotional damages as well as any lost financial support due to the death of the deceased. In civil lawsuits, “damages” are the amount that should be paid to make up for a portion of the monetary, physical, and mental effects of the death. The state of Maryland categorizes losses that are eligible for compensation into the following areas:
• Mental Anguish – Parental Care
• Emotional Pain & Suffering – Filial Care
• Loss of Society – Attention
• Companionship – Marital Care
• Comfort – Protection
Every case is different, and depending on the specific case, there may be limits imposed on amounts received for noneconomic damages, which is compensation received in connection with
the pain and suffering of family members. It may make it easier to think of noneconomic damages as those that cannot be measured in financial terms, such as a bill or receipt. The cap will differ for each case and often depends on how many people died and how many beneficiaries exist. Of note, the cap on the amount that can be paid out increases by $15,000 on January 1 of each year.
Statute of Limitations
Wrongful Death Lawsuits are subject to a Statute of Limitations, a law that sets a clear time frame for a claim to be filed within. In Maryland, a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within three years of the individual’s death to be eligible for compensation.
As noted previously, every wrongful death case is different. However, the goal for the bulk of these cases remains the same—to win the financial compensation you deserve after the painful and unnecessary loss of your loved one. To win a wrongful death case, an attorney must prove that the death was caused by a wrongful act or an act of negligence by another. These cases can be extremely complex and require an experienced attorney who can sort through the case details to determine how to best get you the maximum compensation for your loss.
Of course, no amount of money will bring back or make up for the loss of your loved one. However, with a wrongful death lawsuit, the law can provide you with a sense of justice and closure in addition to financial compensation.