The loss of a loved one is never easy. However, when another party’s negligent, reckless, or wrongful actions caused your loved one’s passing, you may be anxious to hold them accountable to the fullest extent of the law.
The wrongful death claims process may be intimidating. However, with a Maryland wrongful death attorney at Brown & Barron on your side, you can get justice for your family member and make the liable party pay for their conduct. Below, we have provided the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding wrongful death claims in Maryland. If you have additional questions or want to start pursuing your claim, do not hesitate to contact our office today.
What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A wrongful death lawsuit is a type of personal injury claim filed when someone passes away due to a fatal accident or incident. Generally, specific individuals have the authority to file wrongful death lawsuits when a person’s negligence, misconduct, or other wrongful act causes the death of another person.
In filing a wrongful death lawsuit, your attorney must prove liability based on a preponderance of the evidence. If your case is successful, your family could recover compensation for the damages your loved one endured and your family suffered because of the liable parties’ negligent or wrongful acts.
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When Can You File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
You could file a wrongful death lawsuit when another person’s negligence or misconduct led to your loved one’s death. However, it may not always be clear whether someone else is to blame for the decedent’s passing.
If you suspect that another party is at fault for your family member’s death, you might want to contact a wrongful death attorney to discuss your legal options.
How do Wrongful Death Claims Differ From Criminal Charges?
Although the liable party may face criminal charges for your loved one’s death, this proceeding is much different from the wrongful death claim you file against them.
In criminal cases, the state’s prosecuting attorney brings forward charges against someone accused of committing a crime. The state must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt for the defendant to be found guilty. If a jury finds the defendant guilty, they will face criminal penalties such as:
- Jail or prison time
- Community service
A civil case will not lead to any criminal justice penalties. However, it could result in recovering the compensation you need to move forward following your loved one’s death.
How Do Wrongful Deaths Occur?
Wrongful deaths can occur under virtually limitless circumstances. However, some common accidents and incidents known for causing wrongful deaths in Maryland include:
- Car accidents
- Truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Bus accidents
- Work injuries
- Construction accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
- Dog bites
- Swimming pool accidents
- Premises liability accidents
- Defective products
- Medical malpractice
- Birth injuries
- Nursing home abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Physical abuse or assault
No matter the reason your family member passed away, you may have the opportunity to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. Contact our office to find out your next steps.
Who Is Responsible for Causing My Loved One’s Death?
We will need to review the specific details of your case before making this determination. Your wrongful death attorney will carefully analyze the circumstances of your family member’s death to establish causation and liability. For example, if your loved one passed away from their injuries in a car accident, several parties could share liability, such as:
- Negligent drivers
- Irresponsible safety inspectors
- Auto parts designers, manufacturers, and distributors
- Motor vehicle dealerships
- Vehicle technicians
- Dram shops
Car crash deaths are just one example of when you could hold another party liable for causing fatal injuries. How your loved one passed away will provide invaluable evidence that we could use to support your wrongful death claim against the culpable party.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Maryland?
Md. Cts. & Jud. Proc. Code § 3-904 establishes who can file a wrongful death lawsuit:
- Any relative (blood or marriage) “substantially dependent upon the deceased”
The last category only applies when the decedent has no surviving family members in the first three classifications. Then, anyone related to the decedent by marriage or blood and who was financially or emotionally dependent on them can file a wrongful death claim.
How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Maryland?
You must file your wrongful death lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires. Generally, the statute of limitations is three years from the decedent’s death. However, exceptions could affect the deadline.
For example, if the decedent passed away from an occupational disease, Md. Cts. & Jud. Proc. Code § 3-904(g)(2)(ii) extends the deadline to either 10 years from the date of the decedent’s death or three years from when you discovered the cause of death, whichever is shorter.
The exact date when the statute of limitations expires for your case will vary depending on the specific circumstances of your loved one’s passing. For instance, if you’re unsure whether your loved one was diagnosed with an occupational disease, consider that a job-related illness involves the decedent being exposed to toxic substances at their workplace before contracting a related illness. Therefore, you might want to contact a wrongful death attorney for clarity and support.
What Should I Expect From the Insurance Company?
Generally, a liability insurance provider will represent the at-fault party. Thus, dealing with the insurance company is one of the more unfortunate aspects of the wrongful death claims process.
Filing a claim with their insurance company offers an opportunity for you to recover specific types and amounts of compensation. Many insurance companies only cover damages up to the policyholder’s policy limits. If your damages exceed these limits, the insurance company does not have to cover your costs.
Furthermore, insurance companies only care about their bottom line. As a result, they will prioritize their financial interests over those of their claimants. Therefore, when dealing with the insurance company, we advise not providing them a statement and never accepting their initial offer, which rarely compensates you fully for your losses. Instead, you can direct the adjuster to your wrongful death attorney, who will ensure that the insurer doesn’t take advantage of you during this sensitive time in your life.
What If My Loved One Was Partially to Blame for Their Death?
Maryland operates under a pure contributory negligence system. Here, sharing fault for your injuries prohibits you from recovering any compensation for your damages. Therefore, insurance companies regularly argue that the victim shares fault for their injuries in wrongful death claims. This strategy allows the defense to escape having to pay out on your claim.
For this reason, you will want a strong legal advocate on your side who can ensure that a judge and jury fairly and accurately assess liability in your case. For example, if the defense successfully argues that your loved one bears some responsibility for their fatal injuries, they could avoid being ordered to compensate you for your damages.
How does the Wrongful Death Claims Process Work?
The wrongful death claims process varies considerably on a case-by-case basis. However, some common elements of Maryland wrongful death claims include:
- Investigating how the accident or incident occurred
- Determining responsibility for the decedent’s death
- Gathering evidence needed to support the case
- Calculating the value of the Maryland wrongful death claim
- Filing the claim before the statute of limitations expires
- Negotiating with the insurance company
- Advocating for maximum compensation at trial
Will I Have to Go to Court?
You should always prepare for the possibility of taking your wrongful death claim to trial. It is possible to avoid going to court by obtaining from the insurance company a settlement that meets your needs. However, because insurance companies fight every step of the way and only pay out up to the policy limits, bringing your case to trial may be the only way to maximize your wrongful death award.
Insurance companies often compensate for specific economic damages such as property damage, lost income, and medical bills. You cannot recover any damages valued beyond the policyholder’s coverage limits from the insurance company. Instead, bringing your case before a judge and jury may be the only way to recover your economic damages in full, as well as your noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering in their entirety.
What Happens If My Child Passes Away From a Fatal Injury?
It is more common than you might think for children to suffer fatal injuries at the hands of another party. When a child passes away due to wrongful death, you as their parent or legal guardian can take legal action against those responsible for causing their death.
With help from a Maryland wrongful death attorney, you can fight to hold the individual or entity responsible for your child’s passing accountable to the fullest extent of the law. Unfortunately, you may not have any say in whether the state files criminal charges. However, if you can take legal action against them civilly, you may be able to get justice for your child.
What Damages Can I Recover in a Wrongful Death Claim?
Wrongful death lawsuits allow for specific types of damages. Generally, damages fall into two categories: economic and noneconomic.
You can determine economic damages with specificity. In addition, you can prove their value with receipts, pay stubs, bank statements, and other financial records. Some common types of economic damages awarded in wrongful death lawsuits include:
- Hospital bills
- Prescription and over-the-counter medications
- Diagnostic imaging tests
- Medical insurance co-pays
- Doctor’s visits
- Medical equipment
- Lost income (e.g., wages, salary, and retirement contributions)
- Loss of potential future earnings
- Property damage
- Loss of household services
Noneconomic damages are more difficult to quantify, as they don’t have a tangible aspect of determining their monetary value. However, they often prove far more valuable than economic damages, depending on the effect your loved one’s death has had on your life. Some common types of noneconomic damages awarded in wrongful death claims include:
- Pain and suffering (physical and psychological)
- Loss of companionship and love
- Loss of support and guidance
- Loss of advice and society
- Loss of consortium
- Emotional distress
- Diminished quality of life
What About Punitive Damages?
Courts award punitive damages to punish the liable party for egregious, despicable, or grossly negligent conduct. You receive this award beyond the compensatory damages that are rightfully yours, as the courts want to send a message that society will not accept similar actions.
Although awarded rarely, if you receive punitive damages in your case, it could have a significant impact on the amount of your wrongful death award.
These three categories encompass the most common awards in Maryland wrongful death claims. However, you can learn how much your wrongful death lawsuit is worth and what damages you can recover when you contact an attorney for help.
Get Help from a Wrongful Death Lawyer in Maryland Today
The wrongful death claims process can be complicated to navigate while grieving the loss of a loved one. If you want to learn more about how you can take legal action against the individual or entity responsible for your family member’s passing, you can reach out to a Maryland wrongful death attorney at Brown & Barron.
Our firm proudly offers no-cost, risk-free consultations to family members of individuals who passed away due to the wrongful actions of another party. Take advantage of this opportunity to bring the liable party to justice when you contact our office today.
Contact Brown & Barron online today to schedule a free case review.