Wrongful death is a type of personal injury, such that the death results from another person’s negligence. If you are an immediate family member of someone who has died, it is important that you understand your rights under Maryland’s wrongful death laws.
What is Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death is a situation in which a person is killed or dies as a result of another person’s negligence or other type of misconduct. In many cases, a civil wrongful death lawsuit occurs after a person has been tried in criminal court. However, a person does not have to be involved in criminal proceedings, or be convicted of a criminal act to be found liable in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Wrongful Death Claims
A wrongful death claim is used as a means of providing compensation to the surviving immediate family or the estate of the person who has died. Much like other types of personal injury, the basis of the lawsuit must be that someone acted in a negligent manner that caused the death. In Maryland, most wrongful death suits are labeled as either survival actions or wrongful death actions.
Survival actions are designed to compensate the estate of the deceased. The damages that are paid to the estate can include any losses that occurred because of the death, such as medical expenses, funeral arrangements, and burial costs. Additionally, survival actions also allow the estate to receive compensation for the deceased person’s pain and suffering.
Wrongful Death Actions
Wrongful death actions are filed on behalf of the surviving members of the deceased’s family, typically the spouse, children, or parents. The damages in wrongful death actions provide compensation for losses that are suffered due to the person’s death, such as lost support, lost wages, and loss of companionship.
Who Can File
In Maryland wrongful death cases, the law provides two different classifications for whom a claim is allowed to be filed, which are called beneficiaries:
• Primary Beneficiaries – Primary beneficiaries include the deceased’s spouse, children, or parents. These beneficiaries have the option of filing the wrongful death or survival claim, or they can file for both. In all of these cases, if any damages are paid, the primary beneficiary is the sole person to whom they are awarded.
• Secondary Beneficiaries – Secondary beneficiaries include those that are not immediate family members, including any siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins, and any other close relatives that were dependent on the deceased. If the person who would be considered the primary beneficiary either does not wish to file a claim, or there are no surviving immediate family members, the secondary beneficiaries take over filing the claim or claims.
If you are considering a wrongful death claim, you must file it within three years of the accident. Failing to file within this time frame generally results in a forfeiture of any claims against the responsible party.
It is recommended that you contact an attorney when choosing to file a wrongful death claim in Maryland to ensure the best possible outcomes.