The Maryland wrongful death lawyers at Miller & Zois can help you get a settlement or jury payout as compensation for the loss of your loved one in a Maryland wrongful death lawsuit.
This page will look at the key elements of wrongful death lawsuits in Maryland and how much money you can expect as compensation in these cases in a settlement amount or jury payout.
What is Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death is a legal term used in Maryland to describe what is usually one of two claims that surviving family members can bring when there is a fatal accident. The lion’s share of cases our lawyers handle are from medical malpractice, motor vehicle accident, or defective product.
Our Maryland Wrongful Death Attorneys
The Maryland wrongful death lawyers at Miller & Zois have a history – a long history – of maximizing the trial and settlement value of these cases, helping surviving family members recover from both the emotional and economic loss they have suffered. Our law firm is proud of the tens of millions in financial compensation our clients have won at trial or the settlement table in death claims.
How Does a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Work?
A wrongful death civil case is a legal action brought under the Maryland wrongful death statute. The case is brought on behalf of the survivors (e.g., surviving spouse, children, parents, etc.) of a decedent on their own behalf for the loss of their loved one.
The estate of the victim also has another independent claim under Maryland law called a survival action. In Maryland, unlike some other jurisdictions, a survival action is made by the personal representative of the estate on behalf of the victim’s estate for the recovery of damages for injury to a fatally injured person. This includes medical bills, funeral expenses, and most importantly, non-economic damages for pain and suffering felt by the victim.
When people are killed by the wrongful act of another person, their close relatives should have the legal right to seek compensation for both the economic loss caused to them by the death as well as the emotional distress of losing someone they love.
Yet, historically, civil actions for death were not recognized as claims in Maryland. Under the old common law, when a person was killed as a result of the wrongdoing of someone else, any personal injury claim that could be made for the accident terminated with the victim’s death.
Today, Maryland, like every state, has a statute that gives surviving family members a cause of action even after death. Our Maryland wrongful death attorneys seek compensation on behalf of the victim’s family for medical malpractice, motorcycle, car, and truck accident claims, and deaths caused by defective products.
There is a cap on wrongful death claims in Maryland (described more fully here). There is no cap, however, on economic damages in a wrongful death case. If the victim was providing for his or her family, there is a loss of future earning capacity – what the victim would have earned in compensation if the defendant did not negligently kill the victim.
Our law firm handles a lot of cases where the victim was providing for a spouse and children. This can drive up the trial and settlement value of a wrongful death case.
Is There a Statute of Limitations on a Maryland Wrongful Death Suit?
Under Courts and Judicial Proceedings Section 3-904(g)(1), the statute of limitations on wrongful death claims in Maryland is three years from the date of the death of the decedent. There are exceptions to this rule. But this is the applicable limitations period in the great majority of wrongful death cases in Maryland.
Can the Statute of Limitations Be Waived?
Theoretically, the statute of limitations in a wrongful death case can be waived either before or during litigation. Practically, this rarely happens. You need to assume that your deadline for filing is three years in a Maryland wrongful death lawsuit.
Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit a Civil Suit?
Yes, a wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit brought by surviving family members seeking money damages for the loss of their loved one.
How Long Does it Take to Settle a Wrongful Death Suit?
Most wrongful death malpractice cases will take between one and two years to resolve either by an out-of-court settlement payout or a trial. A truck accident death wrongful death lawsuit usually takes less time than a medical malpractice lawsuit. Car accident death claims can take one to two years. But auto accident death cases often resolve much more quickly.
What Is the Average Settlement Amount for a Wrongful Death?
The average settlement amount in a wrongful death case depends on the type of case but most settlements range from $300,000 to $2,000,000. The trial value of a wrongful death claim is usually higher because a settlement is a less-than-full-value compromise.
The largest wrongful death settlements our lawyers see are in truck accident cases because there is usually plenty of insurance coverage. Medical malpractice wrongful death cases are a bit less than truck accident cases. Car accident cases can have high settlements but are sometimes hampered by limited insurance coverage.
Is there a cap on wrongful death damages? There is no cap on economic damages in wrongful death cases in Maryland. But there is a cap on non-economic or pain and suffering damages in a wrongful death case.
The most plaintiffs can get in non-economic damages under the Maryland damage cap in a wrongful death case in 2022 is $2,280,000 (this will be increased on October 1, 2022). The most plaintiffs can get in a wrongful death malpractice case in 2022 for pain and suffering is $1,075,000.
- Settlements and Verdicts in Wrongful Death Cases in Maryland: data to try to help victims and wrongful death attorneys in Maryland better under
stand the settlement amounts and jury payouts in wrongful death lawsuits
Can You Sue a Family Member for Wrongful Death?
You can sue a family member for wrongful death. This happens under the best of circumstances in car accident cases where one family member negligently causes an accident that kills another. If there is insurance, it makes sense for the other surviving family members to make a claim.
What Happens When a Person Dies During a Lawsuit?
If the plaintiff dies during a wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiff’s estate takes over the claim. If the defendant dies, the estate can be substituted as well. Typically, if the defendant dies it has little impact on how the claim proceeds.
What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A wrongful death lawsuit is a special type of personal injury claim that can be brought when someone dies and another party is legally “at fault” for the death because of negligence or an intentional act. Wrongful death claims are regular tort claims like negligence or medical malpractice that are brought on behalf of a person who dies.
Wrongful death claims are a relatively new legal development (last 150 years). Traditionally, under common law, only the injured party themselves had standing to sue. If that person died as a result of their injuries, the negligent party escaped liability. Wrongful death statutes were enacted in all states to correct this unfairness.
Who Is the “Plaintiff” in a Wrongful Death Suit?
In most states, the plaintiff in a wrongful death lawsuit is the deceased person’s estate or members of the decedent’s immediate family (e.g., spouse, children, parents). Only the deceased’s estate or certain close family members have legal standing to file the wrongful death lawsuit. Any verdict or settlement distribution in death cases goes to these family members or heirs to the victim’s estate.
How Do You Prove a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim is just a tort claim brought on behalf of a deceased person. There is no extra level of proof required for a wrongful death claim. To prove wrongful death the plaintiff just needs to establish the elements of the underlying tort claim (usually negligence). This involves proving the basic elements of negligence:
- Duty of Care: plaintiffs must establish that the defendant owed some duty of care to the deceased. For example, another driver owes a duty to follow the rules of the road and drive safely.
- Breach: wrongful death plaintiffs must prove that the defendant’s actions (or inactions) breached the duty of care (e.g., ran a red light).
- Causation: plaintiffs must also prove that the defendant’s breach of their duty of care was actually what caused the wrongful death.
How Much Compensation for a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
There is no preset value for wrongful death claims. How much money the plaintiff can get in a wrongful death lawsuit will depend on several different factors and factual circumstances. Relevant factors can include age and health at the time of death and future earning capacity.
If the decedent was a retired elderly person in poor health, the wrongful death case will be less valuable than for someone younger with future earning capacity and a spouse or dependents. Another important factor that can impact value is who the defendant is and whether they have insurance.
How Long Does it Take to Settle a Wrongful Death Case?
The typical wrongful death lawsuit may take between 1-2 years to settle. However, each case presents a highly unique mixture of circumstances that can affect the settlement timeframe. Wrongful death cases do not necessarily take any longer to settle than other types of personal injury cases. Some wrongful death cases get settled in a few months while others drag on for years.
What Are the Grounds for a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Wrongful death lawsuits are based on the same tort law claims as other personal injury lawsuits. The vast majority of wrongful death lawsuits are based on claims of negligence or malpractice (which is a special type of negligence). Wrongful death can also be grounded in intentional actions like murder. If someone is murdered, their estate can sue the murderer for wrongful death under assault and battery theories.
Are Wrongful Death Settlements Taxable?
No. The proceeds of any settlement you receive in a wrongful death lawsuit will not be treated as taxable income. Under the tax code, payments received as compensation for pain and suffering related to physical injury are not taxable. Wrongful death settlements are considered compensation for personal injury and are therefore not treated as income for tax purposes. There are certain rare exceptions to this rule.
Do You Have to Report Wrongful Death Settlement Proceeds on Your Taxes?
Yes. If you receive proceeds from a wrongful death lawsuit settlement, you will be required to report that money on your tax returns. However, the settlement proc
eeds will probably not be taxable.
Does Insurance Cover Wrongful Death?
Generally speaking, liability insurance does cover wrongful death when it results from negligence as opposed to intentional conduct. But if a business is responsible for not protecting its customers, that is a potential negligent security lawsuit. Liability for wrongful death is covered by auto insurance, homeowner’s insurance, and professional malpractice insurance. Business liability policies also provide general coverage for wrongful death.
Can You Go to Jail for Wrongful Death?
A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit so the defendant does not go to jail if they lose. Many of our law firm’s clients understandably find this frustrating. Someone who intentionally or recklessly causes the death of another person can be criminally prosecuted by the state.
Our wrongful death lawyers see this in our practice mostly in DWI cases. However, this is a separate proceeding that is not necessarily related to any wrongful death action.
What is the Statute of Limitations for a Wrongful Death Claim?
Each state has a statute of limitations for wrongful death claims. In Maryland, a wrongful death claim must be filed within 3 years of the date of death.
Finding the Right Wrongful Death Lawyer
Our lawyers have handled scores of wrongful death cases, helping families navigate the difficult legal issues that almost invariably occur with what is often the sudden, unexpected accidental death of a parent, spouse, or child. Many of you are looking are searching for a “wrongful death lawyer near me” because you think it would be easier for the lawyer’s office to be close to you. Our attorneys would argue you would be better served finding the best wrongful death lawyer in Maryland to maximize the settlement amount or jury compensation payout for your lawsuit.
As attorneys experienced with the handling of wrongful death and survivor’s claims, we are committed to handling all the legal aspects for you and your family. We can handle the legal issues in the wrongful death claim against those responsible, so the family can concentrate on the difficult emotional issues that come with losing a loved one.
If you have lost a loved one in a fatal Maryland car accident or by medical malpractice and would like to speak to a wrongful death lawyer, call one of our attorneys at 800-553-8082 for a free, no-obligation consultation. You can also get a free Internet consultation.
More Information to Better Understand Maryland Fatal Accident Claims
- The Difference Between a Survival Action and a Wrongful Death Claim in Maryland: an explanation of the two types of claims that exist… and what that means to you.
- 5 Things You Must Know About Maryland Traffic Accident Wrongful Death Cases
- Maryland Wrongful Death Statute: the law
- Nursing Home Wrongful Death Cases
- Sample Wrongful Death Lawsuit: get an idea of what a lawsuit looks like