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Maryland Wrongful Death Law 101


At Miller & Zois, LLC, we have over 100 years of combined experience fighting for grieving families in wrongful death cases in Baltimore. The goal in every case is to get them the financial compensation they deserve — and more — for the losses they have suffered. Our law firm is based in Baltimore, but our practice is statewide. We have handled claims in every county in Maryland and have a track record of getting results.

This page will:

  1. explain the two legal claims that arise when someone is killed as the result of a negligent act in Maryland, and
  2. provide information as to how much money surviving families may recover in a fatality case,
  3. Tell you what you must do to get the compensation you deserve.

If you have lost someone you loved unexpectedly, you have legal rights. Call today and learn about the options for getting compensation from an experienced Maryland wrongful death attorney by calling 800-553-8082 or completing a brief free case review form today.

Two Types of Claims Result When Someone Is Negligently Killed

When a victim dies in an auto accident or truck accident, or as the result of medical malpractice in Maryland, the decedent’s family’s personal injury lawyer will typically bring two distinct statutory claims.

One is an action brought on behalf of the personal representative of the deceased, claiming recovery for the injuries suffered by the victim. Maryland law calls this claim a “survival action,” which is the Maryland statute that allows compensation to the victim’s estate for the pain and suffering and other damages and actual expenses incurred by the victim that were suffered up to the moment of death. The other claim is a “wrongful death action,” also under Maryland statute, brought by the relatives of the victim and seeking compensation for the victim’s accidental death.

In a survival action in Maryland, damages are measured in terms of harm to the actual victim. The personal representative of the victim’s Estate serves as the posthumous agent of the victim.

These damages include physical pain before death, the agony of knowing you are dying, any medical bills, and funeral and burial services. ( Learn more about this claim here)

wrongful death lawsuits

In a wrongful death action in Maryland, damages are measured by the harm to loved ones as a result of the loss of the victim. In this case, the surviving relatives do not serve as the agent for the decedent and act on their own behalf. What is that loss for the survivors? The most frequent loss is the most obvious: the immense grief and suffering that comes with losing someone you love.

One chief difference between a survival statute and the WD statute is that if death is instantaneous, there can be no cause of action except for medical bills, lost wages before death and funeral expenses under the Maryland survival statute.

Of course, this is a fallacy of our tort law; no one can argue that a parent who does not get to see their children grow up has not suffered a loss. But these rules give that claim to the children under the survival statute.

One question families who have lost a loved one in an accident or by medical malpractice ask is what is the maximum recovery they can receive for the death? These damages can be separated into economic and non-economic damages.

Maximum Recovery in Maryland for Fatal Accident/Malpractice Claims

More on Wrongful Death

If there is more than one beneficiary, for example in a case where a woman has two children, the maximum recovery for an accident in 2024 (before October 1st) is $2,337,500. This is because there is a cap on non-economic damages in a survival action in Maryland of $935,000.

This is also the maximum cap on any non-medical malpractice fatal accident case if only one claimant exists. The wrongful death cap with two or more beneficiaries in a non-medical malpractice case is now $1,402,000. If there is only one claimant, the maximum recovery for non-economic damages would be $1.87 million ($935,000 for the survival action and $935,000 for the wrongful death action).

Non-Economic Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases

For reasons that our lawyers would argue escapes logic, if someone is killed in Maryland as a result of medical malpractice, the maximum non-economic recovery is much lower. Maryland’s pain and suffering cap in medical malpractice cases is $890,000 in 2024. (The cap increases by $15,000 each year.).

This is also the cap on Maryland medical malpractice WD cases if only one surviving beneficiary exists. In other words, the maximum recovery in a death case with only one beneficiary is $785,000. In cases with two (or more) plaintiffs, the cap is reduced from 150% of the medical personal injury cap to 125%. Md. Code Ann., Cts. and Jud. Proc., §3-2A-09. This number in 2024 is $1,112,500.

Accordingly, the wrongful death cap with two or more beneficiaries in medical malpractice cases that arise after today is $906,250. Adding insult to injury, this cap combines wrongful death and survival actions, meaning the non-economic recovery in cases where death is caused by medical malpractice in Maryland in 2024 is either $890,000 or $1,112,500.  

Recovery of Economic Damages

There is no cap on economic damages in Maryland. Accordingly, in the example above where the woman supports two children, the children would be entitled to recover for the loss of the comforts, education, and position in society which they would have enjoyed if their mother/wife had lived and retained her income and they had continued to form part of the family.


Practically, this means they are also entitled to (1) her lost wages from the time of the accident/malpractice and her death and (2) future lost wages. A future lost earnings award is allowed for earnings “reasonably certain” to result from the injury and is awarded by the jury (or judge) in a lump sum. The amount of lost earnings awarded must be based on present value and not upon speculation about inflation or other unknown factors impacting earning potential.

But, obviously, the computation of lost future earnings is not exact. To some degree, it invariably requires speculation about the decedent’s life expectancy and expected work experience.

Statute of Limitations to Sue for Negligently Caused Death

Every type of claim in Maryland has an expiration date. Simply put, there are deadlines to get a lawsuit filed in every type of civil case — motor vehicle accident, medical malpractice, and breach of contract, to name a few.

Wrongful death claims are no exception, except that wrongful death is a very broad description, and the deadlines that apply are based on the type of case. Most personal injury cases in Maryland have a three-year deadline (called the statute of limitations). So in an automobile accident, slip-and-fall, dog bite injury, or construction accident, a lawsuit must be filed within three years of the date of the accident.

The discovery rule, which is like hitting the snooze button on an alarm, applies when the plaintiff did not or reasonably should not have known of the negligence and injury. Let’s be clear: it doesn’t typically apply in most cases.

The other main category of cases is for medical malpractice, which includes nursing home, dental malpractice, medication errors, and misdiagnosis of cancer cases. Those cases also have a three-year statute of limitations.

Unlike most other cases, the discovery rule carries some heft, here. For example, if a doctor fails to diagnose a patient with cancer, it is not fair to start the three-year clock on the date of the misdiagnosis.

However, in Maryland, a medical malpractice claim must be filed within five years of the date of negligence (except for kids, who have until age 21). So, wrongful death cases can be grounded in a garden variety negligence case (auto accident, slip and fall, product liability, medical malpractice, and so forth).

These types of claims also have a statute of limitations (technically, it’s a condition precedent, but even most judges refer to it as a statute of limitations), and must be filed within three years of the date of death. So let’s say that there’s an automobile accident that causes significant health problems, eventually causing the death of the victim three months later. Is the deadline to file a wrongful death claim three years after the accident, or three years after the death? The answer is that the claim must be filed within three years of the date of death.


The reason is simple. This claim is for the bereaved beneficiaries, usually the victim’s spouse, children, and parents. They don’t have a claim for their own damages until the victim dies, and the rules grant them three years to bring their claim. It is important to note that a survival claim, filed by the personal representative of the victim for recovery of medical expenses and conscious pain and suffering, would be time-barred if filed later than three years from the date of the accident.

Also, the discovery rule doesn’t typically help extend the time to file wrongful death claims, except in cases of toxic exposure-type occupational diseases. Likewise, a minor must still bring a wrongful death claim within three years of the date of death. The time to file is not extended to the minor’s 21st birthday, like other types of claims.

There are other deadlines, called notice requirements, that may apply. In general, this means that a particular defendant must be placed on formal notice of a claim before a lawsuit is filed. These types of notice requirements usually apply to governmental entities. Cities, states and federal governments all have them.

However, there are some that you might not suspect. For example, the Maryland Local Government Tort Claims Act (Courts & Judicial Proceedings 5-301) protects Lexington Market, Inc. That and other entities demand formal notice within 180 days (6 months) of the accident. The best policy is always to contact a lawyer immediately after an accident. Even if you don’t know if you need a lawyer, you can get some advice about whether your claim has an imminent deadline.

What You Need to Prove to Bring a Successful Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Our law firm has handled many different types of wrongful death cases. Most of the claims we see are car accidents, birth injuries, medical malpractice, defective products, or workplace mishaps. To bring a successful lawsuit under the Maryland wrongful death statute, plaintiffs must prove:

  1. the victim’s death;
  2. that the negligence of the defendant proximately caused the victim’s death;
  3. that the victim’s death resulted in injury to the plaintiff (pain and suffering or economic loss), who falls within the category of beneficiaries defined by the statute; and
  4. that the lawsuit is brought within the statute of limitations

You can find a sample wrongful death lawsuit that incorporates these claims here.

Hiring a Lawyer to Fight for You

Our attorneys have successfully handled scores of wrongful death cases in Maryland and around the country. We understand the emotional and sometimes economic hardships of victims who have lost a loved one from an unexpected accidental death.

If you live in the Baltimore-Washington area and believe you have a family member who was killed that you believe was by negligence, you need to get the best lawyer you possibly can to fight for you. Call us for a free no no-obligation consultation with our attorneys at 800-553-8082.

Client Reviews
They quite literally worked as hard as if not harder than the doctors to save our lives. Terry Waldron
Ron helped me find a clear path that ended with my foot healing and a settlement that was much more than I hope for. Aaron Johnson
Hopefully I won't need it again but if I do, I have definitely found my lawyer for life and I would definitely recommend this office to anyone! Bridget Stevens
The last case I referred to them settled for $1.2 million. John Selinger
I am so grateful that I was lucky to pick Miller & Zois. Maggie Lauer
The entire team from the intake Samantha to the lawyer himself (Ron Miller) has been really approachable. Suzette Allen
The case settled and I got a lot more money than I expected. Ron even fought to reduce how much I owed in medical bills so I could get an even larger settlement. Nchedo Idahosa
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