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.
It is a common sense notion that 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 you love. Historically, civil actions for a 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 for 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 really drive up the trial and settlement value of a wrongful death case.
Under Courts and Judicial Proceedings Section 3-904(g)(1), the statute of limitations on a 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.
Theoretically, the statute of limitations in a wrongful death case can be waived either before or during litigation. Practically, this rarely happens.
Yes, a wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit brought by surviving family members seeking money damages for the loss of their loved one.
Most wrongful death malpractice cases will take between one and two years to resolve either by an out-of-court settlement or a trial. Truck accident death cases usually take slightly less time than a malpractice case. Car accident death claims can take one to two year but often resolve much more quickly.
The average payout settlement in a wrongful death case depends on the type of case. The largest wrongful death settlements we 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 damages in wrongful death cases? There is no cap on economic damages in wrongful death cases in Maryland. The most plaintiffs can get in non-economic damages under Maryland damage cap in a wrongful death case in 2019 is $2,150,000 (this will be increased on October 1, 2019). The most plaintiffs can get in a wrongful death malpractice case in 2019 is $1,018,750.
- Settlements and Verdicts in Wrongful Death Cases in Maryland: data to try to assist victims and lawyer better understand the value of these claims
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.
If the plaintiff dies during a 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.
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. Now if a party dies from their injuries, their estate has standing to sue the responsible party and get monetary damages.
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 dead person's estate or certain close family members have legal standing to file the wrongful death lawsuit. If the estate brings the action and succeeds in recovering damages for wrongful death that money would eventually be distributed by the estate to the lawful heirs of the deceased person.
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 driving 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.
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 things 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 it would for a younger person. Another important factor that can impact value is who the defendant is and whether they have insurance.
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.
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 on intentional actions like murder. If someone is murdered, their estate can sue the murderer for wrongful death under assault and battery theories.
Typically, you do not pay taxes on a wrongful death settlement. Most wrongful death cases are about pain and suffering damages. Money damages for pain and suffering damages are not taxable. If the compensation involves economic loss, that is a more complicated issue.
Generally speaking, liability insurance does cover wrongful death when it results from negligence as opposed to intentional conduct. Liability for wrongful death is covered by auto insurance, homeowner's insurance, and professionally malpractice insurance. Business liability policies also provide general coverage for wrongful death.
A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit so the defendant does not go to jail if they lose. Someone who intentionally or recklessly causes the death of another person can be criminally prosecuted by the state. We 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.
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.
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. 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 in losing a loved one.
If you have lost a loved on in a fatal Maryland car accident and would like to speak to a lawyer about your potential wrongful death claim, call one of our lawyers 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