When a person dies from a negligent illness or injury, the surviving family members can pursue a wrongful death claim. Wrongful death claims function similarly to personal injury lawsuits in Baltimore. The difference is that the plaintiff is a family member of the deceased or a representative of the deceased’s estate.
Families that experience unexpected deaths have many concerns. Handling legal matters can quickly become a burden for those in mourning. The Baltimore wrongful death attorneys at Murphy, Falcon & Murphy want local residents to know we are here to help in these difficult times. Consider the following information about wrongful death claims in Maryland. If you would like more information, contact our office to schedule a free initial consultation and case evaluation.
Types Wrongful Death Claims in Baltimore
Maryland law recognizes two types of wrongful death claims:
- Survivor claims on behalf of the decedent’s estate
- Wrongful death actions brought on behalf of the survivors of the deceased person
A survival action seeks to compensate the deceased person’s estate for expenses resulting from the death paid by the estate. This typically includes:
- Burial and funeral costs
- Medical expenses
- Pain and suffering experienced by the deceased person
A wrongful death action seeks to compensate the decedent’s loved ones for:
- The loss of affection, care, or guidance
- Household services
- Financial security the decedent provided
Maryland also has a longer statute of limitations for wrongful death actions and survival actions than most other states. Therefore, plaintiffs have three years from the date of death to file a wrongful death or survival action in Maryland.
Who Can File Wrongful Death Claims in Maryland?
Maryland Code Section 3-904 restricts who has the right to file a civil claim for someone’s wrongful death. Each state has different rules when it comes to who can file. Some states allow most or all family members to bring these lawsuits, while others only permit the representative of the deceased person’s estate to make such a claim on damages. The following parties can legally file wrongful death claims in Maryland:
- Primary beneficiaries. This includes spouses, parents, and children of the decedent. Exceptions exist if the parent is a convict in certain circumstances, or if the parent committed a prohibited act against the child’s other parent. A parent also cannot seek damages if that parent caused the child’s wrongful death.
- Secondary beneficiaries. If the decedent does not have any surviving primary beneficiaries, “secondary” beneficiaries have the right to step forward and request financial compensation for wrongful death. This can include anyone blood-related to the decedent or related by marriage who was dependent upon the deceased person.
According to law, the courts will divide compensation in a successful wrongful death claim among all beneficiaries in proportion to each beneficiary’s injuries from the wrongful death. Generally, those closest to or most dependent on the decedent will receive the greatest compensation. The verdict will decide who gets what. If you’re not sure whether you have the right to bring a wrongful death claim in Maryland, consult with our attorneys to find out
Types of Damages in a Baltimore Wrongful Death Case
Some of the most common questions we get at Murphy, Falcon & Murphy have to do with compensation. In a wrongful death claim, compensation is an important matter, as families may otherwise not have the means to pay for a memorial or funeral service, as well as to cover accident-related medical expenses and the daily costs of living. We want to help you understand the types of damages available in a Maryland wrongful death case.
Here is a more in-depth breakdown:
- Mental anguish and emotional pain and suffering. This is a big one for the surviving family members and loved ones when someone else’s negligence unexpectedly cuts a life short. Family members often suffer severe mental, emotional, and psychological damage that can be long-lasting after a wrongful death – especially in cases in which those filing witnessed the traumatic death. It also includes the decedent’s pain and suffering prior to death.
- Medical bills. Oftentimes, an untimely death leads to thousands of dollars in medical bills for the surviving family. Without a settlement or judgment award, how will your family foot these bills? Pursuing restitution through the civil court can lead to the money your family needs for a future of financial stability, even with substantial medical costs.
- Loss of consortium. Loss of consortium is a type of compensation unique to wrongful death claims or those involving permanently disabling injuries, such as paralysis. Loss of consortium compensation can include loss of the decedent’s companionship, advice, comfort, society, protection, care, attention, training, education, and guidance. The courts generally reserve this for spouses and minor children.
- Punitive damages. Sometimes, wrongful death arises from gross negligence, malice, or intent to harm. Examples include fatal drunk driving accidents and homicides. In these cases, a Maryland judge may award additional “punitive damages” to beneficiaries. These damages serve to punish the defendant as well as to make up for losses better than compensatory damages can alone.
The value of your specific wrongful death claim depends on the unique circumstances leading up to your loved one’s death, as well as the damages surviving loved ones have suffered as a result of the death.
The types of damages that may be available, however, don’t change from case to case. Learn more about how much your case could be worth during a complimentary case evaluation with one of our attorneys.
Category One Damages Awarded
These damages are recovered by the deceased from the time of the personal injury until their death. Damages in this category include:
- Physical and mental pain and suffering
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Funeral expenses
Category Two Damages Awarded
These damages can be recovered by the dependents of the deceased. This class of damages compensates the deceased's survivors for their monetary losses. These laws are meant to replace the lost income that the deceased would have earned if they were still alive. These damages include lost wages that the deceased would have earned until their anticipated retirement.
In some cases, the court may give loss of consortium damages to the deceased's immediate family members or spouse. This is meant to act as compensation for lost companionship and love. This is especially common in cases where a parent dies leaving behind minor children. The courts may also choose to award punitive damages to the deceased's surviving family members. This may arise in cases where a defendant engages in egregious or reckless conduct leading to the death of the deceased. Punitive damages are meant to punish the accused and to discourage the community from similar conduct. This could be the case in wrongful death lawsuits as a result of a Baltimore car accident, drunk driver, and more.
Wrongful Death Damage Caps in Baltimore
It is important to note that Maryland has a cap on non-economic damages for wrongful death cases. In 2017, the limit for non-economic damages was $845,000. However, this limit increases every year by $15,000 on October 1. As a result, on October 1, 2018, the cap increases to $860,000. If there are two or more beneficiaries suing for wrongful death, the cap is %150 of the normal limit.
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Protect Your Rights and Work with Us
Murphy, Falcon & Murphy has a long track record of success in wrongful death cases in the Baltimore area. We want to put our resources and experience to work in your case. The untimely death of a loved one is never an easy thing to manage. Allow us to handle your legal concerns so you and your family can mourn in peace.
Contact our Baltimore office today to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys. We’ll review your wrongful death claim and help you gather the evidence necessary for building a strong case.