If your loved one has died because of someone else’s negligent actions, you may be able to pursue a legal claim against the responsible party. A wrongful death lawsuit, along with a similar claim known as survival action, can compensate the victim’s survivors for a variety of economic and non-economic damages. The pain of losing a loved one can never be undone, but you and your family can get the justice and peace of mind you deserve.
It starts with hiring the right Maryland wrongful death attorney. Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP is experienced with the complex issues that arise in wrongful death lawsuits. Let our dedicated and compassionate team discuss your legal options with you today.
What Is A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
When someone hurts another person because of negligence, the victim can hold that person liable for damages. This is the essence of a personal injury lawsuit. A wrongful death lawsuit is in many ways an extension of this principle in the event the injured victim dies. It allows certain individuals, specified by law, to file a claim against the party whose negligence resulted in the victim’s death.
A similar action is called a survival claim. Whereas wrongful death actions are filed from the perspective of the surviving family members, the survival claim is filed through the decedent’s estate. The major difference between these two lawsuits is the nature of the damages that can be sought.
What Events Give Rise To A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Just as there are numerous types of claims that allow a victim to file a personal injury lawsuit, a wrongful death claim can arise in a number of cases:
- Automobile accidents
- Swimming pool accidents
- Workplace accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Premises liability cases
- Product liability
- Animal attacks
To recover damages in a wrongful death lawsuit, the late victim’s eligible survivors must show that the responsible party somehow acted negligently. That means establishing the following:
The defendant owed the deceased victim a duty of care. In other words, with respect to the late victim, the defendant was obligated to conduct him- or herself according to a certain legal standard. This duty often arises out of the relationship between the defendant and the late victim.
The defendant breached the duty of care owed to the late victim. This requires showing that the defendant either took or did not take some action, and that by doing so, he or she was negligent. Or, it could mean that the defendant acted recklessly or intentionally towards the victim and thereby violated this duty.
The defendant’s breach was a direct cause of the victim’s death. Similar to a personal injury lawsuit, there must be a direct link between the negligence or other behavior complained of and the harm done to the victim. The only real difference is that the harm done in this case was the death of the victim.
The defendant’s breach caused the plaintiff to suffer damages. This tends to be one of the most disputed aspects of a wrongful death lawsuit. There are several different types of damages you should consider.
Damages Available In Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Wrongful death lawsuits are designed to compensate relatives who depended on the deceased victim for emotional and financial support. They are also intended to help alleviate the inevitable financial burden that comes with having to handle the victim’s final affairs. This is done by filing a lawsuit to demand economic and non-economic damages.
Depending on the issues in your case, some of the damages you may be able to seek in a wrongful death lawsuit are:
- Loss of future income and benefits
- Loss of emotional support
- Loss of companionship
In a survival claim, the late victim’s estate can seek these and other damages:
- Medical expenses incurred by the late victim
- Funeral and burial expenses for the late victim
- Lost wages from the time of injury to death
- Pain and suffering
In Maryland wrongful death lawsuits, there is no limit to economic damages such as medical bills or lost wages. However, non-economic damages such as loss of emotional support are subject to a statutorily defined cap that operates according to an annually adjusted formula. You should speak with an experienced Maryland wrongful death attorney to learn more about the current cap that applies in your case.
Who Can File A Lawsuit?
Not everyone who survived the late victim is able to file a Maryland wrongful death lawsuit. Only a primary beneficiary – the victim’s spouse, parent, or child – is able to file a claim. There is an exception to this rule that applies in limited cases where there is no primary beneficiary available to file a claim. Here, another family member – a secondary beneficiary – can maintain a wrongful death lawsuit provided they meet two requirements. First, they must be related by either blood or marriage. Second, they must show that they were substantially dependent upon the deceased victim.
How Long Do I Have To File A Lawsuit?
Generally, the surviving family members will have three years from the date of the deceased victim’s death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. The same applies to survival actions. However, it is generally recommended that you take action as soon as possible to preserve and obtain the evidence needed.
Contact Our Maryland Wrongful Death Attorneys
Losing a loved one is devastating, and can leave the victim’s survivors uncertain about the future. Our dedicated wrongful death attorneys are ready to fight for you and your family. Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP serves clients in these and other parts of suburban Maryland:
- Prince George’s County
- Montgomery County
- Calvert County
- Charles County
- St. Mary’s County
Contact us today to find out more and to schedule your confidential consultation.