Each state has its own laws governing wrongful death lawsuits. In this article, we'll look at some key portions of Maryland's wrongful death laws. We'll start with how Maryland defines wrongful death and who may bring this kind of claim to court in the state. Then, we'll talk about the damages available in a successful wrongful death case and the time limits for getting the lawsuit started in court.
Maryland wrongful death claims are intended to compensate the estate and the surviving immediate family members of a deceased person when an untimely death is caused by the negligence of another person or company.
Some wrongful death plaintiffs find it helpful to think of a wrongful death case as a personal injury claim in which the injured person is no longer available to bring his or her own claim to court. Instead, the family members of the deceased person must file a wrongful death claim in court in order to hold the defendant accountable and get compensation for their own losses and the losses of the estate.
Maryland typically divides wrongful death claims into two categories: survival actions and wrongful death actions.
Maryland has very specific rules regarding who may file a wrongful death claim or a survival action. Generally speaking, whether a certain person may file a claim depends on whether they are classified as a "primary" or "secondary" beneficiary.
Typically, the primary beneficiaries will file a wrongful death claim seeking damages for their own losses, while either a primary or secondary beneficiary will file a survival action seeking damages on behalf of the estate.
In a Maryland wrongful death claim, losses are expressed in terms of money damages. The specific types and amounts of damages available depend on whether the claim brought is a survival claim or a wrongful death claim.
Damages available in a survival claim are damages suffered by the estate as a result of the untimely death. They include funeral and burial expenses, medical bills for the deceased person's final illness or injury, property damage costs, and damages for the deceased person's pain and suffering.
Damages available in a wrongful death claim are damages suffered by the deceased person's surviving family members as a result of the untimely death. They include lost wages and other compensation, as well as the loss of the deceased person's care, companionship, and guidance.
Maryland "caps," or limits" non-economic damages in wrongful death claims. Non-economic damages are those that cannot be measured in terms of bills or receipts: losses like pain and suffering and loss of companionship. As of October 2014, Maryland caps non-economic damages in wrongful death cases at $2 million.
Learn more about Damages in a Wrongful Death Case.
Maryland's statute of limitations sets a deadline on the filing of a wrongful death lawsuit in the state. These claims must typically be filed within three years of the date of the deceased person's death. Claims filed after this three-year deadline are typically thrown out by the court without a hearing.