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Maryland wrongful death suits in fatal accident cases

Despite public campaigns promoting safer driving, terrible accidents happen far too often in Maryland, taking lives and leaving behind devastated loved ones. A quick look at recent Maryland media reveals: 

  • In October, a three-car accident in Westminster involving a vehicle going at least 100 mph caused three people’s deaths, including a pregnant woman, plus the death of the speeding driver.
  • This summer, a car reportedly driving the wrong direction on a highway near Fort Washington caused a head-on collision, killing both drivers.
  • In Cecil County in July, a car trying to cross a highway struck a motorcycle, killing its Delaware operator. 

Wrongful death lawsuits 

Anyone in Maryland who loses a spouse or relative in this way should speak with a lawyer as soon as possible. The state wrongful death statute allows a lawsuit against anyone causing the death of another through a “wrongful act.” If the wrongdoer also dies before the wrongful death suit is filed, the plaintiff may instead sue the personal representative of the wrongdoer’s estate. 

A wrongful act for purposes of wrongful death is an “act, neglect, or default,” including a “felonious act” that could have supported a lawsuit for damages if the wrongdoer had not died. 

With some exception, a wrongful death action may be filed by a spouse, child or parent. If none of these relatives are eligible to file, anyone related by marriage or blood can bring the suit if the person was “substantially dependent” on the deceased. 

A successful wrongful death plaintiff can get damages for pecuniary losses, meaning for things that can be financially measured. For example, if the decedent was paying rent for an elderly parent, that loss could be measured in dollars. 

Damages are also allowed for noneconomic damages like those for “mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering, loss of society, companionship, comfort, protection, marital care, prenatal care, filial care, attention, advice, counsel, training, guidance, or education …” Some of these require that certain conditions be met. 

In most situations, the wrongful death lawsuit must be brought within three years of death, with different deadlines applying in situations involving death from occupational disease or by homicide.   

Survival action

Another potential remedy could be a suit by the deceased person’s personal representative of his or her estate on behalf of the deceased for damages for the harm inflicted while alive that led to death, including funeral expenses.

 

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