When a family loses a loved one due to the negligence of another party, they suffer grief that is often unexplainable. In addition to pain, the loved one’s passing can bring about a difficult financial situation for the surviving family members. These difficulties can include unpaid medical bills, a major loss of income, and funeral expenses. Families need legal options when facing the aftermath of a loved one’s wrongful death.
In Maryland, surviving family members of a loved one have two options available under the law – wrongful death claims and survival actions. Both instruments constitute a method of recovering damages from a party liable for the victim’s death. However, these two methods differ in important ways, which we explain below.
Wrongful death claims
In a wrongful death claim, close family members of the deceased individual can file a civil lawsuit for damages in court. Wrongful death claims may only be filed by those in the family with proper “standing” to take such legal action. Under Maryland law, you may only file a wrongful death lawsuit if you are the spouse, child, or parent of the victim. The compensation provided for a successful wrongful death claim is based on the fact that the surviving family members have suffered losses due to the decedent’s death and are entitled to recover compensation for those losses.
As a beneficiary in a wrongful death claim, you must prove the following:
- You are the legal beneficiary according to state law
- The responsible party’s negligent actions proximately resulted in the death of the victim
- The victim’s death caused you to suffer damages, often economic losses
Additional damages may include loss of companionship, emotional anguish, and the loss of support by your loved one provided to the household.
A survival action, on the other hand, focuses on the suffering of the decedent as opposed to the financial losses and grief of the family.
In this type of action, the effect is similar in nature to a personal injury lawsuit. The difference is that the victim died instead of only suffering injuries. A personal representative of the victim’s estate, who can be designated as such by the victim’s will or by a probate court, stands in on behalf of the deceased. The personal representative functions as an agent of the victim to file the lawsuit. A survival action is filed in order to secure compensation for a range of losses, including:
- Lost wages from the time of the injury until death
- Property damage
- Medical bills
- Pain and suffering, and additional noneconomic damages
- Funeral costs
Filing a wrongful death claim or survival action
In a wrongful death claim, the individuals filing the lawsuit may include the decedent’s spouse, children, parents of an unmarried decedent, or other financial dependents. Often a survival action is submitted by the executor of the decedent’s estate.
In certain cases, siblings or grandparents of the decedent may be allowed to pursue a wrongful death claim or survival action. In Maryland, a family may pursue both actions.
If your loved one lost his or her life as a result of negligence on the part of another individual or entity, our Maryland wrongful death attorneys at Plaxen & Adler, P.A. are here to help. We can go over your legal options, investigate your case, and fight on your behalf for the damages your family is owed. To begin with a free consultation, call us today at 410.730.7737 or use our contact form to send us a message.