Maryland Wrongful Death Case Process

Wrongful death cases are different from other types of injury cases because the typical point of contact—the injured person—is now deceased and no longer able to communicate with a Maryland wrongful death attorney about the events of the incident. Thus, one of the unique issues in a wrongful death case is determining the best way to communicate with all involved parties. The other primary issue is conducting a thorough investigation of the incident.

Generally, anyone involved in a wrongful death case should anticipate that the case will take longer than expected. On rare occasions, wrongful death cases are resolved relatively quickly, which can be a benefit to a grieving family. However, many wrongful death cases require a significant amount of time to adequately investigate the accident, provide notice to surviving family members and properly work through the process.

Types of Damages in a Maryland Wrongful Death Claim

In wrongful death claims, different types of damages are recoverable by the immediate family depending upon the particular circumstances. These damages might include pecuniary and non-pecuniary losses incurred by the immediate family members of the decedent. Damages may also include other non-economic damages, when applicable depending on the specifics of each case, can be mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering, loss of society, companionship, comfort, protection, care, attention, advice, counsel, training, education, or guidance.

During your initial consultation with a Maryland wrongful death lawyer, they will sit down with you and run through the details of your case. From there, they will be able to discuss the damages you may pursue that are specific to your particular case.

How a Wrongful Death Case Starts

A wrongful death claim begins essentially just like any other personal injury claim: it is triggered by the negligent act or acts of another that, in this case, lead to a person’s death. When a Maryland wrongful death attorney gets involved is really dependent upon the surviving family members of the deceased.

It is important for an experienced personal injury/wrongful death attorney to get involved as soon as possible after the accident so that the attorney can properly investigate the claim and advise the family on what it should expect throughout the course of the claim. After conducting a thorough investigation, a lawyer will approximately know most of a case’s finer details. This will prepare them to field different arguments and defenses from the other party.

Investigating a Wrongful Death Case

Investigating a wrongful death claim is unique because the person involved in the accident or occurrence is now deceased. Thus, it differs from other injury cases in terms of how to properly investigate the occurrence, who else was involved, whether or not there are any witnesses and how and why the person died. As a result, a wrongful death case in Maryland is typically more complicated or sophisticated than your typical personal injury case, and will required the hand of an experienced attorney who has handled these types of cases before.

Factors That Can Affect a Wrongful Death Case

No two cases are ever alike, but a common reason for delay in a wrongful death case is the process of evaluating the circumstances giving rise to the accident. For instance, if there’s a question as to who was at fault in the accident, an investigation may be necessary. If the investigation relies upon third-party sources for medical records, toxicology records or investigative reports by a government agency, it can take time to obtain these records and verify whether they are accurate and whether these records should be relied upon.

There are many factors in a wrongful death claim, even during the initial investigation, which can cause it to go on longer than some people might think. A couple of these factors are notifying family members and evaluating the value of the claim. Moreover, putting together a good litigating plan can also take some time, depending upon the facts and circumstances of the individual case.

Generally speaking, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim is three years from the date of the occurrence that caused the death of a person.

Typically, there is no different statute of limitations for survival actions in Maryland. A survival action has the same statute of limitations as a wrongful death: three years from the date of the occurrence.

Wrongful Death Cases in Maryland v. Other States

Maryland is a contributory negligence state. This means that if the person bringing the claim, who is the decedent in a wrongful death claim, were determined to be even 1% liable, then the claim would be barred from recovery. This is why investigation into the events of the case is so important.

Because the person involved in the claim is now deceased, everyone else has to rely upon other sources of information to evaluate the claim and determine how the accident occurred. If the person believed to be at fault indicates that he or she was not at fault and that the decedent was at fault, then further investigation is necessary in order to determine the validity of the claim.

In a contributory negligence state like Maryland, if the decedent is even 1% at fault for his or her own death, then his or her family receives no compensation.

Settling In or Out of Court

Wrongful death cases are much like other civil cases, which are settled without the necessity of a trial most of the time. In a wrongful death case, an evaluation of whether the case will settle or go to trial is really determined by the facts and circumstances of that individual claim.

If a case is settled, then it is resolved by the mutual agreement of both parties. A settlement cannot be forced on either party; it must be mutually agreed upon. A case is likely to settle if there is a clear indication of who was at fault and there are limited sources of recovery. On the other hand, if there is a dispute regarding how the accident occurred or the proper measure of compensation, then a case is more likely to proceed to trial.

When a MD Wrongful Death Case is Completed

A wrongful death case is completed in one of two ways. The first way is through a judicial determination, such as:

  • a judgment entered by the court against the at-fault party, or
  • dismissal of the case for some legal reason.

The other way that a case can be resolved is through a settlement between the parties. A settlement is a mutual agreement between the alleged at-fault party and the surviving family members of the deceased whereby the parties agree to the amount of compensation awarded for the claim.

Goals of a Maryland Wrongful Death Attorney

The goal that an experienced Maryland wrongful death attorney seeks in every case is to obtain the best outcome possible for his or her client. When dealing with the death of a person, no amount of financial compensation can make up for the loss. But it is the goal of an attorney to adequately investigate the claim and prosecute it fully in order to obtain the best possible result for the client.