Maryland Survival Actions: Liability and Damages

Establishing liability can be tricky in survival actions as well as wrongful death claims because the primary point of contact is now deceased. Therefore, it is important for a Maryland wrongful death attorney to properly investigate and nail down the facts and circumstances of the loss, which should be sufficient to establish liability should the case proceed to litigation.

Liability is established through the presentation of evidence to the court in front of either a judge or a jury. The evidence can take the form of witness testimony, prior statements by the parties, demonstrative evidence such as photographs and medical records and/or any other admissible evidence collected during the investigation. After liability is established, the concentration of a case then turns to damages. The evaluation of damages of these cases can be just as tricky or complicated as establishing liability.

Civil Court v. Private Negotiation

Whether a case is resolved out of court—for instance, through a private mediation or a settlement conference—is really in the hands of the parties involved. It’s up to them to decide how best to resolve their claim based upon their individual situation.

If either party is unwilling to resolve the claim through a private mediation, then the remaining choice for the claimant is whether to initiate litigation with the goal of obtaining a judgment or simply not to pursue the claim. Those are the only two options if one party is not willing to enter into a voluntary settlement or mediation.

Duration of Survival Actions

Survival actions are typically handled in tandem with wrongful death claims in Maryland, and the length of time it takes to resolve them really depends upon the circumstances giving rise to the claim.

It is typically an attorney’s advice for anyone involved in this type of claim to anticipate that the case will take much longer than they expect. Even though a situation may seem straightforward, these cases are often more complicated than they seem. For example, it can take a few months to properly investigate the claim before a proper evaluation of damages can even begin.

Likewise, a person initiating a claim should be conscious of whether any probate matters need to be initiated. A civil claim might be hung up in court until the estate matters are resolved.

Role and Types of Monetary Damage

Of course, financial compensation can never adequately make up for the loss of a loved one. However, in Maryland, civil cases only allow for financial compensation. This system is devised to try to compensate the surviving family members as much as possible for both the emotional loss and the financial loss resulting from the death of a family member.

Conscious Pain and Suffering

Conscious pain and suffering in survival action is very fact-specific, but essentially the court has determined that it is allowable for a jury to compensate the decedent’s estate for the conscious pain and suffering of the decedent as a form of recovery.

The deceased is no longer with us and cannot describe his or her conscious pain and suffering or the length of time for which it was incurred. Most of the time, proof of conscious pain and suffering will require a medical professional to describe the facts and circumstances of the injuries that ultimately resulted in the person’s death. It is typically this testimony that is crucial to proving a conscious pain and suffering claim.

Medical Bills

When an accident results in death, the medical bills are often minimal. More frequently, it is the future financial contributions that are more substantial, requiring extensive investigation, experts, etc. Unlike in car accident cases where a person survives but is left with damaging injuries, a wrongful death attorney working on a Maryland survival action case will not usually be able to bring up extensive medical bills as a monetary damage.

How a Maryland Wrongful Death Lawyer Can Help

The most important thing a client can do during the course of a case is maintain a good working dialogue or line of communication with his or her wrongful death attorney. This is sometimes difficult since surviving family members are confronted with a tragic situation that can present any number of financial problems and emotional challenges.

It’s always important to work with an experienced and trusted wrongful death attorney because the majority of these cases involve complicated issues that require the skill and knowledge of an experienced attorney.

Sometimes, people involved in these cases mistakenly think or hope that if they retain the services of an attorney, their role will be minimal or they won’t need to be involved at all. However, attorneys do need the cooperation of surviving family members to adequately process the claim. Therefore, the most important thing for a client to do is to be available to his or her attorney.