When you suffer a death in the family, you may experience personal and financial hardship as a result. If some other person or entity was responsible for negligently, recklessly, or intentionally causing your loved one’s death, you may be able to seek compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit.
Generally, any primary beneficiary, such as a spouse, parent, or child of the decedent, may file or be named in a wrongful death lawsuit. If none of these parties survive or are willing to file a wrongful death claim, the opportunity then extends to secondary beneficiaries, including extended family members and those who were substantially financially dependent on the deceased.
To find out more about whether you can file a wrongful death lawsuit and what you could gain from a successful claim, call Bennett & Heyman’s resourceful Baltimore wrongful death attorneys. We offer all potential clients a free initial case assessment when they contact our offices at (410) 429-7856.
Primary and Secondary Beneficiaries for Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Maryland
To determine who can file and participate in a wrongful death lawsuit, Maryland traditionally separates beneficiaries into two categories: primary and secondary. Primary beneficiaries are limited to immediate family members. Specifically, this includes the decedent’s spouse, parents, and children, as many of whom are alive and willing to participate. If a primary beneficiary decides to file a wrongful death lawsuit, they should include as many of the other primary beneficiaries in their filing as possible.
Secondary beneficiaries include siblings, cousins, grandparents, grandchildren, uncles and aunts, and nieces and nephews. In rare cases, someone who is not a family member but was nonetheless close with the decedent may be considered a secondary beneficiary if they can show that they were substantially financially dependent on the decedent prior to the wrongful death.
Primary beneficiaries have top priority for filing a wrongful death claim. As such, secondary beneficiaries may only file a wrongful death claim if there are no primary beneficiaries who are alive or willing to file. If you have questions about whether you have the ability to file a wrongful death claim, our Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers may be able to answer them.
Who Files a Wrongful Death Claim in Maryland?
While some states may require the administrator of an estate to file a wrongful claim, Maryland has no such restrictions. In Maryland, any primary beneficiary may file the wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of themselves and the other beneficiaries. If there is no living or willing primary beneficiary, then the secondary beneficiary may file the wrongful death claim. The person who files the wrongful death claim has the legal obligation to identify and notify all other potential beneficiaries of the impending lawsuit.
Survival Actions After Wrongful Deaths in Maryland
A wrongful death lawsuit is not the only means of seeking a remedy from the defendant for the harms that they have caused in Maryland. The state also recognizes a separate legal path, known as a survival action.
Survival actions are often conflated with wrongful death lawsuits, but each serves a different purpose. While a wrongful death lawsuit benefits the family members and loved ones of the decedent directly, a survival action serves to compensate the victim’s estate. Damages for survival actions will be based on the financial harms that the decedent experienced between the time of the injury and their death, such as medical bills and lost wages. Additionally, survival actions may also seek non-economic damages for the pain and discomfort that the decedent experienced as a result of the harmful conduct prior to their passing.
When a survival action is successful, the damages are paid directly to the decedent’s estate and distributed according to the terms of their will. If the decedent died intestate (without a will), the money is distributed according to Maryland’s intestacy statute. Your Baltimore personal injury attorney will be able to help you through the complicated process so that you know exactly what a survival action could do for you and your family.
Because the decedent’s estate may benefit more than just their immediate family, secondary beneficiaries are permitted under Maryland law to file a survival action on behalf of the decedent’s estate. However, the plaintiff in a survival action is technically the decedent, so the person who actually files the survival action will only get damages if the decedent’s will gives them a share.
How Long Do Family Members Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Maryland?
If you believe you are entitled to compensation from the party that caused your loved one’s untimely death, you must act quickly to secure this opportunity. Maryland generally requires all wrongful death claims to be officially filed within three years of the death in question.
There are limited exceptions to this rule, such as where the victim died as a result of an “occupational disease,” such as a condition subsequent toxic substance exposure in the course of their work. In these cases, the deadline for the wrongful death lawsuit will be ten years from the date of death or three years after identifying the connection between the occupational disease and death, whichever comes first.
We urge you to avoid relying on any potential exception. Waiting too long to file a wrongful death claim will be a complete bar to your compensation. Instead, reach out to one of our experienced Maryland wrongful death lawyers as soon as possible to help you identify what time limits apply to your case and get your paperwork completed and filed well in advance of these deadlines.
Talk to Bennett & Heyman for Free About Your Potential Wrongful Death Claim in Maryland
No one wants to see you get the compensation that you deserve more than the dedicated Maryland wrongful death attorneys at Bennett & Heyman. Get started today by calling us at (410) 429-7856.