Losing a loved one is an enormous tragedy, and often one of the hardest things that anyone experiences in their lives. If our loved ones are taken too soon because they die in an accident or because of someone else’s poor choices, it can be even more tragic.
Car accidents, plane crashes, dangerous product injuries, workplace injury, fire, and drowning are all common causes of wrongful death. In these situations, there is often a party to hold responsible for the injuries that lead to your loved one’s death.
If the person who died was a parent or spouse who was responsible for working to take care of a family, their loss can be even harder. Fortunately, courts are able to make the responsible parties pay damages to account for your financial hardships.
If you lost a loved one to an accident in Baltimore, contact the lawyers at Bennett and Heyman, P.A. Our attorneys have years of practice helping clients through the loss of loved ones.
Accidental Death Lawsuits
When you lose a loved one, your best option to continue to support your family or recuperate from the loss, financially, may be to take the responsible parties (the “defendants”) to court. This means filing a lawsuit against the parties whose failures caused your loved one’s death. In order to prove that they were at fault for the accident, you must prove four elements to a jury:
- The defendant owed a duty to the victim.
- The defendant breached that duty.
- The defendant’s breach caused death and other harms.
- The victim died, plus, you must prove the other harms that were caused (known collectively as “damages”).
Just because someone died does not automatically mean it was someone else’s fault – but there is often a party that is responsible. The following are all typical examples of parties who might be held responsible for deaths:
- Pilots, conductors, and drivers who were operating the vehicle your loved one died in
- Other drivers who caused an accident
- Property owners who left unreasonable dangers on their property, such as open pits, electrical hazards, or drowning hazards
- Product manufacturers whose faulty products caused electrocution, fire, or other harm
- Negligent medical professionals who allowed your loved one to die
- The person responsible for causing any other deadly accident
A combination of these kinds of parties may be responsible, which allows you to join them both as defendants in the wrongful death suit. For example, an airplane pilot (and his coworkers) may be responsible for a plane crash, but the manufacturer of the plane or its engines may have also helped create a faulty plane. In that case, they can both be held responsible for their contributions to the death.
In many cases, the responsible parties cause an accident while they are on the job. That often allows a court to hold them directly responsible for the death, but to also hold their employer responsible. Pilots, bus drivers, and train conductors are all agents of the transportation company that employs them, so deaths on public transportation may be attributable to the airline, bus company, or transit authority who employs the operator and owns the vehicles. Similarly, if your loved one was killed by the negligence of a truck driver, doctor, builder/contractor, or other party, their employers (the trucking company, hospital or practice, building company, etc) may also be held responsible for the death.
This is part of a legal doctrine of “vicarious liability” called “respondeat superior,” but employers can also be held responsible for their own faults in addition to the mistakes of their employees. For instance, if the person responsible for the accident was a pilot, driver, or other operator with a history of alcohol abuse, poor driving, or crime, their employer might be responsible for negligent hiring. Especially with vehicles, the driver’s employer often has more control over the condition and safety of the vehicle and can be held responsible for their own failures in maintaining a safe vehicle.
What Compensation is Available?
When a loved one dies, no amount of money could ever replace them. Some things are replaceable, though. For instance, if a parent or spouse died, you may be able to get a court to replace any of these financial losses:
- Lost wages your loved one and your family will no longer receive
- Lost benefits (e.g. health, dental, and vision insurance)
- Lost inheritances your loved one would have had later in life
- Lost investments of the deceased
In addition to the financial damages, you can also recover monetary damages to make up for the pain and suffering your loved one face before death. This includes the pain of the accident, treatment, and death itself.
You can also collect damages related to your own suffering, as part of the family of the deceased. This includes monetary awards for things like:
- Emotional pain and suffering
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of protection, care, advice, guidance, etc.
- Greif counseling
- Funeral expenses
These are expenses and mental costs suffered by the living members of the deceased’s family, and they can also be collected in a wrongful death suit.
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?
In Maryland, only the “wife, husband, parent, and child of the deceased person” can sue for wrongful death, according to Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Pro Code § 3-904. This means that grandchildren, nieces, nephews, nor siblings can sue for wrongful death, even if the deceased was responsible for their care.
There are limits as to parents being able to sue for the wrongful death of a child under certain situations, including if they have been convicted for child abuse or committed acts of abuse (without conviction).
It is also important to keep in mind that the vast majority of wrongful death cases must be filed within three years of the accident. For some cases of death due to workplace injuries and conditions, the deadline may be longer. Always check with a lawyer about your ability to sue and required deadlines to make sure your case gets heard by a court.
Baltimore Wrongful Death Attorneys Are Available to Help
If you have lost a parent, child, or spouse to an accident or other wrongful death, you may have options to recover lost finances and other damages. To talk to the experienced wrongful death lawyers at Bennett and Heyman, P.A., call us today at (410) 429-7856.