There is nothing quite so tragic as the untimely death of a loved one. Regardless of a victim’s age, there is little that anyone can do to console the family members who have lost a close relative through the negligent behavior of another individual. While malice may not be a component of a fatal traffic accident, the fact that a careless or thoughtless act has taken a loved one too soon is hard to accept for many people. Even the unexpected death of an elderly individual family member can be a shock; for whatever the cause, the vacuum left behind can be a constant reminder of that person’s passing.
As Maryland personal injury attorneys, we at the law offices of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, understand the grief that comes in the wake of a fatal car or trucking-related traffic accident. While a serious injury accident can place a loved one in a hospital bed for weeks or months, the hope of the family for the victim’s recovery, however difficult, is often rewarded. Not so in the case of a fatal road accident. There are no goodbyes; only a deafening silence that must be borne by the family and friends of the victim.
In cases where an innocent victim has died in a traffic accident that was caused by the negligence of another driver, the victim’s family may wish to file a wrongful death claim against the negligent party(s).
Wrongful death claims are often brought against an individual whom the plaintiff believes is liable for the victim’s death.
The advent of wrongful death laws in many states generally came about because responsible parties in cases of a fatal accident could not be sanctioned for their actions; in other words, while an injured individual could file a lawsuit against someone whose actions caused them physical harm, a deceased individual could obviously not file a suit against someone whose actions or behavior caused his or her death. Wrongful death laws allow the victim’s family (as defined by statute) to file suit on their own behalf.
There are many scenarios where the family of a victim killed in an automobile or commercial trucking crash has the legal right to file a wrongful death claim against the responsible party(s). The defendants in such cases can range from a negligent motorist or commercial truck driver to an automobile manufacturer or auto parts supplier. Whether a fatal car accident occurs due to another driver’s careless mistake, or because of a defective automotive part or component failed and caused a crash, a professional legal representative has the training and skills to assist with a wrongful death claim.
Here in Maryland, our state’s Wrongful Death Statute governs instances of death caused by a negligent act on someone’s part. From a legal standpoint, such lawsuits are brought by the victim's surviving family members on their own behalf and generally seek to compensate members of the victim’s family for the loss of his or her life, as well as the loss of the victim's love and companionship, in addition to any long-term financial support that the family members could have expected had the victim not died.
In Maryland, there are only certain people who are allowed by law to file a wrongful death claim. These specific individuals are known as the "beneficiaries" of a wrongful death suit. Under the statute, only a spouse, parent or child of a deceased victim may file a wrongful death lawsuit. If there are no surviving beneficiaries as stated above, then occasionally a secondary beneficiary may have the ability to recover damages, but only under a certain set of limited circumstances.
As Baltimore personal injury lawyers, the legal team at Lebowitz & Mzhen must emphasize that an adult-aged child (21 years and over) has the legal right to bring a wrongful death claim against the negligent party when the victim is the parent of that adult child. Conversely, an adult parent -- either a mother or father -- has the right to bring a wrongful death lawsuit for the loss of her or his child, even in cases where that child was age 21 or older.
One of the most contested aspects of wrongful death suits are the damages enumerated in the claim, and which include both economic and non-economic damages. Here in Maryland, under the right circumstances, the survivors can claim the victim’s lost future earnings (aka, economic damages). It must be said that there is no statutory cap on the amount of economic damages awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit. For this reason alone, many wrongful death cases may see rather large damage verdicts.
On the other hand, Maryland law does place a cap on the non-economic damages in wrongful death cases, which usually means that the amount of money can end up being limited for damages related to loss of love, emotional support and companionship. Regardless of this fact, there is no reason not to consult a qualified auto accident attorney following a fatal car, truck or motorcycle crash. Certainly, when a traffic “accident” is not really an accident, but a tragic event caused by carelessness or neglect, there are legal avenues open to the survivors.
On this point, there is another type of claim similar in approach to a wrongful death claim. This other kind of lawsuit is known as a “survival action,” which is a claim brought by the victim's estate on his or her behalf. Survival actions seek to compensate a victim's estate for the pain endured by the victim as he or she was dying, all the way up to the moment of the victim’s death. In Maryland, wrongful death claims and survival actions are typically filed at the same time, because they rely on the same underlying facts of the victim’s demise.
The personal injury lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen have the training and legal background necessary to guide families through the process of filing a wrongful death suit or survival action following the untimely death of a loved one. As experienced trial attorneys, we have helped many victims’ families who have experienced the loss of a loved one at the hands of a reckless driver or other negligent individual or corporate entity. We can offer help to those who believe their loved one was killed because of negligent behavior on the part of another motorist. Please contact us by phone (800-654-1949), or send an email to either Jack Lebowitz or Vadim Mzhen to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation.