In the tragic event of the loss of a loved one, a wrongful death claim may allow family members to recover compensation based on their loved one’s wrongful death. Maryland’s Wrongful Death Act (the Act) allows a parent, spouse, or child (or others in some circumstances) to recover based on the deceased’s wrongful death. There are some limitations depending on the circumstances of the deceased’s death. Spouses, parents, and children are considered primary plaintiffs under the Act. In addition, if the deceased had no spouse, parent, or child who qualifies under the wrongful death act, any person who is related to the deceased by blood or by marriage who was substantially dependent upon the deceased may file a wrongful death claim. These plaintiffs are considered secondary plaintiff, meaning that they can only recover if no primary plaintiff exists.
A wrongful death claim is based on a wrongful act that would have allowed the deceased to recover if he were still alive. This type of claim is meant to compensate close family members who wrongfully lost their loved one. Successful claims allow claimants to recover compensation for damages relating to the claimant’s suffering, including mental anguish, loss of companionship, loss of guidance and education, emotional pain and suffering, and loss of parental, marital, or filial care. A wrongful death claim normally must be filed within three years of the death of the deceased. In the case of an occupational disease, the claim must be filed within ten years of the deceased’s death or within three years of the date when the cause of death was discovered, whichever comes first.
Claimants also often have to defend the actions of the deceased leading up to their death. A defendant will often argue that the deceased was partially at fault for their death. If a defendant is successful in doing so, a claimant can be barred from recovering compensation if the deceased is found to have been partially at fault for their death.