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Wrongful Death

What is Wrongful Death?

The term wrongful death refers to a situation where an individual’s death was caused by medical error or neglect. Examples of wrongful death cases include: failure to diagnose a condition such as cancer that causes death, nursing home neglect, and medical and surgical errors that lead to a death. Most, if not all, of these situations are preventable with proper medical care and treatment.

Your Legal Options

When a loved one dies due to medical malpractice, there are two types of claims that may be brought to trial by medical negligence lawyers. The first claim is called a survivor action and it is for the pain and suffering and other losses suffered by the deceased individual from the time of the malpractice through the time of their death. This action is brought by the personal representative of the estate of the deceased individual.

The second type of claim is called a wrongful death claim and it can be brought by the surviving loved ones of the deceased, including the parents of the deceased, the spouse, and the children of the deceased. These claims are for the emotional distress suffered as a result of the loss of the loved one and for any loss of financial support.

Medical negligence lawyers at Snyder & Snyder can help you prepare for a wrongful death claim and represent you and your family in the wake of a loved one’s death, giving you the time to grieve while we fight for you in court. If you believe that your loved one’s death may have been caused by medical malpractice or neglect, call the medical negligence lawyers at Snyder & Snyder for a free consultation. While we can never replace the loss suffered, we are here to answer all your questions and to advise you of your legal rights.

How Is Wrongful Death Different than Murder?

Wrongful death is a civil action while murder cases are governed by criminal laws. Criminal cases are filed by the government and require a higher burden of proof than civil cases. The attorney must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant is guilty of murder. Punishment in criminal cases can include incarceration.

Wrongful death suits are intended to provide financial support to the victim’s surviving family members. If there is a criminal action pending against a suspect, the surviving family members are still able to file a wrongful death action. The criminal action does not preclude a civil lawsuit. Even if the suspect is found not guilty in the murder case, it is possible to get a judgment against the suspect in civil court.

Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim?

When a loved one dies because of another’s negligence, the survivors can be left feeling emotionally and financially devastated. A wrongful death lawsuit seeks damages to help fill the void left behind by a loved one’s death. In Maryland, there are two options for bringing lawsuits related to wrongful death. The spouse, parent or child of the deceased individual may bring a claim for wrongful death. The representative of the decedent’s estate may bring a survival action to recover the expenses incurred between the time of the injury and the victim’s death.

What Is the Difference Between a Survival Action and Wrongful Death Action?

A survival action can be brought by the personal representative of the victim’s estate. The personal representative is a person appointed by the court to take care of the decedent’s estate. This representative will essentially stand in the shoes of the decedent and file any legal claims on the victim’s behalf. This representative can seek recovery for the injuries that the victim suffered between the time of injury and the time of death. Damages in a survival action are limited to the actual harm suffered by the victim of the accident.

A wrongful death action can be brought by the victim’s surviving relatives. Under Maryland’s wrongful death statute, the victim’s parents, spouse or children may be able to recover damages for the damages they have suffered as a result of the loss of their loved one. These surviving family members can recover damages from mental anguish, loss of companionship and emotional pain and suffering. Children can also recover financially for the lack of parental guidance and education caused by their parent’s wrongful death.

What Types of Damages Can a Survivor Receive in a Wrongful Death Action?

Depending on the circumstances, surviving family members can recover for the financial and emotional losses they suffered as a result of the wrongful death. Survivors may be able to recover for mental anguish, loss of companionship, loss of parental guidance and lost financial support.

Punitive damages may be awarded as punishment for a person who acted with actual malice toward the victim. This type of award may be granted when compensatory damages are inadequate.

How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim?

As with any personal injury case, there are time limits that restrict the period of time during which a person can initiate legal proceedings. The statute of limitations for a wrongful death lawsuit in Maryland is three years from the date of the victim’s death. However, if the death was caused by exposure to a toxic substance in the workplace, the lawsuit may be filed within three years of the date when the cause of death was discovered or 10 years of the date of death. Because exceptions to the statute of limitations apply, contact a personal injury lawyer to discuss your case.

How Is the Value of the Losses Determined?

Damages are divided into two categories: compensatory and non-compensatory damages. Compensatory damages have a specific monetary value attached to them and include medical bills, funeral expenses and other losses that have a clear monetary value. The court will also consider the amount of expected earnings that would have supported the decedent’s surviving family members if the wrongful death had not occurred.

Non-compensatory damages include the costs of pain, suffering and the loss of enjoyment of life that the survivors experience due to the untimely loss of their loved one.

What Types of Circumstances Can Lead to Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death lawsuits arise from a variety of situations, including motor vehicle accidents, medical malpractice, nursing home injury and other situations caused by negligent, careless or reckless behavior.

When Should I Contact an Attorney?

If another person’s negligence has contributed to your loved one’s death, contact an attorney immediately. A wrongful death lawyer can evaluate the situation and help you understand your legal rights. Although it is impossible to bring your loved one back, an experienced personal injury attorney can help you recover financially for the financial and emotional losses you have suffered.