According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety statistics, there were 472 fatal car accidents in Maryland during 2015; another 41 people succumbed to their injuries at a time after the collisions occurred. These deaths impacted many families, leading to potential liability for parties that may have been negligent or reckless in causing the crashes. There are two different theories of liability for the damages that result from accidental death under state law, and both are intended to compensate the victims who suffer losses. You should discuss wrongful death cases and survival actions with a Maryland attorney if you’re the family member of someone who’s died in a car accident.
Wrongful Death Cases: When a person dies in a car accident as a result of someone else’s negligence, there may be a claim for wrongful death. You must prove:
- The negligent actions of the responsible party proximately caused the victim’s death;
- The death of the victim caused you to suffer damages, typically in the form of economic losses; and,
- You are a beneficiary as defined by state law.
The key element in a wrongful death case is your status as a beneficiary, because you must have proper “standing” to sue. In Maryland, you can only file a lawsuit for wrongful death if you’re the spouse, child, or parent of the victim. The theory behind this type of case is that you suffer losses due to the deceased’s death, and you should recover compensation for them.
These losses may include emotional anguish, loss of companionship, and other relationship-based damages. In addition, you may recover loss of support, because the victim is no longer able to contribute to the household.
Survival Actions: You may also have grounds to sue under a survival action when someone dies in a car accident. This type of case is similar to a personal injury lawsuit, except that the victim died instead of merely sustaining injuries. The plaintiff would be the victim that is entitled to compensation for losses – not the family members who would have standing in a wrongful death claim.
Because the victim is no longer alive, the personal representative of his or her estate would bring a case for a survival action. This could be a person appointed by a probate court or someone designated in the victim’s will. The personal representative acts as an agent to file the lawsuit, since the victim is not able to do so. Survival actions allow compensation for losses that may include:
- Funeral costs;
- Property damage;
- Lost wages between the time of injury and death; and,
- Pain and suffering, and other non-economic damages.
This information on wrongful death cases and survival actions cannot replace the expertise and experience a qualified attorney can provide. A knowledgeable Maryland lawyer will represent you in court and in negotiations with an insurance company to ensure you obtain the compensation you deserve. If you’ve lost a loved one in a car accident, please contact the Baltimore County office of attorney Michael A. Freedman for more information.
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