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We have Spanish, French, and Farsi speaking translators available for our clients upon request.

What Happens if Someone Dies in a Car Accident in Maryland?

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What Legal Options Do I Have if My Loved One Died in a Car Accident in Maryland?

When someone is injured in a car accident, they may have the ability to file claims against the other party (or parties) involved in the accident to recoup any financial losses they experienced. In those cases, the injured party is the one filing the claims (unless they’re unable to do so, such as if they’re in a coma).

When the accident is significant enough to cause death, the decedent’s family or estate representative (such as the executor of the will) can bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the person deemed at fault for the accident. Note that under Maryland law, the family members allowed to file for wrongful death are spouses, parents, and children. They, along with a will’s executor, are the only ones who can start this type of action.

What Kinds of Damages Can a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Claim?

There are two types of damages that can be requested via a wrongful death lawsuit.

Economic Damages

As the term implies, economic damages are related to out-of-pocket costs the family incurred because of the accident and death. That can include:

  • Medical expenses
  • Funeral and final disposition costs
  • The decedent’s lost wages
  • Domestic services (to cover things the decedent used to do, such as lawn mowing or show shoveling)

It’s important to understand that when making these claims, they need to be specific and backed up with evidence (pay stubs, estimates for domestic services, medical or funeral home bills, etc.). Hypotheticals aren’t acceptable to the court. Suppose you need to file a wrongful death lawsuit. In that case, it’s crucial to work with an experienced personal injury and wrongful death attorney to help determine what the actual economic damages are and how to prove them.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are things that don’t have specific quantities and financial values, so they’re more difficult to calculate, but they’re still applicable in a wrongful death lawsuit. These can include:

  • Grief
  • Pain, suffering, and mental anguish
  • Loss of companionship and consortium (such as the surviving spouse would lose by the death of the other spouse)
  • Parental guidance

Is Maryland a Contributory or Comparative Negligence Law State, and How Does it Affect a Wrongful Death Suit?

Some car accidents have one person who’s clearly at fault for the accident. But often, more than one driver may be partially at fault, which can complicate the case. Determining who has what portion of fault is at the heart of comparative or contributory negligence laws. Every state uses its own set of negligence laws, choosing one out of three categories.

  • Pure comparative negligence. This finds that the injured party can be 99% at fault for the accident and still be eligible to receive 1% of any damages awarded.
  • Modified comparative negligence. This says that if the injured party is 50% or 51% (different states use one of the two thresholds) at fault, they can’t file for damages. If they’re found to be less at fault, they can receive damages minus the percentage of fault. So if they’re 30% at fault and are awarded $10,000, they’d receive only $7,000.
  • Contributory Negligence. This states that if the injured person is even 1% at fault for the accident, they can’t claim damages.

Few states in the U.S. use contributory negligence, but Maryland is one of them. That means that if the decedent is found to be even the slightest bit at fault for the accident, wrongful death claims will be denied. This is another reason it’s vital to work with an experienced personal injury attorney who understands the nuances of Maryland’s contributory negligence law.

Does Maryland cap wrongful death damage amounts?

Yes, Maryland has limits on the amount someone can receive from a wrongful death claim. However, that cap applies only to non-economic damages. The amount of the cap changes from year to year; in 2024, the pain and suffering cap is $935,000. That amount might be increased if there are multiple beneficiaries (for example, a spouse and surviving children) by as much as 50%. If there’s an estate, that may have additional pain and suffering claims.

Note that economic and punitive damages are not capped in Maryland.

What Should I Do if My Loved One Died in a Car Accident in Maryland?

Call Tehrani Law, LLC, as soon as possible at 301-973-6510 to request a free consultation. We understand this is a time of significant grief and devastation for you. When someone else’s negligence causes the loss of a life, it can cause many emotions. It can also cause financial hardship. Our team of experienced wrongful death attorneys can help you understand the specifics of your case and what the possible outcomes might be. Call us today for compassionate, knowledgeable legal advice.

Something it’s vital not to do: Engage in conversation, either oral or written, with the other party’s lawyer or insurance representative. Because of Maryland’s contributory negligence law, they’re motivated to try to get you to say something that could be interpreted as meaning the decedent had some fault in the accident, so they don’t have to pay. They might also try to convince you to sign a settlement agreement for an amount much lower than you could otherwise be awarded. Don’t answer questions, and forward communications to your attorney.

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