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Lost a Loved One in an Accident? You May Have a Wrongful Death Claim

| Category: Personal Injury | April 30, 2024

The recent Key Bridge tragedy continues to affect Marylanders across the region, but no one has been more deeply affected than the families of the four workers who were killed. For them, and anyone else who has lost a loved one in a tragic accident, they will face considerable financial losses in addition to the grief they are experiencing. While no amount of money can replace your loss, most of us cannot afford the sudden expenses and loss of income. If you have lost a loved one, a wrongful death lawyer can explain your options and help you rebuild your future. 

What Is a Wrongful Death Claim? 

A wrongful death claim is a legal claim for financial compensation for the loss of a loved one due to someone else’s negligence or intentional misconduct. A wrongful death claim can arise from the commission of a crime, but many wrongful death claims arise from personal injury cases such as the following:

Based on information reported by the media in the Key Bridge collapse, the families of the deceased construction workers may be able to pursue a claim against the shipping company based on the fact that they were either negligent in maintaining the ship or intentionally ignored known mechanical issues. Whatever caused the accident that resulted in your loss, you should contact a wrongful death lawyer to discuss whether you may have a claim.    

Not Everyone Can Pursue a Wrongful Death Claim

Under Maryland law, there are two categories of people who may pursue a wrongful death claim:

  1. Primary beneficiaries: a surviving spouse, parent, and child of the victim; or
  2. Secondary beneficiaries: any person related to the victim by blood or marriage who was substantially dependent upon the victim. 

Note that secondary beneficiaries can pursue a claim only if there are no surviving primary beneficiaries. It is also important to note that secondary beneficiaries are limited to blood relatives or people related by marriage. Here are some examples of who may pursue a wrongful death claim as a secondary beneficiary: 

  • Uncles, aunts, and cousins
  • In-laws
  • Stepchildren

Secondary beneficiaries must also prove that they are or were “substantially dependent” upon the victim. A distant cousin would likely not be able to pursue a wrongful death claim, but an uncle who received financial support or health care would. 

Unfortunately, long-term domestic partners cannot pursue wrongful death claims because they are not related by blood or marriage. A wrongful death lawyer can review your case and determine whether you can pursue a claim if you have recently lost a family member or loved one. 

How Long Do You Have to Pursue a Wrongful Death Claim?

Maryland law imposes a three-year statute of limitations in wrongful death cases. This means that you have three years from the date that your family member or loved one died. If you do not file your lawsuit before this deadline expires, you will lose your rights to compensation. 

Do not confuse this statute of limitations with the statute of limitations in personal injury claims, which is also three years. If you or a loved one is seriously injured but survives, you have three years from the date of the accident to pursue a claim. If survival is up in the air, you may want to therefore consider filing a personal injury claim to protect your rights. You can later include a wrongful death claim if necessary.    

What Your Case May Be Worth

If you have lost a loved one in an accident, you may be entitled to seek compensation for the following losses in a wrongful death claim: 

  • Any medical expenses incurred before your loved one’s death including ambulance and hospitalization costs
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of current income
  • Loss of future income, including retirement benefits and investment income

To get the compensation you deserve, it is vital to understand what your case is worth. A wrongful death lawyer can help by assessing whether you have a claim and providing an estimate of what your claim may be worth. 

Contact The Law Offices of Thomas E. Pyles Today

Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult parts of life. We can help you get through it. To discuss your case and your rights, contact us today by calling 301-705-5006 to schedule a free consultation.