What Makes an Auto Accident a Wrongful Death Case in Maryland?

By Jeffrey Butschky, Maryland Accident Injury Attorney

When a motorist is killed in a Maryland traffic crash due to another driver's negligence or recklessness, families feel a profound sense of loss. They often feel they have been wronged – that their loved one's death didn't have to happen. They consider it a "wrongful death."

However in the eyes of Maryland law and the Maryland courts, a wrongful death case is a creature of statute. In other words, not every car, truck, motorcycle, or pedestrian accident with fatalities is considered a wrongful death case in Maryland.

As Maryland accident injury attorneys serving the people of Baltimore County and beyond, we advise grieving families on their cases. While some traffic accident cases with fatalities result in insurance claims as well as lawsuits – they are not all considered wrongful death cases.

Let's shed some light here on what constitutes a wrongful death case in Maryland.

Wrongful death cases are their own animal. If the Maryland legal system was a zoo (it can feel that way to lay persons!) and an auto accident case is a lion, then a wrongful death case is a rhinoceros. These are high-stakes cases with many specific criteria to meet.

Wrongful Death claims in Maryland are controlled by section 3-901 to 3-904 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article of the Maryland Code. It’s a statutory cause of action, which means unlike certain other causes of action such as negligence that have very broad concepts, wrongful death is a man-made construct. Certain elements must be in place and must be handled very carefully or you don't have a case.

Breaking down the Wrongful Death statute in Maryland, you need to have…

  1. Death
  2. Proximately caused by the negligence of the defendant
  3. Resulting in damages to a person or persons who are within the category of defined beneficiaries under the statute…
  4. …who bring their claim within the applicable period provided by statute

The statute determines a lot of it, but the legal system operates in shades of gray. This is why it's so important to retain an attorney as soon as possible after the fatal accident. A great deal is at stake. Our advice to grieving families facing wrongful death traffic accident cases in Maryland:

  • Retain an experienced Maryland accident injury lawyer right away! The insurance companies know these are monetarily valuable cases, and they will pursue their own interests aggressively. That, unfortunately, means compensating the grieving family as little as possible. They will hire investigators and seek to take statements right out of the gate. Therefore…

  • DO NOT speak to insurance company attorneys or other representatives! They are counting on you, the grieving family, to be upset and to say things that may help their case – and hurt your family in the long run. They will call you and even attempt to visit you in person. They will pretend to be your ally in the process, in hopes of getting you to talk. Sad, but true.

    Insurance companies will look for ways to trip you up so they can shift blame away from their client and onto the deceased motorist. You don't want to say the wrong thing and have the insurance company deny or attempt to deny your claim.

  • Remember, Maryland has a contributory negligence law. This means if the person killed in the motor vehicle crash was even a fraction at fault – no recovery is possible. This is why it is so important to let an experienced Maryland injury attorney handle matters for you.

For more information on the Maryland Wrongful Death Statute and Survival Actions (which provide for the family's compensation as well as the deceased's pain and suffering), please visit our Maryland Wrongful Death practice area page.

Do You Know Someone who was Killed in a Maryland Traffic Accident?

If you believe a family member was killed in a Maryland motor vehicle crash that was someone else's fault, please contact our office today for a free consultation. You may have a case entitling you to compensation and damages.

If a family member or close friend was killed in a traffic accident and their loved ones are too distraught to make the call – feel free to contact us and let us know what happened. We often speak to relatives who want to help a grieving family following a Maryland traffic accident with injuries and fatalities.

We are happy to discuss the matter with you and decide if there may be a wrongful death or other negligence or recklessness case to pursue. Call us in Baltimore City at (410) 625-1110 or toll free at (800) 722-6616.