When you think about wrongful death, you may think about people who die in car accidents or following a workplace injury. However, residents of Maryland who lose loved ones to violence often wonder if they too have recourse. People accused of assault, murder, homicide, and other violent acts face the court under the state’s criminal laws. In many cases, they are found not guilty. Upon conviction, they may face imprisonment and fines.
While families may feel some sense of satisfaction in the latter case, it doesn’t help them in any practical sense. It does nothing to relieve the financial and emotional burden caused by the loss of their loved ones. Some survivors feel even worse when the accused person gets off. In some cases, it is possible to file a wrongful death claim against the at-fault party for damages. If you lost a loved one to violence, you should consult a Maryland lawyer who handles wrongful death claims to learn about your options.
Under Maryland’s laws, survivors can sue the individual responsible for the death of their loved one. Anyone who maliciously kills another should be held accountable. You may be able to get compensation for both economic and non-economic losses associated with the death including:
- Medical expenses
- Loss of income
- Loss of benefits
- Loss of quality of life for the deceased before death
- Funeral and burial costs
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Maryland
There are two types of claims that families can file following the death of an individual. These are beneficiary actions and survival actions. Beneficiary actions seek compensation for families’ lost domestic support, lost wages and lost companionship. Meanwhile, survival actions allow the estate to recover medical bills and death-related expenses. The estate can also receive compensation for loss the deceased suffered.
Beneficiaries can fall into two tiers. The spouse, parents, and children of the deceased are considered primary beneficiaries. Secondary beneficiaries include the deceased’s siblings, cousins, nieces, and nephews. If a primary beneficiary files an action, it takes precedence over a claim from a secondary beneficiary. If the deceased doesn’t have any primary beneficiaries or they don’t want to bring a claim, a secondary beneficiary can file. This action would be taken on behalf of all the person’s beneficiaries. You should meet with a Maryland wrongful death lawyer to ensure you have the right to file a claim.
Wrongful Death Claims Resulting from Violence
If someone killed a member of your family but they were found not guilty, you may think that’s the end. However, that’s not the case. You can file a civil suit against that person if you can prove the main elements of such a claim. These are that:
- An individual was killed
- The person’s death was caused by the defendant who was negligent or who intended to cause them harm
- Surviving family members suffered monetary losses because of the individual’s death
Civil cases are different from criminal ones when it comes to holding a defendant responsible. In a criminal case, the state has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual committed an offense. However, with a wrongful death claim or other civil action, the standard is a “preponderance of the evidence”. This means that based on the evidence presented, there is more than a 50 percent chance that an individual committed an act.
This is a lower standard than beyond a reasonable doubt. Based on the evidence, your attorney may determine that you have a good chance of winning a civil suit. A case that may not hold up in criminal court can still present a favorable outcome in civil court.
One famous case in which a family took this approach is that of actor and football star O.J. Simpson. He was found not guilty of murder because the prosecution couldn’t establish his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. However, his civil trial had a different outcome. He was held liable for the wrongful death of his former wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. The plaintiffs were able to prove that he was responsible by relying on a preponderance of the evidence.
Get Sound Legal Advice from Pinder Plotkin LLC
If you lost a loved one to violence, you may be able to get compensation for your losses. Contact our skilled Maryland-based personal injury law firm to learn about your legal options. You shouldn’t have to deal with the financial and emotional impact of your loved one’s death on your own. Schedule a free consultation with a member of our team and learn how we can help you.