Articles Posted in Wrongful Death Cases

Maryland motorcycle accidents are a common occurrence, and too often, they result in the serious injury or death of the motorcyclist. Many times, these accidents are due in no part to the motorcyclist’s actions but are caused by another driver’s negligence. This may be due to the other motorist being distracted or intoxicated or driving in an aggressive manner.

MotorcycleAnyone who loses a loved one in a motorcycle accident is entitled to seek compensation for their loss through a Maryland wrongful death lawsuit. In Maryland, wrongful death lawsuits must be brought by a primary beneficiary, if one exists. A primary beneficiary includes a surviving spouse, parent, or child of the accident victim. If no primary beneficiary exists, a secondary beneficiary can bring the claim. This opens up the class of putative plaintiffs to anyone who was related to the accident victim by blood or marriage and was substantially dependent on the accident victim.

Once it is determined that the proper party is bringing the wrongful death claim, the claim itself must be established. This requires the plaintiff to show that some negligent act or omission of the defendant resulted in the death of their loved one. Proof of negligence can be shown through the admission of cell phone records, traffic citations, accident reports, or eyewitness testimony. If successful, damages normally include not only amounts for actual losses incurred, such as medical expenses, but also amounts for mental anguish, pain and suffering, and loss of companionship.

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Most cyclists fairly believe that as long as they have insurance, they will be covered in the event of a Maryland bicycle accident. However, insurance contracts can be tricky, and insurance companies often try to interpret insurance contracts in their own favor, potentially limiting the amount of coverage provided to a motorist and at the same time limiting the insurance company’s overall risk.

MotorcycleIn some cases, the insurance company has little to do but settle a case fairly. However, other cases present unique situations in which an insurance company’s clever argument may result in a decrease in the company’s obligations. A recent case illustrates one insurance company’s attempt to characterize the deaths of two bicyclists as a single “accident” under the terms of the policy.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in the case was the surviving wife of a man who was killed in a bicycle accident that was caused by a negligent driver. At the time of the accident, both the plaintiff and her husband were riding on the shoulder of the road. Weather conditions were clear. At some point, a driver came from behind at about 50 miles per hour and first struck the plaintiff’s husband. He was thrown about 165 feet from his bike.

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The death of a loved one is tragic. In Maryland motor vehicle crashes, the party at fault for the crash should be held responsible for their actions. The wrongful death statute in Maryland allows certain family members to recover compensation after the family members’ death. The purpose of the statute is “to compensate the families of the decedents, as opposed to the estates of the decedents.” Therefore, a wrongful death claim is a separate claim that can be brought by the decedent’s family.

Old-School BicycleThe law allows for certain beneficiaries to file a Maryland wrongful death lawsuit. Primary beneficiaries are defined as the spouses, parents, or children of the deceased person. If no primary beneficiaries exist, Maryland law permits secondary beneficiaries to pursue a claim. A secondary plaintiff is any other person related to the deceased person by blood or marriage who was wholly dependent on the decedent.

In order to prove liability, a plaintiff must show that the defendant’s wrongful act resulted in their loved one’s death. Under the statute, a wrongful act is an “act, neglect, or default including a felonious act which would have entitled the injured party to maintain an action and recover damages” if the person had not died. Plaintiffs may recover damages for not only pecuniary losses but also pain and suffering, loss of companionship, parental care, guidance, and more.

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