Articles Posted in Wrongful Death Cases

Anytime someone gets in a vehicle – whether it be a car, truck or motorcycle – there is a risk of being involved in a Maryland auto accident. While any accident poses a risk of serious injury to those involved, motorcycle accidents result in a disproportionate amount of fatalities due to the lack of protection motorcycles offer riders.

According to the most recent government statistics, there are approximately 1,450 Maryland motorcycle accidents each year. In 2017, there were 85 people killed in Maryland motorcycle accidents. While this may not seem like a high number, consider the fact that there are only about 123,000 motorcycles registered in the State of Maryland compared to almost 2 million cars and trucks.

When someone is killed in a Maryland motorcycle accident, their surviving family members may be able to pursue a claim for financial compensation through a Maryland wrongful death lawsuit. Under Maryland Code Section 3-904, a wrongful death claim is primarily for the benefit of a surviving spouse, child or parent. These are considered “primary beneficiaries.” If, however, there are no primary beneficiaries, a claim may be brought by “any person related to the deceased person by blood or marriage who was substantially dependent upon the deceased.”

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Losing a loved one is always a very difficult and trying experience. However, when a loved one is killed in a preventable accident, such as a Maryland motorcycle accident, the feelings of frustration, anger, and loss are difficult to push aside.

In cases involving a negligent driver, the criminal justice system is often disinterested in pursuing a claim against the responsible driver. This is because criminal courts are typically concerned with intentional actions that result in injury, rather than a motorist’s negligence or poor decision-making. And even when a criminal charge is filed, the family of the deceased is typically just along for the ride, having no real role in the proceedings. In addition, even a successful criminal case against a negligent driver will do little to provide for the loss of financial support provided by the deceased. Overall, a criminal charge does little to comfort the family of the deceased other punishing the at-fault driver.

Under the Maryland wrongful death statute, the family members of a Maryland motorcycle accident victim can pursue a civil claim for damages against a negligent driver. Unlike a criminal case, the objective of a Maryland wrongful death case is less focused on the at-fault driver’s violation of the law and more concerned with the loss of life that resulted from the driver’s negligent actions. If successful, the surviving loved one may recover amounts for medical expenses, funeral expenses, loss of financial support, as well as for emotional damages.

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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.

Anyone 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.

In 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.

The 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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