A wrongful death claim is a claim brought after a person’s death that was caused by a defendant’s wrongful act. Under Maryland’s Wrongful Death Act, a family member may be able to recover financial compensation due to their family member’s untimely death. A wrongful death claim is meant to compensate grieving family members, allowing them to recover for acts that would have entitled the decedent to recover compensation if they had survived.
A Maryland wrongful death claim is generally filed by a primary beneficiary. Spouses, parents, and children are considered “primary” plaintiffs under the Act. In a case where the decedent has no spouse, parent, or child, a wrongful death claim may be filed by another person who was substantially dependent upon the decedent and was related to the deceased person by blood or by marriage. These plaintiffs are considered secondary beneficiaries, which is why they can only recover if no primary beneficiary exists. Only one wrongful death claim can be filed based on the death of one decedent. Normally, the wrongful death claim must be filed within three years of the death of the decedent.
In a wrongful death case, a defendant can, and often will, argue that the decedent is partially at fault for their death. Because Maryland follows the doctrine of contributory negligence, a plaintiff may be barred from recovering altogether in a wrongful death case if the decedent is found to have been partially responsible for their death.