In the tragic event of the death of a family member, a wrongful death claim may allow family members to recover compensation for the loss they suffered. Under Maryland’s Wrongful Death Act, a claim can be filed by certain family members against the parties at fault for the family member’s death. The Wrongful Death Act is intended to compensate family members of the decedent based on the losses suffered by the family members.
It is common for defendants in Maryland wrongful death claims to raise the fault of the victim as a defense. Maryland follows the doctrine of contributory negligence, which means that if a plaintiff is found to have been even the slightest bit negligent, the plaintiff is completely barred from recovery. Similarly, a person’s contributory negligence bars recovery of a subsequent wrongful death claim.
Another common issue is proving the elements of negligence in the absence of the victim’s testimony. Without the victim’s statement concerning what happened, families often have to rely on circumstantial evidence to prove the case. This often requires the assistance of experts and investigators. A plaintiff has the burden to prove all the elements of the claim by a preponderance of the evidence, including whether the defendant’s conduct caused the plaintiff’s injuries. Mere speculation cannot sustain a negligence claim. A plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s conduct failed to meet the standard of care, that the defendant’s failure to meet the standard of care caused the plaintiff’s injuries, that the injuries were a foreseeable result of the defendant’s conduct, and that the plaintiff suffered injuries.