How can a Lawyer Assist Families with Wrongful Death Claims?
No amount of money can erase the grief of losing a loved one. However, unpaid bills and an uncertain financial future can further increase the family’s trauma. A wrongful death lawsuit can provide a family with much-needed funds at a difficult time. These lawsuits also help uncover the truth when it is unclear how a loved one died. A lawsuit might prevent the guilty party from hurting someone else in the future.
A Baltimore wrongful death lawyer will guide the family through the process of filing a wrongful death claim in the Maryland courts to recover rightful damages for a loved one’s catastrophic injuries and death. Although litigation may be the last thing on anyone’s mind at the time, the family should seek counsel as soon as possible so that they can take action within Maryland’s strict statute of limitations.
What Constitutes Wrongful Death?
When a wrongful death occurs, a responsible person or business violated its duty of care to the victim. For example, a drunk driver violated their duty of care to the victim when they drove impaired and killed someone, injured others, and caused damages that could total thousands of dollars or more. The same is true if a medical professional violates the Hippocratic Oath and causes harm to the patient.
Wrongful death lawsuits must clearly show that the negligence of the responsible person or business contributed to someone’s death. This means there must be direct causation. For example, a doctor who refuses to diagnose a patient who later dies can be shown to be negligent. A medical expert can prove that if the patient had been diagnosed in a timely manner, they would have survived. Families should reach out to a wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible when they suspect that their loved one died due to another party’s negligence.
How Do Wrongful Deaths Occur?
Wrongful deaths are accidental, caused by negligence, or occur over a long period of time. The wrongful death scenarios listed below offer insight on all the scenarios for which a family can sue when they lose a loved one. Tragic deaths happen every day, but not all deaths are accidental. When a lawyer reviews the case, they can build a compelling case around the negligence of another party that caused the accident.
Vehicle accidents often result from negligence that causes someone’s death, including the following:
- Vehicle defects. Vehicle defects include recalls, poor build quality, defective parts, and improper repairs. The manufacturer of the vehicle or its parts is responsible when their negligence causes the accident. Automobile shops that do not handle their repairs properly are liable for deaths they cause, and companies that do not issue recalls are subject to both civil lawsuits and potential federal penalties. If another driver’s vehicle was defective or improperly repaired, those manufacturers or mechanics are liable for damages.
- Drunk/impaired driving. Drunk drivers should be held responsible when they cause someone’s death. If a motorist kills someone in a drunk driving accident, they can be sued for their own negligence and even go to jail for driving while impaired. The family, however, cannot sue the bar or neighbor who served the alcohol that got the driver drunk.
- Ridesharing accidents. Ridesharing accidents depend on what the rideshare driver was doing. The driver is responsible for all injuries caused when they are intoxicated and cause a crash. Rideshare drivers are not direct employees of the company, and it is difficult to argue these drivers are de facto employees. A lawyer, however, can sue a ridesharing company’s insurance carrier for damages after a wrongful death if the claim has not been paid.
- Pedestrians, bicycles, and motorcycles. Pedestrians, bicycles, and motorcycles can cause accidents or be involved in accidents. These vehicles or people are hard to see, especially at night or in low light. If a pedestrian runs in front of the driver without the aid of a crosswalk, they are responsible for the accidents they cause. Motorcycles and bicycles could be struck by reckless drivers, or they could be struck during an emergency stop.
- Trucks and trailers. Truck and trailer accidents involve the truck driver, their employer, the manufacturer of the truck, a leasing firm, and other drivers. A truck driver is liable if their errors caused the accident, a trucking company is liable if their negligence caused the accident, and a leasing company is susceptible to the same lawsuit if the truck was malfunctioning and they were aware of it.
- Teen drivers. Maryland does not automatically hold parents liable for damages caused by their children when they get behind the wheel unless the child is charged with a crime. A minor child who is driving can cause accidents, but Maryland law caps damages at $10,000 for each action. However, Maryland law makes exceptions when a teen driver kills someone in a crash. The parents can be made to pay for medical costs, funeral costs, property damage, and out-of-pocket costs.
Because liability can be confusing after a car accident, victims should speak to a lawyer about how a wrongful death lawsuit may be filed. The family has the right to sue anyone or any company that might have been responsible.
Public Transit Accidents
If someone is killed while using public transit or traveling near public transit vehicles, the family can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Public transit authorities may be responsible for fatal accidents, and it is important that the victim’s family file suit against the transit authority. Common accidents involve the following conveyances:
- Trains. Train accidents include incidents in which the victim is killed by a passing train, struck while in their vehicle, or killed when they fall inside the train. The victim might trip on the platform and fall onto the tracks. The transit authority can also be held accountable if signals at train crossings are not functional.
- Buses. Public buses might hit a pedestrian or vehicle, causing a fatality. The bus might stop suddenly and cause the victim to fall and die of their injuries.
Train and bus operators may be sued when their negligence caused the accident. For example, bus drivers who are distracted, impaired, or driving recklessly can be held accountable for any deaths they have caused. If the negligence rises to corporate level, the transit authority or its executives will be sued. Although public trains and buses may cause accidents and fatalities, a commuter train or cargo train could hit a car at an unmarked crossing; the crossing signal might fail; or the train could derail, resulting in multiple fatalities. If the train company is found to have been negligent, it can be sued for wrongful death.
The owner or operator of the crossing signal can also be sued. If the signal is faulty, the manufacturer will be sued for wrongful death. In the aftermath of an accident, the family should ask a wrongful death lawyer to investigate the train crash, interview railroad employees, and review the maintenance schedule for any faulty systems to determine who caused the accident and their loved one’s subsequent death.
Boating accidents can involve reckless pilots, malfunctioning boats, improper markings, and even intoxication. When a boating accident occurs, it should be treated just like a car accident. Someone should call 911 for assistance and receive medical attention when necessary. The pilot’s negligence or intoxication may have caused the accident, or the boat might have malfunctioned because of poor build quality or faulty parts.
If docks or buoys are not marked properly, the boat could crash and cause fatalities. Boats in operation at night might crash into other vessels that are not lit properly, and the operators or owners can be sued for wrongful death. If a charter vessel crashes and causes injuries to its guests, the pilot or charter company can be sued. If the boat does not have the appropriate safety or rescue equipment, the owner or operator can be sued for leaving its guests in a dangerous situation.
Boats must be hauled from owner’s homes to the water, and accidents involving boat carriers may also be compensable. If the boat is not attached to the carrier properly, it might fall or tip over. The carrier might also detach from the hauling vehicle and cause an accident.
Construction accidents can cause a range of fatalities brought on by malfunctioning tools, collapsing cranes or scaffolding, and electrocutions caused by faulty wiring. Although the majority of construction accidents involve employees who are covered under Workers’ Compensation, other accidents involve those who are not covered by the construction company’s insurance plan.
If an architect, visitor, bystander, or contractor without Workers’ Compensation coverage is killed during one of these accidents, their family can recover damages as a result of the negligence of the construction company or manufacturers who sold parts, tools, and/or structures for the project. A construction company that raises scaffolding improperly can be sued when an investor falls and dies as the scaffolding collapses. The family of someone who is electrocuted when they step in standing water near an exposed wire can recover compensation for their loved one’s death.
If a crane collapses, the manufacturer can be sued for deaths, even if the deaths occurred outside the work site. When the construction company does not properly anchor and deploy the crane, it can be sued for all deaths caused by the collapse. If the company that rented the crane to the contractor did not provide proper safety equipment or rented a faulty device, they can be sued for all deaths that occurred as a result of their negligence.
Amusement Park Accidents
Amusement park accidents involving wet ground or malfunctioning rides may result in wrongful deaths. The owner of the park may be sued for wrongful death when someone dies on a ride or during a fall and the park was deemed to be negligent. Other places where accidents or negligence can occur include the following:
- Ferris wheels. Ferris wheels often have flimsy guardrails that fail to keep occupants in their seat. Guardrails could open or loosen, and someone who is too small to ride might slip underneath.
- Food venues. Food poisoning at an amusement park may lead to the victim’s hospitalization and/or death. Because amusement parks are not enclosed and clean on the level of traditional restaurants, food poisoning can occur more often. If the family can prove that food from the park caused their loved one’s death, they have grounds to sue for wrongful death.
- Inflatable devices. Bounce houses and other inflatable devices could collapse and smother anyone who is inside. The fan might short out and electrocute someone who is nearby, or someone could be thrown from a bounce house and suffer fatal injuries. All participants must be checked before enjoying an attraction to ensure they can do so safely.
- Roller coasters. Roller coasters may malfunction, but they might also be operated improperly. When the operator does not follow safety guidelines, their negligence could kill someone on the coaster. Roller coasters have height and weight requirements that must be followed, and parks that do not abide by these rules may be liable for a patron’s death.
- Water park incidents. Water park incidents may include falls, head injuries, and drowning. If the lifeguards are not trained or the facility is not staffed properly, the owners or operators may be sued for wrongful death. In more severe cases, guests may go home with diseases contracted from contaminated water.
- Zipline accidents. Zipline guests must clip into their positions. When these lines fail, the clips or harnesses fail, or the guests are not secured into their safety gear properly, the zipline operator can be sued for wrongful death.
Outside contractors working on the grounds of the park might also be killed because the park is in poor condition. Their families can sue for compensation because of the poor state of the property, or another contractor might be sued because they did not complete their work properly.
Medical malpractice can result in injuries or pain, but malpractice may also result in the patient’s death. The following examples of medical malpractice show that a negligent medical professional can kill someone at any time irrespective of the severity of the patient’s condition. While the family is grieving the loss of a loved one, they must consider how medical malpractice or negligent care factored into the situation.
Delayed, failed, or missed diagnoses. A delayed, failed, or missed diagnosis provides the family with grounds for a wrongful death claim. When a medical professional refuses to diagnose an obvious condition or even order medical tests, they are guilty of malpractice. A failed diagnosis could lead to the prescription of an improper treatment plan and the patient’s death. A delayed diagnosis may also serve as grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit when the doctor does not come to the correct diagnosis until it is too late, often because they did not take the patient’s complaints seriously. Missed cancer diagnoses, such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, mesothelioma, and others, are especially deadly because their early symptoms are often confused with other diseases.
Surgical errors. Surgical errors might result in a patient’s death because each procedure is delicate and must be performed in a particular manner. A wrongful death lawyer will review the patient’s medical records and notes from the surgery to determine where the negligence occurred. Anesthesia mistakes might kill the patient when they are not dosed properly, or surgical delays caused by anesthesia mistakes may delay a needed procedure. Improperly managed surgeries may also cause paralysis leading to the patient’s untimely death. A medical expert might also be called in to speak to the malpractice committed by the surgeon or a member of their team.
Emergency room errors. Errors in the emergency room may result in a patient’s death because they need urgent care that only the emergency room staff can provide. As with any other form of medical malpractice, medical records and expert testimony will be used to prove that malpractice or negligence has occurred.
Hospital negligence. Hospitals may not provide the appropriate resources for their staff, employ medical professionals who are not licensed or have a history of wrongdoing, and be held liable when a patient dies under these circumstances. Equipment malfunctions caused by lack of maintenance or appropriate upgrades may also cause a patient’s death. Sepsis can also occur if equipment is not sterilized or the environment becomes a breeding ground for infections.
Nursing homes. Nursing homes and personal care facilities employ medical professionals who may commit malpractice leading to a resident’s death. In other instances, the nursing home’s staff may cause wrongful deaths as a result of abuse or neglect. Family members who suspect abuse, neglect, or medical malpractice should reach out to a lawyer to begin an investigation. In situations such as these, nursing homes may be guilty of more than one type of neglect or abuse.
Birth injuries. A doctor or midwife performing a delivery in a forceful manner may cause injuries that kill a newborn baby. A medical expert must be brought forward to give opinions about how the birth was handled, or the nurses attending to a newborn baby may be liable for malpractice as they feed, clothe, and nurture neonates in the hospital. Labor and delivery negligence may also cause harm to the baby or the mother. Fetal distress must be monitored carefully, and it can lead brain damage or oxygen deprivation, which might cause the child’s death.
Workers’ Compensation Litigation
Workers’ Compensation insurance allows employers to avoid liability. The no-fault system used for Workers’ Compensation does not assign blame after an accident unless the employer is guilty of gross misconduct. Families should discuss their loved one’s death with a wrongful death lawyer before proceeding with a lawsuit.
Occupational diseases. Occupational diseases may be diagnosed long after the victim left their job. In some cases, the employer knowingly exposed its employees to toxic substances without their knowledge. The same is true if the business does not provide the appropriate safety equipment according to state work rules.
Because a disease such as mesothelioma may not be diagnosed until many years later, the lawyer might file a lawsuit against the business or file a claim against its asbestos trust. A Workers’ Compensation lawsuit may be filed if the worker’s family should have been offered death benefits. A deceased worker’s family may also file a wrongful death lawsuit against the manufacturer of toxic substances when the dangers of these chemicals were not made apparent to all those involved.
Insurance delays. Insurance companies can be sued when they deny reasonable claims or ignore evidence presented. If the insurance company’s delays lead to someone’s death, the insurance carrier will be sued for negligence. In some cases, the injured employee could have received treatment and survived had the insurance company not delayed benefits.
Baltimore has strict leash laws and animal registration rules. All dogs and cats taken off the owner’s property should be on a leash. Dogs that are on an outdoor leash on their property need a swivel. The owner of a dog is responsible for maintaining distance and preventing attacks or bites. Because large dogs can cause major injuries, they can also kill the victim or severe injuries from a dog attack might lead to the victim’s death. Dog sitters may be held liable if they lose control of a dog they are walking. In some circumstances, a lawyer might show that a leash or collar was improperly manufactured.
Assault or Other Crimes
Assault and other crimes can cause wrongful deaths. Families of victims must understand that criminal cases are different from civil cases. If the victim is assaulted and dies during the assault, the assailant can be sued by the family for wrongful death. An accountant who steals someone’s money and leaves them penniless could be sued for wrongful death if the victim commits suicide because of their financial troubles.
Families are advised to contact a wrongful death lawyer for assistance when a crime has been committed that caused the death of a loved one. Although the criminal can be tried and/or sent to jail, a civil case helps the family recover the damages to which they are entitled.
How is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed?
A wrongful death claim is filed by the personal representative administering the estate of a lost loved one. Such a claim is based on an underlying personal injury claim. Therefore, the family must prove all elements of negligence and the relationship between the accident and the fatality. For example, if a lost loved one was killed by a careless driver, the lawyer must present evidence related to the auto accident and demonstrate that the injuries resulted in a loved one’s death.
After recovering damages from the defendant, the estate distributes the compensation to the deceased’s beneficiaries, according to the laws of Maryland. A wrongful death lawyer will assist the personal representative through the process of litigating the case and collecting on the judgment.
Which Damages can Families Receive After a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Recovering damages after a wrongful death allows the family to recover funds that help them get back to normal. Because a traumatic accident and even a prolonged disease can cause immense damages and expenses to pile up, the compensation offered includes items such as the following:
Everything on this list can be paid out after a settlement or judgment. The damages are assembled using expert advice from a wrongful death lawyer. The family will work with their lawyer to learn the total value of the case and settle or take the case to court.
Baltimore Wrongful Death Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Help Families Recover After the Loss of a Loved One
When you lost a loved one, contact the Baltimore wrongful death lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton for assistance with a wrongful death claim. Our skilled legal team will walk you through every step of the claims process and ensure that you receive the maximum financial compensation you deserve. We will not stop fighting for you until justice has been served. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online for a free consultation.
Our offices are conveniently located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.