When a person is injured in an accident caused by another party’s negligence, the injured can hold the negligent party liable for their damages. In this way, the injured can recover compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and other damages.
The legal issues in personal injury lawsuits can be quite complicated even if the injuries involved weren’t extremely serious. In cases involving fatal accidents, they become more complicated still.
Wrongful death and survival actions
Maryland law allows for two types of legal actions following a fatal accident caused by the negligence of another party: wrongful death actions and survival actions.
- Wrongful death: In this type of lawsuit, close relatives of the victim seek compensation for the damages they suffered as a result of the sudden loss of their loved one. Only a spouse, child or parent of the deceased can bring this type of action. The damages they claim may include loss of their loved one’s income and companionship. For instance, if the deceased was the primary breadwinner in their family, the family members may be thrown into financial crisis after a sudden death — and this is in addition to the many noneconomic ways they are harmed by their tragic loss. This type of lawsuit seeks to compensate the family members for their loss of their loved one’s income
- Survival action: This type of action is filed by a personal representative of the deceased on behalf of the person’s estate. In a survival action, the estate seeks compensation for the damages suffered by the deceased up to the moment of their death. For instance, if the victim had enormous medical costs after the accident, leading up to their death, the estate may be on the hook for those medical bills. Given the high cost of medical care, this could wipe out the assets in an estate, leaving little to go to the intended beneficiaries. A survival action could compensate the estate for this loss.
It strikes many people as awkward or distasteful to speak about a person’s death in economic terms. That is completely understandable. But these lawsuits can serve very important purposes. First, they can help put grieving family members in a better financial position to cope with their tragic loss. Second, they can help hold negligent parties accountable.