How do I choose the best lawyer for a wrongful death case in Maryland?

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Losing a loved one is extremely difficult. If the deceased is someone who provided financial resources, household services, parenting help, and emotional support, it can devastate a family.

When the loss is someone else’s fault, you have a chance at being properly compensated for wrongful death. In addition to the direct monetary losses you have suffered (funeral bills, medical expenses, lost income and services), the law allows you to recover damages for mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering, loss of society, companionship, comfort, protection, marital care, parental care, filial care, attention, advice, counsel, training, guidance, and education. 

In order to maximize that chance, you should find an attorney who:

  1. Has experience with the Maryland Wrongful Death Law

Under the common law (the law from which much of our modern law stems) there was no action available for death. Suing for someone else’s death is only allowed because of a specific law passed by the Maryland Legislature. The law, which is found at Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article Section 3-904, recognizes two classes of people who can sue: 

  • Primary beneficiaries- The surviving spouse, parents, and children of the deceased person. Any and all primary beneficiaries can bring a wrongful death case in Maryland.
  • Secondary beneficiaries-If there are no persons who qualify as Primary Beneficiaries, any person related to the deceased person by blood or marriage who was substantially dependent upon the deceased may bring a claim. 

     2. Will develop and tell the complete story of your loss.

It is easy to gather pay stubs, tax records and hospital bills. It is much more difficult to understand and communicate what the actual impact of the loss is to those left behind. There are injury attorneys who have special training in story discovery and communication. Before you select an attorney, as if he/she has this special training and how it will be used in your case.

    3. Has experience with the type of occurrence that lead to the death of your loved one.

Any type of negligence can cause death. A car accident, a defective drug or product, medical malpractice, or a dangerous construction site, are some examples. In order for you to recover money damages, your attorney must first prove that someone else had a duty to protect and/or avoid harming your loved one, and that person (or corporation) failed in that duty. If the death of your loved one occurred during surgery, you should look for an attorney with experience in medical negligence cases. If it was from a truck crash, you should look for an attorney with experience handling truck crashes.

Damages in a Maryland wrongful death case

Beneficiaries may collect lost financial support they were receiving from the deceased person. Beneficiaries may also collect monetary compensation for the loss of the deceased person’s care, companionship, and guidance. There is no way to mathematically calculate these damages. Juries are simply asked to place whatever value on the loss the jury sees fit.

However, regardless of the jury award, Maryland places a limit (“cap”) on these non-economic damages. The cap is based upon the date of the injury and the number of beneficiaries. Juries are not told about the cap. If the jury awards more than the cap, the judge simply reduced the award to the cap amount after the jury is sent home.

    4. Has significant financial and staffing resources.

Creating settlement leverage against a big insurance company can be expensive, and your law firm should have the resources to cover those costs. Telling a compelling story to the judge or jury requires extensive preparation and expert witnesses in accident reconstruction, medicine, life-care planning and economics.

Often, insurers will try to overwhelm plaintiffs with documents to pressure them into settling for less than the value of the case. It is important that your attorney have the experience and staffing resources to respond to this strategy and hold the insurance company accountable for the compensation you need after a loss.

When you need an attorney for a wrongful death claim, it is a good idea to spend some time looking at the law firm’s website. Look for information about the attorneys’ experience, client reviews, awards and results. If you find a firm that impresses you with its experience and resources, the next step is to set up an initial consultation. This consultation is generally free for personal injury and wrongful death claims.

Are you looking for lawyers that care about you and your family, or are you looking for lawyers who care about their pocketbooks? Do you want your case referred out, or do you want the lawyer you are meeting to take the case on personally? These are personal preferences, and there is no right answer. However, there is nothing wrong with talking to several lawyers before choosing the one that is right for YOU.

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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