Nothing can take away the pain of losing a loved one, but the victim’s family members may be eligible to sue for damages relating to the loss. Wrongful death claims are the avenue for recouping all losses, financial and otherwise, related to the incident, vehicle accident, or motorcycle crash that led to the death of an individual.
The term “wrongful death” indicates a death caused by the negligence of another person. This applies to someone who caused a fatal accident, or even a mechanical defect or malfunction that led to the victim’s death.
Motorcycle Accidents and Wrongful Death Claims: What is Covered?
After a motorcycle accident, wrongful death claims can be filed to cover a wide variety of expenses and losses. Some of these include:
- The victim’s hospital and medical care prior to death
- Lost earnings and economic support, both past and future
- Pain and suffering experienced by the victim and the victim’s family
- Funeral expenses such as burial and cemetery costs
- Loss of solace, guidance, consortium, and companionship
- Punitive damages that allow the victim’s family to seek justice for the death
Wrongful death settlements are generally paid out by insurance companies, and insurance companies are in no hurry to pay. It’s always better to hire a motorcycle accident attorney rather than try to take on a wrongful death claim on your own.
Motorcycle Accidents & Wrongful Death Claims: Who Can File?
Every state has different requirements and limitations for who can file a wrongful death claim following a motorcycle accident.
Maryland allows these claims to be filed by a parent, child, or spouse of the motorcycle crash victim. These immediate family members are called “primary plaintiffs.”
If the victim had no parents, spouse, or children a wrongful death claim may be filed by any other family member who depended on the victim and is related by blood or marriage. These “secondary” plaintiffs are only qualified to file if there is no primary plaintiff.
It’s important to understand that not all deaths qualify for a wrongful death lawsuit. In order to file a wrongful death claim following a motorcycle accident, there are four things that must be proven:
- Negligence: The defendant’s actions caused the death
- Causation: How the negligence caused the death
- Breach of duty: The defendant had a duty to act, and by failing to do so, caused the death (in a motorcycle accident wrongful death suit for instance, the driver if the other vehicle has a duty to drive responsibly and safely)
- Damages: The victim’s loss has placed hardship on the survivors through mental anguish, financial losses, medical bills, burial expenses, etc.
Courts in Maryland will only allow one wrongful death claim to be filed on behalf of the victim. If the decedent had a will, a probate estate must be opened and the estate’s executor can bring the wrongful death lawsuit.
There is a statute of limitations in Maryland; generally, the wrongful death claim must be filed three years or less following the victim’s death. There are some exceptions, but there are very specific guidelines that must be met to qualify for them.
Why do You Need a Motorcycle Accident Attorney to File a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death lawsuit is filed in a civil court, not a criminal court. What this means is that the “bar” for proving guilt is set lower than a criminal suit, but the entire process is still quite complex.
The case will go through many stages including discovery and investigation, strategy planning, expert testimony, witness statements, and tort law research specific to proving the incident was caused by the defendant.
Because the suit is heard in a civil court, the success of the suit is based on the quality of the argument and the credibility of the claim rather than the “beyond reasonable doubt” standard necessary to prove criminal wrongdoing. For wrongful death suits, the preponderance of evidence standard is applied; this means that evidence presented can convince the court that there is a 50% or greater chance that the claim is true. A skilled motorcycle accident attorney is necessary to build the wrongful death case to ensure that this burden of proof is met.
Sometimes, the legal process can involve mediation and out-of-court settlements. If a settlement is not an option, the suit will move into the courtroom. It’s important to remember that wrongful death settlements are generally paid out by insurance companies, and insurance companies are in no hurry to pay.
A wrongful death lawyer is one who specializes in these claims, protecting the victim’s family and ensuring they receive the compensation they are entitled to. For more on our personal injury, motorcycle accident and wrongful death legal services, see our Frequently Asked Questions or contact us now.