Understanding Maryland’s Wrongful Death Statute

Under Maryland law, the family of an injured person who has died has a right to sue those responsible for their loved one's death.  Maryland's Wrongful Death statute can be found under Md. Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 3-904.

What is the Wrongful Death statute?

The Maryland State Legislature created the Wrongful Death statute to allow a surviving family to be compensated for the loss of their loved one due to the wrongful acts another. Under § 3-904(c)(1) of the statute, “damages may be awarded to the beneficiaries proportioned to the injury resulting from the wrongful death”.

What is the purpose behind the Wrongful Death statute?

The legislature created the statute because it is the family that is often left suffering after a loved one's wrongful death.  Missed memories, heartache, broken families, loss of care, loss of income, protection and companionship are all ways a surviving family may be damaged. The Wrongful Death statute is a way for the family to seek relief for their harm. The family's right, under the statute, is a new and independent claim that is separate from any right the estate of the deceased may also have.  This is a long-held rule that has been declared by the Court of Appeals (Maryland's highest court) in the cases of Mummert v. Alizadeh, Stewart v. United Elec. Light & Power Co., Tucker v. State ex rel Johnson, and Eagan v. Calhoun.

What does this mean? It means that two claims may be pursued for the wrongful death of your loved one. (1) For the family's harm, this claim is called a wrongful death action; and (2) for the harm to the injured person that died, this claim is called a survival action.

What is the difference between a Wrongful Death Action and a Survival Action?

A Wrongful Death action and a Survival action are two independent claims that can be brought when a person dies due to the wrongful act of another. To understand the differences, think of the two as compensating two different victims.

A wrongful death action seeks to compensate the family. For example, a child who loses their mother in an automobile collision due to a drunk driver can sue the driver for the emotional suffering the child may experience. In addition, the child may be compensated for the economic losses, such as the mother's income that would have contributed to the child's care during the mother's life expectancy.

A survival action seeks to compensate the injured individual who died. Under the law in Maryland, a tort claim does not die with the injured victim. Instead, the claim lives on and “survives” after death.  Since the injured victim is no longer alive to pursue the claim, a personal representative of the decease's estate acts on behalf of the deceased. Using the example given above, if the deceased mother experienced pain and suffering before she died and/or had medical expenses as a result of the collision with the drunk driver, then the survival action can seek to compensate the mother for the harms and losses she experienced while she was living.

What is considered a “wrongful act”?

The Court of Appeals, in Mummert v. Alizadeh, defined a “wrongful act” as any act that the deceased would have had a right to file a lawsuit and seek compensation had they not died. For example, a fatal automobile accident, medical malpractice, a defective product, neglect or assault –just to name a few.

Who can bring an action under the Wrongful Death statute?

Under Md. Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 3-904(a)(1), it grants spouses, parents and children of the deceased person an independent right to bring a lawsuit against those that should be held accountable.

Can anyone else (other than a spouse, parent or child) be compensated under the Wrongful Death statute?

Yes. Under § 3-904(b) of the statute, if the deceased individual did not have a surviving spouse, parent or child, then any person related to the deceased person by blood or marriage who was substantially dependent upon the deceased may have a right to a claim under the statute.

Are there any time restrictions to filing a lawsuit under Maryland's Wrongful Death Statute?

When filing a claim and/or lawsuit, time is always of the essence due to the statute of limitations. A statute of limitation is the allowed amount of time for when a claim and/or lawsuit can be filed. If a claim and/or lawsuit are not filed within the required time period, the surviving family may never be allowed to do so. Under § 3-904(g)(1) of the statute, a claim and/or lawsuit must be filed within three years after the injured person's date of death.

The Court of Appeals in Mummert v. Alizadeh, confirmed that the statute of limitation clock does not start when the wrongful act against the deceased occurs.  Rather, the families' right does not begin until the death occurs, thus the three-year clock does not start counting down until then.

What if the deceased person failed to file a timely claim before they died? 

The Court of Appeals in Mummert v. Alizadeh unequivocally ruled that it does not matter if the injured person failed to file a timely claim before their death.  Ordinarily, an individual has three years to file an action for an injury or harm caused by another.  Under many circumstances, an injured person may live for more than three years after their injury, the statute of limitations for their injury may expire, and then the person later dies from their injury. The Court explained that such matters do not affect the family's right to a wrongful death claim by ruling that a wrongful death action “is not contingent on the decedent's ability to file a timely claim before death”.  In reaching its decision, the Court deemed that requiring such a condition would be illogical and would contradict the purpose of the wrongful death statute.

Are there any limitations on the amount of money a family can receive under the Wrongful Death Statute?

Yes. Maryland's Legislature instituted a cap on damages for the total amount of recovery under a Wrongful Death claim. Below is a chart reflecting the cap on damages under the statute. Table 1 is for a non-medical malpractice related death. Table 2 is for a medical malpractice related death.

Table 1

Cause of action arises on or after Limit on all claims from same act or omission Limit on all wrongful death claims with two or more beneficiaries Combined Limit for Wrongful Death and Survival Action
10/1/1994 $500,000.00 $750,000.00 $1,250,000.00
10/1/1995 $515,000.00 $772,500.00 $1,287,500.00
10/1/1996 $530,000.00 $795,000.00 $1,325,000.00
10/1/1997 $545,000.00 $817,500.00 $1,362,500.00
10/1/1998 $560,000.00 $840,000.00 $1,400,000.00
10/1/1999 $575,000.00 $862,500.00 $1,437,500.00
10/1/2000 $590,000.00 $885,000.00 $1,475,000.00
10/1/2001 $605,000.00 $907,500.00 $1,512,500.00
10/1/2002 $620,000.00 $930,000.00 $1,550,000.00
10/1/2003 $635,000.00 $952,500.00 $1,587,500.00
10/1/2004 $650,000.00 $975,000.00 $1,625,000.00
10/1/2005 $665,000.00 $997,500.00 $1,662,500.00
10/1/2006 $680,000.00 $1,020,000.00 $1,700,000.00
10/1/2007 $695,000.00 $1,042,500.00 $1,737,500.00
10/1/2008 $710,000.00 $1,065,000.00 $1,775,000.00
10/1/2009 $725,000.00 $1,087,500.00 $1,812,500.00
10/1/2010 $740,000.00 $1,110,000.00 $1,850,000.00
10/1/2011 $755,000.00 $1,132,500.00 $1,887,500.00
10/1/2012 $770,000.00 $1,155,000.00 $1,925,000.00
10/1/2013 $785,000.00 $1,177,500.00 $1,962,500.00
10/1/2014 $800,000.00 $1,200,000.00 $2,000,000.00
10/1/2015 $815,000.00 $1,222,500.00 $2,037,500.00
10/1/2016 $830,000.00 $1,245,000.00 $2,075,000.00
Cause of action arises on or after 10/1/1994
Limit on all claims from same act or omission $500,000.00
Limit on all wrongful death claims with two or more beneficiaries $750,000.00
Combined Limit for Wrongful Death and Survival Action $1,250,000.00
Cause of action arises on or after 10/1/1995
Limit on all claims from same act or omission $515,000.00
Limit on all wrongful death claims with two or more beneficiaries $772,500.00
Combined Limit for Wrongful Death and Survival Action $1,287,500.00
Cause of action arises on or after 10/1/1996
Limit on all claims from same act or omission $530,000.00
Limit on all wrongful death claims with two or more beneficiaries $795,000.00
Combined Limit for Wrongful Death and Survival Action $1,325,000.00
Cause of action arises on or after 10/1/1997
Limit on all claims from same act or omission $545,000.00
Limit on all wrongful death claims with two or more beneficiaries $817,500.00
Combined Limit for Wrongful Death and Survival Action $1,362,500.00
Cause of action arises on or after 10/1/1998
Limit on all claims from same act or omission $560,000.00
Limit on all wrongful death claims with two or more beneficiaries $840,000.00
Combined Limit for Wrongful Death and Survival Action $1,400,000.00
Cause of action arises on or after 10/1/1999
Limit on all claims from same act or omission $575,000.00
Limit on all wrongful death claims with two or more beneficiaries $862,500.00
Combined Limit for Wrongful Death and Survival Action $1,437,500.00
Cause of action arises on or after 10/1/2000
Limit on all claims from same act or omission $590,000.00
Limit on all wrongful death claims with two or more beneficiaries $885,000.00
Combined Limit for Wrongful Death and Survival Action $1,475,000.00
Cause of action arises on or after 10/1/2001
Limit on all claims from same act or omission $605,000.00
Limit on all wrongful death claims with two or more beneficiaries $907,500.00
Combined Limit for Wrongful Death and Survival Action $1,512,500.00
Cause of action arises on or after 10/1/2002
Limit on all claims from same act or omission $620,000.00
Limit on all wrongful death claims with two or more beneficiaries $930,000.00
Combined Limit for Wrongful Death and Survival Action $1,550,000.00
Cause of action arises on or after 10/1/2003
Limit on all claims from same act or omission $635,000.00
Limit on all wrongful death claims with two or more beneficiaries $952,500.00
Combined Limit for Wrongful Death and Survival Action $1,587,500.00
Cause of action arises on or after 10/1/2004
Limit on all claims from same act or omission $650,000.00
Limit on all wrongful death claims with two or more beneficiaries $975,000.00
Combined Limit for Wrongful Death and Survival Action $1,625,000.00
Cause of action arises on or after 10/1/2005
Limit on all claims from same act or omission $665,000.00
Limit on all wrongful death claims with two or more beneficiaries $997,500.00
Combined Limit for Wrongful Death and Survival Action $1,662,500.00
Cause of action arises on or after 10/1/2006
Limit on all claims from same act or omission $680,000.00
Limit on all wrongful death claims with two or more beneficiaries $1,020,000.00
Combined Limit for Wrongful Death and Survival Action $1,700,000.00
Cause of action arises on or after 10/1/2007
Limit on all claims from same act or omission $695,000.00
Limit on all wrongful death claims with two or more beneficiaries $1,042,500.00
Combined Limit for Wrongful Death and Survival Action $1,737,500.00
Cause of action arises on or after 10/1/2008
Limit on all claims from same act or omission $710,000.00
Limit on all wrongful death claims with two or more beneficiaries $1,065,000.00
Combined Limit for Wrongful Death and Survival Action $1,775,000.00
Cause of action arises on or after 10/1/2009
Limit on all claims from same act or omission $725,000.00
Limit on all wrongful death claims with two or more beneficiaries $1,087,500.00
Combined Limit for Wrongful Death and Survival Action $1,812,500.00
Cause of action arises on or after 10/1/2010
Limit on all claims from same act or omission $740,000.00
Limit on all wrongful death claims with two or more beneficiaries $1,110,000.00
Combined Limit for Wrongful Death and Survival Action $1,850,000.00
Cause of action arises on or after 10/1/2011
Limit on all claims from same act or omission $755,000.00
Limit on all wrongful death claims with two or more beneficiaries $1,132,500.00
Combined Limit for Wrongful Death and Survival Action $1,887,500.00
Cause of action arises on or after 10/1/2012
Limit on all claims from same act or omission $770,000.00
Limit on all wrongful death claims with two or more beneficiaries $1,155,000.00
Combined Limit for Wrongful Death and Survival Action $1,925,000.00
Cause of action arises on or after 10/1/2013
Limit on all claims from same act or omission $785,000.00
Limit on all wrongful death claims with two or more beneficiaries $1,177,500.00
Combined Limit for Wrongful Death and Survival Action $1,962,500.00
Cause of action arises on or after 10/1/2014
Limit on all claims from same act or omission $800,000.00
Limit on all wrongful death claims with two or more beneficiaries $1,200,000.00
Combined Limit for Wrongful Death and Survival Action $2,000,000.00
Cause of action arises on or after 10/1/2015
Limit on all claims from same act or omission $815,000.00
Limit on all wrongful death claims with two or more beneficiaries $1,222,500.00
Combined Limit for Wrongful Death and Survival Action $2,037,500.00
Cause of action arises on or after 10/1/2016
Limit on all claims from same act or omission $830,000.00
Limit on all wrongful death claims with two or more beneficiaries $1,245,000.00
Combined Limit for Wrongful Death and Survival Action $2,075,000.00

Table 2

Cause of action arises on or after Limit on all claims from same medical injury (except wrongful death) Limit on all claims if wrongful death cases is filed with two or more beneficiaries Total limit
10/1/1994 $500,000.00 $750,000.00 $1,250,000.00
10/1/1995 $515,000.00 $772,500.00 $1,287,500.00
10/1/1996 $530,000.00 $795,000.00 $1,325,000.00
10/1/1997 $545,000.00 $817,500.00 $1,362,500.00
10/1/1998 $560,000.00 $840,000.00 $1,400,000.00
10/1/1999 $575,000.00 $862,500.00 $1,437,500.00
10/1/2000 $590,000.00 $885,000.00 $1,475,000.00
10/1/2001 $605,000.00 $907,500.00 $1,512,500.00
10/1/2002 $620,000.00 $930,000.00 $1,550,000.00
10/1/2003 $635,000.00 $952,500.00 $1,587,500.00
10/1/2004 $650,000.00 $975,000.00 $1,625,000.00
1/1/2005 $650,000.00 $812,500.00 $812,500.00
1/1/2006 $650,000.00 $812,500.00 $812,500.00
1/1/2007 $650,000.00 $812,500.00 $812,500.00
1/1/2008 $650,000.00 $812,500.00 $812,500.00
1/1/2009 $665,000.00 $831,250.00 $831,250.00
1/1/2010 $680,000.00 $850,000.00 $850,000.00
1/1/2011 $695,000.00 $868,750.00 $868,750.00
1/1/2012 $710,000.00 $887,500.00 $887,500.00
1/1/2013 $725,000.00 $906,250.00 $906,250.00
1/1/2014 $740,000.00 $925,000.00 $925,000.00
1/1/2015 $755,000.00 $943,750.00 $943,750.00
1/1/2016 $770,000.00 $962,500.00 $962,500.00
Cause of action arises on or after 10/1/1994
Limit on all claims from same medical injury (except wrongful death) $500,000.00
Limit on all claims if wrongful death cases is filed with two or more beneficiaries $750,000.00
Total limit $1,250,000.00
Cause of action arises on or after 10/1/1995
Limit on all claims from same medical injury (except wrongful death) $515,000.00
Limit on all claims if wrongful death cases is filed with two or more beneficiaries $772,500.00
Total limit $1,287,500.00
Cause of action arises on or after 10/1/1996
Limit on all claims from same medical injury (except wrongful death) $530,000.00
Limit on all claims if wrongful death cases is filed with two or more beneficiaries $795,000.00
Total limit $1,325,000.00
Cause of action arises on or after 10/1/1997
Limit on all claims from same medical injury (except wrongful death) $545,000.00
Limit on all claims if wrongful death cases is filed with two or more beneficiaries $817,500.00
Total limit $1,362,500.00
Cause of action arises on or after 10/1/1998
Limit on all claims from same medical injury (except wrongful death) $560,000.00
Limit on all claims if wrongful death cases is filed with two or more beneficiaries $840,000.00
Total limit $1,400,000.00
Cause of action arises on or after 10/1/1999
Limit on all claims from same medical injury (except wrongful death) $575,000.00
Limit on all claims if wrongful death cases is filed with two or more beneficiaries $862,500.00
Total limit $1,437,500.00
Cause of action arises on or after 10/1/2000
Limit on all claims from same medical injury (except wrongful death) $590,000.00
Limit on all claims if wrongful death cases is filed with two or more beneficiaries $885,000.00
Total limit $1,475,000.00
Cause of action arises on or after 10/1/2000
Limit on all claims from same medical injury (except wrongful death) $605,000.00
Limit on all claims if wrongful death cases is filed with two or more beneficiaries $907,500.00
Total limit $1,512,500.00
Cause of action arises on or after 10/1/2002
Limit on all claims from same medical injury (except wrongful death) $620,000.00
Limit on all claims if wrongful death cases is filed with two or more beneficiaries $930,000.00
Total limit $1,550,000.00
Cause of action arises on or after 10/1/2003
Limit on all claims from same medical injury (except wrongful death) $635,000.00
Limit on all claims if wrongful death cases is filed with two or more beneficiaries $952,500.00
Total limit $1,587,500.00
Cause of action arises on or after 10/1/2004
Limit on all claims from same medical injury (except wrongful death) $650,000.00
Limit on all claims if wrongful death cases is filed with two or more beneficiaries $975,000.00
Total limit $1,625,000.00
Cause of action arises on or after 1/1/2005
Limit on all claims from same medical injury (except wrongful death) $650,000.00
Limit on all claims if wrongful death cases is filed with two or more beneficiaries $812,500.00
Total limit $812,500.00
Cause of action arises on or after 1/1/2006
Limit on all claims from same medical injury (except wrongful death) $650,000.00
Limit on all claims if wrongful death cases is filed with two or more beneficiaries $812,500.00
Total limit $812,500.00
Cause of action arises on or after 1/1/2007
Limit on all claims from same medical injury (except wrongful death) $650,000.00
Limit on all claims if wrongful death cases is filed with two or more beneficiaries $812,500.00
Total limit $812,500.00
Cause of action arises on or after 1/1/2008
Limit on all claims from same medical injury (except wrongful death) $650,000.00
Limit on all claims if wrongful death cases is filed with two or more beneficiaries $812,500.00
Total limit $812,500.00
Cause of action arises on or after 1/1/2009
Limit on all claims from same medical injury (except wrongful death) $665,000.00
Limit on all claims if wrongful death cases is filed with two or more beneficiaries $831,250.00
Total limit $831,250.00
Cause of action arises on or after 1/1/2010
Limit on all claims from same medical injury (except wrongful death) $680,000.00
Limit on all claims if wrongful death cases is filed with two or more beneficiaries $850,000.00
Total limit $850,000.00
Cause of action arises on or after 1/1/2011
Limit on all claims from same medical injury (except wrongful death) $695,000.00
Limit on all claims if wrongful death cases is filed with two or more beneficiaries $868,750.00
Total limit $868,750.00
Cause of action arises on or after 1/1/2012
Limit on all claims from same medical injury (except wrongful death) $710,000.00
Limit on all claims if wrongful death cases is filed with two or more beneficiaries $887,500.00
Total limit $887,500.00
Cause of action arises on or after 1/1/2013
Limit on all claims from same medical injury (except wrongful death) $725,000.00
Limit on all claims if wrongful death cases is filed with two or more beneficiaries $906,250.00
Total limit $906,250.00
Cause of action arises on or after 1/1/2014
Limit on all claims from same medical injury (except wrongful death) $740,000.00
Limit on all claims if wrongful death cases is filed with two or more beneficiaries $925,000.00
Total limit $925,000.00
Cause of action arises on or after 1/1/2015
Limit on all claims from same medical injury (except wrongful death) $755,000.00
Limit on all claims if wrongful death cases is filed with two or more beneficiaries $943,750.00
Total limit $943,750.00
Cause of action arises on or after 1/1/2016
Limit on all claims from same medical injury (except wrongful death) $770,000.00
Limit on all claims if wrongful death cases is filed with two or more beneficiaries $962,500.00
Total limit $962,500.00

If you lost a loved one because of the negligence or wrongful act of another, contact Gilman & Bedigian today at 800-529-6162.  

Let Us Help

If someone you are close to has been seriously injured or worse, you are naturally devastated not only by what has happened, but by the effect that the injury or loss has had on you and your family. At a time when you're vulnerable, traumatized and emotionally exhausted, you need a team that will support you through the often complex process that lies ahead.

Menu