You may have read about wrongful deaths, which are unintentional injury-related deaths caused by someone else’s reckless or negligent actions. Typically, these deaths are not due to malice, as they are in homicides, but are fatalities caused by vehicular crashes or workplace accidents. But what does it mean when we speak of third-party wrongful deaths?
Wrongful Deaths Explained
A wrongful death, to be pursuable in court, must have the element of negligence on the part of the other party or parties responsible for the death. Wrongful deaths can occur as a result of motor vehicle collisions, job accidents, medical malpractice, and dangerous products.
Wrongful death suits are intended to compensate immediate family survivors in cases where the deceased passed on because of someone else’s negligent actions. Think of a wrongful death case as a personal injury case where the victim is no longer living, so others must bring the case to court.
While wrongful death suits are civil and not criminal by definition, a criminal conviction of the negligent party makes a strong case in favor of pursuing a civil case for financial damages. These damages are intended to make the survivors and the deceased’s estate whole.
What are Third-Party Wrongful Deaths?
A wrongful death suit is often filed against the party who is responsible for the conditions that caused the fatal injuries. Examples can be an employer who neglected workplace safety by not following regulations and a drunk driver who lost control of their vehicle and crashed into the deceased’s car.
But a third-party suit is one in which a related party is responsible for the wrongful death. In other words, the drunk driver might not be the only liable party. The bar that continued serving the driver long after they should have stopped serving them, and that made no effort to keep the driver from leaving in their vehicle, could also be held liable for the wrongful death. In this case, the bar would be a negligent third party.
Third-party wrongful death suit examples are:
- As in the above example, your loved one was killed by a drunk driver. Some of the third parties who could also be liable include the owner of the business that provided, served, or sold the alcohol; the individual (such as a bartender or party host) that sold, served, or provided the alcohol; and the drunk driver’s employer, if the driver was on the job at the time of the crash.
- Your loved one died because of injuries suffered at work that were due to machinery. If the machinery was poorly maintained, defective, or dangerous due to poor design or manufacturing, one or more third parties could be responsible.
- Your loved one died because they were prescribed the wrong strength of the correct drug. If the pharmacist should have caught the dosage error but did not, they could be liable in a third-party suit, as could their employer.
- Your loved one died when they filled the gas tank of their lawn mower with a defective gas can and it exploded because it lacked a flame arrestor. The seller of the gas can could be a liable third party.
It is not uncommon for third-party suits to involve insurance companies or workers’ compensation.
The Issue of Damages
A third-party suit provides needed compensation in the aftermath of a wrongful death. It is a legitimate legal case to pursue, as long as certain conditions are met and the third party’s negligence can be demonstrated.
In Maryland, third-party wrongful death damages are sought for the deceased’s primary survivors, defined as spouse, parents, and children. These actions compensate the living, not the estate, for losses they have suffered connected to the wrongful death of their loved one. Compensated losses can include lost companionship, lost support, and lost wages.
A survival action can also be brought on behalf of the deceased’s estate, such as for final expenses like medical bills related to the wrongful death and funeral and burial expenses. Survival actions can also pay the estate for any losses that the deceased suffered; the losses in this case mean the deceased’s pain and suffering from the final injury or illness.
Has your loved one been a victim of a wrongful death involving a responsible third party? How can “the Injury Lawyer” help you? Contact Steve for more information on whether you have a valid wrongful death claim. The initial consultation is always free. Call us today at 1-410-625-4878, or use our online form.