Maryland Wrongful Death Law


Maryland law allows certain family members to pursue a legal claim for financial compensation when a death is caused by a wrongful act, neglect or default.

The Maryland wrongful death statute specifically identifies who may pursue a claim for benefits involving the death of a wife, husband, parent or child. Navigating the law can be complex, and often requires the experience of a Maryland Wrongful Death attorney to make sure that a family protects their rights and obtains the benefits they are entitled to.

Md. COURTS AND JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS Code Ann. § 3-904 (2008)

§ 3-904. Action for wrongful death

(a) Primary beneficiaries. –

   (1) Except as provided in paragraphs (2) and (3) of this subsection, an action under this subtitle shall be for the benefit of the wife, husband, parent, and child of the deceased person.

   (2) A parent may not be a beneficiary in a wrongful death action for the death of a child of the parent if:

      (i) 1. The parent is convicted under §§ 3-303 through 3-308, § 3-323, § 3-601, or § 3-602 of the Criminal Law Article; or

         2. The parent committed an act prohibited under §§ 3-303 through 3-308, § 3-323, § 3-601, or § 3-602 of the Criminal Law Article;

      (ii) The other parent of the child is the victim of the crime or act described under item (i) of this paragraph; and

      (iii) The other parent of the child is a child of the parent.

   (3) (i) An action under this subtitle for the wrongful death of a child caused by the parent of the child allowed under the provisions of § 5-806 of this article may not be for the benefit of that parent of the deceased child.

      (ii) An action under this subtitle for the wrongful death of a parent caused by a child of the parent allowed under the provisions of § 5-806 of this article may not be for the benefit of that child of the deceased parent.

(b) Secondary beneficiaries. — If there are no persons who qualify under subsection (a), an action shall be for the benefit of any person related to the deceased person by blood or marriage who was substantially dependent upon the deceased.

(c) Damages to be divided among beneficiaries. –

   (1) In an action under this subtitle, damages may be awarded to the beneficiaries proportioned to the injury resulting from the wrongful death.

   (2) Subject to § 11-108(d)(2) of this article, the amount recovered shall be divided among the beneficiaries in shares directed by the verdict.

(d) Damages — Death of spouse, minor child or parent, unmarried children who are not minors. — The damages awarded under subsection (c) of this section are not limited or restricted by the “pecuniary loss” or “pecuniary benefit” rule but may include 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, or education where applicable for the death of:

   (1) A spouse;

   (2) A minor child;

   (3) A parent of a minor child; or

   (4) An unmarried child who is not a minor child if:

      (i) The child is 21 years old or younger; or

      (ii) A parent contributed 50 percent or more of the child’s support within the 12-month period immediately before the date of death of the child.

(e) Damages — Death of children not described in subsection (d) or parent of a child who is not a minor. — For the death of a child, who is not described under subsection (d) of this section, or a parent of a child, who is not a minor child, the damages awarded under subsection (c) of this section are not limited or restricted by the “pecuniary loss” or “pecuniary benefit” rule but may include damages for mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering, loss of society, companionship, comfort, protection, care, attention, advice, counsel, training, education, or guidance where applicable.

(f) Restriction to one action under this subtitle. — Only one action under this subtitle lies in respect to the death of a person.

(g) Action to commence within three years; deaths caused by occupational disease. –

   (1) Except as provided in paragraph (2) of this subsection, an action under this subtitle shall be filed within three years after the death of the injured person.

   (2) (i) In this paragraph, “occupational disease” means a disease caused by exposure to any toxic substance in the person’s workplace and contracted by a person in the course of the person’s employment.

      (ii) If an occupational disease was a cause of a person’s death, an action shall be filed:

         1. Within 10 years of the time of death; or

         2. Within 3 years of the date when the cause of death was discovered, whichever is the shorter.

(h) Child of parents who have not participated in a marriage ceremony. — For the purposes of this section, a person born to parents who have not participated in a marriage ceremony with each other is considered to be the child of the mother. The person is considered to be the child of the father only if the father:

   (1) Has been judicially determined to be the father in a proceeding brought under § 5-1010 of the Family Law Article or § 1-208 of the Estates and Trusts Article; or

   (2) Prior to the death of the child:

      (i) Has acknowledged himself, in writing, to be the father;

      (ii) Has openly and notoriously recognized the person to be his child; or

      (iii) Has subsequently married the mother and has acknowledged himself, orally or in writing, to be the father.