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Eligibility for Filing a Wrongful Death Action in Maryland


Under Maryland law, wrongful death is a type of personal injury action designed to compensate family members for the death of a loved one. These actions are only available if the death resulted from a negligent or wrongful act. Additionally, Maryland law outlines various factors concerning the eligibility to file a wrongful death action on behalf of a deceased family member.

Spouses, Parents & Children

Maryland Code of Courts and Judicial Proceedings Section 3-904 restricts the eligibility for wrongful death actions to certain family members only. In specific terms, wrongful death lawsuits are only available to a deceased person’s:

  • Wife;
  • Husband;
  • Parent; or
  • Child.

In normal circumstances, only the family members listed above can file a wrongful death action on behalf of a deceased person. Though there is an important exception concerning blood or marriage relatives.

Blood or Marriage Relatives

If a deceased person does not have any direct family members, Section 3-904 does allow for an expanded scope. In these situations, a person can file a wrongful death lawsuit if they were:

  • Related by blood or marriage to the deceased person; and
  • Substantially dependent upon the deceased person.

The second factor above is vitally important in this context. Only blood or marriage relatives who were dependent upon the deceased person can pursue a wrongful death action.

Unmarried Parents

Section 3-904 also addresses wrongful death lawsuits on behalf of children born to unmarried parents. Under this section, a child with unmarried parents is automatically considered the child of the mother.

Such a child’s natural father can only file a wrongful death action if they:

  • Obtained a legal judgment of paternity pursuant to Maryland law;
  • Acknowledged paternity in writing, prior to the death of the child;
  • Married the mother and acknowledged paternity, orally or in writing; or
  • Represented paternity openly and notoriously, prior to the death of the child.

If the child’s natural father can demonstrate one of the items above, they can file a wrongful death lawsuit for their child’s death.

Parental Disqualification

In narrowly tailored circumstances, a parent can become disqualified from filing a wrongful death action on behalf of their deceased child. Disqualification typically occurs when a parent commits any of the following crimes against their child:

  • Rape (Maryland Code of Criminal Law Sections 3-303 and 3-304);
  • Sexual Offense (Maryland Code of Criminal Law Sections 3-307 and 3-308);
  • Incest (Maryland Code of Criminal Law Section 3-323);
  • Child Abuse (Maryland Code of Criminal Law Section 3-601); or
  • Sexual Abuse of a Minor (Maryland Code of Criminal Law Section 3-602).

Let Us Help You Today

If you have legal questions about wrongful death actions in Maryland, it can be greatly productive to speak with an adept personal injury lawyer. The Baltimore wrongful death lawyers at Iamele & Iamele, LLP feature demonstrated proficiencies handling wrongful death actions and other aspects of personal injury law. If you need legal help, please contact us today for a free initial consultation.


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