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Surviving Family Members in Maryland Wrongful Death Actions


When a third party is responsible for the wrongful death of a loved one in Maryland, surviving family members can pursue legal action in court. If the surviving family members meet all requirements, they may recover compensation in proportion to the injury caused.

There are two types of damages in a Maryland wrongful death action. Economic damages account for measurable losses, such as wages or medical bills. Noneconomic damages account for abstract losses, such as pain, suffering or emotional loss. But these damages are only available to certain types of surviving family members.

Eligible Family Members

In most cases, only certain family members are eligible to file a wrongful death action on behalf of a deceased person. Under Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceedings Code section 3-904, a wrongful death action is usually reserved for a deceased person’s:

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

Section 3-904 also addresses the situation where a deceased person does not leave behind a living spouse, parent or child. At that point, a wrongful death action is available to any person who can demonstrate:

  • Relation by blood or marriage to the deceased person; or
  • Substantial dependence upon the deceased person.

Ineligible Parents

In certain cases of criminal conduct, Section 3-904 prevents a parent from filing a wrongful death action on behalf of their child. Specifically, a parent is ineligible if they committed or are convicted of:

  • Sexual Assault under Maryland Criminal Code sections 3–303 through 3–308 and 3-323;
  • Child Abuse under Maryland Criminal Code section 3–601; or
  • Child Sexual Abuse under Maryland Criminal Code section 3–602.

Unmarried Parents

Parental rights are clear under Section 3-904, even if the child’s parents are unmarried. Under the law, the mother is considered the legal guardian of all children born to unmarried parents. Though the father can attempt to prove paternity, as outlined in the following section.

Determining Paternity

There are two routes for alleged father to determine paternity under Section 3-904. The first route involves an official, judicial decree from a Maryland court.  After obtaining such a decree, the person is officially and legally the child’s father.

Even in the absence of a judicial decree, there is a second route to paternity. But the alleged father must meet certain requirements before the death of the child in question. Before the child dies, the alleged father must:

  • Declare himself in writing to be the child’s father;
  • Recognize himself through clear conduct to be the child’s father; or
  • Marry the child’s mother and declare himself — in writing or orally — to be the child’s father.

Contact Us Today for Help

If you are the surviving family member of a deceased person in Maryland, it may be helpful to consult with a trusted personal injury lawyer. The lawyers at Iamele & Iamele, LLP in Baltimore, Maryland, have years of experience assisting family members with wrongful death actions and other aspects of personal injury law. If you need legal help, contact us today for a free initial consultation.



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