What Happens to a Maryland Injury Lawsuit When the Plaintiff Dies?

Posted on behalf of Peter T. Nicholl in Personal Injury Published on July 6, 2023 and updated on July 17, 2023.

rose set on top of gravestone

Sometimes the victim of an accident suffers critical injuries that lead to his or her death, weeks or months later. For example, the victim may develop fatal complications, such as from surgery to treat the injury, such as an infection or organ failure.

In these situations, the victim may have already taken legal action. What happens to the settlement if the person dies? What happens if a lawsuit or insurance claim was filed right before the victim passed?

The attorneys from The Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl discuss what happens in this scenario. If you or a loved one were a victim of someone else’s negligence in Maryland, call us to learn how we may be able to help.

No upfront fees or legal obligations. Call today: 410-297-0271.

Will the Legal Process Continue After the Victim Dies?

If a Maryland injury victim dies after a lawsuit or insurance claim has been filed, the personal representative of the deceased’s estate can continue the lawsuit/claim. The representative will have the authority to make decisions about the case, such as accepting or rejecting a settlement offer. However, the representative still has a legal obligation to do what is in the best interest of the estate.

These types of personal injury claims are called survival actions. One way to think about this type of cases is that the victim would have been able to pursue it if he or she had survived. The at-fault party should not be able to avoid accountability simply because the victim is no longer alive.

One of the reasons you should hire a Maryland personal injury lawyer after a severe injury is because he or she will know how to handle these types of situations. It is much easier to handle this type of situation if the lawyer is already working on the case.

It is important to remember there are deadlines for personal injury cases. It takes time to build a strong case and you want to give your lawyer as much time as possible. Once deadlines pass, you may lose the right to seek compensation.

Who Receives Compensation if the Victim is Not Alive?

A Maryland survival action is not the same as a wrongful death case. A wrongful death action is filed on behalf of the victim’s family, not on behalf of the estate. A survival action is filed for the recovery of damages suffered by the deceased before his or her death. A wrongful death action is for the recovery of damages suffered by the family after the victim’s death.

This means the deceased’s estate receives compensation for a survival claim. This compensation could include damages like:

  • Medical expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost wages
  • Damage to personal property
  • Funeral expenses
  • And more

These are all damages that were suffered between the time of the injury and the victim’s death. For example, the victim may have been confined to a hospital bed for days or weeks. The cost of the hospital stay would be compensable in a survival action.

The victim was likely unable to work after the injury, which would result in lost wages, which would be compensable in a survival action. However, the deceased’s estate would not be able to seek loss of earning capacity because the victim did not survive. This is one of the reasons a survival action is not the same as a personal injury claim.

What if The Victim Did Not Have a Will?

If there is no will appointing a representative of the deceased’s estate, a representative will be court-appointed. This person will not only administer the estate but also handle any pending legal action involving the deceased. In this situation, the legal process may be halted so the probate process can play out and a representative can be appointed.

Is There a Wrongful Death Case?

When another party’s negligence causes an injury that eventually results in someone’s death, there may be grounds for a survival action and a wrongful death case. If the victim died immediately or shortly after the accident, there would only be grounds for a wrongful death case.

However, this is an issue that should be discussed with an experienced attorney. You should not try to determine your legal options on your own, or based on what the insurance company tells you.

What if the At-Fault Party Died in the Accident?

There are times when the at-fault party is the one who dies in the accident, not the victim. For example, this could happen in a drunk driving crash if the at-fault driver was not wearing a seatbelt and the victim was. This raises the question of whether the victim can still seek compensation. Victims may even feel uncomfortable about filing a claim because they may think they are taking money from the family of someone who is deceased.

You can still seek compensation if the at-fault party dies. You will not be taking money from their family. You will be seeking compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance company, and potentially your own insurance company.

You were injured by their negligence. You have a right to seek compensation for the damages you suffered. The at-fault party’s death does not take away your right to take legal action over your injuries.

Free Legal Consultation. Call to Discuss Your Injury Claim

The legal process is not something you should go through alone, especially if you have suffered a catastrophic injury. An experienced lawyer can manage the case on your behalf, allowing you to focus on following the doctor’s treatment plan. You do not need the added stress of managing an insurance claim on top of everything else that has come up since your injury.

At The Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl, we have been advocating for the injured in Maryland for many years. We have obtained millions on behalf of these victims, and we are ready to help you secure full compensation for your injuries and damages. There are no upfront costs for our services.

Contact our firm today: 410-297-0271. We have decades of experience.