When you lose a husband, wife, parent or child, you have lost their love, support, companionship, comfort and care, and a range of other intangible benefits that are hard to quantify in dollars and cents. Lawyers call these losses "non-economic damages." In many cases, the loss of a loved one also involves monetary or "economic damages" to the surviving spouse or to dependent children.
Who Can Sue?
Under Maryland law, surviving parents, children and spouses are known as "primary beneficiaries" who may bring a wrongful death action. More distant relatives may only sue if the deceased died without a surviving parent, child or spouse. These "secondary beneficiaries" may only sue if they were related by blood or marriage and were financially dependent upon the deceased.
Damages for Wrongful Death
In a wrongful death action, your attorney will seek compensation for both economic and non-economic damages.
In the case of a spouse or minor children, economic damages include the financial support as well as the replacement value of the services that the deceased furnished or probably could have been expected to furnish. Hence, the deceased's earnings and future earning capacity for the probable time both had been expected to live would establish the amount that the surviving spouse could reasonably have expected to receive. The same measure of damages would apply to any minor children, who may recover the support they would have received from their parent had he or she lived. Even adult children may recover economic damages if they were receiving continuing support from the deceased parent in the form of "pecuniary services," so long as these children can prove that these services would have continued during the expected lifetime of the parent.
In addition to economic losses, plaintiffs in a wrongful death action may recover non-economic damages for the mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering, loss of society, companionship, comfort, protection, marital care, attention, advice or counsel the surviving spouse or child has experienced or probably will experience in the future. In the case of a surviving spouse, these damages are sometimes called "loss of consortium" damages, while other relatives recover for what the law calls "loss of solatium."