Statute of Limitations for a Wrongful Death Claim: Three Years with Rare Exceptions
November 4th, 2016 by Attorney Roger Weinberg
Wrongful death lawsuits can be very complex and highly emotional. If a loved one has died prematurely, his or her family members have been robbed of precious time together. A civil lawsuit can be brought in a Maryland court against the party responsible for the death through a negligent or intentional act .
The death of a loved one can be traumatic and throw your world upside down. In this stressful time, for legal reasons, one thing you shouldn’t lose track of is time. In Maryland, with a couple of exceptions, a plaintiff has three years from the death of a loved one to file a wrongful death legal claim. Under state statute the exceptions are:
- When the death is caused by an “occupational disease” (a disease caused by exposure to a toxic substance in the workplace and contracted in the course of employment), the lawsuit can be filed within ten years from the time of death or three years from the date when the cause of death was discovered (whichever is shorter).
- If the death was caused by an action that would be considered criminal homicide and information on the potential basis for the lawsuit or the identity of the assailant is kept from a plaintiff due to conduct of an adverse party, accessory or accomplice, the plaintiff has three years from when the cause of action accrues to file the lawsuit. It accrues when the plaintiff discovers, or should discover, by using ordinary diligence, the existence of the homicide and the identity of the person who contributed to it. That discovery will be assumed to be when a criminal charge is filed or when the charge is unsealed and made public.
In cases of negligence, the time when the three-year clock starts ticking is the time of the victim’s death, not at the time of the negligent act. This covers cases when the victim doesn’t immediately die due to the injuries.
Three years may sound like a long time, but that doesn’t mean you should put off action if you believe a family member lost his or her life due to the negligence or intentional act of another. If you wait to get an attorney involved as time passes, there could be negative consequences:
- Information and potential evidence may be destroyed or lost,
- Witnesses’ memories may fade, or
- Witnesses may leave the area and be difficult to find
- The attorney may not have enough time to properly investigate, obtain evidence, or prepare a complaint.
Depending on the circumstances, your actions may result in an investigation by law enforcement or a government body. Information from such an investigation could be very important in a civil lawsuit.
If your loved one has died due to the negligence or intentional act of another party in Maryland, we can help you address the situation and hold those responsible accountable for their actions. At the Law Offices of Roger S. Weinberg, you’ll find compassionate support and experienced advocates to help your family through the tough times. Call 410-825-3161 today to schedule a free consultation.