Wrongful Death Claim From Maryland Truck Accident

Wrongful Death claim from Maryland Truck accident

When a victim dies because of the negligent conduct of someone else, there are two claims that arise. The first claim is a survival action filed by the personal representative of the deceased seeking recovery for the injuries suffered by the victim as if the victim were still alive. Damages are measured in terms of harm to the victim. The personal representative serves as the posthumous agent of the victim. Damages for the survival action are collected by the personal representative of the estate. The second claim is the wrongful death action, brought by the relatives of the victim and seeking recovery for their loss because of deceased’s death. Damages are measured in terms of harm to others from the loss of the victim. The surviving relatives act on their own behalf.

Damages for the survival action include emotional distress due to the loss of a fetus, conscious pain and suffering of the deceased prior to her death, pre- impact fright, medical and funeral expenses of the deceased, as well as any loss of wages incurred prior to the death of the deceased. Damages for “pre-impact fright” are recoverable when the decedent experiences it during the legitimate window of mental anxiety, that window opened when the decedent became conscious of the fact she was in imminent danger, and it closed with her death in a car crash; as a result of the feared impact-the car accident-  decedent’s fright was capable of objective determination that resulted from the decedent’s apprehension of impending death and the collision itself. Beynon v. Montgomery Cablevision Ltd. Partnership 351 Md. 460, 718 A.2d 116. …evidence of “pre-impact  fright,” the trial court instructed the jury that it could consider and make an award for “pain, suffering and mental anguish” that the decedent experienced before the crash. Beynon v. Montgomery Cablevision Ltd. Partnership351 Md. 460, 718 A.2d 1161

In a Wrongful death case, automatic standing is given only to a spouse, child, or parent of the deceased person. If there are spouse, child, or parent of the deceased person , any person related to the deceased by blood or marriage “who was substantially dependent upon the deceased” may file the action. In the wrongful death action, “the jury may give such damages as they may think proportioned to the injury resulting from such death to the parties respectively for whom and for whose benefit such action shall be brought, and the amount so recovered *** shall be divided among the above mentioned parties, in such shares as the jury by their verdict shall find and direct STEWART v. UNITED ELECTRIC LIGHT & POWER CO. 104 Md. 332,The damages for wrongful death include pecuniary loss or benefit as well as“… damages for mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering, loss of society, companionship, comfort, protection, marital care, parental care, filial care, attention, advice, counsel, training, guidance, or education, where applicable.” Those damages are called “solatium damages.” A husband and wife jointly may recover for injury to one spouse which causes a loss of society, affection, and conjugal fellowship, including the loss or impairment of sexual relations between them.

Sample Demand letter in a wrongful death case.

Deceased Injuries

            Deceased was a shoulder/lap belted front seat passenger in the mini-van driven by her husband. . Prior to the initial impact, both Deceased and her husband heard the defendant hit his brakes. Both immediately looked back to see what was going on. While looking back, they saw the truck coming toward them at a high rate of speed and they braced for  the collision, fearful for their safety. The initial impact in this case was to the rear of the plaintiff’s vehicle. Initial 911 notifications occurred at 11:28 AM. EMS -1 was dispatched to the scene at 11:34 AM; arrival to accident scene was 11:40 AM. Assessed damage to Deceased vehicle by fire department personnel included greater than 24” intrusion to all sides of the van as well as the entire roof assembly, C posts and B posts were sheared away from the vehicle. The rear tailgate was pushed forward all the way forward to the front passenger side tire. (Refer to Anne Arundel Fire Department Incident Number 2000828696; attached.) Deceased had remained conscious, and spoke to her husband immediately following the crash. Having sustained multiple painful injuries, she passed out prior to the arrival of the medic unit/first responders. Deceased’s seat was pushed upwards and was noted to be deformed. Deceased was found unable to breathe with an obstructed airway due to the movement of her seat upon impact. An off duty EMT repositioned her head and she resumed breathing at that time. Deceased received full spinal immobilization with cervical collar and long back board upon extrication from the van at 11:41 AM.

             Initial Glasgow coma score was 4 with no pupil response noted, extension of all extremities and no verbal response. Her pupils were not noted to be dilated. This would not indicate severe brain injury, since a single non-reactive papillary assessment offers little clinical significance for severity of a brain injury. Standard Glasgow scoring system is used to rapidly assess an altered level of consciousness. Scores may range from 3-15, with 3 indicating low level neurological function. Normal heart rates for a healthy adult are from 55-88 beats per minute. Her heart rate was elevated at 130 beats per minute, which would reflect blood loss and pain. Carotid pulses were present indicating positive brain blood flow to maintain brain function. Pulse oximetry revealed an oxygen saturation of 98% while being assisted with a bag-valve mask device, which indicates improvement in lung functioning with oxygen administration. Breath sounds were noted to be diminished in both lungs which would indicate injury to the chest cavity or lungs. Large bore IV catheters were placed and fluid resuscitation was in progress with Lactated Ringers solution. Estimated blood loss at the scene was 1 liter. Deceased received a fluid volume of 1.5 liters by 11:34 AM. Maria’s pupils were noted to be sluggishly reactive and equal at 11:51AM as her airway was secured by endotracheal intubation at 11:56 AM, which would be indicative of an improvement in condition in response to treatment. Blood was noted to be visible in the tube after placement, indicating trauma to the chest cavity.

            Vital signs at 11:59 AM were blood pressure 130/104, heart rate 126 in sinus tachycardia, assisted respirations of 22 with oxygen saturations of 100%, again reflective of improvement in status after treatment. Assessed external trauma on scene included an open humerus fracture and a scalp laceration, both had been actively bleeding and trauma dressings had been applied. Significant bruising was noted on her abdomen. She was assessed to be approximately seven months pregnant.

            Shock trauma was consulted and Maryland State Police Trooper 1 arrived on scene at 12:01 PM. Deceased’s vital signs at that time were heart rate 118 blood pressure 91/27, indicating continued blood losses. Pupils were noted to be partially dilated and non-responsive. Deceased had received several medications to assist with having an airway placed which could affect her ability to react at this time. She was moving all extremities No notation of posturing to pain is reflected in the paramedic report. Posturing occurs with serious brain injuries. Abdominal assessment was soft and non-tender. Deceased arrived at the Trauma Center at 12:14 PM.

 

Arrival to Trauma Center/Treatment Course:

     

     Deceased’s admitting vital signs had improved to blood pressure 105/82, heart rate 105 with pre-hospital treatment. Her pupils were noted to be 5 mm and non-reactive to light, indicating no deterioration in her neurological status. .

            A Fast scan was done to assess the infant. Fetal hears rates are normally 120-160 beats per minute. Fetal heart rate was determined to be in the 40’s, and an emergency Caesarean section was performed by the obstetrics team for suspected placental abruption. No anesthesia was administered for the procedure as the infant was in distress and mother was perceived to be unresponsive.   A female infant was delivered at 12:24 PM, with APGAR scores of 0, 0, and 0.  A 75 % placental abruption was observed by Dr. Lindsey. . Deceased’s uterus was soft, intrauterine Hemabate was given and intramuscular Methergine for bleeding and to increase uterine tone. A Pitocin infusion was initiated to facilitate uterine contraction and tone. A large amount of retroperitoneal blood was observed. Upon delivery of the baby, the trauma team resumed care for Deceased and an exploratory laparotomy was performed. No active bleeding was observed from major organs, so the abdomen was closed and Deceased was transported to CAT scan.             Deceased’s injuries included a small amount of subarachnoid blood noted on her head CAT scan, consistent with the laceration noted externally. No significant brain injury was noted. Bilateral internal carotid pseudo aneurysm injuries were identified, which could impact on altered pupil response. Lack of pupil reaction to light was most likely to be due to the internal carotid injury, explaining the lack of significant brain injury on the head CAT scan. Spinal column injuries included fractures of the 4th and 5th cervical vertebrae, fracture of the 3rd thoracic vertebrae and lumbar spine fractures at the L1 through L5 levels. Given that Deceased had been observed to move all extremities in the field, the spinal injuries were orthopedic in nature, no evidence of spinal cord injury. Therefore, sensory pathways were intact for the transmission of stimuli and painful impulse. Orthopedic injuries were a left acetabular fracture, with bilateral sacroiliac joint widening due to compressive forces. Thoracic-abdominal injuries identified on CAT scan were bilateral hemo-thoraces, multiple rib fractures and lung contusions with evidence of intercostal arterial bleeding. Rupture evident in the left diaphragm with protrusion of abdominal and bowel contents in to the chest cavity.  An actively bleeding liver laceration and bowel with evidence of lost blood flow were noted.

            Deceased suffered a cardiac arrest at 13:54 PM, extensive resuscitation attempts were made including open chest heart massage. Efforts were discontinued at 14:01 PM due to non-response.

Post Mortem Findings

 

 An autopsy was performed on the body of Maria on May 24, 2008 at the Medical Examiner in Baltimore. Dr..Ana , M.D; PhD performed the necropsy. Diagnostic findings were comparable to those assessed at the Trauma Center. Further identified issues were that of a splenic hemorrhage, bruising and hemorrhaging in the colonic and mesentery vasculature were identified in the abdominal cavity exam. Internal examination of the brain revealed that all structures were intact, including the cranial nerves and cerebral blood vessels, which would indicate that Deceased had adequate blood supply and intact nervous system to have transmitted sensory perceptions of pain and anxiety during and following her injuries.

 

                                                       Deceased Estate Survival Action

 

                                                             Funeral Expenses

 

            With regard to the estate, funeral expenses in the United States included Funeral Home in the amount of $9,579.00 and there were transportation expenses to transport her to El Salvador in the amount of $1,356.38, as well as transportation expenses from Travel Services in the amount of $1,330.00 to transfer the body from the funeral home to the airport for total funeral expenses of $12,265.38. There will be additional funeral expenses in El Salvador to be supplied later.

                           

                               Estate of Deceased Medical Expenses

 

University of Maryland Diagnostic Physicians       $41.00

University of Maryland Pathology                         $100.00

University of Maryland                                          $7134.61

________________________________________________

Total Medical Expenses for the

Estate of Deceased                                                 $7275.61

 

                      Deceased Wrongful Death Claim

                                               

                                 Deceased Wages

            With regard to Deceased, she had been employed by Dave Inc. from February 23, 2007 to May 23, 2008 where she earned $9.00 an hour and was a member of the cleaning and janitorial staff and she worked 38 hours a week for total wages of $342.00 a week.  In addition, she also worked at McDonalds and earned $9.15 an hour and was about to get a fifteen-cent raise. At McDonald’s she worked between 12 and 15 hours per week and made approximately $140.00 a week.  Tax returns for 2005 indicate that she made $15,671.00; for 2006, $15,473.00 and for 2007 she made $13,968.00.

 

                                      Economic Loss Due To Loss Of Deceased

 

According to Joel Moore an economist who heads the economic department at the University Of Baltimore, the elements of loss that he evaluates are twofold. One is the loss of the income of Deceased as well as her household production, or services to the family. The second is an evaluation of the diminishment of working hours suffered by her husband due to the needs of the two surviving children, Van (DOB=November 7, 1997) and Wally (DOB=December 10, 1998).

            In the opinion of Joel Moore an economist, the present value of the lost income and benefits due to the death of Deceased is $702,073. This figure includes lost income, lost household services and a conservative 49-50% reduction for the personal consumption of the deceased. His estimate of the loss of Husband’s income due to his present child-rearing activities is   an additional $75,755. This assumes that the approximate reduction in his time worked per week is 20 hours, enduring for 7.5 years. The total of these two amounts is $777,828.

            During the interview Mr. Morse found that Maria produced household services such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping (which the couple did together). Deceased and Husband took turns babysitting and arranged their work schedules so that there would be minimum overlap of working hours, thus maximizing the available babysitting and child-rearing time. Note that this list is not exhaustive, but it is consistent with my sources, cited below in my methodology appendix.

            The family lived in a two-bedroom apartment in Baltimore, Maryland. The apartment consisted of a living room, a kitchen and two bedrooms. There was one bathroom. The apartment was carpeted.

 

Since it was an apartment, there was no outdoor work that I attribute to Deceased. The deceased family originally had two cars, but after the car accident, only one vehicle remains for husband’s use.

            Husband couldn’t afford the old apartment, which rented from $975 a month. Now he has moved to a smaller place with his children where the rent is $775 per month. Both of those figures are without utilities. The present budget for the family is $80 a month for phone, $200 a month for electric power, $30 a month for TV and cable and $15 a month for the water bill. Car insurance currently runs $160 a month.

            As to the income of the couple prior to the accident, Mr. Moore reviewed four years of Deceased’s tax records and one year for Husband. Deceased earned between $15,473 and $13,968 during those years. The 2007 figure was slightly lower because she missed work due to some pregnancy issues and some work done on her teeth.

            According to her husband, Deceased’s goal was to continue her education, to buy a house rather than rent an apartment and naturally, to continue raising the children.

            Her future business plans included working with JAFR, which is a door-to-door cosmetics company. Deceased’s education consisted of high school in El Salvador. That included approximately 9 years of elementary school, and three more years to earn her accounting credential.

            The family appears to be well liked and respected. The references from employers were heartwarming and positive.

Estate of Deceased Funeral Expenses

 

 Funeral Home in the amount of                                     $9,579.00

transportation expenses to transport her to

El Salvador in the amount of                                            $1,356.38

 as well as transportation expenses from

Travel Services in the amount of                                          $1,330.00

 to transfer the body from the funeral home

 to the airport

Total funeral expenses of                                                                                  $12,265.38

 

Estate of Deceased Medical Expenses

 

University of Maryland Diagnostic Physicians       $41.00

University of Maryland Pathology                         $100.00

University of Maryland                                          $7134.61

________________________________________________

Total Medical Expenses for the

Estate of Deceased                                                      $7275.61

 

Estate of Deceased Pain And Suffering Claim emotional distress due

 to the loss of a fetus, conscious

pain and suffering of the deceased prior to her death, as well

as pre- impact fright                                                                                    $695,000.00

 

Total Estate of Deceased Survival Claim                                                             $714,540.99

 

Wrongful Death Claim for Deceased

 

Economic Loss Due To Loss Of Deceased

 

In the opinion of Joel Moore an economist,

the present value of the lost income and benefits

 due to the death of Deceased is                                               $702,073.

This figure includes lost income, lost household services

His estimate of the loss of Husband’s

 income due to his present child-rearing

activities                                                                                     $75,755.

The total of these two amounts is                                                               $777,828.

Solatium Damages Claim For the Dependents

solatium damage for wrongful death include pecuniary

 loss or benefit as well as“… damages for mental anguish,

emotional pain and suffering, loss of society, companionship,

comfort, protection, marital care, parental care, filial care,

attention, advice, counsel, training, guidance, or education.                    $1,042,000.00

 

Total Wrongful Death Claim for Deceased                                                                   $1,819,828.00

 

Case settled for $2,250,000.00- Plaintiff at the time of the accident was in her 30’s, married, had 3 children. Mother died as a result of the accident. Medical expenses were minimal. Plaintiff worked 2 jobs. In addition, there were funeral expenses.  Deceased was an illegal alien.

 



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