Here are four basic concepts that apply to all wrongful death cases in Maine.
What are the Two Main Components of a Wrongful Death Claim?
There are two basic parts to a wrongful death claim - liability and damages. In order to recover on a wrongful death claim, we will first need to establish liability, i.e. that the negligence of someone other than the deceased person caused his/her death. If liability can be established, we then calculate how much the wrongful death claim is worth.
Who Can Assert a Wrongful Death Claim on Behalf of a Deceased Person?
Under Maine law, only the Personal Representative of the deceased person is entitled to assert a wrongful death claim. See 18-A M.R.S.A. 2-804(b). A Personal Representative is a person appointed by the appropriate Probate Court to oversee the deceased person's estate. Accordingly, an estate proceeding will need to be commenced and a Personal Representative appointed before a wrongful death claim can be asserted.
What is the Statute of Limitations on a Wrongful Death Claim in Maine?
The statute of limitations is two years from the date of death. See 18-A M.R.S.A. 2-804(b). Given the short statute of limitations for wrongful death claims, it is important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible if you think you may have a claim.
Do I Need to Hire an Attorney for a Wrongful Death Claim?
Yes, for several reasons. First, wrongful death claims are largely governed by statute and there are several technical requirements that must be satisfied in order to successfully assert a claim. Second, many wrongful death claims are potentially worth a substantial amount of money. An experienced wrongful death attorney will properly value the claim and exhaust all potential sources of recovery, including the defendant's insurance policies, personal property and other assets. Third, the statute of limitations is two years, which means that the Personal Representative must file a lawsuit within two years of the date of death or else the claim is waived. Given the short statute of limitations and the substantial likelihood that a lawsuit will ultimately need to be filed, the wiser course is to retain an attorney as soon as possible.
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