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Legal Considerations When a Spouse Passes Away

Baltimore Attorneys for the Families of Medical Malpractice Victims

People turn to medical providers to prevent and treat acute and chronic health conditions, with the expectation that the treatment will prolong their lives. While competent care can help a person live longer and enjoy a better quality of life, incompetent care can harm a person, and in many cases, can end a person’s life. When people unexpectedly lose their spouse due to medical malpractice, in addition to navigating their grief, they often must also deal with the legal and financial ramifications of their spouse's death. If you lost your spouse due to medical negligence, you can speak with a Baltimore medical malpractice lawyer regarding what actions you should take to protect your rights. At Arfaa Law Group, we are adept at helping people who have lost their spouses because of negligent medical care make important decisions. We can thoroughly advise you of your options, and guide you through the process of determining what steps are in your best interest.

Considering Whether to File a Wrongful Death Claim

If your spouse’s death was caused by negligent medical care, one of your first considerations should be whether to pursue a wrongful death claim against the party that caused your spouse’s harm. In Maryland, wrongful death claims generally must be filed within three years of the date of death. To prevail on a wrongful death claim arising out of medical malpractice, you must establish that the defendant medical professional owed a duty to your spouse to comply with the applicable standard of care, and that the defendant breached the duty through his or her acts or omissions.

The standard of care imposed on medical professionals is determined by what care and treatment a competent professional with the same training and skill and practicing in the same specialty would have provided under similar circumstances. After you establish a breach, you must then show that the breach ultimately was a cause of your spouse’s death. If your claim is successful, you may be able to recover damages for your pecuniary losses, emotional pain and suffering, and the loss of companionship and comfort provided by your spouse.

Planning for Your Later Years

It is also prudent for anyone who has lost a spouse to review and update any valid wills, as in many instances, the deceased spouse is the primary beneficiary of the person’s will. Additionally, if you lost your spouse, it is prudent for you to assess whether you wish to grant someone power of attorney in the event that you become physically or mentally incapacitated and are unable to make decisions for yourself.

In Maryland, anyone who is 18 years old or older and mentally competent can assign power of attorney to another person via a written document. Power of attorney can be general, meaning it grants a person the right to make all financial and health decisions for the grantor, or limited to certain decisions as delineated in the document granting power of attorney. For example, a person may choose to draft an advance directive. Advance directives, which are governed by the Maryland Health Care Decision Act, solely designate a person to make healthcare decisions on behalf of the drafter.

Power of attorney and advance directives are critical tools that can prevent discord and confusion among your family members in the event that you become ill, and it is important to consider if they would be beneficial for you to implement.

Financial Considerations

Lastly, if you lost your spouse, there are decisions you should make regarding your finances. For example, if your spouse was insured under a life insurance policy, you may be owed benefits. Similarly, if either you or your spouse were collecting Social Security benefits, you must determine whether to collect your benefits of your spouse’s going forward, as you are not permitted to collect both. It may also be prudent to consult a financial planner to help you develop an appropriate financial plan for your future.

Speak with a Knowledgeable Medical Malpractice Lawyer in Baltimore

Suffering the sudden loss of a spouse is not only emotionally shattering, but it can also have momentous financial and legal consequences as well. If you lost your spouse due to negligent medical care, you can speak with a knowledgeable Baltimore attorney to discuss what actions you should take. At Arfaa Law Group, are well versed in the legal and financial consequences of a person's death, and we can assist you in developing an appropriate plan to protect your rights. You can reach us at 410-889-1850 or via the form online to schedule a confidential and free meeting to address your needs.