Wrongful Death Lawyers in Alabama

Can I File a Wrongful Death Case if a Loved One Dies in Alabama?

Losing a loved one is always heart wrenching, and there is a period of grief and mourning before life can return to normal. Losing a loved one because of the negligent or reckless actions or omissions of another party is far worse, however. Knowing that their death was untimely and should never have happened in the first place can be very difficult to take. While there is nothing you can do to bring them back, it is natural to want justice.

The question of whether or not you can file a wrongful death case if a loved one dies in Alabama depends on a number of factors. Our state’s laws are unique in this regard and they are unlike virtually any other state. In order to determine if you can file a claim for the loss of a loved one, there are a few questions that need to be answered:

How Long Has It Been Since your Loved One’s Death?

Hopefully, you are looking into a wrongful death action relatively soon after the death of a loved one. However, if it is been some time since their death, you need to be aware of the time limits for filing a lawsuit, also known as the “statute of limitations”. In Alabama, the statute of limitations for most wrongful death claims is two years from the date of death. There are some factors that can extend this deadline, and if this is an issue in your case, it is best to speak with a skilled and knowledgeable attorney to discuss the specifics of your situation.

Who Was Responsible for Your Loved One’s Death?

There are a number of events that can result in someone’s death. These may include:

  • Auto accidents, particularly those involving drunk drivers;
  • Workplace accidents;
  • Medical malpractice;
  • Fatal injuries from defective products;
  • Fatal injuries resulting from unsafe premises;
  • Deaths resulting from intentional acts, such as assault.

In most of these instances, it is possible to file a wrongful death claim against the party responsible on behalf of a deceased loved one. One possible exception may be in the case of a workplace accident.

With workplace accidents, if your loved one was covered by worker’s compensation insurance, survivors are generally not allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the employer. However, if the death was caused by a third party other than their employer, then a wrongful death action may be possible and appropriate.

Who is the Personal Representative of Your Loved One’s Estate?

One of the unique aspects of Alabama wrongful death law is that not just anyone is allowed to file a claim. Instead, only the personal representative of the decedent’s estate is allowed to file this type of lawsuit, and the action is brought on behalf of the estate. The personal representative of the estate may or may not be a family member, and if there is a will, this person would already be named in that document. If there is no will, a personal representative must be appointed by the court through the probate process. This could take some time, and you need to be mindful of the aforementioned deadlines if you need to undertake this process in order to get a personal representative appointed.

Damages in Alabama Wrongful Death Claims

Although Alabama wrongful death lawsuits must be brought by the personal representative of the decedent’s estate, proceeds from such actions (also known as “damages”) are distributed directly to the decedent’s heirs-at-law. In other words, proceeds go to the intestate heirs of the decedent, as if he/she had died without a will. In addition, this money cannot be used to satisfy the debts or liabilities of the decedent’s estate.

Another way that Alabama wrongful death cases are different and unique from most other states is with the type of damages that can be awarded. In other states, you can sue for compensatory damages, such as medical costs, lost wages, lost earning capacity, and others. In Alabama, you are only allowed to sue for punitive damages.

Punitive damages are not meant to compensate an injury victim (and their family), but rather to “punish” the party responsible for their wrongdoing, and to help deter them (and others) from committing similar acts in the future.

To recover punitive damages, you need to show more than just simple negligence on the part of the at-fault party. You will need to show that the actions which resulted in your loved one’s death were willful, malicious, or grossly negligent. This is a much higher bar to clear; and for this reason, it is strongly advised that you work with an attorney who has in-depth experience with wrongful death cases, and the proven ability to secure favorable results on behalf of their clients.

Contact Burns, Cunningham & Mackey, P.C. for Skilled Legal Guidance

If you lost a loved one in Alabama because of someone else’s negligence or recklessness, contact Burns, Cunningham & Mackey, P.C. for legal help. Call our office today at (251) 260-3815 to schedule a free consultation and case assessment. You may also message us through our online contact form or stop by our Mobile office in person at your convenience.

Wrongful Death Lawyers in Alabama

Putting a Price on Human Life – What is a Wrongful Death Suit Worth in Alabama?

It’s painful to lose a loved one, but when this happens unexpectedly due to an accident, this tragic loss of life might also become a legal matter. If a person’s death is caused by the carelessness or negligence of another party, you may be able to seek compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit.

Like other states, Alabama has laws that govern wrongful death claims, but this is where many of the similarities end. Unfortunately, our state is unique in the way that it approaches wrongful death and this makes it difficult at best to put a price on a human life.

What is Considered “Wrongful Death” in Alabama?

According to the Code of Alabama Section 6-5-410, “wrongful death” is defined as the loss of life that is caused by the negligence, wrongful act, or omission of another party. The statute specifies that a wrongful death case is similar to a personal injury case, with the main difference being that the person who was harmed is no longer able to pursue compensation from the responsible party.

According to the Alabama code, there doesn’t have to be a criminal case for there to be a wrongful death claim. In other words, the defendant need not be facing criminal charges from their negligent act for them to be held financially responsible in civil court through a wrongful death case.

Who Can Bring a Wrong Death Case?

Alabama law is quite specific about who can file wrongful death lawsuits. It might make sense that a close family member can seek financial compensation when a loved one is tragically killed, but this isn’t how the law defines it in this state.

Instead, only the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate may file a wrongful death suit. In many cases, this is also a spouse, adult child, or parent. But any award for damages in a wrongful death case is paid to directly to the estate instead of to a single person or group.

What is a Wrongful Death Suit Worth in Alabama?

The way that Alabama values wrongful death cases is different from every other state in the nation. When there is a personal injury case, such as a car accident or slip and fall, the plaintiff can make a claim for monetary and non-monetary losses such as medical care, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Similarly, most other states allow survivors in wrongful death cases to claim these types of losses for such things as loss of support and inheritance, emotional pain, and burial expenses.

Under Alabama law, none of these factors are considerations in an award for wrongful death. A jury cannot consider the value of the decedent’s life or the need to support the family in the future. The only type of award available in an Alabama wrongful death case is punitive damages.

Specifically, the courts will only look at how bad the actions of the defendant were in deciding damages, so that they can be “punished.” This is also meant to act as a deterrent to similar conduct by other parties. The only other possible consideration when calculating an award is the financial condition of the wrongdoer.

Other Facts to Know About Alabama Wrong Death Cases

Wrongful death cases are time-sensitive, meaning you have to file a claim within a specific period or you will be barred from recovering damages. For most cases, that period is two years from the date of death but this time period can be shortened when you are dealing with a government entity.

Even with a two-year statute of limitations, filing a claim as soon as possible after an accident can increase your chances of obtaining full and fair compensation. In some cases, the victim is still alive when the case is initially filed, and the early evidence produced regarding severe injuries and pain and suffering can help the case.

Speak with a Qualified Mobile Wrongful Death Attorney

If your loved one has been severely injured or killed in an accident through no fault of their own, you may be entitled to compensation. Burns, Cunningham, & Mackey, P.C., has extensive experience fighting for the rights of victims of Alabama personal injury and wrongful death.

Our primary goal is to achieve the most favorable outcome in your case, which means getting you maximum compensation for your losses. Contact our Mobile office now at (800) 574-4332 or reach us online to schedule a free consultation.