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.