29 Aug Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Alabama
by: William Channing Brashaw, Attorney
The decision to bring a wrongful death lawsuit in Alabama can be a stressful and even painful choice for the surviving family members left behind. It has the potential to turn a grievous and tense period even more stressful and confusing, or if the choice is made after some time after the wrongful death, it has the potential to stir up painful memories for the mourning family. The statute controlling wrongful death lawsuits define what a wrongful death is, who can bring the lawsuit, and what damages (monies) can be received, while other statutes and case law dictate other facets of a wrongful death lawsuit. It is for these reasons that your best chance of success is with an experienced Alabama personal injury attorney.
What is Wrongful Death?
The statute that controls wrongful death lawsuits in Alabama is Alabama Code 6-5-410. The statute defines wrongful death as “the wrongful act, omission, or negligence of any person… whereby the death of the testator or intestate was caused*” Simply put if you believe another person(s) or business may have been responsible for the death of a loved one because of their actions or failure to act, the estate of your loved one may have a wrongful death claim.
Who can bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Alabama?
Continuing from above, the statute provides that the personal representative of the deceased’s estate may file the lawsuit on behalf of the deceased. This feature of the wrongful death statute separates Alabama from some other states (some states allow for family members individually to bring a lawsuit on behalf of the deceased). What this means is that prior to filing any wrongful death lawsuit in Alabama, an estate in the name of the deceased must be established. However, be aware. It is not required that the deceased have a will in place at the time of their death to establish an estate. An estate can be set up for almost any deceased person, regardless if they had a will or not. Once an estate is set up in the name of the deceased, the personal representative of the estate will have the legal right to bring a wrongful death lawsuit in Alabama.
What Damages can be Received?
Another feature of the wrongful death statute in Alabama is that the damages (monies) that can be sought are punitive damages. In some states, plaintiffs are able to recover for costs such as funereal expenses, medical bills from the injuries that led to the death, damages for pain and suffering, and more. This type of damages are commonly referred to as compensatory damages. What plaintiffs in an Alabama wrongful death lawsuit can attempt to recover is punitive damages. Punitive damages have a twofold purpose. First, they are imposed upon a defendant in order to punish the defendant’s conduct, i.e. for causing the death of another person. The second purpose of punitive damages is to deter that defendant from engaging in similar conduct in the future. Since these damages are so ambiguous in nature, the help of an experienced Alabama personal injury attorney can ensure the amount of damages received is fair.
How Long Do I Have to Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
As previously discussed in Statute Of Limitations: How Long Do I Have To File My Lawsuit?, different lawsuits in the State of Alabama have different time limits in which they may be brought. A wrongful death lawsuit in Alabama carries a two-year time limit to be filed. If the lawsuit is filed after the two-year mark, there is a high probability that the case will be dismissed because it is not within the appropriate time limit.
There are a lot of moving parts to a wrongful death lawsuit in Alabama, and wrongful death lawsuits in Alabama require an experienced Alabama personal injury attorney to ensure the process can be navigated in a way that minimizes the suffering for the grieving family while holding those who are liable accountable for their negligence. The experienced attorneys of The Patton Firm can help you determine whether you have a wrongful death claim and can assist you from setting up the estate, to filing the lawsuit, to vigorously advocating for the best resolution of your claim, and work tirelessly to hold those responsible accountable. If you believe you may have a wrongful death claim in Alabama, please call one of the experienced personal injury attorneys at The Patton Firm for a free consultation.
*As long as the testator (aka the person who wrongfully died) could have brought an action for their original personal injury.
Disclaimer: No representation is made that the quality of legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services to be performed by other lawyers