Unfortunately, negligence and reckless actions in our world are far too common. Negligence can take many forms, including the incompetent surgeon who performs the wrong operation, the drunk driver who causes a wreck, or the property owner who does not ensure that their premises have reasonable security. The sad part of all this is that negligence and reckless actions can end up taking someone's life. Fortunately, when you lose a dear one as a result of such an incident, you can seek compensation under the law by filing a wrongful death claim with a Bessemer Wrongful Death Lawyer.
While most members of the public are familiar with the term “wrongful death,” many don't know of their rights to file this type of claim. When another person's or party's negligence results in the death of your loved one, you probably have too many details and questions to articulate. On top of your grief, you may be forced to deal with issues like administering a will, filing criminal charges against the person/party responsible for the accident, and intestate succession.
Due to the intricate nature of Alabama's wrongful death laws and statutes, filing a wrongful death claim may present many challenges for those unfamiliar with the process. If your loved has been killed in Alabama, you may be wondering whether a wrongful death claim is available for you. Call our Alabama injury attorneys with Mike Bell Accident & Injury Lawyers for a free case review. Our skilled and dedicated attorneys will help you navigate the complex legal system and help you get the justice you deserve.
What Qualifies As Wrongful Death In Alabama?
Wrongful death can be defined as a civil action that holds an individual or entity responsible for the death of another person. A wrongful death claim asserts that the defendant's recklessness, the omission of reasonable care, negligent actions, or unlawful acts led to the victim's death. Because of this, they must be held accountable.
Note that although the defendant of a wrongful death case may face criminal charges, this civil action does not depend on the outcome of such criminal charges and does not in any way affect your right to file a wrongful death claim.
If you're wondering if you can bring a wrongful death action in Bessemer, Al, ask yourself if the victim would have recovered damages for the negligence, unlawful act or omission had he or she lived. Would the victim have had a personal injury lawsuit against the accused? If the answer is yes, then you may have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Alabama.
Who May File An Alabama Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Unlike most states, family members of the deceased are not allowed or entitled to file a wrongful death claim in Alabama, either on their behalf or on behalf of the victim. Instead, Alabama wrongful death statutes limit the ability to file this kind of claim to the personal representative of the decedent's estate. That means that only the estate may file a wrongful death lawsuit, and all recovered damages are paid to the estate as well.
Often, the administrator of an estate is designated in a will. If the deceased did not leave a will, then the executor of the estate may be appointed by the court. A family member of the deceased has forty days to petition to be the personal representative of the estate after the death of the victim. If a family member does not raise a petition by that period, then the court can proceed to appoint someone other than heirs or family member to the position.
What Are The Recoverable Damages For An Alabama Wrongful Death Case?
The state of Alabama handles wrongful death lawsuits differently than other states. Most states allow the family of the deceased to recover both monetary and non-monetary damages caused by the death of the victim such as pain and suffering, loss of income, and even loss of support – these compensatory damages are a form of reimbursing the family or estate for the loss associated with the decedent's death.
Alabama is different. The Alabama Code section 6-5-410, which governs the state's wrongful death claims, provides that only punitive damages should be awarded in Alabama wrongful death cases. Punitive damages awarded are not meant to compensate the estate or family members of the victim, but instead to achieve two primary goals: to punish the defendant for their omission of, negligent or reckless actions, or wrongdoing, and to deter similar negligence by the public.
As in any state, the location where the deceased passed away is crucial in determining if Alabama's wrongful death laws apply. For the Alabama Code 6-5-410 to apply to your wrongful death case, the victim must have died within the state borders of Alabama. If you're not sure which state's laws apply to your case, contact Mike Bell Accident & Injury Lawyers.
How Are Damages Determined And Distributed For An Alabama Wrongful Death Case?
Since the state of Alabama only awards punitive damages for wrongful death cases, juries will award compensation depending on the degree of the defendant's negligence, omission, or wrongdoings. The jury, therefore, does not factor in the decedent's life or the family's pain and suffering due to the death of the deceased. Also, the jury is allowed to factor in the necessity of punishment as well as the wealth of the defendant when determining the amount to award as compensation.
Any punitive damages that the executor of the estate recovers in a wrongful death case in Alabama are not part of the victim's estate. That means that unlike other states, recovered damages cannot be distributed according to the victim's will or trust. Instead, the judgment money is distributed among the heirs of the deceased according to the intestacy laws as though the deceased passed away without a will.
What Are The Time Limits For Filing A Wrongful Death Suit In Alabama?
Alabama's statute of limitations clearly defines a time limit for anyone considering bringing a wrongful death action in Alabama. In Alabama, a wrongful death suit must be lodged within two years, starting from the date the victim passed away. However, exceptions may apply. For example, if your wrongful death claim is against a municipality, you a required to file a “notice of claim” before filing your wrongful death lawsuit. For claims involving cities, the time limit is typically six months from the date of the accident.
When filing a wrongful death claim, timing is everything, and the earlier you file your lawsuit, the better your chances are of securing fair compensation. Remember, the victim's pain and suffering are inadmissible in a wrongful death case in Alabama. However, supposes that you file a personal injury claim immediately after an accident while your loved one is still alive. A month later, while the personal injury suit is pending, your loved one succumbs to their injuries and passes away. The decedent's personal injury claim may be transformed into a wrongful death lawsuit – and because the suit was brought to action while the deceased was still alive, evidence of their suffering may be admissible in your wrongful death trial.
Why Should You Choose A Lawyer Who Specializes In Wrongful Death Cases?
Due to the unique nature of how Alabama handles wrongful death cases, a claim filed under the statute is subject to many procedural complications. For instance, since only the personal executor of the estate is entitled to seek compensation for wrongful death cases, an estate must be opened with the correct probate court. Probate rules may present additional challenges for a newcomer. Thus, choosing an experienced wrongful attorney from Mike Bell Accident & Injury Lawyers can alleviate the hassles involved with probate proceedings and pursuing your claim.
Contact Our Bessemer Wrongful Death Lawyers
Dealing with Alabama's complex and unique wrongful death statutes can be confusing without expert legal representation, more so, when you're still grieving. The wrongful death lawyers at Mike Bell Accident & Injury Lawyers understand that you might need some expert legal help. You probably have a ton of questions, and our attorneys at Mike Bell Accident & Injury Lawyers want to answer them. So, call us at 205-666-6000 for a free case assessment.