Losing a loved one to an untimely death can be the worst experience of your life. The grieving process is even more overwhelming when your relative's death was caused by someone's careless, negligent, or malicious actions and could have been avoided.
When someone you love dies unexpectedly, life changes forever for you and your family. Such a significant loss is devastating, but it becomes especially difficult for survivors when they're left with medical bills, funeral costs, and the loss of financial and emotional support. Fortunately, Alabama law allows surviving family members to recover monetary compensation from the at-fault party to help ease the financial burden.
While no lawsuit can restore your loss or alleviate your grief, a Montgomery wrongful death lawyer can help your family achieve closure and secure the financial support you need to get on with your lives.
If a close relative has died due to someone else's intentional or negligent actions, the Montgomery injury lawyers at Mike Bell Accident & Injury Lawyers can help. We understand how difficult and overwhelming a wrongful death situation can be and are committed to helping bereaved families like yours get the justice and compensation they deserve.
Let us help you, too. Contact us today at 334-666-5000 for a free and confidential case evaluation today.
How Is Wrongful Death Defined In Alabama?
Alabama created a cause of action for wrongful death lawsuits in Alabama Code Title 6. Civil Practice § 6-5-410. The statute allows a wrongful death claim to proceed in Alabama where a person's death was the result of the following actions: negligence, wrongful act, and omission, provided that the deceased could have commenced a lawsuit for such omission, negligence, or wrongful act if it had not caused death.
Virtually any type of fatal accident can lead to wrongful death action, including:
- Car accidents
- Defective products
- Truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
- Workplace accidents
- Medical malpractice
Alabama's wrongful death statute provides that while a wrongful death action is for the benefit of the decedent's beneficiaries, it must be brought by or in the name of the personal representative or executor of the deceased person's estate.
Note: A wrongful death action in Alabama may be revived or commenced even when there has not been prosecution, conviction, or acquittal of the at-fault party for the omission, unlawful act, or negligence.
Who Is Qualified To File A Wrongful Death Claim In Alabama?
Alabama's wrongful death statute determined who can bring a wrongful death action depending on whether the decedent was a minor or an adult at the time of death.
Under the law, if the decedent was a minor (someone under the age of 19 years), then the parent (mother or father) can bring a wrongful death claim within six months of the minor's death. After the six-month window expires, then the child's personal representative must file the wrongful death action.
In Alabama, the deceased person's family cannot file a wrongful death suit. Instead, the law allows only the personal representative (called “executor” or “administrator” if appointed by the court) of the decedent's estate is permitted to bring a wrongful death action.
A personal executor could have been named in the deceased person's estate plan, and if there isn't one, or if the chosen individual declines to serve the role, then an Alabama court can appoint one.
If you and your loved ones are suffering the agony of wrongful death, the Montgomery wrongful death lawyers at Mike Bell Accident & Injury Lawyers can help to file your lawsuit. We realize the last thing you want to do at such a difficult time in your life is deal with Alabama's complex wrongful death laws and red tape associated with a wrongful death claim.
Allows our compassionate attorneys to handle all things for you, including filing your Montgomery, AL wrongful death claim.
What Type Of Damages Are Recoverable?
When someone you love dies unexpectedly, the emotional and financial fallout is often enormous. In addition to the immediate expenses such as medical bills, burial and funeral costs, surviving family members also lose their loved one's income and future emotional and financial support.
Unfortunately, unlike most states where the surviving family can recover compensatory damages such as medical expenses, lost income, and loss of consortium through a wrongful death claim, Alabama does not permit plaintiffs of a wrongful death action to recover compensatory damages. Instead, successful wrongful death claims in Alabama can only garner punitive damages.
A unique aspect of Alabama's wrongful death lawsuits is that only punitive damages can be awarded for a wrongful death civil action. Punitive damages are usually awarded for two reasons: 1. To punish the defendant for their negligence, omission, or wrongful act. 2. To help deter the defendant and others from similar acts in the future.
To recover punitive damages for wrongful death in Alabama, the plaintiff must show that the defendant's actions were so egregious – such as drunk driving – that they rise to the level of being worthy of punishment through a financial award.
Punitive Damages Cap For Wrongful Death Claims In Alabama
Alabama also caps the amount a plaintiff can receive as punitive damages. Wrongful death claims in Alabama cannot result in more than $1.5 million. Going up against a government entity also involves a damage cap, and plaintiffs cannot recover more than $100,000 in compensation. Alabama courts will not deviate from these damage caps in any circumstances. Hiring a trusted attorney is the best way to maximize the damages your family recover for a wrongful death lawsuit.
Many wrongful death cases we handle at Mike Bell Accident & Injury Lawyers are ultimately resolved through settlements. However, when insurance companies refuse to provide adequate settlement for surviving families, then a suit could be filed, and the case may go to trial. If you lost a child or spouse or someone close to you because of the negligence, omission or wrongful act of another party, we can help. We have the skills and experience to navigate the intricacies of Alabama's wrongful death laws successfully. Call us for a free case assessment today.
Can Beneficiaries Or Surviving Family File For Punitive Damages?
Yes. In fact, in Alabama, the surviving family members can ONLY recover punitive damages for the passing of their loved one.
Rather than focusing on helping surviving families recoup compensation for their losses, Alabama seeks to punish the individual or entity that caused the death. This is because Alabama's legislature decided that awarding punitive damages instead of compensatory damages for a wrongful death will result in greater care and caution to avoid loss of life. That said, the amount awarded for punitive damages is directly related to the degree of wrongdoing on the part of the at-fault party.
Who Can Be Awarded Damages Recovered In A Wrongful Death Claim In Alabama?
Alabama's wrongful death law is also unique in that, while only the personal representative of the decedent's estate can bring a wrongful death action, recovered damages are awarded to the heirs of the deceased.
This means that any monies recovered through a settlement or jury verdict in an Alabama civil court do not go into the decedent's estate. Instead, recovered damages go to the decedent's next of kin, regardless of whether the deceased had a will or not.
Also, punitive damages recovered through a wrongful death lawsuit are not subject to payments of liabilities or debts of the deceased. They must be distributed according to Alabama's statute of distributions. This means a friend or beloved long-term partner cannot recover punitive damages for wrongful death in Alabama.
How Is Negligence Proved In A Wrongful Death Case In Alabama?
Unfortunately, Alabama law does not automatically award damages to bereaved families after the negligence-related or preventable death of a loved one. Instead, a plaintiff must prove the defendant's omission, negligence, or wrongful act to recover punitive damages for the loss of a loved one.
Proving a wrongful death in Alabama can be incredibly challenging without the help of a lawyer. Three elements of proof must be present for you to win a wrongful death lawsuit in Montgomery, AL:
Evidence Of Duty Of Care
The plaintiff must show that the at-fault party or individual owed the decedent a duty of care at the time of their death. A driver, for example, has a duty to exercise reasonable caution on the road.
Evidence Of Breach of Duty
The plaintiff must provide proof that the defendant's actions (whether through negligence or willful intent to harm) or omission breached his or her duty of care to the deceased.
The plaintiff must have proof to show a proximate cause between the defendant's breach and the decedent's death.
Wrongful death plaintiffs in Alabama may encounter other additional burdens of proof since they can only recover punitive damages. The courts will require proof that the defendant acted with conscious intent to harm, was grossly negligent, or particularly malicious. Don't shoulder the burden on proof alone; let our Montgomery wrongful death lawyers help.
How Do You Start A Wrongful Death Claim In Alabama?
When a wrongful death tragedy has befallen your family, you may be considering a lawsuit. But you may be wondering how to go about starting a wrongful death claim in Alabama.
Fortunately, our Montgomery wrongful death lawyers at Mike Bell Accident & Injury Law are here to shed light on the crucial steps to take for your wrongful death claim. Of course, you don't need to go through these steps alone. Our compassionate, skilled, and experienced lawyers are here to take care of every aspect of your case, so please don't hesitate to contact our law firm to schedule a free case review.
Preparing For Litigation
- Setting up the estate
- Identifying and notifying responsible parties
- Negotiating And Settling
- Filing The Lawsuit
Statute Of Limitations On Wrongful Death Claims In Alabama
Alabama's wrongful death statute of limitations places two years of limitations on actions for wrongful death. If the wrongful death action is being brought against a city, a notice of claim must be filed before filing the wrongful death claim, and this must be done within six months of the person's death. If the claim is against a county, then the limitation for filing a notice of claim is one year from the date of the death and before filing the lawsuit.
Note that missing these strict deadlines can prevent your family from ever recovering the damages you deserve and need. For this reason, you mustn't delay; contact an experienced wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible.
A Wrongful Death Claim vs. A Survival Action
As defined by Alabama law, a wrongful death action is a lawsuit commenced to recover damages for the omission, wrongful/unlawful act, or negligence of any individual or entity whereby the death of an individual was caused, provided the deceased individual could have commenced an injury claim for such omission, wrongful act, or negligence.
A wrongful death claim is not the same as a survival action in Alabama. A survival action allows the estate (one on behalf of the decedent's heirs and family members) to recover compensatory damages on behalf of the recently deceased individual who suffered due to omission, wrongful acts, or negligence before they died.
Alabama's statute code §6-5-462 gives surviving family members the right to commence a survival action in very few situations. Surviving family members can continue with a personal injury lawsuit the deceased person filed before passing, except for injuries to reputation. Family members can also continue with an express or implied contract claim whether or not the deceased person filed one before their death. Family members can also bring a survival claim if the person responsible for their loved one's death is deceased. The deceased defendant's estate will act as the defendant.
Consult an experienced lawyer to understand Alabama's complex wrongful death and survival action laws.
The Mike Bell Difference: Here For You From Start To Finish!
If you're struggling with the untimely death of a loved one, it's time to call our lawyers and put our skills and years of experience to work for you. The Montgomery wrongful death lawyers at Mike Bell Accident & Injury Lawyers will be here for you and your family every step of your wrongful death claim. We will investigate, negotiate, and litigate on your behalf to help you recover maximum damages.
Call 334-666-5000 and schedule a free case review today.