Losing a loved one due to the negligence of another party is devastating. While recovering damages through a wrongful death lawsuit won’t remove the pain and the grief, it could greatly help the bereaved deal with the financial aspects of loss, such as medical bills, funeral expenses, and the like.
A wrongful death claim is a civil action lawsuit that allows relevant parties to hold the liable party or parties to account. The statutes governing wrongful death vary from state to state. In Alabama, all accidents that result in death are covered by its wrongful death statute, Alabama Code Section 6-5-410.
The statute describes wrongful death as “a wrongful act, ommission, or negligence causing death.” Interestingly, in Alabama, the deceased’s relatives or loved ones are not allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit themselves. Only the personal representative of the deceased’s estate can seek civil action, and any damages awarded by the courts go directly to the deceased’s heirs. They do not become part of the deceased’s estate, as would be the case in many other states.
Additionally, Alabama courts handle wrongful death cases differently from all other states. Unlike in states such as New York or Texas, Alabama courts do not award compensatory damages for lost earnings, mental and emotional anguish, and the like. Plaintiffs in an Alabama wrongful death lawsuits can only sue for punitive damages.
Punitive damages in an Alabama wrongful death case are intended to punish the defendant for his or her negligence, and not to compensate the deceased loved one’s relatives for their loss.
Alabama wrongful death cases can be difficult to win because the plaintiff needs to prove that the defendant was indeed negligent and must be ordered to pay punitive damages as punishment.
Individuals who have suffered the loss of a loved one due to the negligence of another party should consider retaining the services of a lawyer familiar with the laws governing wrongful death in their state. It is necessary to move quickly, as Alabama requires wrongful death claims to be filed within two years after the date of the death.
Anthony Ifediba heads Ifediba Law Group LLC , a firm that specializes in a wide range of practice areas, including personal injury and wrongful death. For more discussions on Alabama’s wrongful death statute, follow this Twitter account.