When someone’s negligence results in another’s death, the estate of the accident victim is entitled to pursue a claim for compensation against the at-fault party through an Alabama wrongful death lawsuit. Alabama Code section 6-5-410 governs Alabama wrongful death lawsuits, and provides that any person or corporation can be liable for the death of another caused by any “wrongful act, omission, or negligence.”Alabama’s wrongful death statute is unique in several ways. First, as noted above, the family of the deceased is not entitled to pursue a wrongful death claim. Instead, only the personal representative of the deceased can initiate the claim. Of course, there is no law preventing a family member from being named as a personal representative.
The second way in which Alabama handles wrongful death cases differently is the availability of damages. In most states, wrongful death plaintiffs can pursue compensatory damages for the loss of the deceased. However, Alabama provides only for punitive damages. Punitive damages are designed to accomplish two goals: to punish the defendant who was found to have acted negligently, and to deter similar conduct by other parties. Any punitive damages awarded in an Alabama wrongful death lawsuit are paid to the heirs of the deceased, and are not made a part of the estate, as is the case in other states.
Other Important Facts about Alabama’s Wrongful Death Statute
Anyone considering a wrongful death lawsuit must file the claim within two years of the passing of the deceased. In some situations, for example, if the claim is against a city or county, the time limitation to file what is called a “notice of claim” can be much shorter than two years. A failure to comply with the notice of claim or with the statute of limitations will likely result in the plaintiff being unable to recover any compensation.
In fact, the timing in any Alabama personal injury case is very important, and the earlier a case is filed the better a plaintiff’s chance of securing full and fair compensation for their injuries or loss. For example, evidence of a deceased’s pain and suffering is generally inadmissible in an Alabama wrongful death lawsuit. This means that if a wrongful death case is filed after a victim has died, the jury will not be allowed to hear about the pain and suffering the deceased endured prior to their death. However, this is compelling evidence that may result in significant additional compensation.
Suppose, however, that after an accident, while the victim is still alive, a personal injury lawsuit is filed. A few weeks later, while the lawsuit is still pending, the accident victim passes away from their injuries. The victim’s personal injury lawsuit will effectively be transformed into a wrongful death lawsuit. Because the lawsuit was filed while the victim was still alive, evidence of the victim’s pain and suffering will be admissible at the wrongful death trial.
Has Your Loved One Been Injured in an Alabama Accident?
If you have a loved one who has been seriously injured or killed in an Alabama personal injury accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Attorney Greg Reeves with the Reeves Law Firm has extensive experience handling all types of Alabama personal injury and wrongful death cases, and knows how to maximize the compensation his clients receive for their injuries or losses. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, call 256-355-3311 today to speak with Attorney Reeves about your case.