It was the type of call that no one ever wants to make . . . or receive.
A wife called me - her husband had been in a terrible wreck with a large commercial truck. The truck driver had ignored a red light and the results were disastrous.
Her husband was in the hospital. From the looks of it, he would likely make a recovery. However, we decided to file a lawsuit against the truck driver and his employer right away. Within a week, the husband suddenly turned for the worse and died from his injuries.
My decision to file the lawsuit quickly was important.
In Alabama, there are a lot of topics that can’t be brought up at a trial in a wrongful death lawsuit because Alabama is one of the only, if not the only state in the USA that only allows punitive damages for wrongful death. There are no compensatory damages for wrongful death.
What does this mean? Well, in this case, it meant that we would be able to discuss a lot of things at trial, since I had filed the lawsuit - that otherwise would have been off-limits.
Without getting into the weeds, typical topics - such as what kind of job the person had, how much they earned, and whether they suffered pain after the injury, these topics are left outside the courtroom door in an Alabama wrongful death lawsuit. However, since I had filed the lawsuit when I did, we would have additional evidence to support our claim for damages.
In short, filing the lawsuit quickly was a smart move and it ended up paying off.
The case settled a few months later for $950,000. The settlement happened faster and for a higher value than we would have gotten if I had not filed the lawsuit as quickly as I did.
In another case - my client was hit from behind while driving down the highway and, as a result, he died. Again, a commercial vehicle was involved.
His mother hired me and I acted immediately to get the other driver’s cell phone secured.
We had his cell phone tested and, despite that driver’s claim that he was not speeding, the cell phone testing showed otherwise. The cell phone evidence was the ‘smoking gun’ that we needed.
In that case, the driver’s insurance company ended up paying limits of $1,000,000.
If we had not had the cell phone data to show the driver’s speed at the time of impact, that case might have never settled for $1,000,000 and may not have settled without a trial.
These are two situations where acting fast helped with both the settlement value of the case and also helped in getting the cases resolved promptly and without a trial.
So, by acting fast, evidence can be preserved.
Witness statements can be obtained.
Information and data can be pulled from the vehicle’s ‘black box,’ or the driver’s cell phone. And, in Alabama, filing suit after significant injuries can open the door to evidence that would otherwise be excluded - if the case winds up being on for wrongful death.
It pays to act quickly, especially when the injuries are serious, as soon as possible after the crash occurs.