Can I File a Wrongful Death Claim in Alabama?
It is important to understand your rights if you are considering filing a wrongful death claim.
To file your wrongful death case in Alabama, the person must have passed away in the state in order for the law to apply.
A consultation with J. Allen Brown allows you to explore your options during this difficult time. But remember, because of Alabama’s statute of limitations, you have only two years from the death to bring the action. Please do not hesitate, because the clock is ticking.
What is Wrongful Death?
First, it’s important to understand how the state defines wrongful death. That is the death caused by someone else’s negligence, wrongful act, or omission.
According to Alabama law, the at-fault person may have been grossly negligent or intentionally aimed to harm the decedent.
Some examples of a wrongful death may include:
- An on-the job accident where someone failed to secure a harness
- A motorcycle accident where the driver was drinking and crossed into another head-on
- A defective drug or medical device that kills the user and never should have been put into the marketplace
- Nursing home neglect where the individual was left to waste away in filthy conditions
- A hospital error where the patient was mistakenly given a drug at ten times the recommended strength
- Exposure to toxins where the public was not warned of the danger
These are examples of what can and does happen when people do not exercise a degree of care and knew or should have known that their actions could lead to death.
And sadly, when this occurs, there is nothing that can be done to make it right and bring back your loved one.
Who Can File – Alabama’s Civil Remedy to Wrongful Death
Unfortunately, the only justice that can be secured when you lose a loved one because of someone else’s negligence is to file a wrongful death claim in an Alabama court against the person responsible, who then becomes the defendant.
This is a civil remedy, and the outcome of a civil action is financial as opposed to criminal court where the wrongdoer will spend time in prison.
In Alabama, it is not even necessary that the defendant is facing criminal charges related to the death. The civil remedy can stand alone.
Under the wrongful death Code of Alabama, since the individual has passed, it will be up to his or her estate to make a claim for compensation.
In fact, family members in Alabama are not allowed to bring claims on behalf of the deceased person. Only the personal representative for the decedent’s estate may bring the wrongful death claim.
Seeking Punitive Damages in an Alabama Wrongful Death Case
Our state’s wrongful death law has another distinction.
Unlike most other U.S. states, Alabama does not allow a wrongful death case to be filed for compensatory damages, such as the medical bills or cost of the funeral.
In other states, the age of the deceased person, his lost wages, and support of the family are all taken into consideration in a wrongful death action.
Instead, Alabama law allows the estate to file only for punitive damages. This goes directly to the wrongdoing of the defendant and is intended to punish the person or party that is found negligent.
It is also a higher bar to achieve.
To make it more difficult to recover, Alabama imposes caps on compensation in punitive damages in the amount of $1.5 million. Additionally, there is a cap on filing a claim against a government entity that cannot go over $100,000 in compensation.
If there is any dollar amount awarded, the heirs of the deceased person will be paid, not the estate.
Facing these limitations, an experienced personal injury attorney must be able to prove that the defendant violated the duty of care owed the decedent and that this duty was breached, either through misconduct or negligence. Finally, we need to prove that there is a link between the breach and the death.
All of this must be explored before the statute of limitations expires.
J. Allan Brown is an experienced lawyer who can help families maneuver the legal system in their greatest time of need. He will work to investigate and gather the evidence needed to craft a compelling wrongful death case. A consultation with Mr. Brown is complimentary. You can schedule your free consultation by calling 251-473-6691 or messaging us through our online contact form.