Two Unique Aspects of Wrongful Death Liability in Alabama
Wrongful death lawsuits can lead to very different conclusions depending on the state in which a claim is being litigated. Two particular aspects of Alabama law concerning wrongful death liability set it apart from other states.
Alabama Law Concerning the Acceptance Doctrine
In a very recent judicial decision, the Supreme Court of Alabama reversed a $7.5 million verdict in favor of three victims of a fatal automobile accident. The accident was allegedly the result of negligent highway road resurfacing done by a Mobile road construction company, which was awarded a contract to do the work by the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT). The court concluded that even if the company was negligent, it should not be held liable under the acceptance doctrine. This means that once ALDOT approved the road work, the contractors could no longer be liable for its negligent work.
Critics have pointed out that the Alabama Supreme Court’s adoption of the acceptance doctrine essentially eliminates potential claims against negligent highway construction companies. Furthermore, the adoption of the doctrine leaves crash victims with essentially no legal remedies because ALDOT itself has state immunity from civil tort liability.
Alabama Law Concerning Damages
Under Alabama law, compensatory damages cannot be awarded in wrongful death cases. Only punitive damages are available in a successful wrongful death lawsuit. Alabama is the only state in the entire country that only allows punitive damages.
In support of this law, Alabama courts have reasoned that while the value of human life is not capable of being translated into a monetary measurement, punitive damages can be measured by the gravity of the wrong done, the appropriate punishment, and the need to deter similar wrongs in the future. On the other hand, critics argue that Alabama should join the rest of the country in understanding that the measure of damages in a wrongful liability verdict should compensate claimants for the unfortunate loss of a loved one.
Wrongful death lawsuits often involve complex circumstances that should be carefully analyzed by an experienced attorney. If a loved one was the victim of a wrongful death, contact the Law Office of J. Allan Brown, L.L.C. to review your case.