WRONGFUL DEATH IN ALABAMA
Alabama law defines a Wrongful Death as a death that is caused by the wrongful act, omission, or negligence of another.
Section 6-5-410 of the Code of Alabama specifies that the Estate of a deceased person may bring a wrongful death suit against the party or parties that caused such a death.
The Wrongful Death statute provides a useful way of thinking about a wrongful death claim:
Think of the claim like a personal injury claim that the injured person is no longer capable of seeking compensation from the party that caused the injury. Instead, the Estate of the deceased person steps in to seek compensation on the deceased person’s behalf. Any losses that a negligent party is held liable for must be paid back to the Estate.
The Code of Alabama also states that a wrongful death claim may be brought to court even though there has not been prosecution, conviction, or acquittal of the defendant for the wrongful act, omission, or negligence that caused the wrongful death.
In other words, a wrongful death claim may be filed in a civil court even if the defendant is not facing criminal charges related to the same death. A wrongful death case differs from a criminal case in two ways.
- A wrongful death case is a Civil Case, which is brought by a private party seeking damages for the loss of the deceased. Civil Cases are punished with the award of monetary damages to the Estate of the Deceased.
- A Criminal Case is filed by the state against a certain person or entity seeking guilt for the crime that caused the death of the deceased. Criminal Cases are punished by imprisonment and other penalties.
WHO MAY FILE A WRONGFUL DEATH CASE IN ALABAMA?
Alabama limits the ability to file a wrongful death claim to the Personal Representative of the deceased person’s Estate. Only the Estate may bring a wrongful death case, and all damages in a wrongful death case in Alabama are paid to the Estate and ultimately to the heirs of the deceased.
WHAT DAMAGES CAN BE AWARED IN ALABAMA IN A WRONGFUL DEATH CASE?
Alabama handles damages in wrongful death cases differently than other states. While most U.S. states allow for compensatory damages in wrongful death cases to cover the costs of funeral expenses, medical bills, and other losses resulting from the untimely death.
That is not the case in an Alabama Wrongful Death. Alabama law only allows for punitive damages. The Alabama Wrongful Death law focuses almost completely on the wrongdoing of the defendant and has a twofold purpose to Punish a Defendant who is found negligent and to deter similar negligence by other parties.
It is important to remember that the state in which the deceased person passed away is a key factor in determining which state’s wrongful death laws apply. In order for the Alabama law to apply to a wrongful death case, the deceased person must have passed away within the borders of the state of Alabama. If the deceased person passed away in another state, the laws of that state will apply to the wrongful death case.
ARE THERE TIME LIMITS FOR FILING A WRONGFUL DEATH CASE IN ALABAMA?
Alabama’s statute of limitations sets a time limit for filing a wrongful death claim in Alabama’s civil court system. A Wrongful Death case must be filed within two years of the date of death. Because certain factors can change the running of this two-year time period, it is wise for personal representatives considering a wrongful death suit in Alabama to seek the advice of an attorney who is licensed to practice law within the state. Also, important… if you feel that you have lost a loved one due to a Wrongful Death it is imperative that you seek legal counsel sooner rather than later as evidence and witnesses and witnesses memories disappear quickly.
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