Alabama Wrongful Death Lawyers
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It is heartbreaking to unexpectedly lose relative in an accident. It is even more challenging when you realize that accident was not a random occurrence, but instead was another person’s fault. Once you realize that another person’s carelessness, recklessness, or ill intent is behind your loss, you likely want justice. You want to hold that person responsible for all the pain they have caused you and your loved ones.
Our wrongful death attorneys at Belt, Bruner, & Barnett P.C. are here to advise you on your rights and options for holding the person responsible accountable for the death of your loved one. We will investigate the situation and thoroughly review whether your loved one’s estate can move forward with a wrongful death claim or survival action. If so, we will guide you through the legal process and fight hard for you family to receive the compensation it deserves under the law. Call us at 205-933-1500 or contact us via our online form to schedule a free consultation.
Alabama’s Wrongful Death Law
You can read Alabama’s wrongful death laws in the Alabama Code §6-5-410. This statutes describes when a wrongful death cause of action arises, who many bring this claim, who the damages may go to, and more. When you speak with a wrongful death lawyer, this will be one of the sources of the information they provide you, along with relevant Alabama court cases and their years of experience.
The law states that a wrongful death claim may arise when a wrongful act, omission, or negligence of any person or business, or one of their agents, causes the death of another individual, so long as the deceased individual would have had the right to file a personal injury claim based on the other party’s negligence, wrongful act, or failure to act.
If you have any questions regarding Alabama’s wrongful death statute and how it is implemented in state courts, call us at Belt, Bruner, & Barnett P.C. right away.
When to Consider a Wrongful Death Claim
There are a few factors to take into account before considering whether to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against another person or business. The first is whether there is any evidence of another person’s wrongdoing. Is there evidence that the other person was careless, reckless, or had malicious intent? If you believe there is proof of negligence or intentional misconduct, then the next consideration is whether your loved one would have been able to sue had they lived.
It is important to note that a wrongful death claim is a civil suit. It is not dependent on a criminal case, though it may occur at the same time as one. The allegations that lead to a wrongful death claim may also cause prosecutors to charge the allegedly at-fault party with a crime, though this is not always true. The party that caused your loved one’s death may also be guilty of an offense, such as manslaughter. However, they can also be civilly liable for your relative’s death without being guilty of a crime.
If you believe your relative would have had a valid personal injury suit had they only been injured and not killed, then the next step is to call an experienced wrongful death lawyer at Belt, Bruner, & Barnett P.C. We will thoroughly review your situation and advise you on whether your family or loved one’s estate has a valid wrongful death claim, and if so, the compensation you and your relatives may obtain.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death Claims in Alabama
A wrongful death accident can occur in any number of situations. However, the most common causes of wrongful death claims in Alabama include:
- Car crashes
- Truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Defective products/dangerous drugs
- Elder or nursing home abuse or neglect
Who May Bring a Wrongful Death Claim
Under Alabama’s wrongful death statute, not just anyone can file the wrongful death lawsuit. Only the personal representative of the decedent’s estate. The personal representative may be a relative of the decedent. However, their right to sue is based on their position of authority within the state, not their familial connection.
When to File a Wrongful Death Claim
The statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit is two years. You have two years from the date your loved one died due to the accident to file the paperwork in court. The only possible exception is if it took time for your family to ascertain that negligence or intentional misconduct may be to blame for the death. If you did not discover the potential legal claim for weeks or months after your loved one’s passing, then you should contact our wrongful death attorneys right away to discuss whether this impacted the statute of limitations and how long you have to file.
How to Prove a Wrongful Death Claim
If you wish to file a wrongful death lawsuit, you must be ready to prove that the other party was negligent or acted intentionally in regard to your loved one’s death. The basis of your claim impacts what you need to establish. What you must show when proving a wrongful death claim differs if you claim the other party acted intentionally versus if you claim the other party was negligent. Many wrongful death claims are based on negligence, which requires proving that the other party owed the decedent a duty of care, failed to uphold that duty of care, and directly caused the decedent’s death.
Proving either intentional misconduct or negligence requires a great deal of evidence, including:
- Witness testimony
- Expert testimony
- Family member testimony
- Police reports
- Medical records
- Business records
Your wrongful death lawyer will use these types of evidence and others to prove that the alleged at-fault party caused your loved one’s death by a preponderance of the evidence. This burden of proof requires that it is more likely than not that the other party was responsible for relative’s passing. At least half of the evidence must support this conclusion.
Alabama Wrongful Death Compensation
In most states, families can pursue compensatory damages in a wrongful death claim. These damages are intended to compensate the family for their psychological and financial injuries. The same cannot be said for Alabama. In this state, the personal representative of your loved one’s estate may seek punitive damages in a wrongful death lawsuit. These damages are intended to punish the wrongdoer, prevent them from acting in such a way again, and to prevent other parties from acting similarly in the future.
Because you must ask for punitive instead of compensatory damages, it can be difficult to gauge the value of your claim. This requires working with a wrongful death law firm like Belt, Bruner, & Barnett P.C. We offer more than 65 years of collective experience. We will review your situation and advise you on the likely value of your claim.
It is also important to know that any punitive damages the personal representative obtains are not subject to the estate’s debts. The money will be distributed among the decedent’s heirs based on Alabama’s statute of distributions. This is the same way your loved one’s estate would have been passed down if they passed away without a valid will in place. In most cases, the decedent’s surviving spouse and children will recover. If they did not leave behind a spouse or children, then other surviving family members may receive a portion of the punitive damages.
Wrongful Death v. Survival Actions
Many people confuse wrongful death and survival actions. These are two very different types of legal claims.
A wrongful death action is about the remaining family member’s injuries. This legal cause of action is created when the individual passes away. It does not exist before then.
A survival action, which you can find in Alabama Code §6-5-462, is about the harm done to the deceased individual. It arises when the individual is hurt, before they pass away. A survival claim is a cause of action that survives beyond your loved one’s death. The personal representative of their estate can pursue the surviving claim on your relative’s behalf.
However, a personal representative cannot file a personal injury claim for your relative after their passing. If your loved one had filed the personal injury claim prior to their death, then their executor may continue the case for them.
If you have questions about wrongful death and survival actions, do not hesitate to connect with our wrongful death attorneys. We are here to explain your rights and legal options after your loved one unexpectedly passes away because of another person’s actions.
Let Our Alabama Wrongful Death Attorneys Help
It can be difficult to contemplate legal action while you are grieving. However, if you have any inkling that your loved one’s death was caused by someone else, it is essential that you speak with a lawyer right away. It can take weeks or months to investigate the situation and gather the evidence you need to prove another person’s negligence or intentional misconduct.