Who Is Eligible To File a Wrongful Death Case Case in Alabama? - Sara Williams ESQ

Who Is Eligible To File a Wrongful Death Case Case in Alabama?

January 21, 2022

When a loved one dies due to someone else’s negligence, the grief at losing someone you love is compounded by anger at the responsible party. You want them to be held responsible for what they did. With the assistance of an experienced wrongful death lawyer, you can do this. I am here to look into your case and guide you in filing a wrongful death lawsuit and obtaining not only a financial compensation for loss (economic and non-economic damages), but also the sense that justice was served.   I know that filing a wrongful death action is the last thing on your mind in the aftermath of a loved one’s death. However, I encourage you to contact me as soon as possible after the tragic event. Alabama law stipulates a statute of limitations of only 2 years after the deceased person lost their life. This is the period of time you have to take legal action against the negligent party. It may appear a long time, but in reality wrongful death suits require a lot of planning, investigation and fulfilling various legal procedures.

What Represents a Cause for Filing a Wrongful Death Claim?

Many bereaved families who get in touch with me wonder whether they can file a wrongful death lawsuit if their loved one died in an accident, caused by negligence not intentional action (manslaughter or murder). Here is the most important thing to know: a wrongful death action is a civil action, similar to a personal injury lawsuit. There is no need for criminal charges to be brought against the liable party. For this type of lawsuit, all you need to prove is that they breached their duty of care towards your loved one and caused their untimely death.

In my experience as a wrongful death attorney, these are some of the most common causes for eligible parties to start a wrongful death legal process:

  • motor vehicle accidents (including auto accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, truck accidents and pedestrian accidents)
  • medical malpractice
  • workplace accidents (especially construction accidents)
  • premises liability
  • product liability (dangerous or defective products).

In each of these cases, a knowledgeable attorney will establish beyond reasonable doubt that the responsible party’s breach of duty caused the fatal injuries leading to the person’s death. Moreover, the attorney will point out that the deceased person’s degree of negligence in the respective event does not bar the eligible persons who want to file a wrongful death suit, even if the state of Alabama applies the contributory negligence rule. This rule is valid for a personal injury lawsuit, not for a survival action.

Who Are the Eligible Individuals Who Can Seek Wrongful Death Damages?

At this point, I have to clarify two different concepts: the eligible person who can file a wrongful death lawsuit and the beneficiaries of the fair compensation. While the jury award is distributed among the heirs who are eligible for estate distribution, according to Alabama wrongful death law, only one person can take legal action: the personal representative of the decedent.

This person is the executor of the will, if the deceased person made one. However, if they died without making a will, the court will appoint a personal representative from among the intestate heirs. There is an exception to this rule, though. If the decedent is a minor child, their parents have a time limit of 6 months to file a wrongful death lawsuit. After the expiration of this period of time, the minor decedent’s personal representative can take action against the party at fault.

Proving a Wrongful Death Claim

Just like in a personal injury action, the burden of proof lies with the petitioner – the person filing the claim. Thus, in order to win the case, they must prove that:

  • the responsible party owed the minor or adult decedent a duty of care
  • they breached their duty through negligent action or wrongful conduct
  • the person lost their life as a result of the liable party’s breach of duty
  • the deceased individual’s family suffered economic damages as a result of their death.

It is a difficult process for any grieving family, and this is exactly why you need to rely on a dedicated and experienced wrongful death attorney, who will handle your case with professionalism and compassion.

Types of Damages You May Recover in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

No one can put a price on a human life. However, when the main bread earner in the family dies, the surviving relatives are left not just with profound grief, but also with debts and uncertainties about the future. Thus, Alabama wrongful death law allows surviving families to recover financial damages from the fault party responsible for their loved one’s death. These damages fall into three categories:

  • economic damages
  • non-economic damages
  • punitive damages.

Economic damages include all the current and future financial losses suffered by the family as a result of their loved one’s death, such as:

  • funeral expenses
  • medical expenses (if the decedent spent time in hospital prior to their death)
  • loss of financial support
  • loss of services and guidance.

The non-economic damages aim to compensate the bereaved family for their emotional losses:

  • loss of companionship
  • mental anguish
  • emotional trauma.

Punitive damages are defined as “designed to punish defendants whose conduct is considered grossly negligent or intentional”. They are also known as exemplary damages and the court awards them not in compensation for the bereaved family but to set an example and deter others from committing the same actions.

Hire a Dedicated Wrongful Death Attorney to Win Your Case

I am Sara Williams, Esq, and my professional mission is to help people find justice. As you are going through the most heartbreaking experience of your life, I am fighting on your behalf: collecting evidence, filing your lawsuit and presenting your case before judge and jury.

You are not alone in your time of need – contact me now to discuss your wrongful death claim.

Meta description: If your loved one lost their life due to another person’s negligence, an experienced wrongful death attorney can help you find justice and the fair compensation you deserve.

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