How to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Alabama
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Sara Williams with Alexander Shunnarah Injury Attorneys, P.C..
In most states, when someone’s death occurs as a direct result of another party’s negligent or intentional conduct, the surviving family may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim. A wrongful death claim can often help pay for damages that occurred to the deceased prior to their death in addition to damages the family will suffer as a result of their passing. However, the laws can vary from state to state, and Alabama’s wrongful death laws are unique in several ways.
Unlike other states, Alabama does not allow family members of the deceased to file directly.
Alabama is unique in that it does not allow the victim’s loved one to file a wrongful death claim. Instead, Alabama requires the filer of a wrongful death lawsuit to be the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate; this person is sometimes referred to as the executor or administrator of the deceased’s will. However, if the deceased did not establish an estate prior to their death, the estate must first be established in probate court and assigned a representative.
In probate court, a loved one may petition the court to be named as a representative of the victim’s estate and would then be eligible to file a wrongful death claim on their behalf. Similarly, just as the estate is the only one that can file a wrongful death claim in Alabama, any resulting damages will also be paid to the estate.
Alabama does not allow compensatory damages for wrongful death claims, only punitive ones.
Compensatory damages refer to the financial and emotional losses suffered by both the victim and their family members both before and after death. Compensatory damages for a wrongful death claim typically include medical bills, lost wages, and funeral/burial expenses, not to mention non-economic damages like pain and suffering and loss of companionship.
In Alabama, however, a wrongful death claim may only pursue punitive damages. Rather than focusing on the deceased and their family’s losses, punitive damages are intended as a punishment for whatever party is considered responsible for the death. Punitive damages can be quite high, if not as comprehensive, and are intended to discourage the liable party and others from behaving similarly in the future. Whatever punitive damages are awarded in a wrongful death claim in Alabama would then be paid directly to the deceased’s heirs.
Filing a wrongful death claim in Alabama typically requires the help of an attorney.
Due to the complicated nature of Alabama wrongful death laws, it can be extremely difficult to file a wrongful death claim without the help of an experienced attorney. A wrongful death attorney in Alabama should be familiar with the state’s unique approach to wrongful death litigation and can help the family make sure every step is completed within the proper time to ensure the best chance at recovery.
The statute of limitation or time limit for filing a wrongful death claim varies from state to state; in Alabama, the statute of limitation is typically two years from the victim’s passing. However, with the extra step of first establishing the deceased’s estate and assigning a representative, two years is not much time.
If your loved one died as the direct result of another party’s negligent or intentional conduct, reach out to a wrongful death attorney in your state to discuss your options as soon as possible.