When your loved one was taken too early, due to someone’s negligence, you have every right to be angry. But anger won’t provide you with the justice and compensation that you deserve. That’s why many families turn to Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys; they know that our team will stand up for them and their deceased loved one.
Alabama’s wrongful death laws are unlike any other state’s. Before you file a lawsuit on behalf of your loved one, you need to understand our state’s rules and how they’ll impact the value of your legal claims.
Alabama’s Wrongful Death Statute: The Basics
In Alabama, both people and businesses are liable when their actions or negligence cause someone’s death. However, our state’s system has some unique aspects that may impact your family’s right to compensation:
- The deceased person’s estate must file the wrongful death lawsuit. That means you’ll need to open an estate with the probate court and name a personal representative.
- The estate can only receive punitive damages. Compensatory damages that cover the deceased medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering, are not available.
- If the estate receives a settlement or jury award, it must distribute it according to Alabama’s inheritance laws.
- Under our statute of limitations, you only have two years from your loved one’s date of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Wrongful death cases often involve motor vehicle crashes and truck wrecks, and vulnerable road users like pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists are often victims. However, wrongful deaths can also occur in nursing home abuse, medical malpractice, product liability, workers’ compensation, and premises liability claims.
My Loved One Filed a Personal Injury Claim, Then Died From Their Injuries. Now What?
Under Alabama law, certain types of lawsuits survive after a party dies. Under our state’s survival statute, your loved one’s personal injury lawsuit may continue after their death. However, the estate may also have a wrongful death claim. Because these cases are incredibly complex, it’s best to consult with an experienced wrongful death lawyer before you agree to a settlement or go to trial.
What Are Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages are supposed to punish a wrongdoer for their actions and discourage future bad behavior. They do not consider the victim’s financial losses or pain and suffering. While they are potentially available in any personal injury claim, you must show that the person who caused your injuries acted intentionally or recklessly.
However, in an Alabama wrongful death claim, punitive damages are the only thing you can demand. Even if your loved one had millions of dollars in medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering, you can only demand punitive damages. Therefore, the value of your loved one’s wrongful death case depends on the seriousness of their negligence. The more serious the misconduct, the more the case will be worth.
For example, a drunk driver caused your family member’s death. At the time of the crash, they were racing down the interstate, going the wrong way, and had a blood-alcohol concentration that was double the “legal limit.” In this case, there’s a lot of wrongdoing to discuss. The jury should easily understand that the drunk driver was acting recklessly and deserves to be punished for their actions.
However, many wrongful death claims are more nuanced. Let’s imagine that your loved one was driving a vehicle that contained a defectively designed Takata airbag. During a crash, the airbag’s canister shatters into shrapnel, killing them. This is a horrible situation, but did the car manufacturer’s conduct rise to the level of gross negligence?
Now, let’s take it even further. Suppose you’re in traffic during an Alabama rainstorm. Your tires are getting old, but there’s still some tread on them. As you drive along, you glance at your phone’s GPS system. Suddenly, the motorcycle in front of you comes to a stop. You try to stop, but skid forward, striking the biker. Their injuries are fatal. You were definitely negligent, but does your misconduct merit punitive damages?
In either of these cases, the victims’ families will need a skilled wrongful death injury attorney and a team of experts to lay out their stories and prove their claims for punitive damages.
Does Alabama’s Cap on Punitive Damage Awards Apply to Wrongful Death Claims?
Thankfully, Alabama’s $1.5 million cap on punitive damages does not apply to wrongful death claims. The statute clearly excludes personal injury cases that involved a fatality.
Can Non-Traditional Families and Family Members Get Compensation?
We all define family differently. You may have a long-time partner, but you never got married. Or you may be estranged from a child or parent. Sometimes, we considered our friends to be essential, trusted family members. Unfortunately, Alabama’s inheritance laws see it differently.
In Alabama, anything that the estate recovers during a wrongful death claim must be distributed according to the state’s intestacy laws – even if your loved one has a valid will. This can complicate your right to compensation if your family doesn’t fall neatly into our inheritance system, which prioritizes spouses, children, and biological relatives over others. If you have questions about your options, please don’t hesitate to give our firm a call. Our experienced attorneys are happy to talk through your case and your options.
How Much Is the Average Wrongful Death Settlement in Alabama?
At our law firm, we don’t believe that there’s an “average wrongful death case.” Every case has its own unique story and circumstances, and your family deserves to be heard. At Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys, we offer free, no-risk case evaluations in wrongful death cases.
During this evaluation, we’ll listen to you, ask questions, and review any documents that you might have. Then, we’ll get to work. Our wrongful death attorneys will assess a variety of factors when they calculate your wrongful death suit’s settlement value, including the amount of insurance coverage that applies to your loved one’s claim, including uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage and the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s passing. Based on our careful investigation and trial-tested perspectives, we’ll help you understand the real value of your loved one’s legal claims.
Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys: Fighting for Alabama Wrongful Death Victims and Their Families for Over 30 Years
If someone you love died because of someone else’s poor decision, you shouldn’t have to spend the rest of your life wishing they had been able to get justice. If you’re in a tough situation and want to understand your options, don’t hesitate to give our firm a call. We can meet with you in a private, free consultation to hear your story and help you decide what to do next.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.