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Wrongful Death in Alabama
Losing a loved one is never easy, but it can be devastating if the loss is deemed as a wrongful death. Alabama law defines a “wrongful death” as one caused by the “wrongful act, omission or negligence” of another. We will look at who can bring a wrongful death case, aspects of a wrongful death case and the timeframe to file a wrongful death case.
Who Can File?
Unlike in other states, Alabama does not allow family members of a deceased person to file a wrongful death claim. Alabama only allows the representative of the deceased person’s estate to file a wrongful death claim. Also, any damages in a wrongful death case in Alabama are paid to the estate.
What does this mean? The representative of the estate is usually the executor of the will. The executor is the only person who can file a wrongful death claim. And if the estate wins the case in court, then the damages goes to the estate. And the executor can only follow the terms of the will, if there is a will. SIDENOTE: Everyone needs a will! It doesn’t matter if you have kids or not, have a lot of assets or not, every adult needs a will!
Aspects of the Case
Alabama law allows for a wrongful death case to be brought to court even though there hasn’t been prosecution, a conviction or acquittal of a defendant who caused the death. This means that a wrongful death case can be brought to court even if there are no criminal charges brought against the defendant.
A wrongful death case is different from a criminal case. A wrongful death case is a civil claim that is brought by a private party. A criminal case is filed by the state. Also, liability in a civil case is expressed in terms of damages. If convicted in a criminal case, a defendant may be punished by imprisonment or other penalties.
Most states allow for damages in a wrongful death case to go to the costs of a funeral, medical expenses or other losses in the untimely death of someone. But in Alabama, a wrongful death case only allows for punitive damages. Punitive damages are damages awarded over and above special and general damages to punish a losing party for willful or malicious misconduct. In other words, most states focus on the deceased person’s life and related damages. Alabama wrongful death law focuses on the wrongdoing of the defendant.
A key factor in determining which state’s laws apply to a wrongful death is where the death takes place. It doesn’t matter where the person lives, it only matters where the person dies. So, for Alabama law to apply to a wrongful death case, the person must have died within the borders of the state of Alabama.
Alabama’s statute of limitations state that a wrongful death case must be filed within two years of the date of the death. There may be exceptions that change this timeframe, so it is wise for personal representatives considering a wrongful death case to seek an attorney who is licensed in the state in which the death occurs.
Alabama law is very different than other states when it comes to wrongful death cases. If you have lost a family member through a wrongful death, it is important that you urge the representative of the deceased person’s estate to contact an attorney and file a wrongful death claim.
If you find yourself needing a trustworthy lawyer for a wrongful death case, Terry Luck is here for you. When you want honest, hard working, hard fought representation, you need Luck. Terry Luck will vigorously represent you, asserting your rights and your defenses and put you in the best position to win your case. Terry Luck's office is located in Montgomery, Alabama. Call today 334-262-5455.
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