Wrongful Death Statutes | Birmingham & Huntsville, AL

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What are the Wrongful Death Statutes in Alabama?

Lost a loved one in an accident? Know your rights under Alabama’s Wrongful Death Statutes

Losing someone you care about because of someone else’s negligence is hard. There are laws called Wrongful Death Statutes in Alabama that can help you get justice and financial compensation to help with what happened. This guide is here to help you understand how these laws work so you can decide what to do next.

Wrongful death statutes are laws made to handle situations where someone passes away because someone else was careless or didn’t act responsibly. These laws help families seek fairness and compensation. They explain what steps to take legally and ways to make sure the people who caused the harm are held responsible. This gives families a way to find peace and get financial help when they’re going through tough times like this.

Quick Summary: 

  • Alabama’s wrongful death statutes provide justice and financial compensation for families who lost loved ones due to negligence.
  • These statutes outline who can file a wrongful death claim, the time limits involved, and the types of compensation available.
  • Only the personal representative can initiate a wrongful death claim, representing the deceased person’s family or heirs, with exceptions for parents of minors who have six months to file before the personal representative takes over.
  • There’s a two-year window to file a claim from the date of the person’s death.
  • Compensation can include medical expenses, funeral costs, lost income, companionship, and pain and suffering.
  • The court decides how to distribute damages based on the relationship to the deceased and their needs.
  • Exemplary damages may be awarded in cases of extreme recklessness or intentional misconduct to punish the wrongdoer.

Dealing with legal matters can be difficult, especially when you’re already going through a tough time. If you’ve lost someone you care about because of someone else’s negligence in Alabama, it’s important to know about the state’s wrongful death statutes. 

What is Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death occurs when someone dies because another person or group acted negligently or intentionally. It can result from a lack of care, reckless behavior, or deliberate actions leading to the death. This means if people had been more careful, the death could’ve been prevented. Let’s look at some examples:

  • Car Accidents: If a careless driver causes a fatal crash, it’s wrongful death. For example, if a driver runs a red light and hits a pedestrian, resulting in death, it’s considered wrongful death.
  • Medical Mistakes: Sometimes, doctors or medical staff make errors that lead to a patient’s death. For example, if a surgeon operates on the wrong part of the body or gives the wrong medicine, causing the patient to die, it’s wrongful death.
  • Faulty Products: If a product is poorly made or designed and this leads to someone dying, it could be wrongful death. For example, if a defective airbag doesn’t work during a car crash, resulting in a person’s death, it could lead to a wrongful death case.
  • Workplace Accidents: In some situations, employers don’t ensure their workers have a safe environment, which can lead to deadly accidents. For instance, if a construction worker falls from a scaffold because their employer didn’t provide proper safety measures, and they die, it’s wrongful death.
  • Criminal Acts: If someone deliberately hurts or kills another person, like through violence or murder, it’s wrongful death. For example, if someone shoots another person during a robbery, causing their death, it’s considered wrongful death.

These are just a few examples of situations where wrongful death could happen. In each case, the person responsible might have to pay for the death and compensate the family of the victim for their loss.

What are the Wrongful Death Statutes in Alabama?

In Alabama, wrongful death is governed by specific statutes outlined in the Alabama Code, Title 6, Chapter 5, Sections 6-5-410 to 6-5-416. These statutes define who can file a wrongful death claim, the types of damages that can be sought, and the procedures for filing such claims.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Case?

Only specific people can start a wrongful death claim according to the Alabama Code (§ 6-5-410). Usually, it’s the person in charge of handling the deceased person’s affairs, known as the personal representative. This person represents the deceased person’s family or people who would inherit from them. If the deceased person wrote a will before they passed away, they might have already chosen this representative. But if there’s no will, the court might pick someone to be the representative.

If the person who passed away was under 19 years old (which is considered a minor in Alabama), the mom or dad has six months from the date of the child’s death to start a wrongful death case. If they don’t start the case within those six months, then the personal representative must file the claim instead.

Is There a Time Limit in Filing?

There’s a specific law called the statute of limitations that sets the time limit for when you can file a wrongful death claim. You can find this law in Section 6-2-38 of the Alabama Code. It says that generally, you have a two-year window from the date the person died to start the process of filing a wrongful death claim. It’s crucial to stick to this deadline because if you wait too long and miss it, you might not be able to file the claim anymore. 

What Types of Damages are Recoverable?

When someone passes away because of someone else’s actions, Section 6-5-410 of the Alabama Code lets you seek different types of compensation in a wrongful death claim. These compensations can cover things such as

  • Medical bills the person had before they passed away;
  • The costs of their funeral and burial;
  • The money they would’ve earned and supported their family; 
  • The companionship they would’ve provided to their loved ones; and 
  • Any pain and suffering they went through before they died.

The law aims to help ease the financial burden and emotional loss for the family left behind after a wrongful death.

How are Damages Divided Among Family Members?

Alabama Code Section 6-5-410 states that when a wrongful death claim is successful, the court decides whom to award the damages. It has the important job of figuring out how to divide that money among the people who were close to the person who passed away. The court considers different factors when making this decision including 

  • How each person was related to the deceased;
  • How much they relied on them;
  • The financial needs of each person; and
  • The extent of their loss.

Immediate family members like spouses and children might get more because they depend on the deceased for financial and emotional support. The court’s main goal in all of this is to make sure that the money is shared fairly among everyone who was affected by the wrongful death so that each person can get the help they need to cope with their loss.

What are Exemplary Damages?

In some situations where someone acts recklessly or does something very wrong on purpose, wrongful death statutes in Alabama say the court can give extra damages called exemplary damages, or punitive damages. These damages aren’t meant to help the person who’s hurt. They’re meant to punish the person who did wrong and stop them or others from doing the same thing again. 

It’s important to know that these extra damages aren’t given out all the time. There are strict rules in the Code of Alabama Section 6-11-20 about when they can be awarded. 

Don’t Be Left in the Dark: Get Informed About Alabama’s Wrongful Death Statutes Now!

Losing someone dear to you is already tough, but knowing their death could’ve been avoided makes it even harder. Alabama’s wrongful death laws provide a way to hold responsible those who caused the death and possibly get financial help to lessen the load. Even though no money can truly make up for your loss, knowing what you can do and what rights you have might give you some comfort and hope during this tough time.

Petro Accident and Injury Attorneys are more than ready to help you figure things out and support you along the way. We can look at your situation, talk about what you can do legally, and help you go through the steps with care and understanding. We also provide legal guidance on areas such as train accidents, motorcycle crashes, or worker’s compensation

Don’t be afraid to ask for legal help and check out the resources around you. It’s important to know what you can do and make smart choices.

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