Losing a loved one is difficult in the best of times. If a loved one’s death was wrongful, you should talk to an attorney about getting compensation and justice for your loved one’s loss.
If a child passes away, their parents are often permitted to file a wrongful death claim. If the deceased person is an adult, the case must be filed by a personal representative of the deceased person’s estate. Damages in any wrongful death case are complex, but Alabama has especially unique rules. Alabama is the only state that does not award compensatory damages for wrongful death claims. Instead, only punitive damages are available. However, certain compensatory damages might be available in a survival action. The statute of limitations on wrongful death claims is usually 2 years, although you might buy extra time under specific circumstances.
Wrongful death cases are not just legally complex, they are also very emotionally charged, and many families have a difficult time. Our Alabama wrongful death lawyers can help you through this time and get compensation for your loved one’s passing. For a free case review, call Howe Law at (844) 876-4357.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Alabama?
Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit depends on who passed away. The law generally separates cases involving children from those involving adults. Many wrongful death cases are handled by people representing the deceased person’s estate. Since children often do not have any estates when they pass away, the rules apply differently in those cases. Our Alabama wrongful death lawyers can help you figure out how to file your case to get justice for your loved one.
According to Ala. Code § 6-5-391(a), if a minor passes away, the child’s parents can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the person or people responsible. Under Ala. Code § 6-5-390, both parents have an equal right to file the case if they are lawfully living together as spouses. If the parents are not married, whoever had legal custody of the child has the right to file a wrongful death claim. For example, if the parents of a deceased child were divorced and Parent A had legal custody, Parent B might not be allowed to file a wrongful death claim without Parent A.
If both parents of the deceased child are also deceased, or if they are alive but fail or refuse to file a wrongful death claim within 6 months of the child’s death, a personal representative may file the lawsuit instead. This sometimes happens in cases where the child’s wrongful death was caused by their parents, so a personal representative files the case.
According to Ala. Code § 6-5-410(a), if an adult passes away, a personal representative of the estate must be the one to file a wrongful death lawsuit. In many other states, the laws allow certain immediate family members to file a wrongful death lawsuit, but Alabama only permits a personal representative.
Damages Available in Alabama Wrongful Death Claims
Damages are hard to assess in many cases, but they can be especially complex in wrongful death claims. Families often cope with their own losses related to the death of a loved one, and they must also consider the damages and losses their loved one suffered before passing away. Our Alabama wrongful death attorneys can help you determine the extent of the damages in your case and argue for the most compensation possible.
Alabama is unusual because it does not allow for compensatory damages in wrongful death lawsuits. Compensatory damages are designed to make up for certain losses, both economic and non-economic, experienced by injured victims. For example, in another state, a spouse could claim their deceased spouse’s lost income as compensatory economic damages in a wrongful death claim. In Alabama, no such damages can be claimed. Instead, the courts are only permitted to award punitive damages.
Punitive damages are not meant to compensate the plaintiff’s losses but to punish the defendant. According to the Supreme Court of Alabama in Merrell v. Alabama Power Co., only punitive damages are awarded because the lawsuit focuses on the defendant’s wrongdoing rather than the injuries and losses of the plaintiffs. To successfully argue your lawsuit, our Alabama wrongful death attorneys must emphasize the bad behavior of the defendant rather than your losses or injuries.
Damages in wrongful death lawsuits can be very high. In Alabama, there is no statutory cap or limit on punitive damages. As such, juries can award punitive damages in extremely high amounts, especially in cases where defendants’ behaviors are outrageous or shock the conscious.
Certain compensatory damages might be available in a different case, often connected to wrongful death lawsuits. In a survival action, you can claim compensatory damages for the losses and injuries experienced by the deceased person before they passed away. Our Alabama wrongful death attorneys can help you assess these damages.
Compensatory damages related to losses the deceased person could have claimed had they survived often include damages typical in personal injury lawsuits. For example, medical bills, property damage, pain, suffering, and similar damages might be available in a survival action related to your loved one’s wrongful death.
How Long You Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Alabama
Under Ala. Code § 6-2-38(a), the statute of limitations in a wrongful death case in Alabama is only 2 years. The time to file a wrongful death lawsuit begins on the date the action accrued, meaning the date of your loved one’s death. If the deadline is fast approaching and the case is not yet filed, our Alabama wrongful death lawyers might be able to help you buy more time under certain circumstances.
Convincing a court to toll the statute of limitations in a wrongful death case, so you have more time can be difficult. Tolling is often unnecessary because the people who want the case filed (i.e., surviving family members) are often not those who file the case. Instead, personal representatives file these cases. Even so, you might be able to toll the statute under Ala. Code § 6-2-10 if the defendant is not within Alabama’s jurisdiction. For example, if your loved one passed away in a car crash and the defendant fled the state, the statute of limitations might be tolled until the defendant returns or can be reached by a long-arm statute.
Call Our Alabama Wrongful Death Attorneys for a Free Evaluation of Your Case
People spend years coming to terms with the loss of a loved one, and dealing with a lawsuit at this time might be more than you can bear. Our Alabama wrongful death attorneys can ease your burden and help you get just compensation. For a free case review, call Howe Law at (844) 876-4357.