Losing a loved one to vehicular homicide is unimaginably painful for families. Understandably, a victim’s family would want to take legal action against the person responsible for their loss.
Fortunately, an Alabama wrongful death lawyer can help you determine what your rights are to compensation. While vehicular homicide is a crime, a victim’s family can sue for wrongful death in civil court. The driver responsible is not required to be charged with vehicular homicide before filing a wrongful death case. However, it is the deceased’s personal representative who is given the right to sue in Alabama on behalf of the victim’s family.
If you lost a loved one to vehicular homicide, our Alpharetta wrongful death lawyers can help you and your family get the justice you deserve. For a free case review, contact Howe Law at (844) 876-4357.
Can a Victim’s Family File a Lawsuit for Vehicular Homicide in Alabama?
Losing a loved one is tragic, but suffering that loss because they were the victim of vehicular homicide can leave surviving family members with an overwhelming sense of injustice. Fortunately, family members of a vehicular homicide victim can recover compensation from the responsible party, even if the state does not file criminal charges.
Alabama Vehicular Homicide Law
Alabama has undergone a critical change in its vehicular homicide laws in the last few years. Previously, Alabama had no law that specifically recognized vehicular homicide since it was considered covered under Alabama’s previous negligent homicide laws. Now, vehicular homicide is codified in Ala. Code § 32-5A-190.1.
Under the current law, a person is guilty of homicide by vehicle if they knowingly engaged in some violation of Alabama’s traffic laws, which caused the death of another person. Vehicular homicide is designated a class C felony and is punishable by one to ten years imprisonment.
In most cases, a driver suspected of vehicular will be charged with a crime and prosecuted in criminal court. However, family members of a victim need not wait for criminal proceedings to conclude or even charges to be filed before pursuing damages in civil court. Surviving family members can choose to recover compensation in a civil wrongful death lawsuit.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits
According to Ala. Code § 6-5-410, wrongful death in Alabama is defined as a death caused by another person’s wrongful act, negligence, or omission. This special type of lawsuit allows a victim’s family members to recover compensation in civil court. Importantly, the statute places no restrictions on family members’ right to compensation in the event the responsible driver is not facing criminal charges. However, there are important nuances to Alabama’s wrongful death law that impacts who can file on behalf of the deceased. Our Atlanta wrongful death lawyers can review your case and help prepare your wrongful death claim.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim for Vehicular Homicide in Alabama?
Alabama’s wrongful death law is complex and works much differently than in other states. Many states permit close family members to file a lawsuit for the death of a loved one, but that is not the case in Alabama. Who can file a wrongful death claim will depend on the case’s particular circumstances.
Personal Representative of the Deceased’s Estate
In Alabama, the personal representative of a deceased’s estate is the only person permitted to file a wrongful death lawsuit to pursue compensation. The personal representative could be named in a deceased’s will as executor. However, the court will appoint a recognized heir, usually the spouse, if no personal representative is named in a loved one’s will or no will was left.
A personal representative of the deceased’s estate must initiate a wrongful death claim. If there is no surviving spouse, Alabama law recognizes the next of kin entitled to share in compensation as executor, or the court might appoint a local county administrator to serve as the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate.
Wrongful Death of a Minor Child
The rules are slightly different if the lawsuit involves the wrongful death of a minor child. In these cases, each parent has the right to file a wrongful death claim to pursue compensation as long as they are married and living together. If the parents are divorced, the one who had legal custody of the child at the time of the incident has priority. If the parents are deceased or do not file a lawsuit within six months of their child’s death, a personal representative appointed by the court may file a claim on their own. Our Jackson wrongful death lawyers can help explain your rights and how compensation can be recovered in your case.
How is the Compensation from a Wrongful Death Case Distributed?
Alabama’s intestate succession laws dictate the distribution of wrongful death proceeds. This means that if the deceased were married but without children, their spouse would recover the compensation awarded. If the deceased had children but no spouse, their children are entitled to the full amount. In cases with a surviving spouse and children, the spouse will receive the first $50,000 of an award plus half of the remaining damages. The deceased’s children receive the remaining balance.
Surviving parents might also recover compensation if the deceased was married but had no children. In those cases, the first $100,000 and half of the award goes to the spouse, with the remaining balance going to the parents. If there is no spouse or children, the deceased’s parents take the whole amount of compensation.
If any of the mentioned family members did not survive the deceased, any surviving siblings are entitled to the money, followed by other surviving family members, like grandparents, aunts, or uncles. Our Alabama wrongful death lawyers can help you determine your rights to the compensation that could be awarded in your case.
Our Alabama Wrongful Death Lawyers Can Help
If you lost a loved one to vehicular homicide, our Savannah wrongful death lawyers can provide you with the legal support you need during this difficult time. Call Howe Law at (844) 876-4357 for a free case evaluation.