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Losing a loved one in a tragic accident or because of another’s intentional actions is devastating. We recognize it is a challenging time for you and your family. 

If your family member’s death was someone else’s fault, it can be even more painful. Understandably, you might have many concerns and questions, including whether the at-fault party will be held criminally responsible. You may also want to know who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Alabama. To understand more about how wrongful death claims work, contact our skilled Birmingham wrongful death lawyers.

What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?

A wrongful death claim is a civil claim for financial compensation and is meant to hold the responsible party accountable for someone’s death. Wrongful death is when another party’s negligence, omission, or reckless or intentional actions cause someone to die. Because of this, they should be held accountable. In some situations, that means a criminal trial, possibly resulting in incarceration and fines. A wrongful death claim is a civil case, which results in financial compensation.

To bring a wrongful death claim, you need to see whether the victim would’ve had the right to bring a claim had they survived. If the deceased would have had a personal injury claim against the defendant, you might have the right to file one for wrongful death.

Alabama law is different from that of many other states regarding the type of damages you can receive in a wrongful death case. Alabama law limits you to recovering only punitive damages in a wrongful death lawsuit. Punitive damages do not necessarily compensate the survivors for financial losses associated with the victim’s death. Instead, it’s more about punishing the defendant for their wrongdoing and sending a message to others not to replicate the behavior.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Alabama?

Under Alabama law, only the deceased’s personal representative can file a wrongful death lawsuit. The personal representative is usually someone named in the deceased’s will. They will be responsible for probate administration and may or may not be a family member. If the deceased did not appoint someone or did not have an estate plan at all, the court will appoint someone as the estate administrator. While the personal representative is the one who files the wrongful death lawsuit, the family members will receive the proceeds from a settlement or jury award.

How Are Wrongful Death Proceeds Divided in Alabama?

Damages are distributed to surviving family members based on Alabama’s intestate laws. The rules on who receives what falls under a specific hierarchy based on the probate code. This can be a complicated process depending on surviving family members. You need a skilled Birmingham wrongful death attorney who can explain the order of priority in your specific situation.

Contact an Alabama Wrongful Death Attorney

In Alabama, the wrongful death statute of limitations is typically only two years. However, some circumstances could alter the time you have to file. That is why you must contact an experienced attorney early on. At Fob James Law Firm, we have decades of experience helping Birmingham clients recover compensation in wrongful death claims. Contact our office today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Let us help your family through this difficult time and fight to hold the responsible party accountable.

Author Photo

Fob H. James, IV

After working for a large regional firm for several years where he obtained awards for both individual and corporate clients, Fob found that his passion was fighting for individuals who have been seriously injured or wronged by others. Fob attended Vanderbilt University School of Law where he received his Juris Doctorate and holds a B.S. in Software Engineering from Auburn University.