Wrongful death—an accidental fatality that occurs due to the actions of another person, business, or organization—shatters the lives of the survivors.
If the deceased was the primary or sole breadwinner in your home, your family can experience financial as well as emotional trauma.
Although no settlement or jury verdict will bring your loved one back, recovering compensation for an Alabama wrongful death claim accomplishes several significant objectives.
You and your family will have peace of mind about your future financial security.
A financial settlement or verdict will also hold the at-fault party accountable for their wrongful actions.
Finally, a favorable outcome in your case sends a powerful message to others who might have caused harm to someone else in the future.
Pursuing a wrongful death settlement in Birmingham presents several challenges, unfortunately.
However, when you have a Birmingham wrongful death lawyer on your side, you will have a powerful advocate to fight for you and your right to recover compensation.
The Alabama accidental death lawyers of the Fob James Law Firm understand what you’re going through, and we are prepared to fight for you.
Can You Seek Compensation for a Loved One’s Wrongful Death?
If the action (or inaction) of another party caused a loved one’s accidental death, the victim’s personal representative may have the right to seek compensation from the at-fault party.
It is important to send a message to the responsible party—and others like them that may harm others in the future—that their negligence will not go unpunished.
On a more personal level, recovering a financial settlement will help to ensure that you and your family can maintain your place of residence and cover the expenses that the victim may have handled or contributed to prior to their death.
Trust a wrongful death attorney in Birmingham to assist you, so you don’t have to face this daunting challenge alone.
The at-fault party’s insurance company will not respect your emotional devastation as they attempt to minimize the amount they have to pay out.
Your accidental death attorney can protect you from the emotional toll of the negotiation process, allowing you to take the time you need to grieve and be with your family.
It’s important to understand the Alabama statute of limitations for wrongful death claims. Generally, a claim must be filed within two years from the date of your loved one’s death.
What Constitutes Wrongful Death in Alabama?
The details of your loved one’s wrongful death incident will ultimately influence your ability to pursue a settlement.
However, these are some of the scenarios for which you may have a legal basis for seeking compensation.
A wrongful death may occur due to:
- Workplace accidents,
- Passenger vehicle crashes,
- Truck accidents,
- Medical malpractice,
- Motorcycle accidents,
- Defective products,
- Commercial truck accidents,
- Slip and falls,
- Nursing home abuse or neglect, or
- Another accident caused by someone else’s negligence
To better understand how the law regards cases of this nature, consider the following potential scenarios.
Passenger Vehicle Accidents in Birmingham
You may have the legal right to recover damages if the motor vehicle accident that killed your loved one resulted from someone’s negligence or wrongful acts.
Commercial Truck Accidents
Truck accidents can result due to the negligence of the driver, the trucking company, the shipper, or the vehicle manufacturer.
You may have the right to seek damages from any party that caused or contributed to the victim’s injuries and subsequent passing.
If a doctor, surgeon, hospital, or another medical practitioner failed to provide a reasonable standard of care, you may have a legal basis for a claim.
Malpractice can occur in any diagnostic or treatment setting and may include both negligent actions and inaction.
Motorcycle riders may perish in accidents with other motorists, including commercial trucks, or as a result of road hazards or poorly marked streets.
If another party’s negligence caused the accident, you likely have a strong case.
Defective products may include anything from furniture and toys to tools and automotive components.
If the negligence or liability of the product’s designer, manufacturer, or distributor led to the incident that caused your loved one’s death, you may have the ability to submit an insurance claim or file a civil lawsuit.
Slip and Fall Accidents
If a Birmingham, AL business or property owner failed to maintain safe conditions and your loved one suffered a life-ending injury as a result, you may have grounds to seek damages from the negligent party.
If your loved one died due to a criminal attack, you can pursue a wrongful death action against the perpetrator in civil court.
If the attack occurred due to an unsafe situation created by a secondary party (such as an employer, landlord, municipality, or property owner), you may also have legal grounds to pursue the secondary party that facilitated the unsafe conditions.
You may have the legal right to seek damages for virtually any type of wrongful death that occurred due to another party’s intentional act, carelessness, recklessness, or negligence.
In Birmingham, a wrongful death lawyer can evaluate the viability of your case and provide a professional opinion about the potential value of your claim.
Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect in a Wrongful Death Case
If your loved one died in a nursing home due to negligence or wantonness committed by the nursing home’s agents, you can pursue a wrongful death claim against the nursing home.
Wrongful deaths caused by nursing home abuse or neglect vary and can include conduct such as failure to diagnose and treat infections or diseases, purposeful infliction of harm, or failure to provide prescribed medications.
Even if you do not know what caused your loved one to die in a nursing home, you should contact an Alabama wrongful death attorney immediately.
In nursing home cases, the preservation and collection of evidence after the incident is paramount and should be done immediately.
Often, the cause of your loved one’s death is not known until the conclusion of a thorough investigation.
How Much Is Your Wrongful Death Case Worth?
Alabama takes a unique approach to the value of wrongful death claims.
First, unlike other states, Alabama does not value life by age. In other words, the value of a ninety-year-old life is not less than the value of a twenty-year-old life.
Second, where eligible parties can seek compensatory damages to offset the economic damages caused by the victim’s death, Alabama only allows wrongful death claimants to seek only punitive damages.
Punitive damages are those intended to punish the at-fault party for wrongful acts and deter others from similar acts.
Consequently, rather than seeking compensation for actual damages such as funeral costs, medical bills, pain and suffering, etc., the value of a wrongful death claim is based on the actions of the at-fault party.
In establishing your claim’s value, some consideration may also be given to the financial assets of the at-fault party.
Because every wrongful death is as unique as the victim and the circumstances that lead to their death, it is difficult or impossible to estimate the average value of an Alabama wrongful death claim.
Speaking with an experienced wrongful death attorney in Birmingham, AL is the best way to gain a better understanding of the process and how much your claim may be worth.
How Does a Wrongful Death Lawyer Prove Negligence?
To establish fault and liability for your loved one’s death, your lawyer may interview witnesses, obtain police and accident reports, and call on subject matter experts to review evidence.
Using this information, your attorney must demonstrate that the defendant owed a duty of care to the victim; that the defendant failed to uphold their duty of care; and, as a result, the defendant’s actions caused the victim’s accident and subsequent fatal injuries.
Duty of Care
The at-fault party owed a duty of care to the victim. For example, store managers have a duty to keep their premises free of potential hazards.
Breach of Duty
The at-fault party failed to exercise its duty of care.
For example, if a store manager failed to repair a broken step or provide a clear warning of the hazard, they may violate their duty to keep their premises safe.
The conditions that resulted from the at-fault party’s breach of duty led directly to the accident that caused the victim’s injuries and, ultimately, their death.
The victim’s death resulted in provable economic and non-economic damages.
Your lawyer will support your claim for damages using documentation and testimony from subject matter experts.
Once your lawyer has clearly established these elements, the insurance company’s lawyers should be ready to engage in serious negotiations.
If they are unwilling to offer a reasonable settlement, your wrongful death attorney may recommend filing legal action and taking your case to court.
Why Do You Need a Wrongful Death Lawyer?
You are currently facing one of the most challenging times of your life.
The loss of a beloved family member is never easy.
If you counted on the victim’s support and income to sustain your family, you are likely frightened, confused, and profoundly concerned about the future.
At the Fob James Law Firm, we understand how important it is to help you recover fair compensation for the loss of your loved one.
Not only will we be there for you throughout the legal process, but we will work tirelessly to protect your legal rights.
We take a highly personalized approach with our clients.
In fact, we don’t use case managers at all. This allows our attorneys to work directly with you and be there for you when you need us most.
As a part of our services to you, we handle every aspect of your case.
Investigation and Documentation
Once you chose to move forward with the Fob James Law Firm, we put our investigators and other resources to work.
We investigate your case and gather crucial evidence and documentation.
This might include photos or videos of the accident scene, police reports, eyewitness statements, and subject matter expert opinions.
Pursuing a Settlement
Once we complete the documentation of your claim, we submit a demand to the at-fault party’s insurance company.
We take an aggressive stance in negotiations, leaving the insurance company with no doubt about our intentions.
If the insurer does not provide a reasonable settlement offer, we will consult with you about moving forward with a wrongful death lawsuit.
Providing Proactive Communication
You should never have to wonder what’s going on with your case.
We are committed to keeping you informed along the way and providing updates on any developments or milestones as they occur.
Our sole focus is on getting the best possible results for you.
We understand that you need to focus on family and the important tasks you’re facing.
We are here to help you do exactly that.
What Is a Survival Action and How Does It Differ from Wrongful Death?
The personal representative of the decedent’s estate can file a wrongful death claim when the decedent died due to someone’s negligent actions.
Although a personal representative files the action, the decedent’s legal heirs ultimately benefit from it directly for their losses.
A survival action, by contrast, benefits the estate of your lost loved one.
A survival action refers to the continuation of a legal action taken by the decedent before their death.
For example, for injuries sustained in a medical malpractice or slip and fall incident, the victim may have filed a claim or lawsuit seeking compensation for their injuries, lost wages, needed treatment, etc.
If the victim passed away before collecting on their claim, family members can continue to pursue damages from the at-fault party using a survival action.
A survival action seeks actual damages such as medical care costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering experienced by the decedent prior to their death.
The laws do not strictly limit who can file a survival action in Alabama.
Rather they specify that a personal representative of the decedent must bring this action on behalf of the decedent’s estate.
This can be a family member or any individual designated by the deceased as their personal representative.
Any recovered sums from a survival action go to the estate.
Should You File a Wrongful Death Suit or a Survival Action?
Rather than trying to identify the correct form of legal action to pursue, talk to a wrongful death lawyer to learn more about your options.
Your attorney can answer your questions and provide the information you need to make an informed decision.
An Alabama personal injury lawyer understands the importance of protecting your legal rights.
Your attorney will help you hold the at-fault party responsible for your loved one’s death and for any injuries they may have suffered prior to their passing.
Who Can File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit In Alabama?
Under Alabama law, only the personal representative of the decedent’s estate can file a wrongful death claim. Sometimes the personal representative of the decedent’s estate is a close family member and other times the personal representative is not related to the decedent.
In order for a personal representative to be appointed, an estate has to be opened in probate court, typically in the county where the decedent resided when he or she died. Accordingly, before any wrongful death claim can be filed in Alabama, an estate has to first be opened, and the Probate Judge has to enter an order appointing the personal representative.
Two scenarios typically exist when it comes to appointing the personal representative: (i) the decendent died with a Will; or (ii) the decedent died without a Will, which is called intestate.
The Decedent Died with a Will
If the decedent died with a Last Will and Testament, the Will typically lists the executor of the estate. The petition in probate court is for “letters testamentary” that appoints the executor listed in the Will as the personal representative of the estate and the “letters” list the executor’s authority and duties to act on behalf of the estate.
The Decedent Died Without a Will
If the decedent died without a Will, the decedent died “intestate”. In this situation a petition is filed in probate court to open an estate and for the court to issue “Letters of Administration”, which appoints the administrator of the estate. Only the administrator of the estate can pursue a wrongful death claim on behalf of the estate.
The administrator of the estate is often an heir like the surviving spouse or child. If heirs disagree on who should be the administrator, the process of appointing an administrator (personal representative) can be highly contested.
The probate process can be tricky and expensive, so it is important that you immediately consult with a wrongful death attorney rather than trying to do it alone.
The 5 Best Wrongful Death Lawyers in Birmingham, Alabama (picked by Fob James, IV)
The wrongful death lawyers in the blog above are in their prime and are obtaining record jury verdicts for their clients right now and likely over the next two decades. While we would be honored to represent you or a family member injured in a wrongful death, if you do not choose us, we want to make sure you have the best representation possible.
Schedule a No-Cost Consultation with a Wrongful Death Lawyer in Birmingham
Although nothing will bring your loved one back, you and your family deserve compensation for your losses and protection for your future.
You also deserve truly personalized legal representation from attorneys who take an aggressive stance with the insurance company and the at-fault party’s lawyers.
Experienced Birmingham, AL wrongful death attorneys of the Fob James Law Firm will work tirelessly for you, to protect your legal rights and recover the compensation you deserve.