The sudden loss of a loved one can be a devastating experience for anyone. Overcoming the pain of loss is incredibly difficult, especially if a negligent action causes the death.
At the Fob James Law Firm, our Montgomery, AL wrongful death lawyers are dedicated to helping families seek justice for their loss. Our goal is to help you and your family recover from this trauma and find closure.
Here is everything you need to know about wrongful death claims in Alabama and how we can help.
Who May File a Wrongful Death Claim in Alabama?
Under Alabama Code § 6-5-410(a), only the representative of the deceased’s estate may bring a wrongful death action on behalf of the deceased person’s loved ones.
While most representatives end up being a spouse, child, or parent of the deceased, it’s sometimes a financial manager or lawyer. Ultimately, it depends on whom the deceased makes the head of the estate before death.
However, if they do not assign an executor before their death, the Alabama probate court appoints a third-party representative.
Alabama Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations
According to Alabama Code § 6-5-410(d), the representative has two years from the death of the decedent to file a lawsuit.
This means that if the decedent passed away on January 1, 2021, you have until January 1, 2023, to bring a wrongful death action. If you try to bring a claim after the two-year limit, chances are the court will refuse to hear your case.
This is why it’s essential to hire a Montgomery, AL wrongful death lawyer who has experience filing actions in a timely manner.
There are certain instances where the statute of limitations may be different. For example, if your loved one died due to the actions of a government employee or entity, you have only six months to file a wrongful death claim.
In addition, you have to follow the specific reporting requirements set by the government entity. Another situation which may extend the statute of limitations is if the responsible party cannot be identified at the time of death.
In this case, the clock starts six months after the date of death.
Damages Available in a Wrongful Death Claim
At the Fob James Law Firm, we know that no amount of money can replace a human being. We also know that families suffering from the sudden loss of a loved one deserve justice.
In Alabama, it’s exceptionally difficult to pursue a wrongful death claim on your own. This is because Alabama is the only state that doesn’t award compensatory damages in wrongful death cases.
This means that families cannot pursue specific reimbursement for economic or non-economic losses. Instead, the state of Alabama reviews wrongful death claims for punitive damages.
Although punitive damages are relatively rare in any other state, they make up the entirety of a wrongful death claim in Alabama. The goal of punitive damages is to prevent others from repeating the same behavior by punishing the defendant.
In an Alabama wrongful death claim, the judge specifically examines the actions of the defendant leading up to the injury or death.
If the court finds that the defendant acted in a reckless, wanton, or intentional way, they may award punitive damages to the estate of the deceased.
However, these damages rarely cover the expenses of surviving loved ones when pursued without the help of a Montgomery, AL wrongful death lawyer.
What Happens If the Deceased Filed a Claim Before Their Death?
While it may not seem common at first, there are situations where the deceased files a personal injury claim before they die.
In cases like this, it’s possible to pursue a survival action and a wrongful death action at the same time. This means that the representative may be able to recover losses related to the initial claim, such as pain and suffering, property damage, lost wages, and more.
However, we highly recommend speaking with one of our Montgomery death attorneys if your loved one had a previous claim.
Discuss Your Claim With a Montgomery, AL Wrongful Death Lawyer
If you lost a loved one due to the negligent actions of another, you don’t have to face it alone. The attorneys at the Fob James Law Firm have decades of experience on their side to help you manage your case.
To speak with a Montgomery, AL wrongful death attorney or schedule a free consultation, give us a call at 334-739-9000 or contact us online.