Knowledgeable Birmingham Wrongful Death Attorneys
Helping Alabama families get justice after the loss of a loved one
The unexpected loss of a family member is even more tragic when their death is caused by someone else’s careless, negligent or deliberately malicious behavior. While dealing with the death of a loved one is always difficult, doing so can become infinitely more complex when you try to set aside your devastation to deal with the legal aspects of filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
At Mann & Potter, PC, our attorneys have several decades of experience and a thorough understanding of Alabama wrongful death laws. Since 1997, we have helped numerous families of those who have been wrongly taken from them to obtain justice while working tirelessly to hold those responsible fully accountable. We work closely with our clients, putting our extensive experience to work to thoroughly investigate the case and fight hard for the compensation they deserve.
We understand the pain and heartache families suffer when they lose a loved one unexpectedly, and our goal is to make the legal process as smooth and stress-free as possible. We handle all of the complicated legal tasks, so you can focus on putting your loved one’s death behind you and moving forward with your life. Throughout the process, we stay in frequent contact with you to provide updates on how the case is progressing, and we are always there to answer any questions an address any concerns you may have.
Our law firm represents families in wrongful death lawsuits involving:
- Auto accidents
- Truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Slips and falls
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Workplace accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Defective products
- Lack of proper security
- Medical malpractice
- Birth injuries
- Nursing home abuse and neglect
- Aviation accidents
Providing Grieving Families with Dedicated Service
We know the profound impact the loss of your loved one has had on your life, which is why we devote substantial resources to every wrongful death case we take. We employ private investigators and work with expert witnesses to ensure every case receives the attention and resources it deserves. We carefully collect and preserve evidence from accident scenes, and we seek out any witnesses to obtain their testimonies. We explore all options when building your case to make certain you receive the maximum compensation possible under Alabama law.
Wrongful Death Laws in Alabama
Alabama code section 6-5-410 defines wrongful death as a “wrongful act, omission, or negligence causing death.” A wrongful death claim is a civil claim for monetary damages brought by a private party, and this type of claim can be brought even if the defendant is not facing criminal charges for the same death.
Alabama wrongful death laws are very unique and differ in some very significant ways from the laws in most other states. First of all, family members of the decedent are not allowed to bring a wrongful death claim. Instead, a claim can only be brought by the personal representative of the decedent’s estate.
If the decedent had a will, a personal representative/executor would be named in the will. If there is no will, then a personal representative must be appointed by the court. The spouse of the decedent is first in line to serve as personal representative, and after that, the right goes to the remaining heirs. However, if a petition to have a personal representative appointed is not filed within 40 days of the decedent’s death, the spouse and heirs forfeit their priority to serve, and the court may appoint anyone else who files a petition.
Although a wrongful death claim must be brought by the decedent’s estate, proceeds that are awarded from the lawsuit do not go back to the estate. Instead, they are distributed to the heirs at law. This means that no matter who the decedent left his or her assets to in the will, proceeds from the lawsuit must go directly to the decedent’s intestate heirs under Alabama law. This also means that proceeds from the claim do not have to be used to settle any of the estate’s debts, such as funeral costs, credit card bills, and healthcare bills.
Types of Compensation in an Alabama Wrongful Death Claim
Another way that wrongful death lawsuits in Alabama are unique is with the damages that can be awarded. In most other states, you can sue for compensatory damages, such as medical expenses, loss of future earnings and benefits, and non-economic damages such as mental anguish and loss of love, affection, and companionship. In Alabama, you can only sue for punitive damages in a wrongful death claim.
Punitive damages are not meant to compensate the family for their loved one’s loss, but rather to “punish” the person or party that was responsible for their death and help deter them (and others) from committing similar actions in the future. As such, the amount of damages awarded is supposed to be in direct proportion with the severity of wrongdoing that resulted in the death, rather than the monetary value of the decedent’s life.
Because you can only sue for punitive damages in an Alabama wrongful death lawsuit, these claims are much more complicated than a typical personal injury case. This is especially true in cases in which the actions of the defendant were negligent, but there does not appear to be intent to do harm to the victim.
One common example would be a driver who is late for an important appointment and runs a red light, crashing into another vehicle and killing someone inside. In this type of case, it may be more difficult to argue that the defendant deserves to be punished.
That said, punitive damages can often be recovered in cases involving simple negligence, if that negligence results in death. The key is to work with an attorney who thoroughly understands the state’s wrongful death laws and has the proven ability to make a persuasive argument that punitive damages should be awarded.
Statute of Limitations in Alabama Wrongful Death Claims
In most cases, the personal representative of the decedent’s estate has just two years from the date of the decedent’s death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. If the lawsuit is against a government entity, the timeframe is much shorter, usually either six months or a year. Considering it can take several weeks (at least) to have a personal representative appointed if your loved one died without a will, it is extremely important to get started on your case as soon as possible, so your right to recover damages does not expire.
Contact our Birmingham Wrongful Death Law Firm
The laws in Alabama make wrongful death claims more complicated and challenging to pursue than in almost any other state. If you have lost someone close to you because of the wrongful actions of another person or party, you need strong legal counsel in your corner advocating forcefully for your right to recover full and fair compensation.
Mann & Potter, PC has the legal experience you need when filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Alabama, and we have the knowledge, skills, resources, and dedication to help ensure that our clients receive the just compensation they deserve. Contact our firm’s Birmingham office online or at 205-879-9661 to speak to an attorney regarding the circumstances of your loved one’s death.