Birmingham Wrongful Death Attorney
Wrongful death, as defined by Alabama Law, is a death that is caused by the wrongful act, omission, or negligence or another. In Alabama, the estate of the deceased person may bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the party at fault in any case that the deceased person would have been entitled to bring a personal injury suit if he or she had lived. A wrongful death claim is essentially a personal injury claim in which the deceased person is incapable of pursuing damages; it is therefore is taken on by the deceased person’s estate. Any damages recovered are paid to the heirs of the deceased.
Known as the Homicide Act, Alabama law differs greatly from other states in the way in which damages are awarded in a wrongful death claim. Under Alabama law, only punitive damages may be awarded, which are intended to punish the party responsible for the death for their negligence. Compensatory damages cannot be recovered in a wrongful death suit, providing some measure of justice to the families of the deceased party.
Birmingham Wrongful Death Resources
- Damages Available in a Wrongful Death Case
- Who Can Receive Financial Compensation?
- Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Alabama?
- How To Prove Wrongful Death
- What Is a Survival Action?
- Types of Wrongful Death Cases
- When To Pursue a Wrongful Death Claim
- Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Why Choose Our Birmingham Wrongful Death Lawyers For Representation?
The Birmingham wrongful death attorneys at the Drake Injury Lawyers have the education, knowledge, and expertise necessary to effectively pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. As a small law firm dedicated exclusively to personal injury law, our attorneys are skilled professionals who provide individualized attention to each and every case and client they take on.Clients choose us for their wrongful death claims for many reasons, including:
- We have more than 25 years of experience in personal injury and wrongful death law.
- Our attorneys have successfully recovered over $500 million in settlements and verdicts.
- Our law firm has a history of client satisfaction earned with years of exceptional service.
- Your lawyer will personalize your legal experience for the best possible case results.
- We operate on a contingency fee basis, meaning you pay $0 unless we win your case.
After experiencing the devastating loss of a loved one, you can trust our team of attorneys to listen to your story, understand your goals and help you achieve them with a tailored legal strategy. Our law firm has the case experience, legal skills and passion for justice your family needs during this difficult time. We will treat your case as if it were our own and pursue the results that you deserve.
What Damages Are Available in a Birmingham Wrongful Death Case?
The “damages,” or compensation laws, determining how much a family can receive in a successful wrongful death claim are unique in Alabama. While most states calculate compensation based on the circumstances of the incident, the age of the deceased person, his or her lost wages and the value of lost services, a family’s expenses, and many other factors, Alabama does not permit plaintiffs to recover compensatory damages. Instead, a wrongful death claim may only garner punitive damages.
Punitive damages are those that serve to punish the defendant’s wrongdoing. The goal of punitive damages is to deter other parties from committing similar actions of negligence in the future. The amount a family might recover in punitive damages varies according to the seriousness of the crime. Any recovered award will go directly to the decedent’s heirs, not to the estate. Alabama courts place a cap on the amount of punitive damages a plaintiff can receive: $1,500,000 in wrongful death claims.
Alabama also limits the amount a plaintiff can receive in claims against government entities. Going up against a public hospital for wrongful death, for example, might involve this damage cap. Government personal injury lawsuits cannot result in more than $100,000 in compensation for plaintiffs. The courts will not deviate from this damage cap in any circumstances. Hiring a skilled wrongful death lawyer in Birmingham is the best way to maximize your damages in an Alabama wrongful death lawsuit.
Who Receives Financial Compensation in a Birmingham Wrongful Death Case?
Alabama law says that the heirs at law are the beneficiaries of any monies recovered. As noted above, this means that any settlement or jury verdict does not go into the estate of the deceased. Rather, the monies are awarded to the next of kin, regardless of whether there was a will or not. Beneficiaries may include a surviving spouse, child or children, or other appropriate family members in accordance with state succession laws.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Alabama?
Family members may receive damages won in a wrongful death case in Alabama, but according to state law, they cannot file the claim. This must be done by the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate, also known as the executor or administrator. If the decedent created a will or estate plan prior to death, this document may name a personal representative. If not, the courts will appoint one before a wrongful death lawsuit is filed.
There is an exception if the deceased person is a minor (defined in Alabama as someone under the age of 19). In this case, the law gives the victim’s parents six months from the date of death to file a wrongful death of action. This can include a mother, father, adoptive parent or legal guardian. After six months have passed from the date of death, a personal representative acting on behalf of the minor must file the claim instead.
How Is A Wrongful Death Claim Proven?
The law unfortunately does not automatically award families after the preventable or negligence-related death of a loved one. Instead, a plaintiff must prove a wrongful death claim to receive punitive damages for the loss of a loved one’s life in Alabama. Proving a claim can be difficult without help from an experienced Birmingham wrongful death attorney. Three general elements of proof must be present for a plaintiff to win a wrongful death claim in Alabama:
- Evidence of duty of care. The plaintiff must show that the defendant owed the deceased person a duty of care at the time of the fatality. A physician, for example, has a duty to treat patients with reasonable skill and care.
- Breach of duty of care. The plaintiff must then have proof the defendant somehow breached his or her duty of care, through an act of negligence, misconduct, or willful intent to harm.
- Causation between the breach and the death. Finally, the plaintiff must show a proximate cause between the defendant’s breach of duty and the loved one’s death. For example, the defendant might not be liable for the death if a third party caused it. Causation can also be shown by establishing any connection between the negligent breach of duty and the death. Alabama case law has gone so far as to say that a wrongful death claim can be brought by showing that the conduct hastened or contributed to the death.
Alabama plaintiffs might encounter additional burdens of proof since they are fighting only for punitive damages in wrongful death claims. The Birmingham, Alabama courts might require evidence that the defendant acted with particular maliciousness, gross negligence, or conscious intent to harm. Ask a Birmingham wrongful death lawyer to represent you instead of taking on the burden of proof alone.
What Is a Survival Action?
A survival action is not the same as a wrongful death action in Alabama. Alabama Statute §6-5-462 gives surviving family members the right to survival action in very limited circumstances. Family members can proceed with an implied or express contract claim whether or not the decedent filed one prior to death. Family members can also continue with personal injury claims the decedent filed prior to passing, except for injuries to reputation. Someone could also bring a survival action if the at-fault party is deceased. The decedent’s estate will act as the defendant.
A claim that will not survive a deceased family member is a personal injury claim not filed until the individual passes away. Prompt filing prior to death is necessary for this type of survival action – a significant hole in Alabama’s civil laws. Still, a family may still be eligible to file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the decedent’s estate after the date of death. Consult with a Birmingham wrongful death attorney for more information about Alabama’s complex survival action laws.
Types of Wrongful Death Cases
A wrongful death case can be filed after many types of accidents and incidents that result in a fatality in Alabama. Any negligence-based accident, act of medical malpractice, criminal act or intentional tort that inflicts a fatal injury or illness on someone else could give the decedent’s family grounds to seek compensation with a wrongful death cause of action. Wrongful deaths can occur in many ways:
- Car and truck accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Prescription drugs deaths
- Hospital errors
- Slip and falls
- Workplace accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Malfunctioning vehicles
- Product liability
- Nursing home negligence
- Medical malpractice
- Exposure to toxic substances
- Fires and explosions
- Many other instances where someone caused the death of another by acting negligently or carelessly.
The legal definition of negligence is the failure to exercise the same amount of care that a reasonably prudent person would have under the same or similar circumstances. If a motor vehicle driver is texting and driving, for example, this is an example of negligence. Medical malpractice specifically refers to the failure of a health care provider to meet the standards of care set by the medical industry, resulting in patient harm. Criminal acts and intentional torts can refer to any situation where the defendant intended to harm the victim or commit a crime, including murder or homicide.
When To Pursue a Wrongful Death Claim in Birmingham, Alabama
When you’ve lost a loved one, nothing can make it right, but someone can often be made to pay. Although compensatory damages will not be awarded in an Alabama wrongful death claim, a measure of justice can be achieved by seeking punitive damages against those whose negligent, careless, or deliberate act caused a wrongful death. In cases of medical malpractice, drunk driving, malfunctioning products, and more, it is important to take action against those who have negligently caused a wrongful death to prevent similar accidents from happening again. Punitive damages are awarded to punish the wrongdoer, and such punishment is intended to deter future negligent actions from occurring, which contributes to an overall more just society. Although wrongful death claims are civil actions, punitive damages awarded against the party at fault have severe consequences for the individual, medical provider, corporation, etc., and are an important part of our justice system.
Statute of Limitations For Wrongful Death Claims in Birmingham, AL
In Alabama, the time the deceased person’s estate has to file a wrongful death claim is two years after the death. If the wrongful death claim is being filed against a city, a notice of claim must be filed prior to filing the lawsuit, and this must be done within six months of the death. If the claim is being filed against a county, a notice of claim must be filed within one year of the death and prior to filing the lawsuit. Because there are strict statutes of limitations on wrongful death suits, it is critical that you contact an experienced wrongful death lawyer who has a proven success rate with these claims, and who has the specialized knowledge of Alabama’s wrongful death statute.
How Can a Wrongful Death Attorney Help?
Hiring a wrongful death attorney to represent your family can make the legal process simpler, faster and more rewarding. The right lawyer can guide you through your case while protecting your family’s rights and pursuing the best possible results. Your lawyer can benefit you by providing the following services:
- Accident investigation
- Defendant identification
- Evidence collection
- Document gathering, such as police reports and medical records
- Eyewitness interviewing
- Hiring highly qualified experts
- Claims paperwork completion
- Filing by the deadline
- Settlement negotiations
- Trial litigation, if necessary
You can focus on grieving for your loved one and moving forward while a skilled attorney handles the legal aspects of your case for you. During the legal process, your lawyer will explain your family’s rights, take over communications with an insurer, help your family prove wrongful death and seek maximum financial compensation for your losses.
Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney in Birmingham, Alabama Today
Our Birmingham personal injury attorneys are passionate about bringing justice to those wronged by another party’s negligent actions and understand how important it is to pursue such cases. If you or someone you loved has been affected by the loss of a family member due to the negligence or wrongdoing of another, contact Drake Injury Lawyers and put our 20+ years of total experience to work for you. Call (205) 970-0800 for a free consultation today.
Drake Injury Lawyers
2 Perimeter Park S #510e
Birmingham, AL 35243