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Steps To Take After A Wrongful Death

By: Fred Moore | Apr 1, 2020

Struggling with the grief of losing a loved one is challenging. It can be even more difficult when they were killed due to someone else’s negligence. Many families don’t even realize that they may have a wrongful death case in which their loved one’s estate may be able to seek damages for their losses. Our personal injury attorneys at Moore Law Firm are well-versed in complex Alabama wrongful death law. We advise clients on the most effective course of action to take after losing someone they love in an accident or incident that caused a wrongful death.

Learn The Basics About Alabama Wrongful Death Law

In Alabama, wrongful death occurs due to the “wrongful act, omission, or negligence” of another. For Alabama law to apply in a wrongful death claim, the deceased person must have passed away within the state of Alabama. Although a wrongful death case can be brought in the civil court in Alabama, the claim must be filed by the deceased person’s estate, not individual family members.

Unlike most other states, only punitive damages may be awarded in Alabama wrongful death cases. Other states typically award monetary compensation for damages, such as medical bills, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. Punitive damages are not intended to compensate victims for their losses. They’re designed to punish the negligent party and deter similar behavior. In wrongful death cases in Alabama, the focus isn’t on the victims’ losses but rather on the severity of the wrongdoing that caused the death.

Contact An Alabama Wrongful Death Attorney

If you believe you may have a valid wrongful death case, it’s important to act fast — a claim must be brought within two years of the date of the victim’s death. Seeking the counsel of a skilled personal injury attorney who has experience in handling wrongful death claims in Alabama is critical to ensure the proper steps are taken promptly.

Open The Estate And File A Wrongful Death Claim

Because the personal representative of a victim’s estate is the only one who can bring a wrongful death claim against a negligent party, the estate must be opened before a wrongful death suit can be filed. The process for opening an estate must be initiated in the Alabama probate court, which will appoint a personal representative for the estate if one has not already been named in a deceased person’s will. When you’re grieving, dealing with the probate process can be daunting. Having an experienced attorney help you open the estate in the probate court and file a wrongful death claim in the civil court can help you avoid common mistakes that can slow the process.

Prove Your Wrongful Death Claim

In addition to dealing with complex legal processes, negligence must be proven in a wrongful death claim. If the personal representative of your loved one’s estate is not familiar with Alabama law, this can be virtually impossible to do on your own. Three general elements are involved when proving negligence in a wrongful death claim:

Duty of care — In a wrongful death claim, you must show that the negligent party owed the deceased person a duty of care. For example, motorists have a duty of care to drive safely at all times.

Breach of duty of care — Next, you must indicate that the defendant breached that duty of care due to negligence, misconduct, or intent to harm.

Causation — Finally, you must demonstrate a connection between the defendant’s breach of duty and the death. For example, if a motorist who was driving recklessly is involved in an accident that causes a person’s death, but for their actions, that person would not have died.

A seasoned Alabama personal injury attorney can build and prove a solid wrongful death case and work to obtain the maximum amount of punitive damages available in your specific case. It’s also important to keep in mind that any settlement will be distributed to beneficiaries separate from the estate and according to Alabama inheritance laws, and even if your loved one had a will. This means that long-term partners or family friends cannot receive wrongful death damages in Alabama.

Contact An Attorney For Help With Your Wrongful Death Case

If you believe a loved one’s death was caused by someone else’s negligence, our personal injury lawyers at Moore Law Firm can evaluate your wrongful death case and advise you on how to proceed. We offer a free initial consultation and legal advice and services you can trust. Contact us online or call 251-445-7602 today.