If your loved one has died in a tragic accident, knowing what steps to take next can be difficult. After the shock of the death wears off, you may be wondering what to do and where to turn. Under Alabama law, the deceased person’s family can file a wrongful death lawsuit to recover compensation against the wrongdoer whose negligence or recklessness caused the person’s death. There are stringent requirements for filing wrongful death lawsuits, and only certain people can file wrongful death lawsuits under Alabama law.
The Personal Representative (Executor) can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Every state has different rules regarding who can file a wrongful death lawsuit. In some states, the deceased person’s surviving spouse, children, or parents can file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of their loved one. Alabama follows a stricter rule, however. Only the personal representative, or executor, of the decedent’s estate, can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Alabama. The personal representative is the individual in charge of executing the deceased individual’s estate. In some cases, the deceased individual appoints an executor in his or her will to act as the executor. When no executor has been appointed, an Alabama probate court will appoint an executor or personal representative.
What Happens After a Successful Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
When an executor succeeds in a wrongful death lawsuit, the damages are distributed to the decedent’s surviving family members. In some states, the damages obtained in a wrongful death lawsuit became part of the decedent’s estate and distributed according to the decedent’s will. In Alabama, however, the damages won in a wrongful death lawsuit are distributed to surviving family members as if the decedent died without a will in place.
Suppose the decedent provided that his spouse would receive all of his estates after he passed away. If the personal representative succeeded in a wrongful death lawsuit, the surviving spouse would not receive all of the damages from the wrongful death lawsuit. Instead, the probate court would distribute the damages according to Alabama’s intestacy laws. As a result, the family members and friends who are named in the will may not inherit the damages from the wrongful death lawsuit. Alabama’s intestacy laws provide that the following family members should inherit the damage award:
- When someone dies with children but no spouse, the children will inherit all of the damage award
- When someone dies with a spouse but no children or parents, the spouse will inherit all of the damage award
- When someone dies with a spouse and children, the spouse will inherit the first $50,000 of the damage award and half of the damage award’s balance. Children inherit the remaining damages
- When the decedent dies with living parents but no spouse or children, the parents will inherit the total damages award
What can You Recover in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
To succeed in a wrongful death lawsuit in Alabama, you will need to prove that your loved one’s death was caused by someone else’s negligence, omission, or wrongful act. You also need to show that the decedent would have been able to recover damages from a personal injury lawsuit if he or she has survived. For example, if your loved one died in a car accident, you will need to prove that another driver’s negligent or reckless driving caused the accident that resulted in her death.
Under Alabama law, a wrongful death plaintiff can recover economic and non-economic losses caused by the decedent’s death. They can recover compensation for loss of income, compensation for their emotional pain and suffering, compensation for a loss of financial support, and a loss of inheritance. Additionally, successful plaintiffs can recover damages for their pain and suffering caused by the decedent’s death. In certain cases, the plaintiff can recover punitive damages in an attempt to deter future wrongdoers from engaging in similarly egregious conduct.
Contact an Experienced Wrongful Death Lawyer Today
Has your loved one died as a result of someone else’s negligence or recklessness? If so, the personal representative of your loved ones, a state may have a right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. The best thing you can do is to speak with an experienced Alabama lawyer as soon as possible. Wrongful death lawsuits are complicated, and you need an experienced legal team advocating on your behalf. Contact Heninger Garrison Davis today to schedule your initial consultation.