Learning that your loved one has been killed in a preventable accident is devastating. While nothing can bring your loved one back, pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit can help you and your family survive financially. The personal representative of your loved one has a right to pursue compensation from the person or company whose negligence caused your loved one’s death.
You may be wondering who will receive the money from a wrongful death lawsuit if you are successful. When successful, wrongful-death settlements will be distributed according to Alabama’s intestate succession laws. These are the same laws used to determine who will receive a deceased person’s estate if he or she did not have a last will and testament.
How Money is Distributed in Wrongful Death Settlements
As mentioned above, Alabama has specific intestacy laws that address who will receive compensation from a wrongful death lawsuit and in what amount. Under Alabama intestacy laws, if the deceased person was married but did not have children or parents, his or her spouse will receive the entire wrongful-death award. When the decedent did have children but was not married, the children will receive the wrongful-death settlement, shared equally among themselves.
When the decedent is married and has children from that marriage, the spouse will receive the first $50,000 of the award and half of the remaining balance. The children receive the rest of the award, divided among themselves. When the decedent is married and has children from outside his or her current marriage, the spouse will receive half of the award, and the children will receive the rest.
When the decedent is married, does not have children, and has surviving parents, the spouse will receive the first $100,000 plus half of the remaining award. The decedent’s parents will receive the rest. Finally, if the decedent was not married and did not have children, the parents will receive the entire wrongful-death award. If the decedent did not have parents, children, or a spouse, any of the decedent’s surviving siblings could obtain the money. If there are no relatives that qualify, the award will go to the next closest family members — grandchildren, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, nephews, and nieces.
The Settlement Process in Wrongful Death Cases
As you can see, determining who will receive a wrongful-death settlement can be complicated. Obtaining a settlement can also be challenging. Only the personal representative of the deceased individual’s estate has a right to file a wrongful death lawsuit and obtain a settlement. Family members are not allowed to file wrongful-death lawsuits unless they have been appointed as personal representatives. In many states, the goal of awarding wrongful-death damages is to compensate survivors for the financial and emotional losses they suffered due to their loved one’s death.
In Alabama, the goal is to provide the estate with punitive damages intended to punish the at-fault person or business whose wrongful or negligent actions caused the victim’s death. Monetary Awards in wrongful death lawsuits are paid to the appropriate family members under Alabama’s intestate succession laws. The money does not go directly into the estate during the probate process. Creditors cannot take some or all of the funds for the decedent’s outstanding debts.
How Long Do Wrongful Death Claims Take?
There is a time limit, also called a statute of limitations, for filing an Alabama wrongful death lawsuit. The lawsuit needs to be filed within two years of your loved one’s death. It is important that your loved one’s personal representative remembers this timeline carefully. Wrongful death lawsuits can be complex and require in-depth investigations.
If a personal representative waits too long, important evidence could become inaccessible or unavailable. There are some rare exceptions to this timeframe, such as if a city or county employee’s negligence caused your loved one’s death, the statute of limitations may be even shorter. We recommend discussing your case with an attorney so you can understand how much time you have to file a claim. The payment will typically come from the at-fault party’s insurance company if the wrongful-death claim has been negotiated out of court. If the lawsuit goes to trial, the payment will come after the trial.
Contact Our Compassionate Wrongful Death Attorneys to Schedule Your Initial Consultation
If you have questions about pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit, reach out to Heninger Garrison Davis. Our compassionate and experienced wrongful death attorneys are here to help you and your family obtain justice and the financial compensation you deserve after your loved one’s death. Contact us today to schedule your free initial consultation.