Helping Families after the Tragic Loss of a Loved One in Huntsville
Wrongful death claims are among the most challenging and emotional claims because they involve the loss of a loved one. While a legal case obviously can never bring the person you’ve lost back, it can provide you and your family with the resources to move forward into your future and may afford you some closure after your devastating loss. If you’ve lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, you need an experienced Huntsville wrongful death attorney on your side.
Who May File?
In Alabama, only the personal representative of the deceased’s estate can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Further, all damages awarded are paid to heirs of the estate. If you are the personal representative, you have the responsibility of representing the rights of other beneficiaries. It is in your best interest to work closely with an experienced Huntsville wrongful death attorney to navigate this often complicated legal procedure.
Wrongful Death in the State of Alabama
A wrongful death case is a civil action that’s intended to help you recover the damages you’ve suffered as a result of your loss – a loss that was caused by someone else’s negligence, wrongful act, or omission. While the responsible party may also face criminal charges, this is a separate legal matter and does not affect your ability to file a wrongful death case. In the State of Alabama, you can only file a wrongful death lawsuit if your lost loved one could have recovered on the personal injury claim had he or she lived.
Wrongful Death and Financial Recovery
Wrongful death law in the State of Alabama is unique to the state. While most states allow survivors to recover on economic and noneconomic losses, Alabama’s wrongful death laws are intended to punish the wrongdoer and to deter others from engaging in similar kinds of negligence. As such, in Alabama, you can only recover on punitive damages.
This means that the jury will be instructed to calculate exactly how egregious the wrongdoer’s actions were and how necessary it is to punish him or her in determining the extent of your damages. The jury can, however, also take the accused’s wealth into consideration when determining an award amount. The jury may not, however, factor in the value of the decedent’s life to the family he or she left behind or the need to compensate the family members for that loss. In other words, it’s a complicated process.
The Alabama statute of limitations imposes a time limit for bringing a wrongful death case. You must file your case within two years of the date your loved one died. Because there can be extenuating circumstances and complications, however, it is in the best interest of your case to consult with a knowledgeable Huntsville wrongful death attorney as soon as possible.
Every wrongful death lawsuit is different, and your attorney will need time to investigate the details of your case, gather evidence, interview witnesses, review medical records, calculate potential damages, prove liability, and more. If you believe you have a wrongful death case, do not put off contacting an experienced wrongful death attorney for professional legal counsel.
Distribution of Wrongful Death Compensation
Again, the State of Alabama does things a bit differently when it comes to the distribution of the compensation from a wrongful death settlement or court award. Most states use the award amount to pay off any taxes or debts of the deceased’s estate before distributing the assets in accordance with the decedent’s will (or in accordance with strict inheritance laws if there is no will).
In Alabama, on the other hand, the unpaid bills of the deceased are not factored in, and the entire settlement award is distributed to the appropriate parties as dictated by the state’s inheritance laws. This is true whether the victim has a will or not. This means that close relatives who aren’t in the will may receive part of the settlement or award amount. Further, long-term partners and dear friends who were included in the will won’t be included in the distributed assets of the wrongful death case.
Alabama’s unique laws can lead to unique complications, including:
- If your wrongful death action is a claim against a municipality, such as a city or county, you must file a notice of claim with the municipality before you can file your lawsuit. The time frame involved depends upon the municipality in question, but this additional requirement can delay further action.
- Additionally, your case must be filed by a personal representative of your loved one’s estate, and establishing this representative is a legal action that sometimes requires time.
- Finally, the distribution of the settlement amount or the court award must pass through Alabama’s probate laws until the complicated issues of inheritance are all resolved.
In other words, the two years you are allotted can pass quickly due to additional steps that you’ll be required to take while you are dealing with your tragic loss. Additionally, once you’ve made your case and been awarded the appropriate damages, there can be further legal hurdles to address. Your rights and your family’s financial compensation for the loss they’ve suffered are far too important not to bring your strongest case. If someone else’s wrongful action leads to the loss of a loved one, it’s time to consult with an experienced wrongful death attorney.
If You’ve Lost a Family Member to Someone Else’s Negligence, You Need an Experienced Huntsville Wrongful Death Attorney on Your Side
If you’ve lost a loved one to someone else’s wrongful actions, you recognize that no dollar amount can ever make your family whole. Nevertheless, obtaining the compensation to which you are entitled can help you make the long journey toward emotional recovery, and the dedicated wrongful death attorneys at Cloud Ryan in Huntsville are here to help you do just that. Our legal team is committed and prepared to aggressively advocate for your rights throughout the legal process. We’re on your side, so please do not hesitate to contact us online or call us at 256-801-1000 for a free consultation today.