May 16, 2022
Wrongful Death

When a loved one suffers an injury in a serious accident, you may begin filing for workers’ compensation or a personal injury claim. However, if the victim passes away before the case is settled, you may change your claim to a wrongful death suit. This change allows the loved one’s beneficiaries to obtain compensation after their death.

While monetary compensation won’t make up for your loss if a loved one has passed away, it can help your family regain financial stability and the assistance needed to grieve. It is vital to contact a Montgomery serious injury and death lawyer to help navigate Alabama’s strict wrongful death compensation limitations and help you maximize your wrongful death settlement.

What is Wrongful Death?

In Alabama, wrongful death refers to someone passing away due to another’s negligent or malicious act. The negligent party can be an individual or organization. A wrongful death lawsuit can be filed whether the victim’s passing occurs immediately or several weeks or months following the event.

For example, a third party may be found responsible for wrongful death if their negligence causes a car accident. Medical malpractice is another common cause of wrongful death. An intentional act, such as a physical assault resulting in death, is also considered wrongful.

If your loved one suffers a serious injury at the hands of another party, they may live for weeks or months before succumbing to their injuries. In this case, you may have begun filing a personal injury claim to pursue damages before your loved one passes away. You can work with a wrongful death lawyer to change your case and seek wrongful death damages rather than personal injury compensation if this happens.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

One of the key differences between a personal injury case and a wrongful death claim is that the injured person can no longer seek compensation. Someone else must file for damages on their behalf.

If the deceased was an adult, their legal personal representative (PR) is the only person entitled to make a claim. Typically, the decedent’s will designates a PR. If the deceased passes without a will, the court nominates a PR. Preference is generally awarded to the deceased’s spouse, followed by their children or next-of-kin.

For minor decedents, wrongful death entitlement typically goes to their parents to make a claim within six months of their passing. After this period, the deceased’s PR may make a claim. In most cases, their PR is also a parent.

Wrongful Death Damages

In a personal injury case, the plaintiff can claim damages to cover their medical costs, loss of income, and future loss of income. These are known as compensatory damages and can offer restitution to a personal injury victim for economic and non-economic losses.

If your loved one passes away in the middle of a personal injury suit, you may pursue a wrongful death claim with the help of a wrongful death attorney from The Vance Law Firm. Our skilled serious injury and death lawyers can help you change your claim when your loved one passes so you can seek damages against the responsible party.

However, if you change your lawsuit to a wrongful death claim, the compensation process also varies. Alabama is the only state in the U.S. that does not allow you to receive compensatory damages to cover specific expenses, like medical bills, medication costs, and funeral expenses. Instead, Alabama only allows punitive damages for wrongful death.

Punitive damages seek to punish the negligent party for the wrongful death rather than compensating the deceased’s surviving family. While there is no cap on wrongful death damages, this system can make it challenging for families to recover the maximum compensation they deserve. Due to Alabama’s strict compensatory laws, you must have a skilled and experienced attorney to fight for damages to hold the responsible party accountable.

Your attorney at The Vance Law Firm can also help you navigate Alabama’s contributory negligence statute when determining liability. Contributory negligence states that the legal system won’t award punitive damages if the deceased is partially at fault for their injuries and death.

For example, if your loved one was injured in a car accident that the defendant was 99% responsible for, their 1% liability means the court won’t award you punitive damages on their behalf.

Distribution of Wrongful Death Compensation

It is difficult to win a wrongful death claim without skilled legal representation. Even if you win punitive damages, however, you may also need guidance regarding the distribution of those damages. Alabama law requires that punitive damages go to the deceased’s estate and are distributed according to intestate laws.

These rules mean that only a legally designated estate representative may file the claim, and damages are handed out depending on who is named as an heir in the deceased’s will. This process is long and complicated and requires the help of an attorney who can help this distribution process run as smoothly as possible.

Get the Compensation You Deserve

When a loved one passes away, the surviving family often struggles to cope financially and emotionally. The compassionate and experienced attorneys at The Vance Law Firm can help ensure your family doesn’t suffer further loss at the hands of the legal system.

We work diligently, using our broad network of financial, economic, and legal professionals to build well-founded cases for our clients. Seeking maximum compensation for our clients is always our focus.

If you’re considering opening a wrongful death case after your loved one has passed, contact The Vance Law Firm today to schedule your free case evaluation.

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