When people or organizations engage in negligent practices, they don’t only cause injuries. They can also cause someone to lose their life. Whether the fatal event is a car accident, medical error, or fire, families go through a very difficult time. For an individual’s death to be considered wrongful, it must have resulted from negligence, a wrongful act, or a failure to act.
Each state has wrongful death laws. They all allow family members to seek compensation by filing a lawsuit against the at-fault party. However, each state has different rules regarding who can file such a case. When an individual dies, several people who cared about them will grieve. However, not everyone has the legal right to sue.
Who is Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
In Alabama, family members can’t technically file a wrongful death lawsuit. Instead, the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate is the only one who can initiate a wrongful death claim. A personal representative is a person named as the executor of the deceased person’s will. If the person died without a will, a recognized heir will be appointed as the personal representative.
If the person was married, their representative will be their spouse. However, if there is no surviving spouse, the next choice is the next of kin who is entitled to a share of the estate. If there is no such person, the estate’s largest creditor living in Alabama may serve. In the absence of such an individual, the probate judge can appoint someone else. Sometimes, someone petitions the court to be appointed as the estate’s representative. Other times, the local county administrator serves in the role.
In spite of all this, if damages are awarded, they will be payable to the victim’s heirs and not their estate. If you want greater clarity on if you can seek compensation, you should reach out to an Alabama personal injury lawyer.
Cases Involving the Death of a Child
Meanwhile, if the deceased is a minor, each parent has an equal right to seek compensation if they’re married and cohabiting. Otherwise, the parent who had legal custody gets a priority. If both of the child’s parents are dead or they don’t start a claim within six months of the child’s death, a personal representative may be appointed by the court.
It’s not uncommon for family members to fight over who should be appointed as the representative. This can cause lots of additional stress and tension when everyone is already grieving. Working with a personal injury lawyer in Montgomery, AL can bring clarity to the situation. When you get sound legal advice, you’ll feel more confident about the proceedings.
Elements That Must Be Present in a Wrongful Death Claim
Not every sudden or catastrophic death can be considered wrongful. Sometimes, people are responsible for their own fatal injuries or they got hurt in a freak accident. For a wrongful death lawsuit to be successful, you need to prove that another entity’s negligence led to your loved one’s death. You also need to show that that person or business had a duty towards the deceased and they breached it. For example, drivers have a duty to drive with caution so if they drive while intoxicated, this is considered negligence. Your attorney will also assist you in proving that the defendant’s negligence caused your loved one’s death.
Wrongful death cases can stem from:
- Vehicular accidents
- Defective products
- Unsafe premises
- Medical malpractice
- Intentional acts
In most cases, you have just two years after your loved one’s death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. That’s why you need to move quickly to contact a lawyer. Your attorney will need to look into the matter and determine whether you have grounds to file a lawsuit. They will need to gather evidence, contact experts, and interview witnesses. All this takes time so the sooner they get started on your case, the better it will be for you.
Reach Out to The Vance Law Firm Today for Expert Advice
If you’re not sure about if you can file a lawsuit following the death of a loved one, contact an Alabama injury lawyer at The Vance Law Firm. We’ll advise you about your rights and help you to build a strong case if you’re in good legal standing. Your first consultation is free so we will invite you to call us today to schedule a case review. The legal system is complex, but we’ll support you throughout the entire process of seeking compensation.