The death of a loved one is one of the most difficult things most people will experience in their lives. These losses can be even more difficult to process when they are preventable and caused by someone else’s negligence.
When people die because others weren’t as cautious or safety-oriented as they should have been, the people close to them can file wrongful death claims to get compensation for things like medical expenses, funeral costs, and loss of companionship.
But not everyone is eligible to file a wrongful death claim. In this blog, we’ll break down who can pursue these compensation claims after losing loved ones and how we can help those people win their claims.
Family Members Can File Wrongful Death Lawsuits—But There’s a Catch
Surviving family members of people who died because of negligence can file wrongful death lawsuits in Alabama, but only if they are considered the personal representative, or executor, of the deceased person’s estate.
The executor is often, but not always, appointed by the deceased in their will before they pass away. A family member who isn’t considered the executor of the estate is eligible to receive money from the deceased’s will, but can’t take legal action after their death.
What Happens if the Deceased Didn’t Appoint an Executor in Their Will?
Unfortunately, many people pass away without ever creating a will. Or, in some cases, they DO have a will, but it doesn’t appoint an executor. In these scenarios, an Alabama probate court will appoint someone to serve as the executor of the deceased’s person’s estate.
This person will usually be a close family member, such as a spouse or child. However, it also may be an in-state creditor of the deceased person’s estate. And when no relevant persons or parties can be named the executor of the estate, the title may go to the county administrator or any other person who requests to be named in this role.
Who Gets the Money from a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Alabama?
Although only the executor of the deceased person’s estate can file a wrongful death lawsuit, multiple family members can receive money from it if it’s successful—even if the deceased specified that only one person would receive their estate.
Probate courts distribute money from wrongful death lawsuits accordingly:
- The deceased’s children receive all of the money when they didn’t have a spouse
- The deceased’s spouse receives all of the money when they didn’t have children or living parents
- The deceased’s spouse receives $50,000 and half of the remaining balance and their children receive the rest when they were married and had children
- The parents receive all of the money when they’re living and the deceased didn’t have children or a spouse
3 Types of Damages Are Available in Wrongful Death Lawsuits
People who file wrongful death lawsuits can seek three types of damages:
- Economic damages for things like lost income and funeral expenses
- Non-economic damages for things like pain and suffering, loss of inheritance, and loss of financial support
- Punitive damages in rare cases when it can be proven that the negligent party was excessively reckless or intentionally tried to harm the deceased
Our Montgomery Wrongful Death Lawyers Have Answers and Solutions
Wrongful death lawsuits are complex, especially in Alabama. Because the state only allows executors of the estates of deceased people to file them, an already difficult process becomes much more convoluted and time-consuming—especially when an executor wasn’t appointed in the deceased person’s will.
If you need help with a wrongful death lawsuit in Alabama, we can help. Contact us today for a free consultation. We’ll walk you through every step of the process and help you solve any potential disputes that come up along the way, including the distribution of your loved one’s assets and estate.