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Wrongful Death In Alabama


Losing a loved one is one of the worst experiences most people can imagine – but for some it happens completely out of the blue. Even worse, it can sometimes happen due to the negligent conduct of another person. This situation is referred to as wrongful death, and in certain situations, the surviving family of the deceased person may be able to recover damages from the negligent actor.

While we know that no amount of money will ever bring back the person you have lost, our Birmingham wrongful death attorneys from Goldasich, Vick & Fulk can help you keep your family financially afloat while you take time to get your life back on track. Allowing us to shoulder the legal load leaves you with the time and space you need to adjust to an entirely different reality.

Different In Alabama

Wrongful death occurs when a person dies due to the wrongful “act, omission, or negligence” of another person. It is a civil tort – essentially the non-criminal version of a crime, punishable by damages (usually monetary) instead of jail time. The burden of proof is lower in a civil trial – one may not be able to prove negligence beyond a reasonable doubt (100 percent guilty), but they may be able to prove that negligence occurred due to a preponderance of the evidence (51 percent liable).

In many other states, a wrongful death lawsuit is brought by the surviving family members of the deceased, and any damages recovered would be disbursed directly to them. Damages are usually compensatory, meaning that the court will try to assess the overall lost monetary value of the deceased’s earnings and services. In Alabama, the law is markedly different, which can sometimes discourage people from trying to hold a negligent defendant responsible – but it is far from impossible to do so.

Damages Meant For Punishment

In Alabama, there are two major differences in wrongful death law that bereaved family members need to be aware of before committing to filing suit. The first is that they cannot, specifically, file suit – only the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate may file for wrongful death. The statute holds that if the person had lived, and they could have brought suit for the event, then a wrongful death suit may be filed by their estate. For example, if a person had not died, but merely been injured, in an auto accident – that person could have filed a lawsuit against the driver who allegedly caused their injuries.

The other difference is that Alabama law does not award compensatory damages in wrongful death lawsuits – it only awards punitive damages, and only if a jury deems it appropriate. Punitive damages are those levied for the express purpose of punishing someone, rather than making someone whole. In other words, the court understands that money can never fix the loss a family has suffered – but it can help to establish that some kind of justice was done.

Let Us Help You Find Closure

If you have lost a loved one, it may be tempting to simply take time to grieve. However, it can be important to seek some kind of closure from the legal system, and Alabama law does have a statute of limitations on filing a wrongful death lawsuit. Our Birmingham wrongful death attorneys at Goldasich, Vick & Fulk can help handle the legalities while you and your family adjust to a monumental change. Call our office today at (205) 731-2566 to schedule a consultation.

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