Tens of thousands of wrongful death claims are filed throughout the United States each year. For instance, one report shows that over 190,000 people die annually as a result of wrongful death situations. That is an average of over 520 deaths each day! As is the case with the rest of the country, a substantial number of wrongful death claims are filed in the courts of Alabama each year as well. However, due to the nature of the wrongful death statute in Alabama, there are quite a few rules and regulations that you must consider before filing a claim.
The Timeline is Important in Wrongful Death Claims
The timeline factor of wrongful death claims plays a crucial role in the success (or failure) of each case. Any wrongful death lawyer in Birmingham, AL would agree with that statement. For instance, there is not one specific timeline that applies to all cases that call for legal action. In most cases, the general rule is that you have two years from the time of death to file a wrongful death claim. Within the state of Alabama, though, there are several possible exceptions to consider – such as:
- City vs County: If it is a claim made against a city, then the deadline is 6 months after the appointment of a personal representative of the estate. If the claim is made against a county, then you must file the notice within one year from the incident.
- Viable Personal Injury Action: A wrongful death lawsuit can be filed only if a timely personal injury action (usually, two years from the date of injury) could have been filed on the date of death. If the time to file a timely personal injury claim had already expired, no wrongful death suit can be filed.
Establish an Estate & Designate a Representative
Other laws for wrongful death claims in Alabama that distinguish the state from many others throughout the country involve the representation of the decedent’s estate. Keep in mind that wrongful death claims are only reserved for incidents that lead to fatalities. According to state law, therefore, the wrongful death lawsuit must be filed by a person designated as an estate representative. This means that the estate must already be established within the applicable probate court – a step that could present its own hurdles and loops that you will encounter along the way.
Trusting in the professional guidance and expertise of a wrongful death attorney or personal injury lawyer in Birmingham, AL will point you in the right direction. This is another reason why most attorneys and other legal experts encourage their clients to establish the details and conditions of their estate while they are still alive. Doing so will lighten the load for your loved ones after their death, and you can rest assured in knowing that their wishes were granted.
Distribution of Applicable Wrongful Death Awards
If the case ends with a wrongful death jury award or a settlement, a common misconception is that you have reached the end of the line. That is not necessarily the case in the state of Alabama. The distribution of that jury award is also a unique element of the claims process. In most cases that lead to legal action and courtroom verdicts, the individual who filed the lawsuit is the one who receives the award. When it comes to wrongful death claims in Alabama, though, that is not the case.
As referenced above, the focus is on the decedent’s estate and their offspring. Therefore, the award is distributed to the heirs of the decedent – not the person who initially filed the lawsuit on the estate’s behalf. Even if the decedent left a will, the wrongful death damages are distributed to the heirs, who may be different persons from those directed to receive the estate. Wrongful death damages pass directly to the heirs, and do not pass through the estate.
Should You Just Forget About Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
It is understandable why many people feel as if filing wrongful death claims in the state of Alabama seems like a lost cause. Some may even decide to focus on grieving the loss of their loved ones without seeking justice in the courtroom and just making amends with the situation. It is highly recommended for you to at least schedule a consultation with an injury attorney in Birmingham, AL before making any final decisions.
The wrongful death lawyer will analyze all aspects of your case – including the circumstances surrounding the death of your loved one and the steps that have been taken in the meantime by all parties involved. Your lawyer will also provide you with accurate and up-to-date answers to your many questions to keep you informed and educated along the way. Retaining a lawyer will also make it much easier for you to focus on the most important task: being there for your family during such a distressing time.
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