Wrongful Death Damages in Alabama

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Regarding wrongful death claims, each state in the United States has different laws. When it comes to claiming wrongful death damages, a claimant can typically file claims of two different types.

One is what is called a “survival claim,” which is filed either by the family members of the decedent or by a representative of the decedent’s estate seeking to recover funeral expenses, emotional suffering and pain caused by the death, and punitive damages.

The other type of claim normally seeks to recover what is called the “full value of the life” of the decedent. This includes both monetary and non-monetary losses and factors in issues such as emotional suffering, loss of support or inheritance, loss of income, and the like.

If you’ve experienced a wrongful death, an Alabama wrongful death attorney can help you determine which claim to file and how strong your case is.

Wrongful death claims in Alabama, however, differ significantly from those of most other states. For instance, according to Wrongful Death Statutes in the US State of Alabama, as specified in the Alabama Code Title 6 (Civil Practice 6-5-410), only a personal representative (and not just any family member) of the decedent’s estate can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Alabama.

The differences are even more striking when it comes to wrongful death damages in Alabama. The state law, in this regard, makes room only for punitive damages, and the jury is not obligated to take into account the personal worth of the decedent when deliberating about the damages to be paid by the wrongdoer to the claimant. As such, only punitive damages are recoverable by the claimant in a case of wrongful death in Alabama.

The idea behind this is that what is most important is that the wrongdoer or the negligent party concerned is aptly punished for their behavior, making such occurrences unlikely to be repeated in the future. By the same logic, the jury may take into account the wealth or personal worth of the wrongdoer when deciding the amount of a damage award.

It must also be noted that whatever the damages recovered in a wrongful death case in Alabama, it may never go toward the payment of any liabilities or debts of either the intestate or the testator. Instead, all damages recovered need to be distributed in accordance of the statute of distributions.

What this means is that any and all damages recovered in such a case may not be distributed according to the trust or will of the decedent. Instead, the damages need to be distributed in accordance to the intestacy laws, just as if the decedent died without having made a will. This means family members or relatives who are omitted from the decedent’s will may be entitled to a part of the punitive damages recovered.

In the past, there has been some controversy regarding the articles of wrongful death damages in Alabama. While the Alabama court, in support of the statutes, reasons that it is not possible to measure the value of a human life in monetary terms, it is indeed possible to measure punitive damages by factoring in issues such as the gravity of the wrong done, the financial worth of the wrongdoer, and so on. However, despite such reasoning, many continue to argue that while rewarding damages, the court needs to take into account the grief, suffering, and emotional distress caused to the claimant by the wrongful death of a loved one.