If you lost a loved one in a negligence accident, you may be wondering: What kinds of damages can you demand in a Birmingham wrongful death case? The bottom line is that Alabama has very strict and unusual laws about the damages recoverable in these cases. The state only allows punitive damage awards for families who lost a loved one.
An attorney from a personal injury law firm like Morris Bart can help you better understand what this means for your case. We provide free consultations if you cannot find the answers you are looking for in this blog.
Alabama Has Strict Laws Limiting Wrongful Death Damage Types
Under Alabama’s wrongful death statute, Ala. Code § 6-5-410, those who lost a loved one to someone else’s careless or reckless behavior may be able to recover compensation by taking legal action in the appropriate civil court. This is generally the county court where the accident occurred.
However, case law limits the recovery to only punitive damages. The Supreme Court of Alabama reaffirmed this ruling in 2012 in Hall v. Coastal Anesthesia, P.C. (CV-07-901577). This can affect your case in several ways.
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What Are Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages are awarded when there has been willful, malicious, or wanton negligence, and the jury determines that paying additional damages will both penalize the liable party and help stop similar incidents in the future. They are common in drunk driving or drugged driving cases, for example.
The driver—and others who may choose to drive under the influence—need to learn a lesson about what could happen. So, the judge and jury determine that punitive damages may be the right answer.
The amount of damages awarded generally depends on the bad behavior of the liable party. This is why you often hear about multi-million-dollar punitive awards in defective drug cases. The court likely heard evidence that the manufacturers were aware they were hurting people and did not care.
How does This Affect My Case?
There are several ways that Alabama’s limits on the types of damages you can demand in a Birmingham wrongful death action could affect the claims process, the compensation you recover, and the outcome of your case. Since a lawsuit will be necessary, you will want to work with a wrongful death attorney who will represent you throughout this process.
Not only will they handle your case for you, but they can also answer your questions and fight for maximum compensation based on the facts of your loved one’s accident and death.
You Cannot Recover Compensatory Damages
Alabama is the only state that bars the recovery of compensatory damages in wrongful death cases. In most states, compensatory damages are what the victim’s family could recover money for:
- Any related medical bills
- Funeral and burial or cremation costs
- Loss of future income
- Loss of services performed for the household
- Loss of companionship, service, guidance, love, and other intangible losses suffered by the surviving family members
None of this is available in Alabama. If your loved one was killed in a personal injury accident in Birmingham, your only recoverable damages are punitive and will be based on the severity of the liable party’s behavior.
You Must Go to Court
Punitive damages are only available through the court system in Alabama. To receive punitive damages, you will need to file a lawsuit, navigate this process, go to trial, and receive a verdict and award on your behalf. This means there is no opportunity to settle without first taking legal action against the liable party.
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What Should I Do to Hold the At-Fault Parties Legally Responsible?
Your first step to holding the at-fault parties responsible for your loved one’s death is to connect with a lawyer from our team who can discuss your options and rights with you in detail. We can:
- Assess your case for you
- Determine who can file a wrongful death action on behalf of your family
- Discuss what this process will entail
- Help you make decisions about your next steps
- Answer questions you have about your case
- Explain how our fees and costs work
You generally have two years to sue in Alabama, per Ala. Code § 6-2-38. Our team will talk to you for free when you are ready to get started.
Call to Speak With a Lawyer at Morris Bart & Associates, LLC for Free
At the Morris Bart law office in Birmingham, our team of attorneys provide free consultations for families who lost a loved one in an Alabama negligence accident. We offer free initial meetings and then represent you based on a contingency fee. We may be able to recover damages for your family with no upfront cost to you.
Connect with our attorneys today to learn more about your legal options.
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