Wrongful Death lawsuits are based upon special statutes that have been passed by state legislatures across the country, to try and provide justice to the families of injury victims who have died as the result of the wrongful acts of another.
Sometimes, wrongful death claims are filed as stand-alone lawsuits. In other instances, they are filed as part of an ongoing case based upon a catastrophic personal injury such as fatal car crashes, drunk driving fatalities, commercial truck (18-wheeler, big rig, tractor trailer) accidents, prescription drug injuries, or medical malpractice.
The Alabama Wrongful Death Statute
Every state in the union has passed its own Wrongful Death law. What state law applies in your case depends upon where the death occurred. If your loved one died in Alabama, then Alabama’s Wrongful Death statute applies. If the death happened in Tennessee, then the monetary awards will be defined under the Tennessee Wrongful Death law.
It is important to determine which state’s wrongful death statute applies to your case. The language of the state law will determine not only what type of damages can be sought, but what loved ones can actually be plaintiffs in a suit for wrongful death damages. Alabama’s Wrongful Death statute is unique and believed to be the only one of its type in the country. In Alabama, the only damages that may be recovered for wrongful death are punitive damages. These damages are intended to punish the wrongdoer and deter others from similar conduct in the future. No compensatory damages are recoverable for wrongful death. Trying a wrongful death case to verdict in Alabama is a daunting challenge given the unusual law that applies. The experience of the attorneys at Fischer | Goldasich, LLC in trying wrongful death cases to verdict and achieving millions of dollars in jury verdicts in such cases gives them the insight and knowledge to develop a trial strategy that works.
Here, in its entirety, is the Alabama Wrongful Death Statute:
Alabama Code Section § 6-5-410: Wrongful Act, Omission or Negligence Causing Death
(a) A personal representative may commence an action and recover such damages as the jury may assess in a court of competent jurisdiction within the State of Alabama, and not elsewhere, for the wrongful act, omission, or negligence of any person, persons, or corporation, his or their servants or agents, whereby the death of his testator or intestate was caused, provided the testator or intestate could have commenced an action for such wrongful act, omission, or negligence if it had not caused death.
(b) Such action shall not abate by the death of the defendant, but may be revived against his personal representative and may be maintained though there has not been prosecution, conviction or acquittal of the defendant for the wrongful act, omission, or negligence.
(c) The damages recovered are not subject to the payment of the debts or liabilities of the testator or intestate, but must be distributed according to the statute of distributions.
(d) Such action must be commenced within two years from and after the death of the testator or intestate.
Here, in its entirety, is the jury charge delivered to all Alabama juries in cases of Wrongful Death:
In a suit brought for a wrongful act, omission, or negligence causing death the damages recoverable are punitive and not compensatory. Damages in this type of action are entirely punitive, imposed for the preservation of human life and as a deterrent to others to prevent similar wrongs. The amount of damages should be directly related to the amount of wrongdoing on the part of the defendant(s). In assessing damages you are not to consider the (pecuniary)(monetary) value of the life of the decedent, for damages in this type of action are not recoverable to compensate the family of the deceased from a (pecuniary)(monetary) standpoint on account of (his)(her) death, nor to compensate the plaintiff for any financial or pecuniary loss sustained by (him)(her) or the family of the deceased on account of (his)(her) death.
Your verdict should not be based on sympathy, prejudice, passion or bias, but should be directly related to the culpability of the defendant(s) and necessity of preventing similar wrongs in the future.
James A Johnson PC handles wrongful death cases. For more information and a free consultation, call us at (251) 473-1800 or contact us using the form on this page.