Due to the unique nature of Alabama’s wrongful death statute,a claim brought under the statute is subject to many unusual procedural traps. This article identifies and discusses some of the unusual nuances of bringing a wrongful death claim in Alabama.
Wrongful death cases are an extremely common cause of action in Alabama courts. This action encompasses a wide variety of legal fields including automobile crashes, defective products liability, 18-wheeler accidents, and any other situations where a party’s wrongful conduct causes another’s death.
Bringing a wrongful death claim presents many “traps” for those unfamiliar with the process. For instance, the exact time frame for bringing an action may depend on the identity of the wrongful party. Alabama’s statute of limitations, the time period to bring a claim, for a wrongful death claim is generally two years from and after the death of an individual. However, like many legal rules, exceptions may apply. For instance, if an Alabama wrongful death action involves a claim against a municipality, the law requires that a notice of claim be filed prior to the filing of the lawsuit. Typically, the time period regarding the filing of the notice of claim depends on the type of municipal entity involved in the case. For actions involving cities, the time period is usually 6 months from the time of the accident. Notice of claims against counties must generally be filed within 1 year from the incident giving rise to the claim.
Other “traps” are present before one even files a claim of notice or lawsuit. Since the wrongful death claim is exclusively reserved for fatal accidents, the suit must be initiated by a personal representative of the decedent’s estate. Thus, an estate must be opened with the appropriate probate court. Probate rules and procedures may present additional traps for newcomers. Thus, hiring a wrongful death attorney can alleviate the stress involved with initiating probate proceedings and pursuing a claim.
Distribution of a wrongful death jury award is also unique to the claim. Unlike other actions, the individual bringing the suit does not collect the award. Instead, the award must pass to the decedent’s heirs at law. Thus, probate proceedings remain in play until a wrongful death claim is resolved.
If you lost a loved one due to another person’s negligence or wantonness, consult an Alabama wrongful death attorney. Lawyers who have experience in this field of litigation can help you avoid legal obstacles to the recovery you deserve.