Does Alabama have a unique approach to wrongful death suits?

In our last blog, we discussed the truck accident that left actor Tracy Morgan with a brain injury that is still preventing his return to acting. Indeed, the potential for serious or long-term injuries may be increased when a truck or other large vehicle is involved in a collision, due to the larger force generated by a vehicle weighing up to several tons. Unfortunately, the potential for fatal injuries may also be greater. 

If a tragic truck or motor vehicle accident were to take the life of another Alabama driver, there are several unique aspects to a wrongful death action imposed by state law. The applicable law is Section 6-5-410 of the Code of Alabama, which provides that the deceased's estate may bring a wrongful death suit in a civil court. The wrongful death claim is comparable to a personal injury claim, except for the deceased is no longer capable of seeking compensation from the negligent driver. Rather, the estate of the deceased must bring the filing, seeking punitive damages that, if successful, will be paid through the estate. 

How does a wrongful death lawsuit seeking punitive damages differ from those in other states seeking compensatory damages? In the broadest terms, such a lawsuit will focus on the alleged wrongdoing or conduct of the defendant. If the driver is found liable, the resulting judgment will serve as a punishment, but more importantly , as a deterrent for that kind of conduct. Moreover, although the estate may have brought the action, any payment from a wrongful death action will be made directly to the deceased's heirs, rather than the estate itself

As with a personal injury lawsuit, a wrongful death action must still establish the negligence of the defendant. Our law firm has helped bring a variety of civil negligence actions, and we understand the comprehensive approach needed to hold the negligent party responsible. That approach may include a thorough investigation of the crash scene, interviewing any available witnesses, reviewing any accident reports, consulting with crash experts, and compliance with court procedures for bringing a wrongful death action under Alabama law.

Source: FindLaw, "ALA CODE ยง 6-5410," copyright 2015, Thomson Reuters

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