(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 w/i two yrs.
Why is the Alabama Wrongful Death Statute so different? In Alabama, you may not recover compensatory damages in a wrongful death case. You may only recover punitive damages. What does that mean? If a person runs a red light and kills a 43 year old father of 2 who makes $75,000 a year, you cannot ask the jury to award damages for his future lost wages or for his mental anguish before death. In ALL other states, you can ask for these types of compensatory damages.
You may only ask the jury to punish the person who ran the red light, and that is difficult since that can happen to anyone, and the defense will argue that the person has to live with the fact that they caused this death for the rest of their life which is punishment enough. This is what makes these cases so difficult.
Punitive damages are taxable by the IRS in most situations. However, in wrongful death claims in Alabama, they are not taxable, and there is a specific exemption in the Internal Revenue Code for that situation which applies only to Alabama.
When to File Suit?
There is a huge issue with respect to when a lawsuit is filed. If someone is seriously injured in an incident (car wreck, product defect, industrial accident, etc.), but they are in a comma or live a few days, weeks, months, you must file the lawsuit before death in order to recover compensatory damages for the time the person remained alive. Once they pass away, you are limited to punitive damages, and you prefer to have both in your case. So, if death is imminent, get the lawsuit filed and preserve those damages.
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