Alabama Law: An Accident and Someone Dies

Oct 2, 2020 | Allen A. Ritchie

Allen's Answers


If a loved one dies because of an accident and you survive, you had better call a lawyer. In Alabama, this loss of life is called wrongful death, and the money for surviving spouses and children can be very complicated to collect.

Let me explain. In most other states, you can attempt to collect the money the deceased would have earned (wages), money for your pain and suffering (sleepless nights, worry), money for the services the deceased would have provided (mowing the yard, watching the kids) and more. Not in Alabama.

In our state, wrongful death is punitive only. That means to punish the wrongdoer so that he or she will not do it again.

In fact, an Alabama jury can not even consider the “value” of the life lost.

There is one other major difficulty. Only the personal representative (what we use to call the executor) can file a lawsuit. That is easy to determine if there is a will, but it can be very complicated if a judge must name someone.

Here are some other hurdles for the surviving spouse and children. You only have 2 years to file a lawsuit and the beneficiaries named in the will have no special standing. If money is collected, it is distributed as if the deceased died without a will. Yes, that means some people not named in the will could get part of the money.

Because of all the restrictions, only the most extreme cases of wrongful death in Alabama seem to get to court. So, choose your lawyer wisely. It can be a long fight.

If you suffer a personal injury like an auto accident, slip and fall or wrongful death, you can talk to us at the Law Firm of Eiland and Ritchie for free. We want to help you get back on your feet. We are working remotely mostly but are always available.

Also, join us on NBC 15 LawCall here in Mobile every Sunday night at 10:30 right after the news. We are taking a fall break and will offer 5-minute segments for the rest of the year and a live call-in segment every Monday on NBC 15 at around lunchtime.

Allen Ritchie

Alabama Personal Injury Lawyer