In Alabama, a lawsuit based on a wrongful death is brought by the personal representative of the deceased for the benefit of the deceased’s relatives (called the beneficiaries). The beneficiaries may be the parents of a deceased child, the surviving spouse, or the children of the deceased.
Alabama’s statute allowing for this type of lawsuit does not provide for compensatory damages, but only punitive damages. As a matter of fact, Alabama is the only state of the United States that takes this approach to wrongful death.
In those states awarding them, compensatory damages are designed to take care of the beneficiaries—to, in essence, replace the support the deceased provided for his or her relatives. These are typically based on the age and income (or potential income) of the deceased. Another way of expressing this concept is that the compensatory damages are the value of the life taken or the measurement of the beneficiary’s loss.
In contrast, Alabama’s wrongful-death statute is strictly punitive in nature, designed to protect human life by preventing homicides (whether deliberate or accidental), to stimulate diligence in behavior so that people are not killed by negligent operation of equipment or other devices, and to punish people who deliberately or carelessly kill others. For this reason, the personal representative of the deceased in wrongful-death cases may recover such monetary compensation as the jury may assess.
The Lanier Ford attorneys who practice in this area defend such suits with their peculiar requirements for pleadings, their unique defenses, and their demand for outstanding trial advocacy. In addition to trying such cases, our attorneys negotiate and structure settlements. Finally, our attorneys represent clients in alternative dispute resolution if evaluation and analysis indicate mediation or arbitration will result in a more favorable outcome for the client.