Alabama wrongful death law is unique and different from other states in the country for one very important reason. While most states allow for compensatory damages in wrongful death cases, the state of Alabama treats these cases from the point of view of the crime committed and not merely in terms of the survivor’s actual expenses and losses.
A victim’s loved ones can not receive compensatory damages to recover funeral, medical or other expenses as would seem logical in the event of the death of a loved one like a parent. Even the lost future income of the victim is ignored by the court.
For example, a man who earns $50,000 per year is killed in an automobile accident by a drunk driver. If the victims working life expectancy was 20 years, one would expect his lost wages to be $1,000,000, and that his heirs would be entitled to that amount. Such might be the case in every state except Alabama. In Alabama, no consideration is given whatsoever to the future earnings capacity lost by the family of the victim of the wrongful death.
Instead, Alabama wrongful death law focuses on the extent of the crime committed by the defendant and a person can sue for punitive damages only. Under the Alabama wrongful death law punitive damages are more designed to punish the defendant and deter similar future negligence than it is to compensate the specific needs of the survivors. The victim of a drunk driver with multiple DUI convictions might receive a much higher punitive damages settlement than would the victim of a driver who simple lost control of his car on a rain-slicked turn.
Because of the complexities in the Alabama wrongful death law, you should hire an attorney who has experience and expertise in this field of law. At Ferguson and Ferguson, we have successfully administered hundreds of wrongful death lawsuits and can get you the highest possible settlement under the current law.