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Huntsville Wrongful Death Lawyers

Losing a family member in an accident is awful. Many emotions are involved – anger, sadness, and usually a sense that justice must be obtained. That’s the purpose of a wrongful death claim.

At Siniard Law, we have recovered tens of millions of dollars for the families of wrongful death victims.  Learn more about our results:

A wrongful death case can arise out of car wrecks, nursing home mistakes, on the job accidents, and any other incident where someone negligently causes a death.

The same principles of law apply as if the individual was simply injured. However, additional principles apply in regards to how damages are calculated and how settlement money is distributed.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

Alabama law is specific about who has the right to bring the claim.

Only the personal representative of the deceased’s estate has standing to file a lawsuit for wrongful death. If the deceased had a will, the deceased will have already chosen the personal representative (also known as an executor or executrix.)

Assuming the deceased never executed a will, then the probate judge for the county where the deceased resided can designate a personal representative.  Priority to be the representative is in this order pursuant to Ala. Code 43-2-42:

  1. Spouse
  2. Next of kin
  3. The largest creditor of the estate
  4. Another individual chosen by the probate judge

There is an exception if the deceased is a child.  If the deceased is a child, then an estate is not necessary. A parent can file the lawsuit directly.

Who Establishes the Estate?

We can assist with the process of establishing an estate.  We can also assist with having the personal representative appointed by the appropriate probate court.

If we believe the case has merit, we can advance all costs associated with this process so that you do not have to pay any upfront fees.

The Money That Can Be Received in a Wrongful Death Case

In Alabama, the only damages that can be collected in a wrongful death case are punitive damages.  Punitive damages are money that is awarded by a judge or jury to punish the wrongdoer.

Thus, a big part of a wrongful death claim is financially punishing the wrongdoer for the death of your loved one. Unfortunately, you cannot seek compensation for loss of enjoyment of life, nor any compensation for pain and suffering.

Who Gets the Settlement Money?

In Alabama, settlements are distributed in accordance with the Rules of Intestacy. These rules are simply default rules that apply when someone dies without a will.

Even if the person who died did have a will, in a wrongful death case, the settlement money will pass to his heirs as if he did not have a will. Here are the Alabama Rules of Intestacy.

How Are Wrongful Death Lawyers Paid?

Our attorneys are only paid if we win the wrongful death case.  We work on a contingency fee, which means we are paid a percentage of the settlement only if we win your case. 

Depending on the facts of your particular case, that contingency fee can be anywhere from 33.3% to 45%.  The factors determining the fee percentage include degree of difficulty of the case and whether the case is settled pre-suit or must be litigated.

Does the Settlement Money Pass Through the Estate?

No.  Settlements after a death do not pass through the estate.  The money is not subject to the deceased’s debts.  The money passes directly to the heirs according to the Rules of Intestacy.

In addition, the settlement money is not taxable pursuant to the IRS Tax Code, Section 104(a)(2).

Nursing Home Death Claims

We have handled numerous death claims related to poor medical care at nursing homes. As a matter of law, the only money we can collect in such cases are for punitive damages. These damages are designed to punish nursing homes for their failures.

Our senior attorney Tommy Siniard has settled more nursing home death cases than any attorney in north Alabama. He is widely known in the legal community to be one of the best nursing home abuse lawyers in Alabama.

We Are Here to Help

If your family member has died due to the negligence of someone else, we are here to help. Reach out for a free case evaluation.