Determining who gets the money in a wrongful death settlement depends on the survivors a deceased person left behind. Wrongful death settlements in Mobile, AL are distributed in accordance with the state’s intestate succession laws. These laws are in place to help determine how property is distributed when someone doesn’t have a will and dies. They are also used to determine who gets money in a wrongful death case, whether or not the person left a will.
The state defines wrongful death as a death that is caused by negligence, omission, or a wrongful act. Wrongful death occurs when someone dies as a result of the legal fault of another entity or person.
How the Money Is Distributed
There are many ways the money can be distributed in a wrongful death settlement. If the deceased was married but didn’t have parents or children then the surviving spouse gets the entire award. If he or she had children but was not married then the children get the whole award. If the deceased had surviving parents but no children and was married, some of the money gets left to the spouse and then the rest gets left to the parents. In the case where the deceased was not married, the parents get everything. If the deceased didn’t have parents, children, or a spouse then any surviving siblings get the money. Things can be a little more complicated if the deceased is currently married but has children from a different marriage. If the deceased was married with children, either from the marriage or outside the marriage, some of the money will go to the spouse and then the children get the rest. How much the spouse will get will depend on whether there are children from in or out of that current marriage. If the children are from that marriage then it’s the first $50,000 that goes to the spouse. If the children are from outside the marriage then the balance is split 50/50.
If the deceased doesn’t have any close relatives listed above then the award goes to the closest family members. This can be grandchildren, cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents, nephews, or nieces. Who ends up getting the money in wrongful death suits in Alabama can be complicated and depends on many different factors.
How Does a Wrongful Death Settlement Work?
Unlike a typical personal injury case, a wrongful death case can’t be filed by the person injured since the deceased isn’t able to seek compensation. Someone else needs to file the lawsuit. In Alabama, a wrongful death settlement can only be filed by a personal representative of the deceased person’s estate. A family member is not able to bring a lawsuit unless they are the personal representative. A personal representative won’t receive any part of the settlement unless they are listed as one of the relatives that could inherit some money under intestate succession.
How damages are awarded in the state is different from other states. In many other states, the damages are meant to compensate survivors for the financial and emotional losses they have suffered because of the loved one’s death. However, in Alabama, the legal system doesn’t award damages to compensate the survivors. Instead, the system awards punitive damages in wrongful death settlements. These punitive damages are meant to punish the at-fault entity or person whose actions caused the death. The reasoning behind this is that awarding punitive damages will likely deter the at-fault party or other potential parties from taking negligent or careless actions in the future.
How Are the Lawsuits Paid Out?
Money from the lawsuit is paid directly to the family members in accordance with the laws. Money that is won in a lawsuit doesn’t go to an estate. Creditors are not able to take the money to pay any debts that the deceased had. Wrongful death lawsuits are not taxed by the federal or state government. The payment comes after a negotiated settlement with the insurance company. If the case goes to trial and the trial is successful then payment comes after the trial.
How Long Do Wrongful Death Cases Take and How Much Are They Worth?
There is no easy way to answer how much these cases are worth or how long they take. A lawyer will try to get the best possible settlement with the insurance company. If the case ends up going to trial then the court considers the actions of the at-fault party. How long the case may take depends on the individual case and the willingness to negotiate or settle. If a fair settlement is reached then the case may only take a few months. If a settlement can’t be reached and the case goes to a trial then it can take more than a year for the case to finish. It’s helpful to consult with a lawyer with wrongful death claims experience who can look at the specifics of the case and whether or not it may be worth it to pursue and how long it could take.
There is a time limit for the family to file a wrongful death claim in Alabama. This time period is two years after the deceased has passed. Personal representatives need to keep this time limit in mind if they are considering a wrongful death case. There may be some rare exceptions to the timeframe, but an attorney can advise you if you are getting close to the deadline. If the claim is going against a county or city then you may have even less than two years to file.