As reported by NBC News, and according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, more Americans between the ages of 5 and 34 die from motor vehicle crashes than from any other single cause. This same report ranked the state of Alabama third for the highest number of automobile fatalities among all the states in the U.S., with only Mississippi and Montana ranking higher. In the state of Alabama:
- There are 21.7 auto fatalities per 100,000 residents;
- There is an average of 1,014 auto fatalities per year;
- The high rate of auto injury deaths could be attributable, in part, to the lack of several key safety laws, and
- 85 percent of Alabama commuters travel thirty minutes or more daily.
Further, according to the 2012 Alabama Department of Transportation Crash Facts report:
- There was a 0.49 percent increase in auto crash injuries in the state of Alabama from 2011 to 2012;
- In 2012, there were 870 people killed in 813 fatal car crashes;
- An automobile (including motorcycle, truck, pedestrian and bicycle) crash is reported in the state of Alabama every 246 seconds;
- Among the fatal automobile crashes in the state of Alabama, 59 percent of those who died were not wearing a seat belt;
- Most Alabama fatalities occurred in rural areas, although most automobile crashes (overall) occurred in urban areas;
- Nine percent of those killed in an Alabama automobile accident were under the age of 19, while 24 percent were under the age of 25;
- Bicyclists accounted for nine of the annual fatalities, and
- Typical drivers in Alabama have a greater than one in three chance of being involved in an automobile crash resulting in injury or death during their lifetime.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death
While not every automobile accident with a fatality is a wrongful death, when the underlying accident responsible for the death was the result of negligence or reckless behavior, then a wrongful death lawsuit may be appropriate. Other common causes of wrongful deaths include medical malpractice, falls, workplace accidents, industrial accidents, drownings, boating accidents, train accidents, asbestos exposure and deaths due to manufacturing defects.
What is a Wrongful Death in the State of Alabama?
The state of Alabama defines a wrongful death as one that is caused by a “wrongful act, omission or negligence of another.” Bringing a wrongful death claim in the state of Alabama is akin to a personal injury claim in which the injured person is no longer able to seek compensation from the negligence party, therefore the estate of the deceased will seek compensation on their behalf.
Personal Representatives of the Estate of the Deceased May File for Wrongful Death
While many other states allow family members of the deceased to file a wrongful death claim, Alabama limits the ability to file a wrongful death claim to the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate. The state of Alabama also handles damages differently than many other states. Most states in the United States allow for compensatory damages in a wrongful death lawsuit, however the state of Alabama handles wrongful deaths differently.
Compensatory damages typically cover medical expenses, funeral costs, and any other losses which result from the death. Under Alabama law, however, no compensatory damages, only punitive damages may be awarded. This means that while other state laws are more focused on the deceased person’s life and the damages relating to the loss of life, Alabama laws related to wrongful death focus solely on the wrongdoing of the defendant.
Proving a Wrongful Death Claim
When another’s reckless or deliberate behavior results in the death of another, negligence has occurred and a wrongful death claim may be appropriate. Negligence refers to the manner in which a reasonable person would have acted under the same circumstances. As an example, if a person dies on the operating table because the anesthesiologist administers too much anesthesia, then the question becomes whether a properly trained anesthesiologist, under the exact same circumstances, would have acted differently.
When a person is killed in an automobile accident, the question is whether the other driver acted negligently or recklessly—i.e. whether that person acted in the same manner another reasonable driver would have done under the same circumstances. There is a duty of care owed, and when this duty of care is breached, and those actions result in the death of another, negligence has occurred. An experienced Huntsville wrongful death attorney will carefully assess the circumstances of the wrongful death of your loved one to determine whether there was negligence and whether that negligence was responsible for the death.
Alabama Statute of Limitations and How an Alabama Wrongful Death Attorney Can Help
It is important that a wrongful death lawsuit be filed within two years of the time of the death, or the case could be forever barred. Because wrongful death cases can be complex, having an experienced attorney from Martinson & Beason by your side can ensure the case is handled properly, within the time limits allowed under Alabama law. A Martinson & Beason attorney can answer questions regarding the wrongful death of your loved one, and explain the process for the personal representative to file an Alabama wrongful death case. With a history of excellence and many satisfied clients to our credit, Martinson & Beason can help you during this difficult time. Don’t wait—call Martinson & Beason today for a comprehensive evaluation of your Alabama wrongful death case.