Who has the Right to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Alabama?

The death of a loved one leaves a hole in our lives that often never heals. We want to live fruitful lives and go when we feel our time has come, but we can’t always plan for the dramatic twists and turns of life.

Whether it’s at work, on the roads, or even at a place of business, potentially fatal accidents lurk in some of the most unexpected places. If you’re reading this, it’s likely because you lost a loved one and believe their death was the result of someone else’s actions or malpractice. But, are you eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit?

If the Victim is a Minor Under 19

When a child dies, the child’s parents have the immediate right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. The state grants parents six months to file the lawsuit against the individual(s) or business they believe is responsible.

After this six-month window passes then the “personal representative” of the child’s estate is the only person with a right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This representative is specifically appointed by Alabama courts and is often a parent or guardian.

If the Victim is a Married Adult

In Alabama, spouses are the first assumed personal representatives of a decedent. This means the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit defaults to the spouse unless the court has a specific reason to not do so.

This means anyone who believes wrongful death litigation is necessary will need to appeal to the decedent’s spouse in order to proceed.

If the Victim is an Unmarried Adult

In all circumstances of an adult victim in Alabama, the personal representative of the decedent’s estate, as assigned by the court, assumed the right and responsibility of filing a wrongful death lawsuit. This means an unmarried adult will have an individual assigned unless otherwise indicated in an effective will.

The court generally leans toward next of kin or other family members who maintained a close and legal relationship with the deceased person. If the person had no close family or heirs then the court can assign someone with a legal relationship or close companionship. If no such person exists then a county official may actually serve in the role and would assume the right and responsibility to file for wrongful death litigation.

Who Gets the Resulting Payout?

If an Alabama wrongful death lawsuit is successful then the resulting payout passes to the heirs of the individual. This means the money does not pass through the estate or probate court and is not exposed to creditors.

When an individual dies without heirs, the money would go to any next of kin, parents, or family members.

Attorney John M. Totten, P.C. understands these lawsuits are emotional and often difficult to prove. If you need help understanding who has the right to file or are ready to hire an attorney for your Alabama wrongful death case, contact our offices to receive the power of representation you deserve.


John M. Totten
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