A wrongful death action is where the death of an individual is caused by the wrongful act, omission, or negligence of another. Ala. Code § 6-5-410. The action is brought by the personal representatives of the decedent’s estate.
Alabama is the only state in the nation where the only recovery allowed for a wrongful death action is punitive damages; no compensatory damages are allowed. The Alabama Civil Jury Instructions explain the intention behind this limitation as being that the purpose of a wrongful death action is to punish the wrongdoer and to deter others from committing the same, not to compensate the survivors for their loses. This means that the amount of recovery will be directly related to how wrongful the conduct was.
The last thing on a family member’s mind after the tragic death of a loved one is bringing a civil action. However, it is vital that you speak with attorney who is experienced in handling this matter as soon as practicable so that the evidence of the wrongdoing may be preserved. The time limitation on bringing a wrongful death action is two (2) years after the death of the decedent.