Comedian and actor Jim Carrey recently made headlines not for his latest movie, but because of a wrongful death lawsuit filed against him after his ex-girlfriend committed suicide. The woman’s estranged husband and mother filed a lawsuit against the celebrity claiming Carrey provided her with drugs, even though the actor knew the victim was prone to depression and had attempted suicide in the past. The lawsuit was dismissed this February.
Wrongful death lawsuits can be filed for a variety of reasons. At the heart of all of these is negligence: negligence on behalf of an individual, a company that manufactured a defective product, a business owner who improperly maintained an event venue that made it dangerous to visitors, etc.
When the estate of a victim files a wrongful death lawsuit, they are making a claim against another party that they consider to have caused the death through wrongful conduct. In Alabama, those involved in successful wrongful death claims are entitled to punitive damages, which exceed simple compensation and are awarded as a punishment for the defendant. Wrongful death lawsuits can help to prevent similar negligence from harming others in the future.
Here’s a look at what constitutes a wrongful death claim, what attorneys working on these cases are typically looking for to help their case, and what is needed in order for a plaintiff to be successful in a case like this.
Wrongful death claims constitute legal action brought about when someone dies suddenly due to the wrongful actions, omission or negligence on behalf of another party. Types of wrongful death claims may arise due to incidents such as:
- Drunk driving or reckless driving
- Medical malpractice
- Employer negligence
- Caretaker abuse
- Defective products
- Dangerous premises
Wrongful death laws vary from state to state, but in Alabama, the estate of the person who died and may have been able to file a personal injury lawsuit had they survived is the party that can bring about the wrongful death lawsuit. In the case of the wrongful death of a minor, the parent or legal guardian of the victim may bring forward the lawsuit. The victim must have died in Alabama in order for a wrongful death lawsuit in Alabama to be filed.
Even if a defendant is not facing criminal charges related to the victim’s death, a wrongful death lawsuit may still be brought up in civil court. Unlike some states where a family member may file a wrongful death lawsuit, in Alabama, only the victim’s estate’s personal representative may file. However, any damages that are awarded go directly to the heirs of the victim. This is why designating someone to be in charge of your estate in a will now can help bring justice and provide compensation for your loved ones should you become a victim. Otherwise, the probate court may designate a representative who can bring about a claim.
What Attorneys Need to Succeed
If an estate of someone who has died wants to pursue a wrongful death claim, there is a statute of limitations of two years from the date of death in which the lawsuit must be filed. Getting in touch with an attorney as soon as possible can help increase the likelihood of success should a claim be filed.
To prove a wrongful death lawsuit, the following is typically required in order for a Birmingham wrongful death attorney to take on a case:
- The victim must have died because another party failed to act safely or knowingly hurt the other party
- Negligence, omission or wrongful acts must be able to be proved
Evidence-gathering and witness testimony is essential for a successful wrongful death lawsuit. Depending on the type of death and who may have caused it, bringing in expert witnesses to testify with their expertise may also be required. The more documentation and photo/video evidence the estate bringing forth a wrongful death lawsuit can provide, the more it helps the attorney.
Don’t Wait to Contact a Lawyer
Representing someone who has died can be an emotionally taxing experience, but the pain and suffering of the victim’s family and the potential for the wrongdoer to repeat a dangerous action makes pursuing a potential wrongful death claim quickly so important. Sometimes insurance companies may offer up a settlement, which is much lower than what should be paid regarding the severity of the case. A wrongful death lawyer should give you a free consultation, so they can learn about the details of the case and give a recommendation on next steps.
If you represent the estate of someone who has died suddenly due to the negligence of others, please contact Pittman, Dutton & Hellums for a free consultation on a wrongful death lawsuit, or call or text (205) 322-8880.