In Alabama, nursing home wrongful death cases can be exceedingly complex. Alabama’s approach to wrongful death law is dramatically different than that of most other states, and you may struggle to find accurate and practical information about how nursing home wrongful death cases are handled.
Petro Law Firm can help. Below, our experienced legal team explains how nursing home wrongful death claims work under Alabama law — and how you can protect you and your loved ones after the unthinkable happens.
What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Wrongful death occurs when someone’s neglect, abuse, or misconduct causes a person’s death. In Alabama, a wrongful death lawsuit is filed on behalf of your deceased loved one’s estate, not their surviving family members. This means that you’ll need to open an estate with the probate court before you file your wrongful death case. Typically, your nursing home wrongful death lawyer will guide you through the process of opening an estate and naming a personal representative for your deceased loved one.
In a nursing home, wrongful deaths can occur for many reasons:
- Improper medical care or failure to diagnose
- Neglect, abuse, and malnourishment
- Slip and falls
- Bed rail injuries
- Medication errors
- Reluctance to refer a resident to a medical specialist or call in outside professionals
No matter the reason, the unexpected death of a loved one can be traumatic. However, when you suspect that someone’s neglect or misconduct caused your loved one’s passing, you deserve answers. How do you hold the negligent party accountable?
Who Is Responsible for Nursing Home Wrongful Death Cases?
Under a theory of vicarious liability, nursing homes are responsible for their employees’ negligence and misconduct. Sometimes, you may also have claims against other independent organizations, such as a physician, hospital, or medical group, if they also failed to meet the appropriate standard of care in your loved one’s case. Because every nursing home wrongful death case is different, it’s best to consult with an experienced Birmingham AL injury lawyer who can help you develop a strategy tailored to your circumstances.
How Much Are Nursing Home Wrongful Death Cases Worth?
Alabama has a unique approach to wrongful death damages. In most states, surviving family members can demand a variety of compensatory damages, including compensation for their loved one’s medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. This is not the case in Alabama.
Alabama’s lawmakers do not believe that a person’s value is based on their income, medical bills, and other financial indicators. For this reason, you cannot demand compensatory damages in an Alabama wrongful death case.
Instead, the estate of the victim can only recover punitive damages. Unlike compensatory damages, which try to make you financially and emotionally whole, punitive damages aim to punish the nursing home and other wrongdoers. In other words, rather than calculating your loved one’s medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, or loss of consortium damages, your attorney will focus on the severity of the nursing home’s misconduct and how badly it violated its duties to protect and care for your loved one.
As you may guess, calculating punitive damages is an art. For this reason, you should always consult with an experienced Birmingham AL nursing home wrongful death lawyer before accepting a nursing home’s settlement offer. Without skilled representation, you may underestimate the value of your loved one’s claim.
How Are Wrongful Death Settlements and Awards Distributed in Alabama?
Another unique element of Alabama wrongful death law is how wrongful death settlements and awards are distributed. In most states, the lawyers will follow the victim’s estate plan or will. However, in Alabama, wrongful death claims are distributed according to the state’s intestacy rules. These laws normally apply to individuals who do not have a valid will or estate plan at the time of their death. However, in nursing home wrongful death cases, the Alabama intestacy rules apply regardless of whether the victim had a valid will or not.
If the victim left a surviving spouse or children, the proceeds of their wrongful death claim will typically go to these individuals. However, if the victim left a long-term partner or had a complex family situation, you should consult with a nursing home wrongful death lawyer before filing a lawsuit. A lawyer can help you understand who would financially benefit from a successfully litigated claim.
What Should I Do If I Think I Have a Wrongful Death Claim Against a Nursing Home?
To prove nursing home wrongful death cases, we can perform a detailed investigation, reviewing medical records, consulting with experts, speaking to witnesses, and examining physical evidence such as surveillance videos, pictures, and nursing home equipment like bed rails. This information is vital in wrongful death claims, since you’ll need to show that the nursing home’s conduct led to your loved one’s untimely death.
While this analysis is typically too complex for a grieving family to perform, you can help speed up the process. For example, you can:
- Take pictures that you think may help us (and a jury) understand your loved one’s death
- Compile lists of eyewitnesses and caregivers
- Collect any letters, emails, or messages that the nursing home sent you or other family members about your loved one’s time at the nursing home
- Take detailed notes about the circumstances before and after your loved one’s passing
However, the most important thing you can do is contact a lawyer quickly. Over time, evidence may disappear or be destroyed as part of routine records purges. Alabama also sets strict filing deadlines in wrongful death cases. If you wait too long, you may miss out on valuable compensation.
We Help Families With Nursing Home Wrongful Death Cases
To request a free, no-risk case evaluation, contact Petro Law Firm today. Our team has represented Alabama negligence victims for decades and can help you understand your legal options.