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It’s Time To Address Alabama’s Survival Statute

Blackwell Law Firm: Helping Alabama FamiliesWhat is Alabama’s Survival Statute? Ask yourself, what potential claims survive death and can be filed by an Estate? In our office, we specialize in Alabama personal injury claims. If an injury victim dies BEFORE he can file a personal injury case, will his Estate or heirs be able to file the claim? Alabama’s Survival Statute sets those rules. And, UN-filed personal injury claims do not survive the death of the victim in Alabama.

This can be a big deal. A really big deal. Here is an example — Your neighbor suffers devastating injuries when struck head-on by an intoxicated driver. He is rushed to the hospital. He spends months receiving costly, specialized medical care. His bills grow and grow. Because he cannot return promptly to work, he loses his job. His damages are huge. He is not the only one suffering. His family suffers as well. If your neighbor files a personal injury case, he can try to recover all his damages and losses. What if your neighbor dies? If he filed his case, then his Estate can continue to pursue the claims. What if your neighbor dies before he could file his case? Then, his UN-filed personal injury claim dies with him. His Estate cannot file a personal injury lawsuit. His Estate will face huge claims by the medical providers with no ability to recover money to pay those claims. Is this scenario fair? Is it fair that an Estate can maintain a personal injury claim in one scenario but not the other? Certainly not.

Wait. Doesn’t Alabama allow wrongful death claims? Yes. If the personal injury victim dies FROM his injuries, then his heirs can pursue a wrongful death claim. Yet, this scenario remains unfair for two reasons. First, this provides NO help for the Estate where the personal injury victim died of an unrelated cause. No wrongful death cases exists if the death is unrelated to the injuries. Second, under unique Alabama law, you cannot recover compensatory damages in a wrongful death claim. In Alabama, only punitive damages are recoverable in wrongful death claims. So, the Estate is still left unable to recover for huge medical expenses, lost wages and other specific injury-related costs.

The unique aspect of Alabama law that prohibits an Estate from filing a personal injury claim can lead to devastating consequences for a family. A significant injury could consume all the victim’s assets leaving nothing for his or her family. This is not the only negative consequence. Consider scenarios where a family depended upon the injured person for income and support. No personal injury claim means no chance to recover wages or income lost due to the injury.

The injustice created by Alabama’s Survival Statute could easily be fixed by the Alabama Legislature. The Legislature should enact reform that treats all injury victims fairly and preserves the rights of Estates to hold wrongdoers accountable in all scenarios.

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At the Blackwell Law Firm, we specialize in personal injury claims. We represent individuals and families in claims involving injuries from car accidents, workplace incidents and defective products. From our office in Huntsville, we help clients across Alabama.