What you Need to Know About Autopsies and Wrongful Death Claims

Autopsies can provide important evidence for a legal case where the defendant is a wrongful death claim challenges the case of death.

  • Autopsies can Identify Medical Malpractice
    • Many times wrongful death claims involve medical malpractice that may have contributed to a patient’s death, the family of the deceased must show evidence that their loved one died because of professional negligence.
  • Doctors are at Times Reluctant to Suggest an Autopsy
    • If a doctor ever believes that his or her conduct or the conduct of the hospital was to blame for a patients death, the doctor may avoid asking the family if they would like an autopsy. Only the next of kin can approve a post -mortem examination and a negligent doctor may fear that the results will reveal misconduct.  If  you believe you will have a medical malpractice case, you may wish to request that a private pathologist performs the examination.
  • Autopsy results are Valuable to a Wrongful Death Claim
    • In personal Injury cases where a victim dies due to his or her injuries from an accident, the family may file a wrongful death claim. If the victim of  a personal injury  claim lived long enough for the family to file a claim and later passed on, the defendant in the claim may try to blame the death on an existing condition or natural causes, rather than the accident. If a car accident victim lives for several weeks following the accident and later passes away, the autopsy may reveal that in fact the cause of death was related to trauma sustained in the accident, and not a condition acquired afterward.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Alabama

Alabama has laws that govern wrongful death claims brought to civil court within the state.

Alabama law defines a “wrongful death” as one that is caused by the “wrongful act, omission, or negligence” of another. the estate of a deceased person may bring a wrongful death sit against a party that causes such a death in any case in which the deceased person could have brought a personal injury claim, had he or she lived.

Any losses that a negligent party is held liable for must be paid back to the estate.

Is a Wrongful Death Claim a Criminal Charge?

A wrongful death case differs from a criminal case in two ways.

  1. A wrongful death case is a civil claim, which is brought by a private party. a criminal case is filed by the sate against a certain person or entity.
  2. Liability in a civil case is expressed solely in terms of damages, while guilt in a criminal case may be punished by imprisonment or other penalties.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Case?

The state of Alabama limits the ability to file a wrongful death claim to the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate. Only the estate may bring a wrongful death case, and all damages in a wrongful death case in Alabama are paid to the estate.

Damages in an Alabama Wrongful Death Case

Alabama handles Wrongful Death Claims differently than other states. While most other states allow for compensatory damages in wrongful death cases to cover the costs of funeral expenses, medical bills, and other losses resulting from the untimely death, Alabama Wrongful death allows for only punitive damages, meaning Alabama wrongful death law focuses almost completely on the wrongdoing of the defendant.

Alabama’s wrongful death law has two main components: to punish the defendant who is found negligent, and to deter similar negligence by other parties. Any damages awarded in a wrongful death case are paid directly to the heirs of the deceased person.