Person Dies in a Wreck. Can Hated Relatives Collect?

Apr 2, 2021 | Allen A. Ritchie

Allen's Answers


In Alabama, money received from a lawsuit after a person is killed does not go through the will. Instead, it goes in a state-established order as if the injured person died without a will. So, people expressly eliminated from the will could collect.

That is only one of the odd things about this type of case.

In Alabama, it is called a “wrongful death,” and it is a very tricky part of state law.

First, the only type of money awarded is for “punitive damages,” which means punishing the wrongdoer and deterring others from doing similar bad things. It may surprise you, but there is no money awarded for pain and suffering, medical bills, or even funeral expenses.

Second, only a personal representative (what we once called an executor) can file a lawsuit. The choice of this person could become difficult. If the deceased did not name one in his or her will, the court must appoint someone. Though the judge will listen to family recommendations, I have seen significant fighting between relatives who cannot agree on who should be administering the estate.

And third, you have a time limit for a lawsuit to be filed. In our state, it is generally 2 years from the time of the accident. However, if you are suing a city or county, it can be as little as 6 months.

Wrongful death cases in Alabama are considered some of the most difficult in the nation. But as I often say, you can and should speak to a lawyer for free and find out your options.

If you suffer a personal injury like an auto accident or slip and fall, you can talk to us at the Law Firm of Eiland and Ritchie for free. We want to help you get back on your feet. We are mostly working remotely but are always available.

Also, join us on NBC 15 LawCall here in Mobile every Sunday night at 10:30, right after the news. We will take your calls live. We are experimenting with new ways to do the show and still follow the CDC guidelines. You might want to see what we have come up with.

Allen Ritchie

Alabama Personal Injury Lawyer