Can I Sue for Wrongful Death?

The family of former hockey enforcer Derek Boogaard has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the NHL. Boogaard died in May 2011 from an accidental painkiller overdose, drugs the family says the NHL heedlessly supplied him with. Boogaard was drafted to provide NHL fans with entertainment through his fighting skills, which took its toll and caused him to need regular painkillers. It is alleged that the NHL negligently allowed him to get addicted and failed to take care of him when he became an addict.

When can I sue for wrongful death?

Under the Code of Alabama, (Section 6-5-410) you can bring a lawsuit for wrongful death as a personal representative of the deceased against a person or corporation, for an act, failure to act or negligence which caused the death. You must commence the lawsuit within two years of the date of death.

How are damages distributed?

Wrongful death is a civil remedy, so if your lawsuit is successful a jury awards damages. The damages are distributed to heirs in accordance with the Alabama Statute of Distributions. This provides rules for how assets should be distributed if a person dies without a will, but also applies to damages from a wrongful death lawsuit even if the deceased had a will. The order for distribution depends on the surviving family members:

  • A surviving spouse has first priority on the distribution of damages and receives at least half of the damages in all cases, up to a maximum of all damages if there are no surviving children or parents.
  • Surviving children that are also children of a surviving spouse receive equal shares of the remaining damages after the spouse has received the first $50,000 and half of the remainder of the damages.
  • If there is no surviving spouse, surviving children share the damages equally.
  • In the absence of a surviving spouse or children, the damages award is shared by surviving parents.

If you have lost a loved one and think it may have been caused by negligence, arrange a consultation with a compassionate Montgomery wrongful death attorney.