Understanding the Stages of an Eminent Domain Case in Alabama
Many Alabama property owners find themselves involved in an eminent domain case, so it’s important to understand what this means and what your rights and legal options are during this process. The term “eminent domain” refers to the government’s inherent power to take private property and convert it to public use. In exchange for the property, the government is obligated to pay the owner “just compensation.” Unfortunately, the initial offer is usually low, and property owners may not realize that they can demand—and receive— more money for their property. Sometimes, just compensation can be achieved quickly and efficiently, while other situations may require a court proceeding. Let’s take a look at the various steps involved in an eminent domain case in Alabama.
Step #1: Announcement and Notification of Intended Project
First, the local, state, or federal government will make a public announcement regarding the proposed project. If this project necessitates the taking of your private property, you’ll receive a condemnation letter offering to purchase your property in exchange for a stated price. Usually, this offer will be low, because it was not calculated with the methodology required by condemnation law. As soon as you receive such a letter, it’s a good idea to contact an attorney experienced in condemnation cases to discuss your options and rights.
Step #2: Negotiations
While many property owners think they have no alternative but to accept the offer, all property owners have the right and ability to achieve a better outcome. Your attorney can help you locate an expert appraiser who can conduct a thorough review of your property and incorporate important factors, such as the “highest and best use” of your property and any devaluation to your remaining property once the project is completed. You can use this evaluation to demand and receive a more just amount of compensation. The government does not want to take the case to trial, and they may be motivated to accept your counteroffer so that they can proceed with their project. Having your attorney hire an experienced appraiser gives you what you need to negotiate for more money.
Step #3: Taking it to Court
If a negotiated resolution cannot be reached, the government can file a petition or complaint to initiate a condemnation proceeding in the probate court. Condemnation refers to the legal process the government must use to take an owner’s land. Once filed, the landowner and their attorney may file an answer, and the court procedures begin. Either party may appeal the probate court award to circuit court where a jury will decide the amount of just compensation. In many condemnation cases, the jury sides with the property owner.
For more information about the condemnation process in the northern Alabama area, contact Sewell Sewell Beard LLC today at (205) 544-2350 to speak to a knowledgeable and trusted condemnation attorney.
No representation is made that the quality of legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers.