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State laws are meant to regulate a safe society. At different times in history, different laws are added or subtracted to fit the current requirements for safety. But sometimes the laws that should be have been repealed slip through the cracks. Alabama has yet to revoke some very strange, funny and outright dumb laws.

These laws are strangely specific:

  • Dominoes must be played on Sundays.
  • It is illegal to sell peanuts in Lee County after sundown on Wednesday.

These laws were created to regulate amusement:

  • It’s illegal to wear a fake mustache in church because it could cause laughter.
  • In Mobile, it’s illegal to spray silly string.
  • It’s illegal to wear a mask in public.
  • It’s illegal to put ice cream in your back pocket.

These laws were meant to keep civilians safe…?

  • In Mobile, it’s illegal to spit orange peels onto the sidewalk.
  • Putting salt on a railroad track can be punishable by death.
  • It is illegal for a driver to be blindfolded while operating a vehicle.
  • It’s legal to drive down a one-way street the wrong way as long as you have a lantern attached to your vehicle.
  • Boogers must be flicked into the wind.
  • Bear wrestling matches are prohibited.

While these crazy laws are silly and probably rarely enforced, there are some Alabama personal injury laws that you should definitely be aware of.

Guest Passenger Statute

Alabama is the only state with a statute that prohibits an action for injury or death by any guest passenger against an owner or driver of a vehicle, unless the owner or driver is guilty of “willful or wanton misconduct.”

Willful or wanton misconduct is determined by the specific facts and circumstances of each case but can include things such as speeding, fatigue and/or intoxication

The rationale behind Alabama’s guest passenger statute is purportedly to prevent collusive and fraudulent lawsuits by the passenger and driver and to encourage hospitality among drivers by protecting them from ungrateful passengers.  In reality, the true beneficiary of the guest passenger statute is not the careless driver but the driver’s automobile insurer.

Survival Statute

Alabama is the only state in which an injury claim does not survive the death of the victim.  If the victim filed a lawsuit against the wrongdoer before dying, the claim survives; otherwise, the claim is lost.  This rule means that there is no compensation for any of the ordinary damages recoverable in an injury action, such as medical bills, lost wages, or pain and suffering for someone who dies before filing a lawsuit.

Wrongful Death Damages

Alabama is the only state that limits damages in wrongful death cases to “punitive damages.”  In other words, jurors must consider only the wrongdoing of the defendant and cannot consider the monetary value of the decedent’s life or the need to compensate the decedent’s family.

In every other state, wrongful death damages compensate the victim’s survivors for their losses, such as lost earning capacity, loss of companionship, and loss of economic and emotional support.

In Alabama, however, those damages are irrelevant, as the amount of damages awarded to the victim’s family is based only on the severity of wrongful conduct by the defendant.

Collateral Source Rule

The “Collateral Source Rule” essentially states that benefits received by the injured victim, such as health insurance, should not lessen the damages otherwise recoverable from the wrongdoer.

In other words, an injured victim should not be punished, and the wrongdoer should not escape liability for negligent behavior simply because the injured victim has contracted to receive health insurance benefits.

In many states, the wrongdoer is not allowed to introduce evidence of “collateral sources”; however, in Alabama, such evidence is admissible and can be used to reduce the award which the injured victim ultimately receives.

Pure Contributory Negligence

“Contributory Negligence” is negligent conduct by the plaintiff/injured party that combines with negligent conduct by the defendant/wrongdoer to produce an injury. 

In Alabama, along with 3 other states and the District of Columbia, if the plaintiff/injured party is determined to be even 1% at fault, the defendant/wrongdoer can use the contributory negligence defense and bar the claim regardless of how egregious the defendant’s conduct may be.

All of these laws carry very serious implications. If you live in Birmingham, or Mobile, you are subject to much stricter personal injury laws than most other states. If you have been injured through no fault of your own, contact an experienced attorney at Morris Bart immediately.

The only way to navigate the complex claims process and these complicated Alabama laws is to hire a personal injury attorney.

January 18, 2015 | Categories: Legal Tips |