Each state in the U.S.A. has the right to craft its own laws in a way that serves its residents. However, some states have laws on the books that might not serve everyone – and in Alabama, a few of them are in the area of personal injury law. If you’ve been injured in Alabama, we suggest that you learn about these laws – and sooner rather than later!
Ouch! 5 Alabama Injury Laws that Could be a Pain for Victims
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1. 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 who injures his or her guest passengers, but the driver’s automobile insurer.
2. SURVIVAL STATUTE
Imagine if a family member were injured in an accident through no fault of his own, and he dies before he is able to file suit against the person who injured him. 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 for a victim’s survivors 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.
3. 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.
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4. 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.
5. 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 three 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.
MORRIS BART ALABAMA ATTORNEYS CAN HELP
These laws carry serious implications for victims of accidents and could reduce the amount of a victim’s compensation relative to the amount that might be awarded in other states. However, the skilled lawyers at our Morris Bart, LLC, offices in Birmingham, Huntsville, Montgomery, and Mobile will know how to help you get the most out of your situation. If you have been injured in Alabama through no fault of your own, call an experienced Morris Bart personal injury attorney today at 1-800-537-8185.