If you’ve been hurt in a car accident in Birmingham, AL, you are likely navigating an unfamiliar path trying to get your life back on track. Unfortunately, rather than focusing on healing from your injuries, you find yourself in the middle of a whirlwind filled with insurance claims, doctor bills, and the legal system.
Making matters more confusing, every U.S. state has unique laws relating to car accidents, so a lot of what you find online doesn’t apply to your situation. Morris Bart & Associates, LLC, explains the Alabama laws that you’ll need to know after being injured in an automobile accident.
Alabama Follows a “Fault” System
Under Alabama’s fault or “tort” system of law, the person responsible for an accident (or their insurance company) must compensate the injured parties for their losses. This is opposed to the “no-fault” system followed by some other states, which limits litigation after an accident.
Thanks to Alabama’s fault system, you have three options after sustaining injury or damage in a Birmingham car accident:
- Submit a claim with your insurance carrier for losses that are covered by your policy.
- File a third-party claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
- File a civil lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
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Statute of Limitations Sets a Filing Timeline in Birmingham
Birmingham law contains a statute of limitations in Alabama, or a limit on how much time can pass after your car accident before you file your lawsuit. This deadline will vary based on the type of damages incurred.
- Personal injury: As with most personal injury cases, the statute of limitations to seek compensation for physical injuries after car accidents in Alabama is two years. This means you have two years from the date of your accident to file a lawsuit in the state’s civil courts.
- Wrongful death: If a family member was killed in a car accident due to someone else’s negligence, you could file a wrongful death lawsuit within two years.
- Property damage: Alabama Code Section 6-2-34 gives you up to six years to file your lawsuit if you only petition for damages to your vehicle or other property.
It is critical to the success of your case that you meet these legal deadlines, so it may be wise to hire an attorney to keep your lawsuit on schedule. The judge will dismiss your lawsuit if it is filed too late, and then you will not have any way to seek compensation through the courts.
Negligence Laws Block Compensation for Liable Parties
Alabama is one of the few states to follow the rule of contributory negligence. Under this rule, the judge or jury in a civil lawsuit will assign a percentage of liability to each party involved in your accident. Therefore, you will not be awarded any compensation if you are even one percent to blame.
Contributory negligence also influences how much you can recover directly from car insurance companies. Insurance adjusters will often make decisions based on what they think would happen at court, so they’ll be less likely to negotiate a fair settlement if they believe you are partly to blame.
Although Alabama’s contributory negligence rule for car accidents skews the legal system against the plaintiffs, you should not automatically give up on the possibility of compensation. Instead, talk to one of our Birmingham attorneys to discuss the specifics of your case and explore your options.
Automobile Guest Statute Sets a Higher Liability Threshold
Alabama’s automobile guest statute applies if you were injured as a non-paying passenger in someone else’s vehicle. It limits your ability to recover damages from the driver in this situation by setting a higher standard of liability.
In most states, an injured passenger can receive compensation from a driver that exhibits ordinary negligence. This is defined as neglecting to act with a normal person’s care under similar circumstances.
Under Alabama Code § 32-1-2, however, a driver can only be held liable for their passenger’s injuries if they acted with gross negligence. This requires evidence that a driver was behaving in a way that displayed willful and extreme disregard for the safety of others.
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Limits on Your Recoverable Damages in Birmingham
Current Birmingham, AL, law does not place a generic limit on how much compensation a civil court can award to an injured party. However, there are a few particular circumstances when a cap may apply in your case.
- Municipal liability cap: If your injuries were caused by a collision with an on-duty public employee like a police officer, you could only recover up to $100,000.
- Small business liability cap: Your lawsuit may be against a small business whose employee caused your car accident. In these cases, the law limits your compensation to 10% of the company’s net worth or $50,000, whichever is greater.
- Punitive damages cap: A judge may exact punishment against a driver that shows extreme malice by ordering compensation that is greater than your expenses. However, these damages are limited to three times your actual economic losses or $1.5 million, whichever is greater.
Medical Reimbursement Evidence Statute
In some cases, your injury-related medical bills may have been or will be paid by another source. Under Alabama Code § 12-21-45, the defendant in your lawsuit can submit evidence to the court that you received third-party reimbursement, which could weaken your case.
However, this law also allows you to provide a rebuttal along with supporting documentation. You can supply evidence that, for example, you are obligated to repay these funds or have expenses related to your reimbursement.
Get Help Navigating the Complex Court System in Birmingham
Car accident laws in Birmingham are complicated and often difficult for the average person to understand. If you were injured due to another driver’s negligence, let the legal team at Morris Bart & Associates, LLC, walk you through the entire process and secure fair compensation.
You don’t pay us a dime unless we win your case, so there is no risk to you. Contact us today to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.
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