While Alabama uses comparative fault to assign blame following a traffic accident, the state takes a harsh stance when settling injury claims. Alabama is a contributory negligence state, and these rules drastically affect your ability to claim damages. Carrying even the smallest amount of blame during a personal injury claim in Alabama can nullify your claim.
Our lawyers at Morris Bart have considerable experience and expertise handling injury claims in Alabama. We can provide expert legal counsel to ensure that you recover the damages you rightfully deserve. Call us today for a free consultation and explore your legal options.
What Is Negligence?
Negligence is a legal threshold that must be met to hold someone legally responsible for your injuries. Proving negligence is critical when filing a personal injury claim following a car accident.
Seeking compensation following a serious car accident is subject to negligence laws. The negligence laws vary significantly across the country, with most states using different interpretations and factors to determine compensation.
Four Elements of Negligence
For eligibility in a personal injury case, you must prove the four elements of negligence: duty, breach of duty, damage, and causation.
- Duty: The defendant owed you a legal duty of care. For instance, drivers must operate their cars carefully and obey traffic laws.
- Breach: The defendant breached their duty of care. In this case, the driver may have put you and other motorists on the road at risk by texting or driving while intoxicated.
- Damages: The driver’s negligent actions led you to incur economic damage, among other losses. For instance, you may have suffered life-threatening injuries from the crash.
- Causation: You must demonstrate a direct causal link between the defendant’s negligence actions to the losses you suffered. For instance, you must show that your injuries directly resulted from the accident.
In most cases, you’re likely to recover damages from the defendant by proving these four elements. However, some states apply comparative fault rules to personal injury claims. Such laws allow you to recover some damages even if you’re partially responsible for the accident.
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What Is Comparative Fault?
In some auto accidents, it’s easy to determine the at-fault driver; in others, not so much. Comparative fault, also known as comparative negligence, is a legal principle that splits the blame and the damages between drivers when they’re both responsible for the accident.
During a trial, a jury examines your actions during the accident to determine if you’re also to blame. For instance, the jury might rule that your negligent actions contributed to the accident by 25%, while the driver’s actions contributed 75%.
Under the comparative fault rule, the amount of damage you can recover from the other driver reduces by 25%. In this case, if the jury determines that the injuries are worth $100,000, you can only receive $75,000, not the full amount. That’s because comparative fault reduces the amount of recoverable damage by the percentage of fault attributable to your actions. In this case, the law finds that you’re responsible for 25% of the injuries you suffered during the accident.
Comparative Fault Classes
Comparative fault principles fall into three broad classes:
Pure Contributory Negligence
In states that use the pure contributory negligence rule, you may not collect damages if you’re partially to blame for the accident. Currently, only five states in the U.S. enforce this rule: Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia, North Carolina, and Alabama.
Pure Comparative Fault
In states that recognize pure comparative fault, you may collect damages even if you’re 99% at fault during the accident. However, recoverable damage is limited to the driver’s degree of responsibility. For instance, a drunk driver may file an injury claim if they crash into a car with a burned-out taillight.
Almost a third of the states in the country follow this rule that allows at-fault drivers to collect a minimal amount of damages.
Modified Comparative Fault
Some states use two distinct rules under the modified comparative fault rules: the 50% or the 51% bar rule. In states with the 50% rule, you may not collect damages if you’re 50% or more at fault. In a state with a 51% rule, you may not recover damages if you’re 51% at fault during an accident.
Is Comparative Fault Applicable in Alabama?
Unfortunately, Alabama isn’t a comparative fault state. Instead, Alabama is among the five states that follow the contributory negligence rules.
You’re not eligible to recover damages in a contributory negligence state if you’re partially responsible for an accident. You can’t recover any money in Alabama through a lawsuit if you’re even 1% responsible for your injuries.
Combating Contributory Negligence in Alabama
Contributory negligence is a harsh legal principle, and it sets the bar very high during a personal injury settlement case. You could lose out on compensation if the jury assigns you even the smallest amount of blame. However, there are a few exceptions to Alabama’s harsh contributory negligence laws:
- Children under 14 years are excluded because they’re assumed to be incapable of contributory negligence.
- Children under seven years are ruled incapable of being contributorily negligent because of their limited life experience and innocence.
- Mentally challenged or incompetent individuals are ruled incapable of negligence.
Contributory negligence sets a very high bar during personal injury settlement cases. It’s essential that you get a skillful and experienced attorney to mount your defense. Having a seasoned personal injury in your corner increases the chances of a successful outcome.
Get Help with Your Personal Injury Case in Alabama Today
You should not have to go into debt to cover medical bills caused by a negligent driver. At Morris Bart, we’re committed to helping you seek justice and get a fair settlement for your pain and suffering following a personal injury.
With 40 years of experience and 15 locations in four states, we have recovered more than $1billion for our clients. You can count on our legal counsel when filing a personal injury claim in Alabama. Reach out for a free consultation.
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