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Alabama Car Accident Compensation Laws

Whether you're a resident of Alabama or simply passing through, there's a chance that you'll be involved in an auto accident. The state's unique laws and limits on certain types of lawsuits could greatly affect your ability to pay for your injuries or vehicle repairs.

Continue reading to learn more about Alabama car accident compensation laws.

Other Driver Must Be Entirely At Fault

Alabama is a "fault" or "tort system." This means that fault on the part of one of the drivers must be shown before insurance claims will be paid out. Drivers injured in an accident must file claims with the other party's insurance. They must show fault by the other driver in order to recover damages that result from car accidents. The following may be used to demonstrate fault for purposes of collecting damages:

  • Damage to your car
  • Lost wages from time off work due to injuries sustained during or as a result of the accident
  • Medical expenses
  • Compensation for pain and suffering

An unusual twist still present in Alabama law is the rule of pure contributory negligence. Under this legal theory a driver cannot recover if they were at all at fault in the accident, even if the other driver was almost entirely to blame.

Below, you'll find a table laying out important aspects of Alabama's car accident compensation laws:

Statute of Limitations

Two Years. See Alabama Code Title 6. Civil Practice. § 6-2-38

Guest Statute

There is no recovery for guest passengers unless the driver was acting willfully or recklessly in driving the car in an unsafe manner. See Code Title 32. Motor Vehicles and Traffic. § 32-1-2

Pure Contributory Negligence

The driver cannot recover if they were at all at fault. See ARCP Rule 8(c)

Punitive Damages Cap

The cap is set at the larger of three times the value of compensatory damages or $1.5 million. See Alabama Code Title 6. Civil Practice. § 6-11-21

Municipal Liability Cap

The caps are:

  • $300,000 - where two or more parties claim injuries, and
  • $100,000 - for property damage.

See Alabama Code Title 11. Counties and Municipal Corporations. § 11-93-2

Limits on Damages

The strictest limitation on car accident lawsuits is the time limit for filing a case. This is known as the statute of limitations. In Alabama, the limit is two years to file the legal case, which means it's advisable to file an insurance claim as soon as possible. This must be done as soon as possible in case there are delays in handling, processing, or denying the claim.

Other than that, there are only a few limits on damages that apply in special cases. There was, at one point, a limit on damages generally, but that cap was found to be unconstitutional by the Alabama Supreme Court. After that decision, a few narrower caps were left behind.

The first is Alabama's one-of-a-kind "Guest Statute." It prohibits a "guest" (a person riding as a passenger without payment) from bringing a lawsuit against a driver unless the driver was found to have acted willfully or recklessly. This is a higher standard of fault than mere negligence. Willful or reckless conduct could include driving at an extremely unsafe speed or using a smartphone while driving.

There is also a cap on municipal liability in personal injury cases. This means that if a public employee, such as an on-duty police officer, is responsible for your car accident, you can only recover the following:

  • $300,000 - where two or more parties claim injuries, and
  • $100,000 - for property damage.

Finally, punitive damages are limited to three times the actual damages or $1,500,000, whichever is greater. However, getting those damages requires proving "deliberate or conscious malice" conduct beyond mere negligence by clear and convincing evidence. This is a very high standard to meet.

Get Help With Car Accident Compensation From an Alabama Attorney

With a number of traps found in pure contributory negligence, the guest statute, and other assorted claim limits, the advice of a seasoned attorney is often crucial to recovery. If you've been in a car accident and believe you're entitled to more compensation than the insurance company has offered, consider speaking with an Alabama injury law attorney.

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