Let's say that you're driving in heavy traffic on I-65 after work. It's pretty much stop-and-go traffic, and you can't wait to get home and relax. Then, suddenly, bam! The car behind you rear-ends your vehicle. It doesn't seem like a major accident, but the other driver is blaming you. What do you do now? What rights do you have to recover damages? Read on to learn about the Alabama car accident settlement process and timeline.
Do I Need to Report a Car Accident in Alabama?
Yes, in some cases. You must report to the Alabama Department of Public Safety ("DPS") within 30 days of an accident, if:
- the accident caused injury or death, and/or
- the accident resulted in damage to property exceeding $250.
Alabama Car Insurance Laws
Like many other states, Alabama is an "at-fault" (also known as tort system) state when it comes to car accidents and insurance coverage. The person who is at fault is liable for all losses and damages. Alabama requires every driver to purchase a liability insurance policy, which does not cover your personal injuries or damages to your car. However, drivers can purchase additional insurance coverage for more protection.
Alabama requires drivers to purchase a policy that meets the following minimum coverage:
- $25,000 for death or bodily injury to one person
- $50,000 for death or bodily injury to two or persons
- $25,000 for damage or destruction of property
If you don't meet this minimum requirement, you can get your license suspended and face fines up to $1,000.
How Do Car Accident Settlements Work in Alabama?
First of all, you should call the police or 911 immediately after the accident, even if you think the accident is minor. Then, exchange information with the other driver and make notes on traffic and weather conditions. Never apologize or make statements regarding who is to blame for the accident. To recover damages from an accident caused by another driver, you have the following options: (1) file a claim under your own insurance policy, (2) file a claim with the other driver's insurance company, or (3) file a lawsuit.
If you file a claim with an insurance company, adjusters will evaluate damages and offer you a settlement. Keep in mind that you aren't obligated to accept any initial offers. Settlement negotiations can be tricky if you don't know how much your car accident claim is worth. Check out FindLaw's list of do's and don'ts when you speak to insurance adjusters.
What Is the Average Car Accident Settlement in Alabama?
Most car accident cases are settled through insurance companies or during mediation in a civil lawsuit. In Alabama, you can recover both economic and noneconomic damages, which include lost wages, pain and suffering, and medical expenses.
Unlike the majority of states, Alabama applies the contributory negligence standard when fault is shared among the parties. Under this standard, you won't be able to recover any money damages if you contributed to the accident. For example, if you forgot to use your blinker when you were changing lanes, you could be found partially at fault, which means you can't get recover any damages.
How Long to I have to File a Car Accident Lawsuit in Alabama?
In Alabama, you have two years from the day of the accident to make a claim for personal injury and property damage. After that two-year period, the courts will most likely deny your case, which takes away your right to recover damages.
Need Help with the Alabama Car Accident Settlement Process? Speak to a Lawyer
Because Alabama imposes strict deadlines and the contributory negligence standard, it's important to ensure that you are not barred from bringing a lawsuit against another driver who was at fault. While making a car accident claim may be simple, things can get complicated very quickly if you were seriously injured or the other driver is blaming you for the accident. Before agreeing to a settlement, contact an experienced car accident attorney in Alabama to ensure your interests are being represented.