Understanding Personal Injury Claims in Alabama
Sept. 29, 2022
A car accident is reported in Alabama an average of under four minutes all day, every day. That’s an average of roughly 360 crashes per day exceeding 130,000 per year. If you have been one of the unfortunate people injured in one, you may be wondering how personal injury claims work, whether you have one to pursue and whether you should.
At Kies Law LLC, we understand. As former defenders of insurance companies, we hoped injury victims would not file claims and if they did, we worked hard to deny or reduce their value to pay as little as possible. Kies Law LLC was founded to help those victims rather than work against them. We do that by providing legal information, guidance, and representation, beginning with those who don’t know how the process works.
If that describes you, and you live, work, or were injured in Birmingham, Bessemer, Hoover, Montgomery, or Tuscaloosa, we are here to help you understand the personal injury claims process in Alabama.
Who Can Be At Fault to File a Personal Injury Claim in Alabama?
Alabama is what is known as a “fault state.” In the case of auto accidents, that means the party whose negligence caused the accident is financially accountable to victims.
Proving negligence requires evidence related to four key points:
The person owed you a duty of care;
The person violated that duty of care;
Your injuries were caused by that person’s violation of their duty; and,
You sustained economic and noneconomic damages as a result.
In many auto accidents, a party’s negligence is clear, so Alabama’s status as a fault state is a good thing. However, keep in mind the state’s adherence to the contributory comparative negligence principle. Under this principle, if there is proof that you were even 1% at fault by your own negligence, you forfeit the right to recover a dime in damages.
Alabama’s contributory comparative negligence rule means you need to have legal representation in your bodily injury claim by a personal injury attorney who knows how insurance companies work to place even the smallest amount of blame on you.
What Is the First Step in Filing a Personal Injury Claim?
The first step you need to take is to make sure the accident is reported to law enforcement. The best idea is to report it immediately. However, Alabama law requires that if the accident involves a death, injury, or property damage in excess of $500 caused by an uninsured motorist, it must be reported within 30 days of the incident. Moreover, if the accident occurs in the Birmingham city limits, municipal code requires immediate reporting of any incident involving death, injury, or a mere $25 in property damage.
The fact is that if you are injured in an accident, you will need a crash report, completed by law enforcement, to document your claim. An immediate investigation at the crash scene will help establish fault.
What Are the Next Steps in Filing a Personal Injury Claim?
After reporting the accident and seeking immediate medical care for your injuries, you should:
File a claim with your own auto insurance so a claim number is assigned. You can then access your medical payment benefits if you have that coverage, and your insurance company is on notice should you need to make an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim.
File a claim with the insurance company of the at-fault driver. If you retain a personal injury attorney, your attorney will send a letter of representation and all communication regarding the accident will go through them instead of the insurance company being able to talk to you directly.
If the at-fault driver’s insurance company fails to settle your personal injury claim for a fair amount of compensation, you and your attorney can file a lawsuit against the driver and prepare your case for a judge and jury.
Alabama’s two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims requires settlement of an insurance claim or filing of a lawsuit within two years from the date of the accident.
Whether it is in negotiations with the insurance company or presenting your case in court, you will need to meet the burden of proof of negligence. You will also need to defend yourself against any claims of negligence made against you, and those will be made. Remember, even if the other driver is 99% at fault and you are 1% at fault, you cannot recover any compensation from them or from their liability insurer.
Going to court can be risky and more expensive. In most cases, because of the evidence uncovered during the pre-trial process called “discovery,” a settlement will be reached prior to opening arguments. You should have any personal injury settlement offer extended by the insurance company reviewed by an attorney representing you. The decision to accept or reject any settlement offer is yours and yours alone, but your attorneys will use their experience to advise you regarding all the relevant factors that make an offer reasonable or unreasonable.
Keep in mind that once you accept a settlement offer, that’s it. You cannot ask for more later or sue the at-fault driver for more money.
What Are Damages?
The goal of a settlement or jury award is to be compensated for the damages you suffered as a result of the other person’s negligence. Possible damages include past and future medical expenses and lost income, pain and suffering, disfigurement, mental anguish, and a spouse’s loss of consortium.
Compassionate Legal Counsel
The difference between insurance company attorneys and personal injury attorneys is compassion. The former has none for the victims of negligence. At Kies Law LLC, we are all about compassion for clients like you.
If you have been injured in an accident in Birmingham, Alabama, or in the surrounding areas, we want to help. Call Kies Law LLC to schedule a free case consultation now.