Frequently Asked Questions About Alabama Car Accident Compensation
Why do I need a lawyer after a car accident?
While there is no law requiring you to retain legal representation, having a lawyer on your side can afford you a whole host of benefits and protections if you have been injured in a collision. It may seem simple on the surface to file a claim for damages after a car accident. In reality, Alabama’s laws are highly complex and can be difficult to navigate for those who are inexperienced.
In a perfect world, after a car accident, your insurance company would pay for all your losses up to the limits of your policy. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Insurance companies are businesses, and, like any other business, their goal is primarily to make money. In practice, this means that it is in an insurance company’s best interests to do everything within its power to try and settle your case as quickly and cheaply as possible. Having an attorney on your side can help ensure that you are treated fairly and receive the full compensation you are owed.
A car accident attorney can bring a wide range of benefits to your case, including:
- Reviewing evidence and identifying all responsible parties
- Explaining your legal options and helping you determine the most appropriate course of action
- Handling all paperwork, communications and negotiations with insurance companies on your behalf
- Assisting in getting you the medical treatment you need
- Taking your case to trial if necessary to secure a favorable result
How do I know if I have a claim?
Whether you have a valid claim is based primarily on a determination of fault and legal liability. Your claim to recover fair compensation for your injuries will hinge on the premise that the negligent or reckless act of another party caused the accident, resulting in damages.
At Montgomery Ponder, we thoroughly investigate and analyze your case, gather evidence and present your claim to establish who was at fault and why as well as value your claim based on the long-term impact on your life. Many auto accident cases are settled out of court through negotiations, but our seasoned trial attorneys can take a case to a jury for a decision if that is what it takes to make it right.
What compensation can I receive?
Through our investigation, which can involve medical and financial experts, we can calculate past, present and future losses from your case. These losses can include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Diminished quality of life
- Diminished earning capacity
What if the other driver doesn’t have insurance?
If you were hit by a driver who doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t have enough coverage to pay for the full cost of your damages, you may be able to recover compensation under your own uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage. While ordinary auto insurance pays other people for accidents you may cause, UM/UIM pays you in the event that you are hit by someone without adequate coverage or if you are the victim of a hit-and-run. Alabama law requires insurance companies to offer this coverage, though individuals have the option of waiving this coverage in writing.
If you do not have UM/UIM coverage, you may be able to sue the at-fault driver directly, but this is a gamble. Many uninsured drivers have little in terms of personal assets, so it would likely be difficult to collect on any judgment you may receive. Still, it is recommended that you at least speak to an attorney if you find yourself in this situation.
Will I have to go to court for my car accident claim?
It is possible, but unlikely. If your case is like most car accident claims, it will be resolved through out-of-court negotiations between your attorney and the other driver’s insurance company. With that being said, it may be necessary to take your case to trial if there is a significant discrepancy between what the insurance company is offering and what your attorney believes your case is worth. Your attorney will review the circumstances of your case and help you determine the most appropriate course of action.
How long can I expect my case to take?
Unfortunately, there is no reliable way to predict how long your case will take to resolve. With that being said, your case’s length will primarily be dependent on factors such as the extent of medical treatment you will need to receive, the cooperation of the involved insurance companies, the value of your case and whether your case goes to trial.
How much is my case worth?
Similar to case timelines, there is no reliable method for predicting the value of a car accident claim without first discussing your case with a lawyer. Generally speaking, cases involving relatively minor injuries such as whiplash will have a lower value than those involving life-changing spinal cord injuries or traumatic brain injuries. The value of your case will primarily be determined by the nature and extent of your injuries as well as the amount of insurance coverage available, the level of evidence proving the other driver’s fault and the skill of your legal representation.
How soon after a wreck should I contact a lawyer?
As soon as practically possible. Your first priority after a collision should be to see a doctor, but afterward, your next move should be to get in touch with an attorney. The longer you wait to get a lawyer involved, the greater your chances are of encountering difficulty with your case. Memories fade, evidence is lost and important witnesses can become harder to track down as time passes. The sooner you get a lawyer involved, the sooner they can get to work building your case.
I’m partially responsible for the crash. Can I still receive compensation?
It is possible, but unlikely. Alabama uses a legal doctrine known as “contributory negligence” when it comes to personal injury lawsuits, including those related to car accidents. In short, contributory negligence prevents victims from being able to recover compensation for their injuries if they are found to be in any way at fault for their own injuries. In essence, this is an “all or nothing” rule. While many states use a modified version of this rule that reduces a plaintiff’s eligible compensation proportionate to their level of fault, Alabama is one of a few states that completely prevents a recovery if a plaintiff shares any blame.
With that being said, assigning fault after a car accident is complex and not always a cut-and-dry process. You should not make this determination on your own. A good car accident attorney may be able to find ways to get you the compensation you deserve. You have nothing to lose by a least reaching out to an attorney to see if you actually have a case.
How long do I have to file a car accident lawsuit?
Car accident lawsuits in Alabama are subject to a legal deadline commonly known as a “statute of limitations,” which places a hard limit on how long you have to file a claim in pursuit of damages.
Under the Code of Alabama section 6-2-38, the Alabama statute of limitations for injury lawsuits related to car accidents is two years. This means you typically have until the second anniversary of your crash to file a civil lawsuit in court against the responsible driver. This same deadline also applies to wrongful death lawsuits stemming from fatal car accidents. Property damage lawsuits related to car accidents have a six-year deadline, according to Code of Alabama section 6-2-34.
If you wait too long, your case will be “time-barred,” and you will be unable to recover compensation for your injuries. For this reason, even if you expect your case will be resolved through a pending insurance claim, it is important to get an attorney involved early on after your accident to guard your rights and prepare for a possible lawsuit.