Personal injury lawsuits allow injured people to hold the parties responsible for their injuries accountable and recover compensation for their losses. Every state has unique laws for handling personal injury cases. Alabama is a somewhat difficult state for personal injury plaintiffs compared to states with more flexible negligence laws and more forgiving personal injury statutes.
Like most other states, Alabama upholds a two-year statute of limitations on personal injury lawsuits. This means a plaintiff has two years starting on the date of an injury to take legal action against the responsible party. In cases in which the liable party is not immediately known, or the victim has not discovered the cause of his or her injury, the statute of limitations may follow the discovery rule. This means that the statute of limitations starts on the date of discovery of the plaintiff’s damages, or the date the plaintiff should have reasonably discovered his or her damages.
Contributory Negligence in Alabama
Alabama is one of only five states to use a contributory negligence law for personal injury lawsuits. Most states use modified comparative negligence statutes that allow plaintiffs to recover compensation even if they are partially at fault for causing their claimed damages. Most comparative negligence statutes simply reduce a plaintiff’s case award by a percentage equal to his or her fault percentage for causing the damages claimed in the case. For example, a plaintiff found 30% at fault in a personal injury case in a comparative negligence state would lose 30% of the case award.
Alabama’s contributory negligence law, unfortunately, presents problems for many plaintiffs partially at fault for their claimed damages. Alabama’s contributory negligence law bars recovery for any plaintiff found partially at fault for his or her claimed damages. A defendant may use contributory negligence as an affirmative defense, even if the plaintiff is only 1% at fault.
In some cases, seeking a settlement is favorable to pursuing a trial in an Alabama civil suit. The defendant may be willing to settle outside of court, and if the plaintiff pushes for a trial and more compensation, this decision could come back to hurt the plaintiff. A trial may expose the plaintiff as being partially at fault for the claimed event. In this situation, the plaintiff has lost the chance to recover compensation when a settlement may have been possible.
Compensation for Personal Injury Claims in Alabama
No hard and fast rules exist for calculating monetary damages in an Alabama personal injury case. While a plaintiff should receive full recovery for easily proven and measurable economic damages like hospital bills, lost income, and property damage, intangible damages like pain and suffering are more nebulous, and determining fair amounts of compensation for noneconomic damages falls to the discretion of the jury in Alabama.
Plaintiffs often rely on expert witness testimony to convey the full extent of their pain and suffering. For example, if a plaintiff suffered a bone fracture that also resulted in nerve damage and chronic pain, a neurologist could confirm this diagnosis and help boost the plaintiff’s credibility. Financial expert witnesses can speak to a plaintiff’s lost earnings or lost future earning capacity after an injury, and an expert witness with a background in psychology could testify to a plaintiff’s mental anguish.
Alabama recently overturned the state’s limit on damages in injury cases. However, punitive damages remain subject to a cap of $1.5 million or three times the amount of compensatory damages in the case. To secure punitive damages, a plaintiff’s attorney must prove that the defendant acted with intent to harm, malice, or egregious negligence.
A personal injury attorney can help a client better understand the types of compensation available in an Alabama personal injury claim. If you or a loved one recently sustained injuries due to the negligent or intentionally harmful acts of another person, a personal injury attorney can help you identify potentially liable parties and start building a lawsuit.