Who Pays For Car Accident Compensation In Alabama?
If you've been hurt, don't wait long to contact a car accident lawyer
A car accident may be over quickly, but the consequences can last a lifetime. Between medical bills, lost wages and other expenses, the total cost of an accident can run into the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, and those costs can make it nearly impossible to rebuild your life. That's why it's so important to get full compensation.
But actually getting the money you need and deserve after a wreck can be challenging. That's why you need an attorney who understands Alabama's insurance system and laws. That's why you need Dean Waite & Associates, LLC, and that's why we prepared this brief guide to car accident compensation in Alabama.
Understanding Alabama's "fault" insurance laws
Like most states, Alabama is considered a "fault" or "at-fault" state for car accident claims. That means the person who is found at fault for the accident is responsible for compensating people injured in the accident, which may include the driver of another vehicle, passengers in a motor vehicle, motorcyclists, cyclists or pedestrians.
There are three ways to get compensation for a car accident in Alabama:
- File a "first-party" claim with your own insurance company.
- File a "third-party" claim with the at-fault driver's insurance company.
- File a lawsuit in civil court against the at-fault driver.
First-party benefits from your own insurance company
Under Alabama law, you are only required to carry liability insurance. This insurance doesn't compensate you for your injuries; rather, it compensates others for injuries and property damage they may sustain in an accident that you cause and protects you from direct financial liability for their losses.
However, there are several types of optional coverage that can compensate you directly in the event of an accident. If you have one or both of these types of coverage, you can file a "first-party" claim with your own insurance company, regardless of fault for the accident.
- Collision coverage pays for damage to your car sustained in the wreck. You may be responsible for a deductible, depending on your policy and the circumstances of the accident.
- Medical and funeral coverage pays for your medical expenses, such as hospital bills and prescription medication, for any injuries sustained in an accident.
You can access these benefits regardless of fault for the accident. However, if another motorist is found to be at fault, your insurance company may then request compensation from the at-fault driver's insurance company in a process called subrogation. This is a complicated process that can reduce the amount of money you ultimately recover, since some of your recovery from the at-fault driver will go to reimburse your insurance company instead of you. Our attorneys understand the subrogation process and are adept at negotiating with insurance companies to help our clients recover more for their injuries.
Recovering damages from the at-fault driver
Your first-party benefits may provide some immediate relief in the event of an accident, but to get full compensation for your lost wages and other expenses, you will need to take action against the at-fault driver. This may mean filing a claim with his or her insurance company, or filing a lawsuit in civil court. In Alabama, you have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit - this is called the statute of limitations. While you can still file a claim with the insurance company after the statute of limitations has expired, it's typically much harder to recover compensation from the insurance company when you have lost the option of filing a lawsuit.
Alabama is one of only five states that still use the concept of "contributory negligence." That means that anyone who is even partially responsible for an accident is barred from recovering damages (financial compensation) for accident-related injuries in court. In other words, if you are even 1 percent at fault for the accident, you cannot recover. That's why it's critically important that you hire a lawyer before saying anything to an insurance company. An experienced attorney can speak to the insurance on your behalf and make sure they don't receive any information that could lead to a contributory negligence defense - and stop you from recovering.
What if the other driver doesn't have insurance?
In Alabama, driving without insurance is a crime - but it's a crime that a fairly high percentage of drivers commit every day. That means there is a significant chance of being involved in a wreck with an uninsured motorist. Moreover, even if the at-fault driver has liability insurance, there may not be enough coverage to fully compensate you for your injuries.
The at-fault driver is still liable for the accident if he or she doesn't have insurance, but getting compensation in these cases can be very difficult. You'll have to file a lawsuit to try to recover from the at-fault driver's assets, a time-consuming and legally challenging process. More importantly, most uninsured drivers lack significant income or assets, and you can't recover money that isn't there.
That's why we strongly recommend carrying uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) on your insurance policy. This is an optional type of coverage in Alabama, but it provides essential protection. If you are involved in an accident and the at-fault driver does not have insurance, or doesn't have enough to fully compensate you, UIM allows you to file a claim with your own insurance company to get the compensation you need. Uninsured/underinsured coverage is very inexpensive, coming in at just a few dollars a month for most drivers, for arguably the most important coverage you can carry. It's one of the few bargains left in the world of auto insurance today.
Fight for full and fair compensation. Contact our law firm.
Getting the compensation you need after a car accident is a complex and difficult process - and the insurance companies know it inside and out. You need to contact an experienced attorney to level the playing field. Our lawyers know how the claims process works and will advocate for your needs every step of the way. Call today for your free consultation.