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For the most part, we all do our best to stay safe. Even so, accidents can and do happen. While many accidents are unavoidable and nobody’s fault, others are due to negligence, either by another person, an employer, or a corporation.
If you’ve been injured in Alabama, you may be wondering whose fault it might be and whether you can receive compensation for your injuries, medical bills and expenses, or time away from work. Here’s what you need about personal injury claims in Alabama.
First and foremost, you should seek appropriate medical attention. Then, you can begin documenting the accident itself as well as any personal injuries, property damage, or additional harm caused.
For instance, if you’re involved in a car accident, you may want to take photos of the scene and your vehicle, obtain a copy of the police report, and note any medical diagnoses or treatment.
Depending on the type of accident, you may need to file a report or insurance claim soon after. For on-the-job injuries, workers’ compensation insurance mandates that you fill out certain paperwork before filing a claim. And you’ll need to contact your homeowner’s insurance company if your neighbor’s tree falls onto your house while you’re inside. Or, if you slip and fall on public property, you might need to file a notice of claim with the city, county, or state before filing a lawsuit.
The state and your employer then handle workers’ comp claims; your insurance company may pass claims on to an adjuster before payment; and the municipality should respond to notice, with compensation for your harm. All of this can happen without the need to file a personal injury lawsuit.
Liability may depend on where and how your injuries occurred. Property owners or managers can be liable for injuries that happen at a home or a commercial establishment. In order to find a property owner at fault, you will generally need to prove that an unsafe condition on the property caused your injury and that the owner should’ve known of the danger and could’ve done more to correct it.
While property owners may owe a lesser duty of care to trespassers, they may owe a greater duty to protect children who may wander onto their property. Keep in mind that there may be special filing rules about holding municipalities liable for injuries sustained on public property.
Drivers also have a duty to operate motor vehicles with reasonable care, and if they fail to do so they can be liable for damages caused by an accident. Additionally, companies can be strictly liable for injuries caused by products containing a design, manufacture, or warning defect, known as product liability.
While you would need to prove that another driver was negligent or reckless in causing an accident, you only need to prove that a product was defective, and the company either designed a defective product, manufactured it improperly, or failed to warn you about a known defect. In that case, the designer, manufacturer, or retail store (or all three) could be liable for your injuries.
It is also important to know that Alabama is what’s known as a “contributory negligence” state. That means if you were also negligent and your own negligence contributed to your injury, you may not be able to recover anything for your injuries.
If someone else – a person, corporation, or municipal entity – caused your injuries, you could receive compensation or damages. Alabama classifies damages as economic and non-economic and injury victims may claim past, future, or punitive damages based on the kind of injury suffered.
Generally, economic damages refer to property damage, medical bills and expenses, and lost wages, which are available in nearly all personal injury claims. Alabama law, however, limits the availability of non-economic damages. The state allows pain and suffering damages in medical malpractice cases and for crime victims, but not in workers’ compensation or product liability cases. You may also recover “mental anguish” damages in car accidents or slip-and-fall claims.
Every state has statutes of limitations that place time limits on when an injured party may file a claim or lawsuit. In Alabama, you generally have two years to file a personal injury lawsuit based on negligence, libel, or slander. The same two-year limit applies to damages to personal property. While the clock will normally start ticking on the date of the accident, in some cases you may not be aware of your injuries right away, and the statute will run until two years after you discover the harm.
As noted above, your initial step in an injury claim may be notifying your employer, your insurance provider, or a public entity. In many instances, personal injury claims can be resolved quickly and without litigation. However, even in straightforward cases, it is always best to first consult with an attorney about your rights.
However, if you do not get a response initially or an early settlement or award doesn’t fully compensate you for your losses, you may consider hiring an attorney experienced in personal injury cases to assess your claim. Additionally, if multiple people were injured in the same incident, or if someone is claiming you were negligent and caused their injuries, you should definitely consult a lawyer.
As with many other professions, you get what you pay for when it comes to lawyers. Meaning that attorneys may charge different rates based on their experience and expertise.
However, most personal injury attorneys will offer a free consultation, and many will agree to handle your case on a “contingency fee” basis. Under this arrangement, you will only pay the attorneys if you win your case. Typically the contingency fee is a percentage of your recovery, generally about thirty to forty percent of the settlement or award.
If you have further questions about a personal injury claim, contact a local Alabama personal injury attorney today.
Injuries cost money, including time away from work, medical bills and other complications. You should have an attorney help you with your claim. Not sure if you have a good injury case? Speak to a local personal injury attorney about the merits of your case. This one step can help you protect your rights and take the proper next steps.