Every state has an auto insurance system that is either a “fault” or “no-fault” one. In most of the states, including Alabama, it is a “fault,” or tort system. In tort states, car accident victims must first turn to the liability insurance of the person who caused the accident in order to recover compensation. In no-fault states, drivers must first file a claim with their own insurance company before they can bring a claim against another party.
Here, we discuss how auto insurance claims work in Alabama. To discuss the specific facts of your car accident and the options which may be available to you, contact us today at Gartlan Injury Law for a free consultation. We will take the time get to know you and understand your needs and goals.
What Is the Difference Between Fault and No-Fault States?
As its name suggests, no-fault insurance means that accident victims do not have to prove fault after a car crash in order to recover compensation. Typically, this compensation comes from personal injury protection (PIP) insurance which covers up to a certain amount in medical expenses, lost income and other economic losses. Most states that follow a no-fault insurance system allow drivers to file a lawsuit against a negligent driver only if they have incurred a certain amount of damages, or if they have sustained catastrophic injuries.
In a fault-based system such as the one in Alabama, accident victims must prove that another driver was to blame for the accident that caused their injuries. Accident victims must file a claim with the negligent driver’s insurance company. Bodily injury liability insurance provides compensation for the victim’s personal injury, while property damage liability insurance covers any damage to the accident victim’s vehicle and other personal property that was damaged during the crash.
How Do Auto Insurance Claims Work in Alabama?
After a crash, one of the first steps you should take is to file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. The insurance company is then required to provide compensation for medical expenses, lost income, pain, suffering, emotional distress and other damages. Receiving this compensation is not always easy. Insurance companies are known for challenging accident victims’ claims and for trying to pay as low of a settlement as possible.
However, if the negligent driver does not have auto insurance, or the accident was a hit-and-run, you may be able to file an uninsured motorist (UM) claim with your own insurance company. You can also file a claim with your own insurer if the negligent driver’s auto insurance fails to provide enough compensation to fully cover the cost of your injuries. This is done through underinsured motorist (UIM) bodily insurance coverage.
UM/UIM insurance coverage is not required in Alabama. If you do not want UM/UIM, you must notify the insurer in writing that you do not want it included in your policy. Although UM/UIM coverage may make insurance premiums a bit more expensive, it is advised that all drivers purchase this insurance. After an accident, it may be the only way you can claim compensation for your injuries.
All insurance claims in Alabama are governed by a statute of limitations. This is the amount of time you have to file a claim with either your own insurance company, or the at-fault driver’s insurer. The statute of limitations in Alabama is two years from the date of the accident. If you file a claim after the statute of limitations has expired, you will likely be barred from receiving any compensation.
How Do You Prove Fault in a Car Accident Claim?
Because Alabama is an at-fault auto insurance state, you must prove that another driver acted negligently, and that the driver’s negligence caused your accident. Drivers can act negligently in many different ways, including:
- Drunk driving
- Texting and driving
- Other forms of distracted driving such as eating or changing the radio
- Drowsy driving
- Reckless driving
- Failing to follow traffic signs and signals
It’s not enough to simply tell the insurance company that another motorist was driving negligently. You must provide evidence that supports your claim, and shows that another driver was at fault for your crash. This is why you should seek help from an attorney. For instance, at Gartlan Injury Law, our injury lawyers can track down evidence such as:
- Photos of the accident scene
- Police report
- Statements from eyewitnesses
- Testimony from experts, including accident reconstruction specialists and medical professionals
- Medical bills to prove the extent of your injuries
- Pay stubs to prove lost income
- Receipts of other damages, including repairs made to your vehicle.
The more evidence you have to back up your claim, the better your chance of recovering maximum compensation for your damages.
When assessing a car accident claim, insurance companies and the at-fault party will likely try to assign a portion of the blame to the accident victim. This is due to Alabama’s contributory negligence rule.
Most other states follow some form of modified contributory negligence. Some states allow accident victims to recover compensation if they are less than 49 percent to blame, while others allow victims to claim damages if they are less than 51 percent. Unlike those other states, Alabama follows a pure contributory negligence rule. Under this rule, an accident victim can be barred from recovering any compensation if he or she is even one percent at fault for a crash.
Many insurance companies and at-fault parties will use this rule to avoid paying any compensation. This is why it is so crucial that accident victims speak to an experienced car accident lawyer such as Aaron Gartlan as they move forward with their case.
Get Help from an Alabama Car Accident Lawyer
If you have been in a car accident and need compensation for your injuries, you will have a lot on the line. You should not try to file a claim on your own. At Gartlan Injury Law, we will conduct a thorough investigation to collect evidence from your crash and support your claim. We will also deal with the insurance company, ensure your claim is filed properly and on time and give you the best chance of a positive outcome. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you in a free consultation.
Aaron Gartlan is a graduate of Troy University and the Thomas Goode Jones School of Law who focuses his practice exclusively on representing those injured by the wrongdoing of others. He is member of the National Trial Lawyers Association’s Top 100 Trial Lawyers, Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum. In addition to his legal practice, Aaron teaches Business Law as an adjunct instructor at Troy University’s Sorrell College of Business and serves as a field artillery sergeant in the Alabama National Guard.