Alabama Car Accident Compensation Laws

If you are a resident of Alabama, or simply passing through, there is a chance that you will be involved in an auto accident. If so, the state's unique laws and limits on certain types of lawsuits could greatly affect your ability to pay for your injuries or vehicle repairs. Read on to find out more.

Other Driver Must Be Entirely At Fault

Alabama is a "fault" or "tort system," which means that fault on the part of one of the drivers must be shown before insurance claims will be paid out. Drivers injured in an accident must file claims with the other party's insurance, showing fault by the other driver in order to recover damages that result from car accidents, such as damage to your car, lost wages, medical expenses, and compensation for pain and suffering.

An unusual twist that is still present in Alabama law is the rule of contributory negligence: a driver cannot recover if they were at all at fault in the accident, even if the other driver was almost entirely to blame.

Below, you'll find a table laying out important aspects of Alabama's car accident compensation laws.

Statute of Limitations

Two Years (Alabama Code Title 6. Civil Practice. § 6-2-38)

Guest Statute

No recovery for guest passengers unless the driver was acting willfully or recklessly in driving the car in an unsafe manner (Alabama Code Title 32. Motor Vehicles and Traffic. § 32-1-2)

Contributory Negligence

Driver cannot recover if she is at all at fault (ARCP Rule 8(c))

Punitive Damages Cap

Larger of three times compensatory damages or 1.5 million (Alabama Code Title 6. Civil Practice. § 6-11-21)

Municipal Liability Cap

$100,000 in a single accident (Alabama Code Title 11. Counties and Municipal Corporations. § 11-93-2)

Limits on Damages

The most strict limitation on car accident lawsuits is the time limit for filing a case -- the Statute of Limitations. In Alabama, the limit is two years to file the legal case, which means it is advisable to file an insurance claim as soon as possible in case there are delays in handing, processing, or denying the claim.

Other than that, there are only a few limits on damages that apply in special cases. There was, at one point, a limit on damages generally, but that cap was found to be unconstitutional by the Alabama Supreme Court, leaving only a few narrower caps behind.

The first is Alabama's one-of-a-kind "Guest Statute." It prohibits a "guest" (a person riding as a passenger without payment) from bringing a lawsuit against a driver unless the driver was found to have acted willfully or recklessly (a higher standard of fault than mere negligence). Willful or reckless conduct could include driving at an extremely unsafe speed or using a smartphone while driving.

There is also a cap on municipal liability in personal injury cases, which means if a public employee, such as an on-duty police officer, is responsible for your car accident, you can only recover the $100,000 maximum from the city or county.

Finally, punitive damages are limited to three times the actual damages or $1,500,000, whichever is greater. However, getting those damages requires proving "deliberate or conscious malice" conduct beyond mere negligence by clear and convincing evidence -- a very high standard to meet.

Get a Free Claim Evaluation from an Alabama Attorney

With a number of traps found in contributory negligence, the guest statute, and other assorted claim limits, the advice of a seasoned attorney is a must. A free claim evaluation is available to learn more about the strength of your case and what compensation may be available.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.