If you have been injured in an accident in Birmingham, it can be difficult to know what to do. Alabama personal injury law covers situations in which a person's body, mind, or emotions are hurt, usually due to someone else's negligence or carelessness. It includes many types of accidents including wrongful death, slip and fall, defective products, and work-related injuries, and more. It's critical to know your rights when you've been injured.
Here's some information to help guide you through the process of a Birmingham personal injury case.
What Are the Typical Stages of a Birmingham Personal Injury Case?
1. You're injured because of someone else's negligence;
2. You may meet with a personal injury lawyer to discuss next steps;
3. You or your lawyer files a complaint in the Jefferson County Court and serves it on the defendant(s);
4. The defendant may be required to file an answer;
5. Both sides gather evidence and engage in discovery;
6. A pre-trial conference takes place between judge and the attorneys to discuss; possible settlement. You may also be able to hire a mediator and settle out of court;
7. If there isn't a settlement, trial takes place and a verdict is rendered;
8. Either party can appeal the decision to appellate courts.
How Much Time Do I Have to File a Lawsuit?
There is a time limit to file your personal injury lawsuit. In Alabama, there's a two-year statute of limitations on personal injury cases. This means you only have two years after an injury occurs to file. There are a few exceptions if you are a minor or judged incompetent.
Should I See A Doctor?
You should always put your health first. If you are feeling pain or discomfort, seek medical attention. Pain is actually a means for your body to communicate to you that there is something wrong. Be completely honest with your physician and explain how the injury happened. That way, your doctor can provide you the best treatment and you'll have a record of your injuries in case you do file a lawsuit.
What Kind of Compensation Can I Get for My Injuries?
Every case is different and what you can collect will depend on the facts of your case.
However, the term for collecting money to compensate you for your injuries is called damages. In Alabama, you may be able to collect damages for things such as lost wages and potential future earnings, medical bills related to the incident, property loss or damage, pain and suffering, and the cost to hire help for household tasks.
What About Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages usually are sought only if the defendant was grossly reckless or intended to injure the plaintiff. These damages are awarded as punishment to make sure the defendant won't commit the act again.
Alabama law does allow an injured person to collect punitive damages, but places a limit or damages cap on the amount you can recover. If you want to read this stimulating law, here it is -- Ala. Code § 6-11-21.
How Do I Prove Fault in Alabama?
In order to win your case, you and your attorney must prove the defendant was negligent or "at fault" for your injuries. Determining who is at fault isn't always easy. It will depend on the particular circumstances. Your lawyer may rely on evidence collected from the scene, expert testimony, witnesses' statements, or any combination of these things.
What if I Am Also Partially to Blame for the Accident?
Alabama has a strict rule called contributory negligence. That means an injured person may not be able to recover anything if he or she was even as little as 1% at fault in the accident. This often is a very challenging rule for plaintiffs to overcome, and a local personal injury attorney can provide more information about specific cases.
Is There Anything I Can Do To Help My Lawyer With the Case?
Yes, you may consider collecting evidence. Almost every cell phone has a camera. Don't be afraid to use it. Have pictures taken of the different stages of your physical injuries.
Speak to witnesses, keep a journal, and take photos. Witnesses can be helpful even if they only heard the accident and did not see it. People often don't know the true extent of the information they have processed.
How Much Will a Personal Injury Case Cost?
It depends. Most personal injury lawyers charge contingency fees. This means the attorney collects a portion of the settlement or judgment, but only if you are successful in the lawsuit. A settlement is considered a "win" and you'll have to pay your lawyer at that point. The flipside is that if you don't win, you don't pay your lawyer.
Other possible costs include court fees, money to pay expert witnesses, copying and other documentation charges, and more.
What if I am Injured at Work?
If you are injured at work, next steps are generally to inform your employer and contact the Alabama Department of Labor. If you are no longer able to work, the income that you and your family depend upon can often be decreased or even eliminated. If the insurance company or workers compensation carrier is disputing the claim or the seriousness of the case, you and your family are suffering financially, physically and emotionally. Anyone with questions about a specific case may wish to consider seeking legal advice from a personal injury lawyer.
Contact a qualified attorney.