Alabama Car Accident Laws & Resources
Whether you are in Mobile, Birmingham or Huntsville, there are thousands of roads to explore in Alabama. The longest state highway in Alabama is I-22 at 367 miles, while the shortest is I359 that is 2.3 miles long. There also are 3,800 of other roads that cross Alabama, with 3.7 million drivers who travel an average of 13,516 miles per year. If you plan to drive in the Heart of Dixie, it is important to know the rules of the road, so you know what to do if you are in an accident.
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Statistics and Notable Car Accident Lawsuits
In Alabama as in all states, it is important to obey the law, buckle up, and drive safely. But deaths from traffic accidents were on the rise in the state by nearly 25% from 2015, according to recent data. Critical reasons for these accidents were higher speeds, not using seatbelts and more distracted drivers.
Specifically, in 2016, state data showed there were more accidents with speeds above 50 MPH. And for all crashes that were more than 50 MPH, impact speeds were higher than the year before. The biggest percentage of increase was for accidents involving vehicles going faster than 91 MPH. The data also showed that the number of reported accidents due to distracted driving was up around 20% from 2014.
Below are some key statistics for auto accidents in the state in 2015:
- A traffic accident was reported every 3.5 minutes.
- There were 849 people killed in 789 crashes.
- Speeding was the top cause of fatal accidents.
- Most Alabama crashes happen in urban areas, but most fatal crashes happen in rural areas.
- Of all fatal car accidents in Alabama, 10% were caused by drivers who were 19 or younger.
- For every death, there were 51 injuries.
- Of all the fatal accidents in the state, 49% of them happened at night.
- There were 96 pedestrians killed that year.
- Nine bicyclists were killed.
More statistics from the state of Alabama:
- A traffic accident was reported every 202 seconds in the state in 2016.
- 60% of fatal accidents in Alabama in 2016 had unrestrained drivers or passengers.
- 50% of all fatal accidents happened at night in 2016.
- A person in Alabama was hurt in a car accident every 11 minutes in 2016.
A major lawsuit settlement in recent months occurred in Jefferson County, Alabama, when a jury awarded $12 million to passengers who were hurt in a 2015 MAX bus crash in Fairfield. Of that amount $6 million was for compensatory damages and $6 million for punitive damages.
In the accident, the driver apparently had a medical emergency and passed out. Emergency crews took 10 minutes to get to the crash scene. It was revealed during the trial that the bus driver had had 14 previous accidents driving a MAX bus in the state for the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority (BJCTA). He also had a known medical condition that caused him to pass out. BJCTA knew about the issue but did not have any plans to remove the driver from service. It also was revealed that supervisors for the bus service do not know the medical history of their drivers and have no way to be sure their illnesses are being treated.
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Auto Insurance Requirements in Alabama
Alabama requires all drivers to carry the following minimum insurance:
- $25,000 for bodily injury for each accident
- $50,000 for bodily injury for all persons in each accident
- $25,000 in property damage liability
Alabama law also requires that you buy underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage of $25,000 and $50,000, unless you specifically tell your insurance company you do not want it.
Alabama Accident Settlement Taxes
It is a common question: Is my personal injury settlement in Alabama taxable as income? Generally, at the state and federal levels, your settlement is not taxable as income, as long as it is connected to a physical injury or illness. This is laid out in detail in the IRS code.
But note that if you receive compensation for medical bills and pain and suffering that is only for emotional trauma, then this is taxable as income in all cases.
If you have compensation for property damages, this is usually not taxable either as it is intended to fix or replace your damaged property.
However, if you get compensation for punitive damages, this will always be taxed as income. Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant for reckless behavior and to discourage it from occurring in the future.
If you receive lost wages for your physical injuries, this will generally be taxable as income, as it is money for income that would have been taxed. However, this is a complex part of the law and it is recommended to run it by a tax advisor in Alabama. Another good thing is your attorney can often structure your settlement to have as little lost wage compensation as possible.
It is always a smart idea to talk to a tax professional after you receive a personal injury settlement in Alabama – better safe than sorry.
Negligence Laws in Alabama
Alabama follows a doctrine of contributory negligence. This means if you are partially at fault for a car accident, you cannot recover damages. Most states feature a modified form of contributory negligence, but Alabama does not. In many states, if you are partially at fault, your damages are reduced by your percentage of responsibility for the accident.
There are some exceptions under state law to this rule; for instance, children below the age of 14 cannot be contributorily negligent under the law.
It is very important to understand that if you are partially at fault for an accident, you probably cannot collect damages for your injuries in Alabama.
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Car Accident Statute of Limitations in Alabama
In Alabama, there is a two-year statute of limitations for lawsuits for personal injury. This means you have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. It is also two years for property damages.
Other Alabama Car Accident Laws
There are several pertinent laws to be aware of if you drive in this state:
- Alabama has a ban on cell phone use for all beginner drivers. There also is a ban on texting for all drivers.
- Your driver’s license in this state may be revoked if you are convicted of homicide or manslaughter while driving. You also can lose your license if you are convicted two or more time for drunk driving.
- Your driver’s license in Alabama can be canceled if you fail to give proper information on your application.
- Punitive damages in the state are limited to three times the actual damages, or $1.5 million, whichever is greater. But getting punitive damages requires you to prove deliberate or conscious malice, which is very challenging to do.
- A person riding as a passenger without payment cannot bring a lawsuit against the driver unless the driver is found to have acted recklessly; this is called the Guest Statute.
Alabama Car Accident Resources
If you have been in a car accident in Alabama, you may need to access resources to know what to do. Below are some helpful links that can assist you as you are working through the aftermath of the accident.
You are required to report an accident if there is more than $250 in damages, or another person is killed or hurt. Use the Form SR-13 to the Alabama Department of Public Safety.
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