If you’ve been in a car accident in Alabama, you may wonder how your state’s laws affect your chances of winning an insurance settlement or a court case. In this article, we’ll look at key Alabama laws that set the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit, and what happens if you’re found to be partly at fault for the accident. (For more information on how the auto accident claim process works, see our Car Accident Settlements section.)
If you were injured or your property was damaged in an Alabama car accident, you have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit (Title 6, Ch. 2, 6-2-38 (l)). Your case does not need to be resolved before this deadline passes, but you do need to file the initial paperwork with the court before the two years is up. If you don’t file within this time, you may be barred from bringing your claim to court at all.
This two-year deadline doesn’t affect when you can file an insurance claim. But if you’ve been injured after a car accident, it’s wise to file your insurance claim as quickly as possible. Not only does this ensure that you meet any deadlines set under your insurance policy, it also allows you and your insurer to investigate what happened and negotiate with the other parties for a settlement -- and if settlement negotiations stall, you can use the prospect of filing a lawsuit as leverage.
(If your accident involves a government party -- you were hit by a city bus or the accident occurred on government property, for example -- you’ll likely have to file a claim with the government within a pretty short period of time after the accident, so throw the standard two-year deadline out the window in that situation. Contact the state agency you think caused your injury and ask them where you can find information about the administrative claim process.)
Alabama has strict rules regarding what you can recover in court if you are found to be partially at fault for causing a car accident. Under Alabama’s “contributory negligence” rule, you cannot receive money damages -- even if you “win” your car accident lawsuit from a liability standpoint -- if you are found to have played even the slightest part in causing the accident. It doesn't matter how high your losses actually were. If you are deemed at all negligent in connection with the crash, you can't recover any compensation at all from the other driver.
(Only a handful of states follow the “contributory negligence” rule. Most states use what’s known as “comparative fault," which allows an at-fault driver to recover some damages as long as he or she is not more than 50 percent responsible for the crash. Not Alabama, however.)
Even though this is a tough rule, don’t let it prevent you from considering pursuing an auto accident settlement or lawsuit. Instead, talk to an attorney about what happened in your case and what your legal options are.
Alabama laws on auto insurance dictate the types and amounts of insurance drivers are required to carry on vehicles in the state. For more information about these laws and how they may affect an Alabama car accident settlement, see our companion article Car Insurance Laws and Regulations in Alabama.