Personal Injury Lawyers in Dothan, Alabama
Have you been injured in an accident? Was it the fault of another party? When someone fails to live up to their responsibility of living in a civil society and that negligence causes another to be injured, the injured party may have the basis to file a personal injury lawsuit to seek compensation.
Compensation may cover pain and suffering, traumatic brain injury, a permanent disability, mental anguish, medical treatment and rehabilitation, lost wages, both past and future, and the loss of life as you once knew it. Compensation can be sought for the death of a loved one through someone’s negligence as well, although in Alabama, only punitive damages can be recovered through a wrongful death lawsuit.
Right after an accident and injury is a confusing time that raises many questions you may have no experience in answering. If you are unsure of your next steps, you would be well-advised to seek the direction of an experienced Dothan, Alabama personal injury law firm to help you navigate your case. Smith & McGhee will offer you strong personalized representation with any type of personal injury.
Without counsel, the other side may take advantage of you and you may agree to a settlement that is far below the maximum amount of benefits and compensation that you are owed. This is where we can help!
Some areas of personal injury we handle include:
- Auto, Truck, Motorcycle Accidents – Not everyone is showing caution when they get behind the wheel and if you have been injured on the road, you may have the basis for a personal injury claim. Hit-and-run and pedestrian claims may also fall into this category. We specialize in car accidents, truck accidents, and motorcycle accidents.
- Premises Liability – Someone did not keep their property in a safe condition and when you visited you were injured through no fault of your own. A danger was created by a property that was not properly lighted or a property had a substance on the floor that led to a slip-and-fall. If you are a visitor to a dangerous premise, especially when there is no warning on-site, you may have the basis for an action.
- Dog bites– Like premises liability, some people do not secure a dangerous dog and if you are injured as a result, the irresponsible dog owner may be held liable.
- Medical Malpractice– This is preventable damage and the third leading cause of death in the U.S. Whether a doctor, dentist, nurse, hospital or clinic, or nursing home, medical malpractice can include withholding important treatment, or providing the wrong treatment or drugs. This is considered a form of negligence and can incorporate wrongful death.
- Other areas of personal injury include – Workplace injuries, defective products, boating accidents, ATV accidents, and farm accidents.
Understanding Personal Injury
As the name implies, personal injury harms the individual physically, mentally, or financially either through negligence, intentional misconduct, or strict liability, an inherently dangerous situation.
The wrongdoer is expected to compensate the injured for the loss. Personal injury claims are conducted in civil court and seek a financial remedy. What is filed is a tort action against the at-fault party. In contrast, a crime is committed against society and is punished by the laws of that society in criminal court.
Negligence – The civil action must prove negligence. The question must be asked, was the party who allegedly caused the injury behaving in the way a reasonable person would under the same circumstances? If not, that party was negligent, whether an auto accident, a dangerous dog or dangerous property.
Intentional Misconduct – The injured must prove this was a deliberate action that results in an accident and injury to another person or property. Examples might include knowingly selling a defective product that causes harm. In additional to damages for pain and suffering as well as injuries, punitive damages are often sought in very large sums of money to punish the wrongdoer for their conduct.
Strict Liability – The theory of strict liability is that some actions are so dangerous total responsibility must be taken for any resulting damage. Strict liability applies to very dangerous situations and the plaintiff does not have to prove the defendant acted knowingly or with intent to cause harm.
Personal injury cases usually involve an insurance company for the responsible party. As you may come to understand, that insurance company is not on your side after an accident and in fact, may be quite the opposite, encouraging you to settle a claim for pennies on the dollar.
We’ve seen this time and again and strongly encourage you not to go it alone when you are facing the other side. A strong legal representative can make all the difference in the outcome of your case.
Understanding Alabama Laws
Statute of Limitations – Like other states, Alabama has a law called “statute of limitations” which requires a lawsuit to be filed within a set time limit. For personal injury cases in Alabama, that time limit is two years from the date of your accident. If you do not file you case in a timely manner you may time-barred from filing. That means you will be unable to recover anything.
Burden of Proof – In a civil law case, the standard of proof that must be met is a “preponderance of the evidence”. This is a lower standard than what is needed to prove a criminal case. And this means that a company may be found not guilty of criminal charges but found liable in a civil action from the same event.
Shared Fault – Don’t be surprised if the defendant claims you are at least partially responsible for your accident. Alabama applies the “contributory negligence” rule, which means if you bear some responsibility for the injury (even 1%), you may not be able to recover anything at all from the defendant.
Caps on Compensation – There is no limit on compensation for damages in injury cases in a civil action against a private individual except for punitive damages. To be awarded punitive damages, you must show that the other party acted with deliberate or conscious malice by clear and convincing evidence. But there is a limit on punitive damages of three times the compensatory damages or $1.5 million. Municipal lawsuits are limited to $100,000 for liability in a personal injury case.
Personal Injury FAQs:
If I was partially at fault in causing the accident, can I still recover some compensation from the other driver, if they were more to blame than me?
A. Unfortunately, Alabama is one of very few states that hold on to the doctrine of pure contributory negligence. Because of this, if you are found to bear any of the responsibility for the accident, even just a little, you can be prohibited from any recovery at all. Insurance companies know this and will routinely allege that you were somehow to blame in order to deny your claim. This is one reason why it is so important to have strong, experienced trial lawyers on your side who will challenge any such unfounded claims. At Smith & McGhee, we fight hard to make sure our clients are not unfairly tarnished with any of the blame for an accident that was not their fault.
What happens if the driver who hit me didn’t have any insurance?
This is more likely to happen than you might think, because Alabama has one of the highest rates of uninsured drivers in the country. In fact, one out of every four or five cars on the road right now is being driven by a driver who does not have liability insurance. Even though liability insurance is required by law and comes with expensive penalties for violations, the law is hard to enforce. People may get insurance just long enough to register or renew their license plate and then drop it.
The good news is that if you have Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage on your auto liability policy, then you can make a claim for your damages with your insurance company. Insurance companies are required by law to offer UM coverage when they sell you a liability policy, so unless you specifically waived such coverage in writing, you have UM coverage. Hopefully you accepted this coverage and purchased a considerable amount. UM is one of the cheaper aspects of your policy, considering what you get for it. If you don’t currently have UM coverage, consider adding it to your policy and getting as much coverage as you can afford.
You may still need an attorney to represent you in your UM claim, because like all insurance companies, even “your own” company will want to limit the amount it has to payout, or avoid paying anything at all if it can.
The driver who hit me had insurance, but they only carried the low mandatory minimums. What happens if my expenses exceed the negligent driver’s insurance coverage?
The minimum amounts of liability insurance required by Alabama law are $25,000 for personal injury and $25,000 for property damage. If multiple people are injured in an accident, the combined total for all persons can be capped at $50,000 if the negligent driver only carried the minimum amount of insurance. If you have Uninsured Motorist coverage as described above, you probably have Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage as well. When your damages exceed the negligent driver’s policy limits, you can apply to your own insurance company to make up the difference using your UIM coverage. Again, the assistance of an attorney can prove invaluable in making sure you get all the compensation you are owed.
What if the driver fled the scene before I could get the license plate?
In the case of a hit and run, you can file a claim under your UM/UIM coverage.
You have said that truck driver fatigue is a leading cause of truck accidents in Alabama . How can you tell if the driver was overtired or asleep at the wheel?
We conduct a detailed investigation of every accident to determine its cause and figure out who is liable to our client. For instance, the absence of skid marks can indicate that the driver was asleep prior to the impact. Also, truck drivers are required to keep logs or their mileage, hours on duty, and rest breaks, and we review these logs to determine their compliance with federal rules and whether fatigue may have been a factor. It is known that truck driver logs are often falsified, but our experienced investigators know this and understand how to deal with possible falsification of logs.
5 Things You Should Consider Before Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney
- Whether or Not You Need an Attorney
First, decide whether or not you really need an attorney. There are three main things that you should think about to make this decision:
Severity of injuries. If you have suffered really severe and serious injuries, such as injuries that will cause long-term or permanent disability, disfigurement, or scarring, you probably want to work with an attorney.
Degree of damages. If you have suffered a variety of damages types, such as medical bills, property damages costs, lost wages, psychological harm, etc., then working with an attorney can be very advantageous. If you haven’t really suffered much in terms of financial loss, you may be able to navigate the process solo.
Fault. Whether there are disputes about fault or other complexities to a claim, working with an attorney can be useful, as an attorney will know how to best prove your case.
- The Attorney’s Location
If you have decided that you do indeed need an attorney, then the next things to think about pertains to how to choose the right attorney for your case. One thing that may be important is the attorney’s location. Because an attorney will need to travel to your accident site, meet with the doctor treating you, consult experts, and, of course, meet with you on a regular basis, choosing an attorney that is located in your same town or county is important. What’s more, an attorney who works in the county where your case is being filed will likely be familiar with the various insurance adjusters, other attorneys, and judges who work in that county, which may offer key insights about how to best strategize for your case.
- Education and Experience
Of course, you want to choose an attorney whose education and experience align with the type of personal injury claim that you’re pursuing and, in most cases, the more experience the better. For example, if you have been bitten by a dog, you probably should not select an attorney who focuses almost exclusively on car accident cases.
- Cost and Fee Structure
One hurdle to seeking legal counsel can be cost–at least, that’s what many injury victims believe. While it is important to watch out for lawyers who want to charge you hourly fees or who request a retainer fee for a personal injury case, you should know that most personal injury lawyers will work on a contingent-fee basis. This means that the attorney’s fee is contingent on your success–if you don’t get a settlement, your attorney won’t either. A good personal injury attorney will also never ask for any upfront fees and will always offer a free case consultation. If you speak with an attorney who isn’t offering free consultations or who doesn’t work on a contingent-fee basis, run!
- Reputation and Results
Once you have narrowed down the logistics of choosing an attorney based on their practice area and experience, cost and fee structure, and location, the last things that you want to consider are the attorney’s results and their reputation. Most attorneys will be happy to provide you with some information about how much they have recovered for their clients and what cases similar to yours they have worked on. You can learn about an attorney’s reputation by using an attorney review site to research the attorney, checking the attorney’s site for any client testimonials, and using the Alabama State Bar’s website to look up an attorney and see whether or not they have had any complaints filed against them.
Serving Dothan, Ozark and Enterprise — Accident Lawyers
At Smith & McGhee, we will provide you with aggressive and compassionate representation either before a jury or a mediator, arbitrator or insurance claims adjuster to explain how your life has changed since the accident.
Call our Dothan office today at 334-377-1674 or message us online to schedule a consultation and case assessment. We are ready to begin the conversation about your injury and how we can help you best resolve it in your favor. You may also visit our personal injury FAQ page for more information.