Personal Injury FAQs
If you have been injured in a car, truck or motorcycle accident, you likely have several questions about how to proceed with your claim against the negligent driver who caused the accident. Below are answers to some common questions related to Alabama motor vehicle accidents. For a free consultation regarding your potential claims, call the Dothan personal injury lawyers at Smith & McGhee at 334-708-3158.
Q. 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.